Like our house, we have a miniature yard. And like our house, I think it's good to have a small yard because it not only means we have less to take care of, I also feel required to think carefully about what I want to include and exclude.
This is the stairwell that leads from the door in our kitchen down to the utility room and garage. It also leads to the back patio and our small side yard. The gigantic fern, which is evergreen in the Bay Area, annoyed me when we first moved in. You practically run into it as you go out the back door. But now I love how this vibrant shade of green greets me as I go down the stairs to do the laundry.
Now that it is spring, there are always one or two of these new fronds near the center of the fern. It astonishes me that something so tightly wound, hairy brown thing unfurls itself into such a delicate green frond!
Also on the back patio are these tiny and delicate baby's tears are growing along the side of the brick steps. With all of our recent rain, they have begun to spread. The patio is a lush, shady area so I've been researching shade plants to add to some raised planters against the fence..
We put in an offer on our house last October and got the keys in
November. The trees had no leaves and much of the space in the yard had
been scraped bare and mulched. So it's been wonderful to see what was
hiding under all that mulch waiting to come out in spring.
I've been on the edge of my seat watching for the climbing roses outside of the kitchen window to bloom. They are full of buds just waiting to explode. This is the first of the bunch to reveal its color to me.
Also outside the kitchen window and all along the fence is this climbing jasmine vine. It has been blooming for several weeks and the smell is divine.
There was absolutely no sign of this fern on the side yard when we bought the house. It has sprung up in the last month. It now perfectly conceals the hose faucet and the coil of hose below it while still allowing easy access to turn the hose on and off.
We put up this play house, which was a Christmas gift to my girls from their grandparents, shortly after we moved in. I took this picture in the rain hoping to catch the wren who has made a nest inside the dormer window of the play house. The baby birds have hatched, and their poor mama is in and out all day long (even in the rain!) bringing worms for them to eat. First she he flies onto the top of the door, which we have been keeping open for her, and from there she flits into the dormer window. Each time she does, they make a racket. They are hoping, I suppose, to catch the attention of the one with the worm. Hard work to be a mama wren. Seems harder to me than having twins!
In the area beyond the play house, we have begun the work of moving plants, building a small retaining wall with rocks and leveling the ground in order to put in small patch of grass for our girls. (They want to "run through the sprinklers and do cartwheels!") The girls love to "help" me with their kid-sized wheel barrow, hoe, and shovel.
This bougainvillea is what I am most excited about. I have planted it against a bare patch up wall that goes up two stories. My dad has agreed to help me build some kind of trellis on his next visit and I can hardly wait to see the bougainvillea climb that high. I've got my fingers crossed that I can keep it alive until then.
All of the rain and all of the work in the garden has made for one big muddy mess. It reminded me of something I've been meaning to show you.
Attached to my sister's garden gate in New Mexico is this antique copper lavabo. They were originally used in churches and in houses (especially in France) for washing hands in the days before running water was installed. My sister's lavabo has a lid at the top. You can fill it with water and when you are done gardening, you can turn the spout to wash your hands before going inside. The basin below catches the dirty water and can removed to empty the contents. Sure beats holding the hose with one hand as you attempt to wash the other!
I've been keeping my eye out for a lavabo. You can find some pretty great ones (white enamel, anyone?) on ebay and etsy. Unfortunately, they don't come cheap, but I think they make a beautiful and useful accent for a garden.
How clever of these homeowners to use a small amount of space in order add more counter -- either to eat at or work on.
Notice how the above counter extends past the the edge of the kitchen onto the adjacent wall.
When I first read about this one, I remember thinking it was a particularly creative use of space. The breakfast bar kind of wraps around the dining room wall with cabinets below and shelves above for more storage.
The same idea is used here in this narrow hallway space. The breakfast bar turns into counter space above narrow cabinets on an adjoining wall.
While this appears to be a bar rather than a kitchen, we again see how the counter is wrapped around the adjacent wall. Only in this example, the counter ends so that a fourth person can face the other three.
If in-kitchen seating is what you are looking for, you can also add counter space with a folding table.
This fold down table surface normally covers the upper part of the bookshelf and is supported by a door covering the lower half of the shelf. (Click picture to see more photos.)
This table surface also folds down from a hutch. Love that the toaster can be stored inside for an instant breakfast bar.
And this counter top, while appearing to be fixed in place simply extends from a built-in and has seating at either end.
If all that fails, you can also extend your counter across a window that might interfere with lower cabinet installation.
Do you lack for counter space or a spot to sit in the kitchen? If so, would any of these ideas work for you?
I've been mulling them over for the kitchen in my new house and will discuss how they might apply in my next post.
Here are a few pics of the kitchen in our new house. Though the layout is awkward, and there is very little counter space and storage, this is still my favorite room. I haven't done a thing to it since we bought it, other than decorate and purchase a fridge.
This little built in is a life-saver in terms of storage. The skinny little pantry on the right holds most of our dry food and canned goods. The microwave (are they not like the TV of the kitchen -- something we always want to hide?) sits in that spot because it had the only outlet at counter height in the entire kitchen when we moved in. We have since had an electrician add two more outlets.
There's plenty of light in here, but I still think this wall is begging for a huge mirror. I'd want to find one big enough to cover the opening for the old stove vent. Perhaps that's a job for Ikea. I had originally considered a wall of open shelves here, but I think I have plans for those elsewhere, as you will see in a minute. (The ledge on which the glasses sit came with the house.)
This strange little cupboard built into the wall is a California Cooler. It is basically the equivalent of an icebox and was used in the days before refrigeration. Also a topic for another post. Right now I'm using it for baking pans and the like, but you can see there's a ton of unused space near the top. Need to add shelves stat!
This little nook next to the dining room door proved to be a perfect spot to hang pots and pans -- since there was nowhere else to put them.
Here is the kids corner. My girls sit at the little table for crafts and to eat their breakfast and lunch. This little nook has given me so many fits in terms of what to put here. But that's a topic for a future post. I keep changing my mind, but I'm currently considering built-in shelves floor to ceiling -- a project I think I can do myself. For now, the ticking stripe curtains are hiding cubbies full of art supplies for my girls. That shelf near the top was there when we moved in and it looks fairly easy to replicate. On top of the shelf, the left basket holds picnic supplies while the right one holds extra paper towels.
This is the second place I've lived in with commercial grade vinyl tiles -- the kind you might see in a grocery store or school. I love them! They look clean, even if they are dirty and they are SO durable. The pattern in which they were laid would probably not be my first choice, but they kind of lead the eye diagonally across the room, making it feel bigger.
The fridge. Oh boy, did I agonize over that choice since I never saw it in person before ordering. I insisted on getting something counter-depth so it wouldn't stick out beyond that wall next to the garage door. It is extra tall, and with only 13.8 cubic feet of storage, the interior is small. But the layout is so efficient we can fit a week's worth of food for a family of four. Again, perhaps a post for another day if folks want to know more. Anyway, it has a sleek, white glossy finish, rather than pebbled, and I dig those handles. Next to the fridge is the Ikea shelf from our previous kitchen to add more storage.
Our island is actually the portable dishwasher, since the kitchen came without one. I added a remnant piece of butcher block cut larger than the top and mounted a small towel bar to the underside to hide the power and sink hook-ups, which feed into that slot on the back. It's funny, we've had so many visitors comment on our small island, and they are so surprised to find out it's actually a dishwasher. That was my goal! I basically do 100% of our food prep on that little butcher block rectangle.
The counters, oy. I dislike the tiled counters, but at least they are white. What I do love are the porcelain undermount sink, the wall-mounted faucet, and the original subway tiles on the backsplash.
So there it is. I have lots of topics for future posts here. We won't be doing any kind of remodel to this kitchen in the near future. Our 1925 house has some dry rot issues to be dealt with and the frame needs to be bolted to the foundation since we live in earthquake country. So any extra funds are going to that for now. In the meantime, I do want to come up with some clever, inexpensive solutions to make it more workable. Any ideas are welcome!
Well, here I am again after three months away. I'd been giving some serious thought to publishing my last post. But after hanging a few pictures in our room, the light was so pretty I couldn't help but dig out the camera to snap a few pictures of at least one room in our new house. Ironic since I never really showed our room in the apartment.
A few things to note:
I haven't yet managed to ditch my vintage chevron blanket. I've been looking for a replacement to fold at the end of our bed, and I am thinking of this one -- I'll forever be a fan of yellow.
Still head-over-heels for ticking stripe. The bed is a tad disheveled, but that's real life. Still need a headboard!
Now that we share one teeny-tiny bathroom, I'm trying to teach my five year-old twin girls that ALL primping is done in the bedroom instead. (Thanks for the tip, Elizabeth B.!) My hair and make-up stuff is stored in a back-of the-door shoe hanger (in the closet next to the mirror), but the jewelry stays out on display.
We somehow ended up with the same yellow-y beige wall color as our last place. Since the entire house was freshly painted when we moved in, and since there are so many other tasks to be completed first, I'll wait to paint until the walls start to show wear. And with kids in the house, that has already started to happen.
Last, I LOVE our new house. It felt pretty small at first (1000 sq. feet) but we quickly became used to it. It is cozy and light-filled and just about perfect. Of course I've got a list of about a million projects to do, but they're really just the icing on the cake. Very happy and grateful to be in our tiny, little home.
I've always been a huge fan of Spanish Mediterranean/Spanish Revival houses -- and California is particularly chock full of them. Our new house, like many in the Bay Area, was built in the 20s and combines some Spanish features, like the parapet walls and arched entryway, with a Craftsman layout and interior detailing.
(For safety, this real estate drawing is as much as I'll ever show of the exterior of our house.)
Here are some of my favorite features in our new, old house. Hope you'll excuse my poor quality iphone photos.
Our front French door is original to the house. Normally, having a front door one can see through might bother me in terms of privacy, but it looks onto an entry wall with a built-in arched niche.
I can't wait to decide what goes in the niche, but I imagine I'll change it, much like a mantel, with the seasons and holidays.
From the entry, you turn left into the living room. The French doors on the right lead to the dining room. I'm a sucker for French doors.
In the dining room is this beautiful built-in sideboard which an arched niche above it. Through the open door (the old-fashioned two-way swing kind) you can see a bit of the old-school kitchen and the door that leads to the utility room and garage.
In this staged real estate photo, you can see another of my favorite house features, the Craftsman built-in cabinets on the left wall. The drawers don't pull smoothly and the whole thing is fairly shallow, but I'll never, ever get rid of this built-in. If you are wondering what the dead space is between the two upper cabinets, it is the back wall of the niche in the entry.
The rest of the kitchen was put in later, and while I don't love it, especially the tiled counters, it is definitely something I can live with for awhile. It will be fun to work with what I have. Will show more photos of that space later.
I took this photo for two reasons. The first is to show you our only (tiny) bathroom with its vintage hex tile floor. And the other is to show you the linen closet door on the left. It is one of only three closets in the entire house and they are all severely lacking. On another note, see the glass door handle on the linen closet? Every door on the house has them, and I think they're absolutely divine.
I took this last photo from one of the two bedrooms because I think it does a good job of showing the abundance of light in the house. Would you believe I took this photo on a dreary, rainy day?
I hope this post illustrates why I fell in love with the house. At a mere 1012 square feet (for our family of four!), it will definitely have its challenges and I'll show some of those in upcoming posts -- wait until you see the closets. But in my mind, all the charming features (and the neighborhood and great schools) make up for what's lacking. And, I'm actually really looking forward to the challenge of small space planning!
We move next Monday. Wish us luck.
To those of you in the U.S., hope you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday! See you on the other side of Black Friday.