FRIDAY FINDS

I hate to whine about the weather so much, but my goodness it has been COLD here. I have a lot of seedlings in the temporary greenhouse and I'll be honest, I haven't gone in there in two days because I'm afraid of what I might find. They cannot have been happy the last few days with very cold nights and hardly any sun during the day to even build up any heat in there.

The weeds don't seem to mind the cold though. They are taking off and like every year, I think I have them under control and then I turn around and they are everywhere. I'll be spending as much of the weekend as possible in the garden to the north of the house, giving it a going-over that it has sorely been lacking the last few years. I'm also going to reshape those beds and try to get things a little better organized. It's a big job, so I'm going to load up on podcasts and audiobooks and just try to crank it out.

http://eachlittleworld.typepad.com/each_little_world/2016/04/mail-order-plants-odyssey-perennials.html
Some of the plants Linda at Each Little World received from Far Reaches Farm. Check out her Friday reviews of mail order plants. These look beautiful! Each Little World photo

I did pretty good about not ordering too many plants online this year, although in recent days I've hit "order" more than once. I did go completely nuts on dahlia tubers (in fact, 12 more arrived this week that I had completely forgotten about) though. Linda at Each Little World, on the other hand, did order a lot of plants via mail order this year and she is doing fabulous posts on Fridays showing exactly what comes from each nursery and how the plants look. Since buying plants sight unseen can be an exercise in trust, it's so nice to see what really shows up. With Linda's permission, I intend to do a couple similar posts when the few things I've ordered show up. But in the meantime, check out her posts on her experiences with Odyssey Perennials and Far Reaches Farm.


I like this post on zero-waste living. Although we recycle and compost, I'm still amazed at how much garbage just the two of us produce every week. Several years ago we took a sailboat charter in New Zealand's Bay of Islands and the two of us lived on a boat for a week and produced a single bag of garbage, mostly because in New Zealand they minimally package their food. At the grocery store closest to us, zucchini is packed in twos on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic (yet you still pay by the pound). As my personal form of protest I've taken to ripping open the plastic and grabbing the one zucchini I want (and telling the store owner that I think it is ridiculous to package produce that way).

I sort of loved this list of outdoor showers because they are very cool and sort of romantic and summery. On the other hand I remember when we were kids at we had an outdoor shower hooked up to a hose at the pool at the cottage we shared with several families. All of us dreaded using it because it was so damn cold.

Growing roses organically seems like the holy grail of gardening practices, but really, it can be done.


Several bloggers have teamed up with Longfield Gardens on allium giveaways to celebrate allium being named the bulb of the year by the National Garden Bureau. I love alliums of all varieties. They are generally very well behaved (although some of the smaller ones do reseed rather prolifically), require basically nothing in the way of maintenance and create punctuation in a garden that few other plants can match. Angie at The Freckled Rose has a beginners' guide to growing them and is giving away at $50 gift certificate to Longfield.

Give me some great news about what kind of gardening you'll be doing this weekend to inspire me to get out there and crank out that north garden despite the cold!

ONE ROOM CHALLENGE: WEEK 4

If you're wondering what all this bathroom talk is in the middle of high gardening season, I'm participating in the One Room Challenge, a quest to renovate one room in six weeks. Start from the beginning of this journey here.

We all know that every renovation has its stumbling blocks and this one is no exception. But it is interesting that in this case most of those hiccups are focused on a very specific area and it has gone from bad to you-gotta-just-laugh.

I knew from the start that we were going to have to get a custom vanity. I wanted a rectangular vanity, not the stair-stepped design of the old one, so it had to be about 18 inches deep at most, and off-the-shelf options for vanities like that are quite limited. We needed a little bit of storage but not a ton because there is a pretty big linen closet in this room as well.

I based my design for the vanity on the inspiration vanity coupled with a few others that I found along the way that I liked features on. In the end, I designed a 39-by-18-inch vanity with faux bamboo legs, a fixed panel on top and one large drawer cut around the plumbing with a lot of room under the drawer to keep it from taking up a lot of visible "space" in the room and show off the floor.

The unfinished vanity hanging out in the basement waiting for some paint love.

Of course I ended up designing a very expensive vanity. The woodworker I've used in the past for the kitchen cabinets, banquette and built-ins in the master bedroom quoted me a price that was higher than I had budgetted and with the tile adding up to more than anticipated, it was more than I wanted to spend. A big part of the cost was wrapped up in the legs, which we couldn't find pre-made anywhere but I wasn't willing to give up.

Somewhere along the line Mr. Much More Patient also fell in love with the vanity design and in order to make it happen he offered to help build it along with a co-worker who did some woodworking on the side. We found a wood turner through the wood supply store (a place that has all kinds of gorgeous wood for custom woodworking projects) and had the legs made a much better price than we anticipated. And the vanity was underway.

Unfortunately there was some miscommunication because Mr. MMP didn't realize that my design was drawn (on graph paper) to a specific size, and at some point there were some liberties taken with the design size. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that I didn't know that it had grown in size when I ordered the marble vanity top. You can see where this is going right?

Although the marble top is sitting on top of the vanity, it's not attached and what you can't see is that it's too small  for the vanity. 

As if that weren't bad enough, the top was cut a quarter-inch smaller than I had ordered it. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, but with the combination of the slightly too big vanity, even after we modified everything we could to make it fit, the top is just too small. Oh, and when we went to mount the sink we found out they also cut the sink hole incorrectly.

No problem: Have the countertop people make a new counter, right? Not so easy, actually. Of course they used a remnant piece (this is the same thing we ran into with our vanity upstairs so I was prepared this time) and there are no more remnant pieces. In fact, the next chance for a remnant piece is from a kitchen installation they are doing May 6, which you'll note is well after this challenge is finished. It's all a little frustrating given that we had this vanity in production MONTHS ago in preparation to do this bathroom.

Mr. Much More Patient has a lot of jobs. One of them is holding pull options up to the drawer.

So that's the big hangup. The good news is that the vanity has been painted: Benjamin Moore's Hale Navy, which was the color I had painted the old vanity a couple years ago. It is awaiting some drawer hardware, which we were still deciding on.

This is a fairly horrible photo of the mirror, but it's hard to get a good angle on the whole program. The faucet is just sitting there in the hole until we get the counter sorted.

We've also hung the mirror and I love it enough to make this vanity issue fall into the background a little. I wanted something a little different to make a bit of a statement on the wall and I think this scalloped number does just that. It has a bronze/copper finish on it that I also think brings a little warmth to this room, which overall has a very cool color palette to it. I like clean, crisp bathrooms but "hospital" isn't the feel I'm going for. I know the mixing of metallic finishes will drive some folks nuts, but I don't mind a little of it.

Let's hope this vanity is the main hiccup we run into. It's a biggie, and I'm disappointed that it means we won't be officially finished in six weeks but there's nothing to be done with it.

If you want to catch up on what we've done in this room so far check out these posts:
Week 1 - The before + the design
Week 2 - Floor tile
Week 3 - Wall tile

Don't forget to check in with the other guest participants in the One Room Challenge as well as the featured bloggers.

GREAT CONTAINERS AT ANY PRICE

Yesterday I wrote about the factors to consider when choosing a container. You can read it here, but I broke it down to four factors:
  1. Size (err on the side of bigger)
  2. Style (what suits your house, garden and personal preferences)
  3. Material (will you leave it out all year or have to move it)
  4. Price
Now I'm going to share some sources for containers that I've found in my rather exhaustive searches. There are three sources that I'm not going to get into: shopping locally, which is really the best option because you tell so much more about a container you can see in person, and building your own, like I did here. I also think that vintage or repurposed containers are very cool, but I think that's one of those things you have to be on the lookout for at thrift stores or garage sales.

Some links may be affiliate links. Thanks for your support!


$ BUDGET FRIENDLY

Amazon has some good looking planters for prices that won't completely break the bank, but it takes a little looking. Gardener's Supply also has some nice options, but look for their occasional coupons and sales to bring the price down more. Also consider checking non-traditional stores such as feed mills.


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Big box stores are worth checking too, but again, you really have to pick carefully. The dimensions listed on some planters are often way off (especially on Target's site; what is up with that?) and you're right to be concerned about longevity with some of these. But if you're not ready for a lifetime commitment to a container, this can be a great way to go.


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$$ MODERATELY PRICED

The next level of expense are planters that I've mostly found at stores more traditionally associated with furniture. Although I've not seen all of these in person, the ones I have seen have been of good quality and I'm certain they would survive for a few years at least. Crate and Barrel and West Elm tend to have designs that are little more modern, whereas Ballard Designs has more traditional planters. Grandin Road (sort of a less expensive version of Frontgate) has some nice options as well.


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$$$ INVESTMENT GRADE

Once you're ready to spend enough money to quality as an investment, you should be expecting planters that are extremely high quality, will last for many years and will hurt a little when you place that order. But if you know what you need and you're not planning on moving anytime soon, they can be a good place to look. Restoration Hardware has nailed some great designs in recent year. Their prices can be shocking but my tip is to stalk the RH Outlet store near you. The people there are very nice and unless they are very busy will tell you exactly what they have in stock when you call. Frontgate also has some excellent designs, although I've never seen them in person, in general their products seem to be of good quality. There are also planter-specific companies including Hooks & Lattice and Campania International that have some very nice options in this higher price range.

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$$$$ LOTTERY WINNER/HEIRLOOM QUALITY

This top tier is reserved for very, very special locations or for planters you want to pass down to your kids. It probably goes without saying, but if you are seriously considering dropping this kind of money on a planter, be very sure it's what you want and what will work for many years to come. And that's not to say that I wouldn't want everyone of these in a heartbeat. It should come as no surprise that my first place to look for these dream containers is the amazing Branch Studio, the structure design side of Deborah Silver's business but amazing vintage objects, traditional designs and internationally crafted beauties fall under this category as well.

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HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT CONTAINER

You know that gardening season is truly upon us when I start dreaming about container plantings. In preparation for this year's containers I have been poring over Deborah Silver's old blog posts, combing through Pinterest and drooling over some of the amazing containers the rest of the world seems to have access to, but for some reason are nearly impossible to find stateside.

For me, any container design starts with the container itself and this continues to be my greatest frustration. Good containers are difficult to find and for some reason they seem particularly difficult to find anywhere near me.

My biggest beef with most of the containers that are readily available is that they are just not big enough. I have almost no use for small containers. They dry out too quickly and it is very hard to make a proper display in them, unless they destined for the top of a patio table or grouped with other containers of varying sizes. A neighbor has asked me to help them out and do their container plantings this year (in the past he has taken his containers to a local nursery to plant them at great expense and with a great deal of hassle) and for the last 35 years they have planted red geraniums in 6- to 8-inch terracotta pots on their windowsill. I'm not going to mess with that kind of tradition, but the whole idea just makes me cringe. That's basically a multiple-times-a-day watering situation.

The wood planter box with lead trim that we built for the area by the front door is huge, just the way I like my containers.
So size comes first for me. What surrounds the area near the container is a huge factor because it all has to be in scale. That's why the wood container we built near the front door is such a behemoth: With the door at the top of four steps, the entryway gets very tall and balance dictates that whatever is planted there be tall enough to make sense. If containers are to be located near a walkway, I want them to be tall enough that they don't reach out and grab the middle of  your calf as you walk by.


My window box is the same size as the window, measuring out to the trim, but I wish I would have gotten one slightly larger. 
For window boxes, I subscribe to Deborah Silver's theory that they should be larger than the window, extending out a few inches on either side of a window or to the outside edge of shutters. Our window box is about the same size as the window and I wish I would have gone slightly larger.

The white fiberglass pots on the deck were chosen to blend in with the pergola posts.

This zinc container is probably the most formal of any in my garden, and I'll admit that it looks a bit undersized here. The boxwood that resides in it should grow quite a bit in coming years and help the scale out.
You can see a peek of the just-planted urn that lives in the middle of the patio garden.

After you've figured out a rough size, the next step is design. I'll be honest, I struggle with this aspect of container selection the most. I'm never really sure what my "style" is and what works best with my house. I like a little bit of modern, a little bit of classic and tiny bit of cottage, but I'm never really sure how all of this meshes together. At the same time, I can't imagine ever being happy limiting myself to one kind of container. I have a sort of Belgian-inspired oak and lead container by the front door, a simple-lined urn in the middle of the patio garden, a rather formal zinc planter by the garage, modern white fiberglass planters on the deck, a wood trough by the back steps and a terracotta pot for the containerized rose that roams around the garden where it is most needed. Do all these styles work together? I'm not entirely sure, but for now, they work for me and that's my first rule of gardening: If it works for you, it works for the garden.

I think the style of the house or structure a container will be near is probably the biggest factor in figuring out a style. The next decision is whether you want the container itself to be the feature or if you want it to blend in and allow the plants to be the star of the show. The white fiberglass planters on my deck were chosen because they blend in with the pergola posts, to the point where you almost don't notice them.

Then there are practical concerns. Do you intend to leave this container in place year round and live in an area where it freezes? Then you are going to be limited on what you can use. If you plan to move containers for winter, how much weight are you willing to lug around?

I like these pretty blue glazed ceramic containers, but even these small pots are a hassle to move around because they are so heavy.

I used to love glazed ceramic pots, which are readily available at nurseries near us. I still use a few by the front door (another style of pot I forgot to mention above), but even they are not fun to move. They will crack at the first sign of a freeze if left outside with dirt in them, so moving them was required. When the last large one broke during a move several years ago, I swore them off not because I don't like them but because they were too high maintenance for me. Terracotta pots have the same problem, although there are some kinds of Italian pots that will withstand freezing temperatures, but they are very pricey.

Fiberglass pots will withstand a freeze and are nice and light, but do be aware that you can easily poke a hole in one if you're not careful. Metal containers are also (usually) freeze-proof (most say frost resistant but I think they are covering their butts), but I worry about the soil temperatures in them: hot in summer and cold in winter. Fiberclay or faux cement pots are very good: lightweight, frost proof, durable and good looking. Plastic containers can be great or they can be horrible, but they shouldn't be dismissed outright. I have a tall plastic container in front of the office that looks a lot like the fiber cement containers and has held up well.

And last there is price. It is mind-boggling to me how expensive some containers are. I have bought more than a few that have made me a little sick about spending that kind of money on them. And although I tend to have a fair amount of buyer's remorse after I make these purchases, they've turned out to be great long-term investments. All are still in service after several years and showing no signs of wear and if I decided that I no longer needed one, I think I could probably sell it used for a pretty good price. A lot of people are looking for high-quality containers with good style.

The biggest mistake I think you can make when shopping for containers is to not buy one that is big enough. I know there is an inclination to buy a smaller pot because it's less expensive than a bigger one, but it will never be quite right if it's not the right size.

Ready to find the perfect container? Check here for some containers at a range of prices: From bargain shopper to put-it-in-your-will. 

FRIDAY FINDS

I have more garden cleanup (both my own and at a master gardener project) on the schedule for this weekend, a date with some nasty garlic mustard weed that, I kid you not, grew 5 inches in one night when we got a lot of rain and one more sowing of tomatoes to try to salvage my seed plans scheduled for this weekend. But that's still a day away, so in the meantime, here's some of what I'm digging this Friday.

I have thing about knobs and pulls, so I'm pinning this list of 48 budget-friendly options.

Over at Growing with Plants, Matt is giving awhile a neat, fully compostable compost bucket.

Eric from GardenFork invited me on his radio podcast to talk about Garden Myths. I may or may not have expressed some too-real feelings about what I am convinced is an Espom salts lobby taking over Pinterest. Give it a listen.

It seems like every year at about this time I go on a hunt for a new planter and I drive myself batty. I still haven't found just what I'm looking for but I will say that I feel like there are better options out there than I've found in the past. I pinned a bunch to my Containers Pinterest board. If any
A few fortunate garden writers got to go to California spring trials last week, which is sort of Fashion Week for plants. Here's a report from Stephanie at Garden Therapy.


Don't forget that it's Earth Day, so hug a tree today!

What's on your agenda for the weekend?

ONE ROOM CHALLENGE: WEEK 3

First off, thank you all for your wonderful comments from Week 2. I'm happy to say that thanks to some insanely long hours by our tile guy, the tile portion of this project is moving nicely.

There were a couple of factors that came into play with the selection of the wall tile. This bathroom was always going to be all about the floor, so everything else had to play second fiddle. I also wanted to keep the cost down in order to keep the overall tile cost down. Subway tile came to mind pretty quickly and came with the added bonus of being period appropriate to our 1938 house.

Of course I would have loved a subway tile that was hand-glazed and had a little more character, but price was a huge factor and I went with your basic Dal-tile subway tile that you can find at Home Depot. Well, sort of. There are three shades of white in Dal-tile's Rittenhouse Square line: the basic white, the most commonly stocked at Home Depot; Arctic White, the brightest; and Kohler White, which is said to match white Kohler porcelain products. I wasn't overly concerned about matching the toilet and shower base, but in a toss-up between the latter two choices, which I felt matched the floor best, I went with the Kohler White. What I didn't realize was that this was a less economical choice, which was a bit of a bummer. I had assumed that they were all the same price and it wasn't until I had the tile installer order all the tile that I found out they weren't.

Some affiliate links may have been used. Thanks for your support!


Once again, our tile guy spent serious quality time in our bathroom to crank out the subway tile installation.

The stripes were made from a bardiglio marble piano till that came on mosaic-style sheets that we cut apart.

I also wanted a little bit of classic interest on the walls and in my book it doesn't get much more classic than stripes. Rather than use pencil accent tiles, which can add up quickly, I looked for a gray mosaic tile with a linear shape. After a few missteps that involved falling in love with tile that was discontinued, I found bardiglio marble piano tiles that were each 5/8-inc by 4 inches long and came on a sheet of 18 rows. I only needed four sheets to complete a design incorporating four stripes in the shower and two around the wainscoting in the rest of the room. Figuring out the spacing of the stripes so that they looked right in both sides of the room as well as the height of the tile chair rail was a math problem that gave me a weeklong headache.

Sorry for the bright lightbulb in your eyes, but here's a good look at the wood plank ceilings.

Benjamin Moore White Heron
Benjamin Moore Pebble Beach
I cranked out a little bit of painting prior to the wall tile installation as well. We went with the same wood plank ceiling that can be found in much of the rest of downstairs and like we had put in the office a few months ago. (See how I painted them here.) The ceilings, trim and doors were painted Benjamin Moore's White Heron, which was the closest white I could find to the subway tile, leaning a little on the brighter side. I want this whole room to be light and bright so I also went with a light color on the walls: Benjamin Moore Pebble Beach.

Because we used wood plank ceilings, we tiled the ceiling the shower as well. I've never been a fan of tiled ceilings, but as soon as it was up, my mind was completely changed. I love the look. The shower niche and the small corner seat will be tiled in the floor tile, but we had to order more, so that will take a bit to finish.



It was another big week in the bathroom, but in the background, not all is well. We are experiencing a somewhat major hiccup that I fear will be difficult to overcome. I'll tell you all about that next week.

Here are some links to products you've seen so far in this renovation:
Floor tile
Shower base
Trim and ceiling paint
Wall color
Subway tile
Wall accent tile (discontinued, but this is similar)
Heated floor
Marble floor sealer


If you want to catch up on previous weeks in this project check here:

Week 1 - The before + the design
Week 2 - Floor tile

And make sure to check out the One Room Challenge featured bloggers and all of my fellow guest participants, all of whom are doing some pretty fabulous things, all organized by Calling it Home.



FAILURE, AND SUCCESS, COMES EARLY

We're well into seed-starting season at this point. I can tell because I'm bored with it. Well, not bored with it, but it is lot of work to check on those little guys multiple times a day to make sure they are feeling happy.

Overall, I would say my seed starting has not been as successful this year as it was last year. Granted, I'm starting way more different kinds of seeds this year and fewer of each variety (although probably more overall), so I think I'm noticing when one fails.

I sowed three kinds of basil (two rows of each). Only two on the far end germinated, but this was seed from last year  (a successive sowing suggests that's the problem as none of that variety germinated). In the second group, six of the 10 germinated, but all on one side. In the third group, five germinated (some with multiple seeds per block), mostly in the middle.
As far as cute plants go, I think few things are cuter than baby basil.
Lacinato kale is looking great and is ready to make the move to the outdoor greenhouse.

I've had more germination problems than I recall last year and have lost more than a few when they went under lights. I'm blaming that on the heat from the lights, so I've been gradually acclimating them to the big light. Still it's strange to me that even though I pretty much always put two seeds in each soil block it seems that both germinate in some blocks and none in others, but rarely does just one germinate. This leads me to wonder if I don't have a problem with my soil block mixture. I can't imagine how I could as I'm using the same ingredients and "recipe" as last year.

Things are looking sad on the tomato front.
This is my first year growing tomatoes and I just started them a week ago (well, 10 days now) as I didn't want huge transplants because I'm convinced that's not great for plants. I planted six soil blocks of each variety, figuring I'd lose one of each, have up to two for myself and two to pass along to friends and maybe a spare. But they are germinating unevenly, some are not coming up at all and others seem to be succumbing to the dreaded damping off. So I'm not really sure what's happening, but I think I'm going to start a few more in a more traditional plug tray and see if that helps.

The greenhouse is open and accepting guests!

Nicotiana is happy to be outside.

So far, I'd say parsley has been my most successful sowing this year.

Sweet peas are on a roll.

I set up the temporary greenhouse last weekend and have moved several flats of seedlings that had already been potted on out there. (Some of you have asked about the greenhouse: It's the Flowerhouse Pro and I really like it. All the shelves come with it and store flat when not in use. It has big pegs to hold it down in the wind too, but I'm not sure how it would work if it were not on grass where it could be pegged down. That's an affiliate link; thanks so much for your support!) There was just too much in the house and not enough light to accommodate them all so something had to brave the up-and-down temperatures. Everything that I moved out there seems to be doing well. My guess is that the additional light they are getting there is making up for the chill.

Those sad little shoots where there when I opened the bins I was storing tubers in. They are coloring up in the sun.

I also started some dahlia tubers last weekend. I was very encouraged when I went to my parents' house to retrieve them (they have a cool but heated garage) and they were busting out the top. Unfortunately only the top layers in each box survived. I buried them in peat, but I think they were too dry, so I bet I lost at least 15 tubers. I'm glad that the 'David Howard' tubers were on top because I didn't buy any more of those this year. I also ordered a few new dahlias, which I potted up and have in the house until they sprout.

Gardening is always full of victories and defeats. Might as well get some of the latter out of the way early in the season.




FRIDAY FINDS

After several weekends in a row with snow, we finally have a favorable gardening forecast for the weekend. I'm looking forward to getting a serious amount of dirt under my fingernails and checking a lot of gardening to-dos off the list. Some of the seedlings I've been growing inside are going to have to be moved outside to the temporary greenhouse because I'm rapidly running out of room inside and the plants are not happy being there.

All of this weekend talk can only mean one thing: It's Friday Finds time.

I have such mixed feelings about wallpaper. I love it when I see it in other people's houses, but I worry about the level of commitment it requires. Here's a great roundup of temporary wallpapers, which could be just the thing to scratch that wallpaper itch for the commitment phobic.

I can't think of anything sweeter smelling or more romantic than walking through a sweet pea arch.

New House New Home photo

These mason bee houses are so cute and so simple to create, I can't imagine why every kid in the world isn't making one at school. Guess we'll just have to do it at home!

Here's a great guide to forcing branches indoors. My problem is I don't have access to flowering shrubs or trees that I'm willing to steal a branch from.

Sand & Sisal photo

I love these burlap chargers that Kim made with chargers from the thrift store! This is the kind of thing that I just love and never in a million years would I think of myself.

What's on your schedule for the weekend?




ONE ROOM CHALLENGE: WEEK 2

Welcome to the second week of my personal One Room Challenge, where I attempt to renovate one room in six weeks. See Week 1 here.
Some affiliate links may be used. I very much appreciate your support of this blog. 

It was a big week in the bathroom progress and, not surprisingly, we ran into more than a few hurdles in the process. This is no surprise: This old house is anything but square and level. This caused a rather significant issue when the contractor was setting the shower pan because they had to futz around with it for quite some time. We went with a low-profile plain shower pan. There is only about an inch difference in height between it and the finished floor so it's very unobtrusive and I didn't feel like fussing with a custom mudded and tiled shower pan.

Then it came time to level the floor, which was out a full two inches from one end of the bathroom to the other, just 9 feet away. Our poor tile guy (the husband of one of my best friends, who has done all of the tile work in our house) spent seven hours just leveling the floor and incorporating the heated floor cables (an add-on that I couldn't have cared less about but Mr. Much More Patient really wanted). He was here until 11:30 one night!

To accommodate the amount we had to bring the floor up to level it, we fashioned a ramp to meet up with the hallway.
Leveling the floor meant we had a decision to make about how to make the transition to the hallway, because of course the "high" side of the floor was the end by the hallway. We decided to create a mini ramp with two pieces of tile.

The floor in progress. It took much longer to level it than it did to tile it.

And then the floor tile went in. Bestill my heart. I was very selective about how the pieces should be laid out (although a couple snuck in places I wouldn't have chosen, but it's fine). Originally I was planning a herring bone layout in this room, but I was afraid that the striped marble tiles in the small room would be way too busy in a traditional herringbone layout. So I decided to have them set in the same pattern but perpendicular and parallel to the walls, rather than angled to the walls. Somehow it calmed the design to me.

I sealed all the tiles ahead of time with the sealer our tile guy recommends and I'll give the entire floor another coat after the grout is completely dry.

I can't tell you how much I love this floor. When I found the tile I knew right away that I'd do whatever it took to have it and although I've had a little pushback on it from some people, I think it's fabulous.
Yes, I love it. 

What is most amazing thus far in this renovation is the difference that pulling out the shower insert made. I thought this was a small bathroom. Suddenly with a full height ceiling in the shower and the additional 6 inches we gained width wise (enough to accommodate a 66-inch by 36-inch shower base), the room looks huge. Even without anything on the walls in the shower, it looks so much bigger. I never expected that.

The room looks so much bigger with the shower insert removed.

We'll see what surprises the coming week brings.


Check out the official One Room Challenge featured designers here and all of my fellow guest participants here.


GREAT NEW PLANTS FOR 2016: PERENNIALS EDITION


No surprise, I had a harder time narrowing down the list of cool new perennials than the annuals or shrubs. I can see all of these eventually finding a home in my garden.

1. Baptisia 'Lunar Eclipse': There are a ton of new baptisias on the market, but this is the one I'm really in love with. Baptisias are big plants that don't like to be moved so I won't get one until I have a good spot for it, but I'm in love with the looks of this plant as much as I've been with any. (Full sun to part shade, zones 4-7, 3-3.5' tall x 4-5' wide)

2. Andropogon gerardii 'Blackhawks': I do love a good grass and this big bluestem grass has a lot going for it, not the least of which is that great purple color for much of the season and then deeping to almost black in fall. (Full sun, zones 4-9, 5' tall x 2' wide)

3. Polygonatum falcutum 'Nippon Sunburst': Solomon's seal is among my favorite shade-loving perennials and few things look better than a naturalized patch of them. This one is downright stunning. I'm wary of variegated plants because they often grow much slower, but this one is too good to pass up (although the price is a bit shocking). (Part sun to light shade, zones 4-8, 18" tall)

4. Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Denin 'n Lace': Few perennials are as great as a happy Russian sage. They are about as low maintenance as they get, they have a beautiful upright form and have a long bloom period. I have had nothing but issues with them flopping though. There's a chance I've been growing them in soil that's too rich. Still, I like the sound of this new cultivar which is said to have nice, strong stems and, from the looks of the photo, an abundance of flowers. (Full sun, zones 4-9, 30" tall x 36" wide)

5. Primula sieboldii 'Petticoat Junction': I'm new to primulas, but I do find them charming. This one is  an Intrinsic Perennials introduction which is what made me notice it. They spend a lot of time developing plants and those that I've grown have all been winners. (Full sun to light shade, zones 5-8, 4")

6. Veronica 'White Wands': I like Veronicas; they have great form and new varieties are often better performers than they used to. This white one is a different take on the more common blue and pink varieties. I've had good luck getting a rebloom on them if I shear them back after the first flush of flowers fades. (Full sun, zones 4-8, 14-16" tall x 16-18" wide)

Do you see anything that catches your eye?

And check out my picks for great new annuals for 2016 and great new shrubs for 2016

ONE ROOM CHALLENGE: WEEK ONE

Are you familiar with the One Room Challenge? Every spring and fall, a group of bloggers each choose one room in their house to renovate in six weeks and once a week post an update of what's happening. The selected bloggers work with brands who provide some support. I'm not doing that.

But I am going to play along as a guest participant and do my own private One Room Challenge and link up other bloggers doing it on their own. If you know me and my habit of not really finishing projects, you know this is possibly insane. On the other hand, maybe having a real deadline will make this happen.

And the project I'm choosing is one I've already mentioned: the downstairs bathroom. To refresh your memory about this room, let me sum up its history. When we looked at the house before we bought it, both Mr. Much More Patient and I said that renovating the bathroom was at the top of the list. Fourteen years and a massive renovation later, the bathroom is the only room in the house that remains untouched. I did paint the pickled pink vanity a couple years ago, but I had no desire to put any other effort into fixing up this room because I knew that no amount of lipstick could pretty up this pig.

Here's the kind of ugly we're talking about. Pickled pink paneled wainscoting and ceiling, more of that horrific wall texture (and if you thought it was bad in the rest of the house, you have no idea how gross it is in a bathroom from a dust/mildew perspective), vinyl floor, pink laminate counter, rope sink, fake gold shower door, plastic shower insert, boob light, ugly lights and more.





One benefit of waiting to redo the bathroom is that we now have a second bathroom upstairs, so the pressure is off as far as showers and running water goes.

Since this is our downstairs bathroom, it serves as our main guest bathroom and of course we use it occasionally as well. Because of that I wanted it to be a little exciting and I wanted to do a few of the things I didn't do in the upstairs bathroom. For instance, I want marble. No, it's not particularly practical, but I've done practical everywhere else in the house and now I just want some pretty, even if it's at the expensive of practical.

So here's the plan.

Go to this post for more details on each element, but I think it's pretty much self explanatory. Bright, light, and everything that the current bathroom is not is pretty much what I'm going for.

So off we go. And why waste time, because this has already happened.


Come back next week for an update on this space, and in the meantime, check out the bloggers officially participating in the One Room Challenge and all of the other folks playing along as guest participants.