Three Fixes That Solved Our Shameful Front Porch

Beach house stuff is flying along, and we owe you guys a giant post (in the meantime you can see some pics on Instagram and Facebook) but we have some breaking porch news, which is that it no longer looks neglected and abandoned. Plus I got a little “creative” with the bushes so they’ll never die on me again. I don’t have a great “before” photo because it wasn’t something I ever thought to capture for posterity, but think dirty old doormat, dead plants, discolored brick, and spiderwebs (but not of the Halloween-decoration variety).

Front Porch Fake Plant In Black Planter

One thing that tipped us off to the problem was taking our annual First Day of School photos out in front of the door. We were looking at this year’s photos next to the previous year’s photos to see how much the kids grew, but another thing that caught our attention was the tragic progression of our fading front door mat. It’s like that thing was just begging to be put out of its misery, but it happened so slowly we didn’t really notice until we were reminded how it used to look.

So I ordered another extra-wide mat (this is the one we got). If you have sidelights or a double door, I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend a wider doormat. They can be a pain to track down, and aren’t super cheap (ours is the 30 x 48″ one for $79) but we found that any normal sized ones looked kind of dinky and unbalanced on our porch.

Front Porch With Fake Plant Evergreens

But the real stars of this refresh are the two evergreen trees in the black planters. We’ve had THE WORST time keeping plants alive here – so dead plants have been flanking the front door for 90% of the last 4.5 years. Every year we would buy something, it would fry from the insane direct sunlight our porch gets, and then the sad remains of the dearly departed plant would sit in the planter for a few months until we’d lather, rinse, and repeat that process. I tried annuals like creeping jenny and petunias (burned and died). Evergreens like boxwoods and dwarf spruces (burned and died even faster).  I’ve tried setting an alarm on my phone to water things every day. I’ve tried the upside-down wine bottle trick to water things. It was like a curse that refused to be broken… until now.

Fake Plant Evergreen In Black Planter On Front Porch

These evergreens can’t ever die BECAUSE THEY’RE FAKE!! After years of trying to make something (anything!) live in these planters I feel LIBERATED! These faux 36″ evergreens came into my life at the perfect time. I was at my wits end. And even though I worried they’d look lame and plastic-y, I was willing to roll the dice and try them.

Fake Plant Evergreen Porch Planting Detail

You have to fluff them up when they arrive (they look sort of flat right out of the box) but they’re SO CONVINCING! The color is right. The large size is awesome. The price is way less than I’ve paid for all the things that have died on me in the past. I’m basically in love with these bushes and if loving them is wrong I don’t want to be right.

And yes, I plopped the little black pot that each tree comes in right into the dirt of our larger black planters (these are similar black planters if you’re looking). The real dirt around them just ads to the realism ;)

Front Porch Fake Plant Evergreen Overhead

The last of the three things that whipped our porch back into shape was more subtle (which is my way of saying it was just deferred maintenance on our part). Since we had our pressure washer out to clean the brick on the back of the house after ripping off the deck, John sprayed down the front porch while he was at it because he wants to spray everything with the pressure washer.  Again, I don’t have a great “before” of this, but you can see the grime on the brick steps in this photo I found below.

There’s also this picture I took to show off my new fake evergreens on InstaStories. Look how green and mildewy the white railing looks. Yeesh.

We haven’t pressure washed this area since before we moved in over 4 years ago, so it was well overdue. The before and afters were pretty similar to what you saw in this post, but it was actually the first time we ever pressure washed the stone aggregate walkway. It’s one of those things you don’t realize you need until you see the difference it makes (in the photo below John had just done the outline and the diagonal stripe to show the improvement). How crazy is that difference?!

So this is how the porch looks, thanks to our new NEVER GONNA DIE plants, our new not-faded extra wide doormat, and a little stone & brick facial (aka: power washing).

Front Porch With Teal Blue Door Fake Plants

I also have some percolating plans to update the portico a bit more, with chunkier trim around the triangle and squared off columns, kind of like this porch, designed by Lasley Brahaney that I found here (but I’d love to keep our Chippendale railings – so not this exactly).

In the meantime I’ll take the fact that it no longer looks like it’s hosting a spider meet & greet for the surrounding five counties. Although we did dress it up for Halloween (because fake spooky things beat ten thousand actual spiders).

Front Porch Halloween Decor Pumpkins Blue Door Mums

Clearly a lot of this stuff is just seasonal, but if the kids have any say, the chihuahua skeleton (which we’ve affectionately named Skeleburger) will be there year-round. We also added a few pumpkins that we picked out with the kids and a few quirky “animal friends” (I can’t find an identical owl to link to, but this one would be awesome for Halloween too).

Halloween Front Porch Decor Pumpkins Skeleton Owl

We’ve had this ceramic white rabbit a while (he’s out year round just to send the “ceramic animals are always welcome here” message to the neighbors) but he works for Halloween too. Although he’s definitely out-creeped by the black feather crow and our floppy little black feather wreath.

Halloween Porch Pumpkins Crow Feather Wreath

I know what you’re going to ask. How does Burger feel about Skeleburger. Does he love him? Does he loathe him? Well, Burger’s reaction can best be described as aloof and unimpressed.

Halloween Porch Chihuahua Dog Skeleton Decor

Whenever he sees him he’s all, “Oh, it’s you. How boring.” He doesn’t just strut or sashay by. He makes a point of being straight up unimpressed. Sometimes he stops and yawns. This time he freaking stopped and stretched right in front of him. Like, “Look how long and flexible I am. You can’t even move. And why do you have ears if you’re a skeleton?!” It was a true demonstration of dog dominance.

Halloween Front Porch Real Chihuahua With Dog Skeleton

So that’s what the porch is looking like these days. The spiderwebs might come back, and the mat might eventually fade, but I’m pretty sure the bushes are going to outlive us all.

Psst- Wanna see more outdoor updates & posts about naaaature? Here are a whole bunch from the archives

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#68: There’s No Shame In The Fake Plant Game

This week we’re giving a listener whose house flooded after Hurricane Harvey some advice on finding the right people to help get her kitchen back together again after the storm. We also share why we’re loving a new “smart” platform for buying and selling secondhand stuff. And we’re sharing a series of recent faux plant scores that make us proud to be fake plant owners. Plus John’s shares a free tool that’s finally putting the kibosh on one of his worst habits.

You can download this episode from Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn Radio – or listen to it below! Then use this page to check out any links, notes, or photos we referenced. Note: If you’re reading in a feed reader, you might have to click through to the post to see the player. 

What’s New

  • It looks less impressive in this photo, but the unwanted stream of water spewing from the middle of our yard was a giant shock to us (you can see what a normal sprinkler spray should look like in this post, where I detail how I installed our irrigation system and why I think it’s a project you may not want to DIY).
  • And here’s a peek at the nick in the pipe that caused that geyser, thanks to an aerator that ran over a low spot in the yard (created by a mole tunnel right next to it). Yes, it was a series of unfortunate events. I’m sure I’ll look back and laugh. Someday.

  • You can browse Facebook Marketplace on your desktop or within their app (which is Sherry’s favorite method, every other night or so). Since I don’t use it very much, here’s a sample of the extremely random stuff that auto-populates my local search:

  • Since Sherry’s a more active user, her feed just shows her stuff she has clicked on or searched for – so it “learns” her preference for things like dressers and beds – which resulted in us scoring this awesome marble topped dresser for the beach house. These are just the listing photos because right now it’s living in the guest room among tons of other furniture items, lights, rugs, and accessories that we’re trucking out to the beach house soon.

What’s Not

Listener Question

We’re Digging

If you’re looking for something we’ve dug in a past episode, but don’t remember which show notes to click into, here’s a master list of everything we’ve been digging from all of our past episodes.

And lastly, a big thank you to Cardboard Safari for sponsoring this episode. You can get 20% off your first order with the code YHL20 at And here’s that Portlandia clip featuring the cardboard-deer-bashing incident.

Thanks for listening, guys!

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Friday Farm Favorites:  A Captive Audience

Clementine Kitty coveting Farmguy’s dish of ice cream.


Happy weekend!

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When a Pinterest image leads to you to discover a new furniture brand

You can discover the most wonderful things on Pinterest – you can just be scrolling aimlessly through a rabbit warren of inspiration and then discover a piece of furniture, something for the home or something to wear that you would never have discovered otherwise. Like last week, when I spotted the perfect grey armchair of my dreams (below). Simple and minimal in profile, with a wooden frame and leather straps to hold the seat cushions in place, it looked Scandinavian, perhaps it was by Skagerak or another similarly stylish Danish brand I thought?

After a bit of research, which took me from Pinterest to a blog post, through Instagram and then to the designer’s website, it turned out the chair wasn’t Scandinavian at all, but conceived by emerging young Australian industrial designer Tom Skeehan, of Skeehan Studio for Australian company Stylecraft. Not a huge amount of Australian design filters across to this side of the globe – I discovered another Tom, Tom Fereday and his work for SP01 at Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair, but I wouldn’t be able to recall many other names. So it was with great pleasure that I discovered another design scene with the same philosophy to the Scandi design I admire so much.

Armchair by Skeehan. An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity - design*sponge. Photography by Lean Timms
Hoshi armchair pictured in an Australian home tour on Design*Sponge. Photography by Lean Timms

When you think about it there are plenty of similarities between Australian design and Scandinavian design – both have an appreciation for nature and the outdoors, for natural, tactile materials and craftsmanship. Tom Skeehan draws influences from Japanese culture and design, which again ties with the Scandi mentality – designs from both corners of the world share a sense of harmony and knowledge that there’s beauty in the functional.

The Hoshi collection is Skeehan’s first for Stylecraft. Skeehan Studio, established in 2011 and based in Canberra, specialises in commercial furniture, lighting and product design for the home made by local manufacturers. The studio takes a ‘material driven approach’ that considers the long term lived experience of the product and its environment. Skeehan Studio seeks to find ‘inspiration around the notions of perception, connection and the value of “playing” in the production of design for manufacture’.

HOSHI armchair by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft
The Hoshi collection by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft
HOSHI armchair by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft
The collection is inspired by Japanese culture and design

The Hoshi collection comprises an armchair, lounge sofa, bench, ottoman, coffee table, side table and coat stand. They all share a simple, minimal expression, with a smooth, tubular profile to the wooden frame.

HOSHI armchair by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft
The Hoshi bench comes in solid American Ash wood with an upholstered seat pad

The range comes in light American Ash wood or a more striking Japanese black and also walnut option.

When a Pinterest image leads to you to discover a new furniture brand: Hoshi collection by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft - Australian design
The armchairs feature a slender timber frame
When a Pinterest image leads to you to discover a new furniture brand: Hoshi collection by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft - Australian design
The Hoshi coat stand has a leather strap detail to hang coats and scarves
HOSHI armchair by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft
The Hoshi bench and coat stand fit together well in a light hallway
When a Pinterest image leads to you to discover a new furniture brand: Hoshi collection by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft - Australian design
Upholstered ottomans feature the same wood and leather details

The lounge sofa and armchair feature a beautiful natural leather strap detail that connects the upholstered cushion pads to the wooden frame. The armchair appears lightweight and fine, but comfortable and welcoming too. It has an honesty and sense of refinement to it that I like. There’s no superfluous details or unnecessary finishes – the Hoshi collection is beautiful in its simplicity. Now I’ve just got to work out if it’s available in the UK!

HOSHI armchair by Skeehan Studio for Stylecraft
Distinctive leather straps hold the cushion pads to the frame

All images courtesy Stylecraft unless otherwise specified 

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From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA

Good news Sheffield, there’s a brand new IKEA store in town! To celebrate the opening of the new store, I was invited up from London to give a workshop (my first, how exciting!) as part of a month-long series of events for the local community. The workshop was all about designing and planning a redecoration project, both small or big, from the first initial concepts, through drawing together a workable design and putting ideas into practice, to adding the finishing touches.

Tips for redecorating your home - make a mood board

I walked the attendees through the different room-sets of the store, each curated around different style houses in Sheffield. Then once we had gathered some inspiration and ideas from these, we headed to the new Co-Creation area where IKEA has gathered samples, catalogues and online planning tools to help customers visualise their projects, with IKEA’s interior experts on hand to answer any questions. We ended the session by creating mood boards, ripping pictures out from magazines and catalogues, and adding fabric swatches, so everyone had something to take home and inspire them to get started!

Light scandi living room. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA
The banner at my From Head to Home workshop in IKEA Sheffield

I wanted to show the people on the workshop that updates to the home needn’t be overly complicated or cost the earth. Planning a living room makeover can sometimes feel a little daunting but if you break it down step by step with these tips that I’ve shared below from the evening, I think it will seem all the more manageable and easier to achieve your dream space.

Light scandi living room. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA Light scandi living room. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA

– The purpose of the room 
It may sound obvious, but start to really think about what you want from the space. Write down a brief list of how you’ll use the room everyday and how you want it to feel. It might just be a few key words that begin to tell the story of the space. Consider your lifestyle and how hard the space can work for everyone in the family – if you’ve got kids, will you need to think about innovative storage ideas to tidy toys and things away? You could think about wall displays to keep things out of reach of tiny hands. If it’s a grown ups only room, maybe you might need to focus on getting the lighting right to help create a cosy sanctuary. If you like entertaining and gathering friends around, then make sure the space can be flexible and adaptable so there’s room for everyone to sit together, whether it’s a takeaway supper, a formal dinner party or a laid-back movie night.

Most of all, design the space to suit YOU and your family. Don’t worry about what other people will think or if the decor is not to everyone’s taste, or even if it’s on trend. There’s no such thing as a perfect space, real homes are to be lived in and loved. They’re a personal expression of our thoughts, hopes and beliefs. They evolve over time and grow with us – the pristine pictures you see in magazines are only one moment in time. We can all be easily overwhelmed by the high standard of the beautiful spaces we see – we might put a redecoration project off or don’t know where to start to make that inspiration a reality. But you don’t have to achieve everything all at once, often it’s only when we live in a space that we can work out how we use it, how we move around it, what we like about it and what we don’t.

Grey Ikea kitchen. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEAGrey Ikea kitchen. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA

– Get inspired 
Gather inspiration and work out what you like. Think about the overall look of the room and the style of space you want to create, whether it’s Scandi minimalism, eclectic boho or anything and everything in between. Try to keep it to one theme to avoid it getting too confused.

You can find inspiration everywhere. Flick through catalogues and tear out pages you like from interiors magazines. Save a Pinterest board with inspiration. But also get outside and snap anything that catches your eye; visit an art gallery, browse interior shops or steal some ideas from a favourite cafe or shop.

Create a quick, rough mood board by arranging the things you’ve found on a piece of card. Add fabric swatches and colours from paint cards. Putting your ideas to paper will help solidify and bring form to your thoughts, allowing you to visualise how colours and textures will work in the space. A mood board will also strengthen the concept so you can begin looking at the finer details.

Tips for redecorating your home - make a mood board

– Room layout
Take a few key, accurate measurements and sketch out a quick room layout on a piece of graph paper. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest artist, just a simple plan can help you visualise the room and the space you have to work with. Cut out little pieces of paper to represent furniture, such as a sofa, armchair or TV, place them on your layout and have a play with moving them around to find the best solution.

cate st hill IKEA kitchen makeover before and after - the wonderful everyday - grey kitchen - kitchen transformation

– Don’t be afraid of small spaces
Living in a small space doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style, there are all sorts of clever ways you can maximise every inch of the room you’ve got. One way is to think vertically instead of horizontally – use the full height of your wall space, install shelves right to the top, have a pegboard to display things you need to hand, hooks to hang chairs when they’re not in use. One example is in my kitchen – normally the small space above your top cupboards would be wasted, but I ran my units right to the ceiling to create even more storage space for things we don’t use all the time.

Look for furniture that can serve a dual purpose and help reduce clutter – sofas with built-in storage beneath the seats, nest tables that can be pulled out when needed. Keep an eye out for designs that have legs raised off the ground, being able to see the floor below them will give a greater sense of space.

– The details
Write a shopping list of all the furniture you might need. Keep in mind budget. Not everyone can afford to buy a whole new set of furniture for a room and start from scratch either. Think about what items you will be keeping and how you can bring a new feel to them. It might mean picking out one key, focal piece like an armchair to update a room, buying new cushion covers to uplift an old sofa, or investing in a bright new rug.

Grey Ikea kitchen. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA

In the big scheme of things, don’t forget the little finishing touches that make a house a home too. Touch and feel furniture and accessories as well as looking at them – use lots of textures and tactile, natural materials to appeal to the senses and create a relaxing, inviting space that you want to spend time in. It’s amazing what difference a soft rug underfoot can make to a living room, or the final flourish of a beautiful throw over the end of a bed. Keep in mind the look you wanted to create from your mood board so everything ties together.

Tips for redecorating your home - make a mood board

Stick to two or three complementary shades of colour, and one contrasting pop of colour if you fancy, to create a cohesive room scheme. (you can read my tips for choosing the right paint here.) If you’re wary of colour (like me!) and can’t decide what hue to go with, try using colour with your accessories – it’s far easier to change a cushion cover than paint a wall again. Or you could be creative and paint the skirting boards and window sills in a bright, contrasting colour, like deep navy blue or soft blush pink. If you have an open plan space or connected living room and kitchen/diner, paint the walls the same colour to make the rooms feel like one space. When I’m decorating I love to use the walls as a neutral backdrop and layer up prints, art, little pieces of design and plants to add colour and interest to a space. Then it can evolve with the seasons and as your tastes adapt and change.

Light scandi living room. From Head to Home: 5 tips for planning a redecoration project, with IKEA

Lighting can often be something of an after thought in a room scheme, but it’s also key to the atmosphere of a space. As well as ceiling pendants, think about ambient light throughout the space with the use of free-standing lamps to create a warm, welcoming setting. I hate the harsh light of the ceiling light in the evenings and much prefer the soft glow of smaller lamps and whenever possible, candles. And if you switch to LEDs and IKEA’s smart lighting, you can turn off the lights at the end of the night from the comfort of your sofa or bed with the click of a button on your phone! Clever and functional.

Tips for redecorating your home - make a mood board

I hope these five pointers will help set you up in the right direction to transform the ideas in your head into a reality. Let me know if you’re planning a redecoration project yourself – what are the things you always get stuck on? Have you seen the new IKEA Sheffield?

Find out more about IKEA Sheffield and other events in store here.

This is a sponsored post, written in collaboration with IKEA. All images Cate St Hill

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Honey Hen: Little Chicken, Big Impression

Having just fed the barn kitties, I headed toward the chicken coop to gather eggs.  On the way, I stopped and looked up, closing my eyes. I stood for a moment, letting the warmth of the afternoon sun wash over me.  When I opened my eyes, I saw an autumn sky that was clear blue with wisps of clouds like white gossamer.  The burnt colors of foliage lining the sheep paddock caught my attention; too little rain late in the summer had muted the usual fiery, fall palette.  It was still a lovely sight, and it was perfect weather for Honey Hen to be outside in the fresh air.  But then, I remembered.

Honey Hen, a pet chicken unable to walk well or lay eggs anymore, had become part of my day-to-day routine.  Although she didn’t have perfect mobility, Honey was still a fairly healthy, hearty bird.  She enjoyed being outdoors in her favorite spot near the corncrib that Great-grandaddy Rieley built as well as pecking at clover and fanning out her wings in the sunshine.  Everyday I prepared a plate of fruit and vegetables for her–especially when she couldn’t go outside.  On warm days, when Honey was able to go out, I constantly checked to make sure she was in close proximity to her food and water as well as near a source of shade; and, on cold days, I turned on the heat lamps in the coop for her comfort.

Honey was content to be inside her coop, but I also knew she anticipated my visits—especially since I often found her waiting for me by the door.  She enjoyed being outside, but more than that, she absolutely loved the grain treat she received daily.  She was the most determined little hen.  Whenever she caught a glimpse of me, she would stand—a bit unbalanced, and waddle in my direction at full speed while furiously flapping her wings.  This exuberance usually only lasted momentarily as she quickly lost her balance and wiped-out with a face-plant in the grass.  Although I cringed when this happened, her enthusiasm and effort always touched me.

Honey was a kind of mascot for Green Hill Farm—a symbol of perseverance.  She began having difficulty walking a few years after we got her, and eventually she was unable to leave the coop.  It was then that I made sure she had outdoor time, if possible, placing her by the corncrib to eat grass and clover while the other chickens free-ranged.  This was Honey’s ritual for about a year—that is, before a marauding fox massacred our flock of fourteen hens one afternoon last fall.  Gratefully, Honey was by the corncrib and escaped the terror.  Afterwards, I worried about her being all alone in the big coop by herself, especially with winter coming.  We added an extra heat lamp and shavings for warmth, but I was also concerned about her social well-being.  Chickens sleep huddled together for warmth in the winter, but they also coo and chirp and make other chicken noises that I imagined Honey was used to hearing.  So, I looked for a device that made natural chicken sounds, but alas, there was no such thing.  Then, I thought a stuffed, toy chicken might be a good idea as…”chicken company.”   Unfortunately, the meeting between Honey and the mostly authentic-looking chicken didn’t go as I envisioned. The fake hen I ordered was twice Honey’s size, and she couldn’t get away from it fast enough.  Although I was worried about her, Honey was fine.  She enjoyed sitting under the heat lamp and dining on a variety of fruit and vegetables everyday, and she didn’t even seem to mind that she was alone.  Honey always appeared perfectly content, whether cooing in my arms as I petted her soft feathers or sitting in the middle of the salvia plant with its sprawling purple blooms.  I couldn’t help but admire her spirit of fortitude.

While Honey was mostly healthy and independent during her tenure on Green Hill Farm, her health began to decline mid-summer.  Honey’s mobility was worsening, and she was weaker.  She was also having minor difficultly with basic things like using the bathroom efficiently as well as accessing her food and water.  We made modifications; such as, moving her food and water closer and checking her bottom daily for cleanliness.  Then, one day, as I went to take Honey outside, I noticed something was wrong.  As I opened the coop door, she staggered toward me; I could see that she wasn’t well.  I picked her up and determined part of the problem—her bottom was soiled.  After washing her in a bucket of warm water, towel drying her body, and placing her under a heat lamp, I made Honey something to eat; however, instead of the enthusiastic reception the vegetable plate usually received, she only pecked at it once or twice.  She just sat there, still as could be, with her head bowed toward the floor.  Bending down, I petted her and repositioned the bits of tomato to make them look more appetizing, but she wasn’t interested.  Honey remained the same over the next day or two, and I kept thinking, maybe she’ll be okay—hoping she would pull through as she’d done in the past.  I loved this little hen. I didn’t want to let her go, but I also didn’t want her to suffer.  I realized I needed to make a decision.  Although it didn’t seem like the right time, in my heart, I knew it was.  Begrudgingly, I picked up the phone and called to see if my local veterinarian could make a farm visit.

When Dr. Witt arrived, we made small talk about the farm and other family anecdotes, but all the time, I felt a heaviness in my chest.  We finally headed in Honey’s direction.  I opened the door to the granary coop, and there she sat, just as I’d left her.  She hadn’t moved and the plate of food was still untouched.  I carried Honey outside, placing her on a towel in the grass.  Dr. Witt examined her.  Besides having muscle atrophy and weight loss due to her limited mobility, Honey’s body was failing.  Dr. Witt assured me that it was time, and that I’d done all I could for her.

We gently placed Honey on her back and unfolded her wing.  I kneeled on the grass beside her as Dr. Witt administered a sedative to make her comfortable.  Honey lay there, calmly, looking up at me.  I slowly moved the tips of my fingers along her face and whispered, “You’re okay…I love you, Honey Bunny.”  After a moment, she closed her eyes, and Dr. Witt asked me if I was all right to proceed.  I nodded as I wiped away the wetness from my eyes and cheeks with the sleeve of my shirt.  We sat there on the damp grass and moments passed.  I continued to pet Honey’s face and quietly repeat my mantra:  you’re okay…I love you.  More time passed and Dr. Witt took her stethoscope from around her neck and listened to Honey’s heart.  Apparently, Honey’s heartbeat slowed, but then it gained cadence, again—something to do with her poor circulation.  Dr. Witt informed me that Honey would need another injection.  She asked me to press on a blood vessel as she administered a second dose of pentobarbital.  As she did this, Honey opened her eyes and looked at me.

“Did she feel pain?” I worriedly asked.

“No, just a little discomfort,” Dr. Witt reassured me.

We waited, again.  I looked down at Honey through a blur of tears, my shirt sleeve completely soaking wet now.  Dr. Witt checked Honey’s heartbeat for the second time.

She finally looked up and said, “She’s gone.  I’m so sorry.  I’ve never seen a chicken take this long to pass.  Honey’s heartbeat kept slowing down and speeding up, again.”

When Farmguy got home, we buried Honey in her favorite spot—by the salvia plant in front of the corncrib.

Hardly a day passes that I don’t think of Honey in some small way.  I know she was just a chicken, and there was probably a medical reason for what happened, but Dr. Witt’s words weighed heavily on my mind as well as on my heart.  The thought of Honey’s heartbeat speeding up again and again moved me.  Being a sensitive person can make the loss of a beloved pet even more painful; however, I don’t regret my sensitivity.  While it makes sadness more poignant at times, it allows for great joy as well.  I believe it is the catalyst that creates a feeling of empathy, enabling us to help others who need a little, extra loving-kindness—or, maybe, even care for a fragile hen.

Here’s the thing:  I realize that I took extraordinary measures to ensure a longer and better quality life for Honey, and to a lot of people, it doesn’t make sense.  Why keep a chicken that doesn’t lay eggs and only creates work and expense?  I understand that point of view; everyone’s situation is different. For us, Green Hill Farm is a hobby farm as well as a place of sanctuary for everything from cats to chickens.  But beyond the definition of my farm, there are two reasons I couldn’t take Honey’s life before it was time.  Those two reasons are fundamental to who I am as a person:  First, it is my belief that animals are more similar to us than they are different; and second, I always ask myself—“How would I feel if it were me?”  Honey’s value didn’t lie in the number of eggs she produced, but rather, in what I learned while she was in my care:  greater patience, compassion, and humility.  Yes, it is true.  A little, disabled chicken taught me to be a better person…..and, isn’t that worth a lot more than a basket full of eggs?

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The Pine Floors At The Beach House Are Refinished – AND IT CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!

You might think I’m being dramatic. Me? Dramatic? Yes. But in this case, no. Our freshly refinished heart pine floors are complete game changers in the house-feeling-more-finished column. FO SHO. I mean, look at this shot of the kitchen that we snapped when we were there this past Saturday checking them out / doing alllll the drooling:

refinished pine flooring beach house renovation kitchen

Just as a reminder, here’s what that room looked like a few months ago, right after drywall went up:

And let’s take it waaaay back for a second. Here’s what this room looked like when we bought the house last October. In the words of Pepe Le Pew: “Le Yikes.” 

So this visit was full of bulging eyes and guttural screams and shuffling around with socks on our feet so we didn’t damage the freshly sealed floors. In fact, I shuffled around with my iPhone in hand and shot an updated tour for you. I’m sharing a ton of info in the video, so don’t skip it if you want all the details – from our thoughts about choosing the gray trim downstairs to what’s next on our to-do list and one STUPID mistake we made in the bathroom. Note: if you’re reading this post from a feed reader, you may have to click through to the post to view the video:

In addition to needing to refinish all the pine flooring that was already here, there were lots of repairs that we needed – not to mention fully missing sections that we wanted pieced in to look perfectly flush, like they had always been there (you can see one of those person-sized holes in the picture above the video). So this was a job we were happy to hand over to the pros. We hired ShenValley Floors for anyone in the area who’s wondering, and they did an awesome job patching in everything so it looks original. They even found reclaimed pine from another old home that was being demo’d and used it in here. This was one of the areas they patched before everything got sanded and sealed:

And right after everything was sanded we learned something interesting about pine flooring. Apparently, even if you sand and sand all the way through pine, discolorations from sun or rugs can’t be removed. In oak, you just sand them enough and it’s all gone. But in pine, these things go all the way through the wood! It surprised us at first, but we’re embracing the imperfections of this 100-year-old floor. Plus it’ll become far less noticeable once furniture, rugs, and cabinets go in.

refinished pine floors dining room

Some people on Instagram have asked what stain color we used, but we actually didn’t use one at all! We just went with a “satin” water based clear coat after everything got patched and sanded down (well, actually five clear coats – which should add up to a ton of durability). So this is just the natural color of the wood coming through, and the reason we went with a water based coat is because our flooring guys said it’s awesome (way less stinkier and just as durable and beautiful thanks to formulas coming a long way in the last five years or so).

We like choosing “satin” over “high gloss” for wood flooring because it’s still shiny when the light hits it, but not super wet looking if that makes sense. We could’ve tried to hide the color variations a bit more by staining them darker, but we agreed with the pro that we loved the natural look of pine, so that’s why we didn’t stain ours. And really guys. It’s GORGEOUS in person. Like video/pics don’t even fully capture it – especially my iPhone on a partly cloudy day.

pine floor stair treads refinished

Speaking of the natural color of things – we rescued the old doors from upstairs too! They’re heart pine just like the floors, but you may recall that they were looking a little darker and heavier than we had hoped. They were all covered in some old stain/wax combo that wasn’t looking so fresh and so clean clean anymore (they were all pretty dark… and oddly sticky).

We debated painting them white or soft gray or a deeper gray-brown or even a soft blue-green (we ticked through allll the options), but we finally landed on getting them professionally stripped and waxed/sealed so they’d basically be brought back to their original glory. And they look SO GOOD! Now they can shine right along with the freshly redone heart pine floors.

refinished pine doors with pine floors

We used a place across the bay in Virginia Beach called The Strip Joint, which I helpfully linked here so you don’t have to type that into your Google search bar ;) – and they did an amazing job! We took them off their hinges a few weeks ago, and they drove out and picked all of them up, stripped and sealed them in their shop, and returned them to us last week (they even cleaned and restored all the knobs, which we can’t wait to put back on). We’re driving back out to hang them all – along with the bathroom mirrors! – sometime this week, so we’ll share more photos asap.

pine floors refinished pine doors stripped sealed

But back to the floors. This view is another one that KILLS ME. It’s SO AMAZING to me how much this angle has changed.

upstairs landing in beach house with refinished pine floors

As a reminder, this is what it looked like when we bought the house. The ceiling was literally crumbling and the floors had been painted a dark maroon color up here, so we had actually never laid eyes on the wood!

Here’s yet another new favorite angle: the upstairs hallway we added! Remember two of the upstairs rooms used to be railroad-style, without a central hall or a second bathroom – so this hallway was a huge functional improvement. And with the freshly redone floors it’s a beautiful one too!

clear sealed pine floors in upstairs hallway

Here’s the same view during framing. Memories. See how dull and gray the floors were before?! It’s so crazy to me how much of a difference this one update made (probably only rivaled by getting all new siding outside when we took this house from a dusty green-gray color to pink).

Here’s the middle bedroom, all ready for a bed. There’s another spot where there must’ve been a rug or a bed on the floor that made it slightly darker in the middle, but once we add a rug and a bed it’ll all be hidden again. Also, because every time we share a pic of these fans, people ask us for the info, we’ve included a mood board of all the light fixtures at the bottom of this post for ya.

refinished pine floors upstairs bedroom white fan

And here we have the back bedroom. The pocket doors were really cool and chippy and we tried to clear seal them that way (to preserve that aged look) but they just kept flaking off every time we slid them in and out, so it wasn’t functional and was pretty messy and dusty… so they ended up getting fully scraped, primed, and painted. We chose the same color that we painted the tub (Riverway by Sherwin-Williams). They look kinda dark here since this is just an iPhone pic, but in real life they’re the exact same color as the tub, and it’s a really nice splash of boldness in the back of the house.

painted pocket doors navy

And as promised, here’s all the lighting (and fans!) and even the vinyl house numbers we ordered for the transom window above the front door to create that painted on look. We even included our new favorite LED light bulbs because they’re CLEAR and have that cool exposed filament look, like an Edison bulb. Which means they’re great for exposed bulb fixtures yet they’re not too yellow and not too blue (because podcast listeners know John’s a light temperature diva).

vintage rustic lighting mood board

1. Front Porch / 2. Downstairs Bath / 3. Kitchen Island (discontinued) / 4. Porch Numbers 5. Foyer (similar) / 6. Bedrooms / 7. Kitchen Sconces / 8. Living & Master Bath 9. Mudroom / 10. Clear, Soft White LED Bulbs / 11. Dining / 12. Master Bath 13. Hall Bath / 14. Hallway & Small Upstairs Rooms / 15. Under Stairs

So there’s one big old beach house update that we’re thrilled to share! Feels like we’re SO CLOSE to being ready to bring furniture in (and to installing the kitchen!) and you know we’ll share alllll the details about that with you guys as soon as those happen. Until then, I think the lesson is: a) there are worse things to be than “dramatic” and b) refinishing your floors can be insanely dramatic!!!

Psst- Wanna read other posts about this year-long beach house renovation? Here are all the updates we’ve shared as we brought this pink house back to life. 

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Tuesday Tunes: Beautiful Scotland

The Queen’s View





Many thanks to our friend and talented photographer, Doug Frassa for sharing his wonderful photographs.


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I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living

A new ‘I wish I lived here’ post for you – this time, a minimal monochrome apartment in Stockholm on the market with Fantastic Frank. Painted white, with light grey wooden floors, this open-plan home is light, airy and sophisticated. Black accents contrast with its neutral decor, while natural textures bring an earthy, rustic quality to the space. I could definitely live here.

I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living

If I was to steal anything from this house, it would be the simple white kitchen. I love the concrete worktop and the brass details – the tap and slim handles – that give character and a sense of patina. The black glass pendants add a beautiful finishing touch, while the ceramic collection is entirely enviable!

I’m designing a similar white kitchen for a client and think this might be just the look they’re after. Ideas to takeaway: taking the units to the ceiling to maximise space, using smaller handles on the upper units for a more minimal look, having a small splash back to match the worktop instead of complicating it with more tiles, and providing a ledge to perch with stools for quick breakfasts and morning coffees.

I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living  I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living

A cosy nook is created on the other side of the room, centred around a gallery wall and fireplace. I love how the colours of the pictures are picked out with the cushions and knick-knacks on display. There’s a hint of rusty-brown and burgundy red that feels autumnal and perfect for the change in season. Imagine putting some logs onto the fire and curling up on that grey linen sofa.

I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living

The wire mesh noticeboard is a brilliant idea together inspiration, display postcards and collect post in the hallway.

I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living

Lots of easy ideas and inspiration to takeaway. Could you live here?

I wish I lived here: minimal monochrome living

all images: Fantastic Frank

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#67: What We Regret About Our Previous Home Renos

When we look back at how we updated our previous homes, there are more than a few design decisions we regret – so we’re breaking down five things that we’d go back and do differently if we had a time machine. And ding-dong, the deck is gone! Yup, we ripped that monster off the house, and the yard’s already feeling awesomely open – but checking this item off our to-do list has actually just added more to it (it’s like the plot of ‘If You Give A Mouse A Cookie’). We also check Sherry’s Color of The Year predicting skills, and John explains why he rejects tool brand monogamy.

You can download this episode from Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn Radio – or listen to it below! Then use this page to check out any links, notes, or photos we referenced. Note: If you’re reading in a feed reader, you might have to click through to the post to see the player. 

What’s New

  • You can hear more about WHY we wanted to remove our deck, all that info is at the beginning of Episode #51
  • Above is the view from the kitchen now that it’s gone (the deck railing blocked all of the grass that’s now visible, which has Sherry leaping for joy)
  • As we mentioned in the episode, we don’t have a comparable “before” from that angle, but here’s a shot Sherry took during demo from our other kitchen window. You can see how dominating the deck was from this vantage point – sort of like a big cage that was dropped in the middle of our yard.

  • Here’s how things were looking as soon as the deck was removed. We love how much more original and open the back of the house looks without that big deck tacked on – but I’ve labeled some of our “problem areas” for ya:

  • Here’s a view from the other side, where you can see the massive stump (boo!) but also the original brick steps (yay!)

  • Here’s a flashback to 2012 before we moved in of the deck, with the tree that belonged to that stump. It was so large and so close to our house that the inspector and our tree guy encouraged us to remove it asap, which we did, leaving that stump under the deck.

  • As we mentioned, we’re happy to have checked a few things off our list, like moving the air conditioning unit, having our electrician wrangle all the loose wires, and getting the stump ground. So now it’s looking more like this:

  • Still a BIG work in progress (these photos really remind me that I need to powerwash the brick – sheesh!), but we’re encouraged by how open the yard is feeling compared to when we bought the house.

What’s Not

Design Regrets

  • It was in Episode #62 that we offhandedly mentioned our first regret, the P-shaped opening in our second home’s kitchen/dining (above).
  • You can also see some of our other regrets in that photo (like the floor change and one of the two tall towering cabinets that were on both sides of the kitchen instead of grouped together on one wall).
  • For the life of me I can’t find this photo in high-res, so this is the best one I could dig up to show why Sherry keeps calling it “p-shaped”

  • The photo below – which features one of our favorite Christmas trees we ever did – also shows off some of these issues. Namely the floor changes (hardwoods in the foreground, cork at right in the kitchen, parquet at left in the hall – and again beyond the kitchen in the living room)

  • But that shot doesn’t show two other flooring changes that occurred on the back side of the house: there was wide-planked pine in the master bedroom and tile in the sunroom, both of which were off of the parquet living room.

  • I show this next picture not because of the floors, but because it shows the back of the fireplace that we think would have been even more awesome if we had doubled-sided it so people could enjoy it from the kitchen or the living room side of the wall.

  • We were so happy with where this side of the fireplace (in the kitchen) ended up after we made it over – just imagine this being on the other side too!

  • Below is a shot of the kitchen in our first house (back when blog photo standards were much lower, ha!). This photo is from the day we moved out, hence it being totally empty, but it gives you a good sense of how much it could’ve benefitted from a backsplash.

We’re Digging

  • Here is the $90 Ryobi ONE+ Cordless Hybrid Trimmer/Edger that I bought for use at the beach house (and around our own home). I love that the “hybrid” part means it can plug in if the battery dies.
  • And if you wanna give The Good Place a try, you can binge Season 1 on Netflix and catch Season 2 airing currently on NBC (don’t skip Season 1 though! Season 2 won’t make any sense!)
  • Here’s the preview below (warning: it does give away the twist from the first episode – but the reveal at the end of the last episode will still leave your mouth hanging open)

If you’re looking for something we’ve dug in a past episode, but don’t remember which show notes to click into, here’s a master list of everything we’ve been digging from all of our past episodes.

And lastly, a big thank you to Universal Furniture for sponsoring this episode. You can enter to win $10,000 in new dining room furniture at now through October 16th.

Thanks for listening, guys!

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