The Backyard Turns One

Last summer/fall, not unlike this summer/fall, was a time of big yard work. But instead of front yard redoes, it was backyard redoes, and it was the first yard we ever really landscaped, if you can call our very minimal application landscaping. We did a lot of winging it when it came to our plants and hoped for the best. One year in, I’m happy to report that everything rooted, is alive, and is bigger than it was last year = we didn’t totally fail!

We tweaked some minor things over the past year (and added a massive fireplace!), but most of the change is simply growth. It’s amazing to see how large and in charge many of these previously wimpy plants have become. It’s a comparative jungle out here now. But possibly the best testament to landscape success is that I’ve only had to water a handful of times out here, only during heat waves. The grass gets sprinkled a little each week during our hot summer/fall, which I’m sure seeps down to the roots of some of our plants, but they get nothing else besides winter/spring rains. And yet, life sustains. Thrives even. Desert minimal dreams reached.

(Painted cinderblock wall here. Butterfly chair info here. Screen door talk here. Fire pit post here. See the patio here.)
Umm, ya to this new (old) Malm fireplace. I’ve got a problem. A minor fireplace addiction. I can’t say no to dang stuff on Craigslist. Our small fire pit is perfectly fine, I told myself, as I picked this beautiful beast up with the intention of selling it. But when I set it up to take photos for selling and “just to try it out”…you probably can guess the pathetic rest. It stole the show and now owns me. It seems as if it’s meant to be here, and been here all along. The color, yellowish golden tangerine, is way weird next to the colors already out here, but the scale is so right. It has a presence, height, and spark that our small fire pit lacks as a focal point. What would you do? Let me remind you that just inside is another (totally nonfunctioning) vintage fireplace, but let me also remind you that these things, for whatever reason, bring a big smile to my face and I can see it – and smile – from many vantage points inside. Our $10 trash yuccas are going nuts. We bought these, actual branch trimmings, from a nursery’s compost pile. Within a few months of “planting” (sticking the branches in the ground), they rooted and started taking off. We did move them closer together than we originally planted…we had no idea how much room they’d need, and it soon became apparent not very much. They require VERY little of us (yes!), but we do pull off babies every few months to keep their silhouette lean and sculptural. (More info on all our plants here.)We ended up moving another yucca cutting back here from the front yard, where we have decided to plant the most pathetically small/off scale/baby palm trees (which you can kinda see here). It was a tough call to move it because it had just started sending out the prettiest bloom, a message I can only interpret as “I am happy.” It replaced a pony tail palm right here (second picture), that itself was quite happy and growing, but too slow and small. I need to find a new spot for it.The trash agave attenuatas have grown so much. They are taking over the space and a few have constantly been pushing out pups the past few months…cha-ching for the front yard. This one literally came from a trash pile (second pic is how it looked when we stuck it in the ground) and has grown into a beast that would be in the $100s if purchased retail instead of dumpster dived.
I know I said I’m not a flower person, but I can get into this crazy mess. I don’t know what this plant is, other than a Home Depot clearance plant, but it is freaking out with flowers. I love it and so do hummingbirds.I still haven’t properly potted all these wall plants, but they are all still alive and possibly adding a little purpose to this nonsensical fence situation.The San Pedro cactus have almost doubled their height and some are growing arms! They still are ridiculously small for this spot, but I have faith that a few more seasons will bring proper scale. Dracaena marginatas going strong. I know you shouldn’t have favorites but these are my favorite. I even planted some more just to the left of these where we recently ripped out a needy umbrella tree from the patio. Amazing what a year can do:Our painted wall, as bright and as crazy as the day I painted it. I love it more than ever. But of course wish it could extend all the way up, a problem for another year.

If you are curious, you can find some very classy befores of this yard right here, but they basically go something like this, enjoy:

Backyard to do:

I hope I’m back soon sharing plants up front! We are deep in the shoveling so much rock phase right now, but are getting close to completion. I just have a few more areas to plant/tinker with. The backyard successes have made plant selection for the front yard way easy. We have the same minimal-deserty-cheapskate feel going on. All succulents, mostly dug up for free by my husband. So much so that he, one of the least gardeny people I know, has earned the joke nickname AGAVE MAN. Licence plate material, right?!

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Modern Screen Door

screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyI’ve wanted a screen door on our bedroom/backyard door since we moved in. It’s been one of those little projects that we just never get to. I’m not a screen door fan. They totally scream Southern/country to me and I would usually steer way clear of them. But in this instance it seemed like the best option. Our bedroom is lacking in windows and having the door open, an all day everyday habit, allows natural light, fresh air, backyard views…and bugs in. California bugs aren’t nearly as bad as other areas of the country, but they still bug. So my only requirement out of a screen door was that it kept the bugs out and let the light in while blending with our house in an unobtrusive and minimal way (read: no shabby chic country trash).We always thought we’d have to build one from scratch, the main reason we haven’t gotten to this project sooner, because there aren’t a lot of modern looking wood screen doors out there in our price range. Rejuvenation carries this one, which is decent looking but expensive. Last month, in a semi-desperate search for a cheap, temporary stand in, I saw this Screen Tight wood screen door in-stock at Lowes and decided to give it a try. It is simple, unobtrusive and just might even work as a long term solution. And for $70, way cheaper than anything we could throw together. (FYI Home Depot carries it too for even cheaper, though not in stock for us, and so does Amazon but for quite a lot more – which I almost paid before finding it locally because it’s still cheaper/easier than DIYing. Ours is a 32″ door for reference.) The downsides are what you’d imagine from a cheap, off the shelf screen door: it is sturdy enough, but slightly warped. We had to trim ours because something wasn’t square – totally possibly our house! The actual screen construction is flimsy, barely making it through taking it off/screwing it back on process in order to paint the frame. But now that it’s in we are SO happy with the quality for the price. It feels like it will last us for years and we like that the screen can be easily replaced when the time comes. Do you notice our fun little work around? We had to trim off the top corner of the screen frame to clear a roof beam. We thought it would look WAY worse than it does and be so noticeable that we almost abandoned the project, so we are so happy that it’s only obvious from certain vantage points. screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyThe screen door comes unfinished and painting it the same color as our door seemed like the best way to blend it seamlessly, so I went with Fireglow by Behr again, in their Marquee paint in exterior glossy…it’s NICE paint. Orange paint is notoriously a multi coat color, especially over white primer – which I always end up using because that’s what I have on hand and I’m impulsive. So anyways, this paint is high quality enough (paint and primer in one with excellent coverage) to skip the primer so that’s what I decided to do here. And after doing one thin coat, I stopped because I loved the accidental wood stain look achieved with the grain slightly showing through. It adds some interest in an otherwise flat scene.screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyWe decided to hinge it opposite our door because, as you can see, that configuration was the least awkward for passage. I think what often dumb downs screen doors is ramshackle, country looking screen door pulls. Instead I planned on going with this dummy knob that matches our interior door knobs. Way better right? But I hesitated in order to sit with it for a few days and I’m so glad I did because I actually ended up preferring no hardward for an ultra-clean look. We put a roller latch on the inside so the door easily opens with a light push or pull on the cross bar and, especially since this door doesn’t get a ton of traffic, the no hardware situation is totally doable!behr fireglow exterior paintBefore the screen door (and the chair paint faded) and after:screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyIt’s so lame to call this life changing for us, but it really has improved our day to day so much. We open it the second we open our eyes in the morning and don’t shut it ’til eyes shut at night. We love having a cheerful view to our backyard. Our bedroom used to take on so much heat in the summer and the screen has dramatically changed airflow to where it’s often freezing cold in here by the time we go to bed – the best! And NO MORE FLIES, though oddly the cutest baby lizard did sneak in under the other day. The only downside is that everything is way more dusty than it was before, but that’s a trade I’ll gladly make.

So what do you say to screen doors? Heck yes or hard no?

Modern Fire Pit Roundup

Any self-respecting suburb lover enjoys a good backyard, myself obviously included. And any respectable backyard has fire. A favorite addition to our backyard was a simple, low fire pit. Even when it’s not fired up, it serves as a gathering spot, as places where fire happens often do.mid century modern landscape mosaic wall firepit fire pit esschert design butterfly chair I purchased ours after a pretty exhaustive search and I’m here to share some of my favorite fire pit finds, just in time for backyard season. I was looking for modern, simple, woodburning (so portable), and a few hundred dollars or less. If you are instead searching for sweet vintage fireplaces for your outdoor fire needs, I’ve got some info on buying right here. But if we are talking fire pits, here’s the goods:

I’ll start with the Low Fire Pot by Esschert Design, the fire pit we own and shown in our backyard above. I landed on this one because it was very similar in design to my first choices but considerably more affordable. There is a 24 inch or an XL 31 inch. I cheaped out and bought the smaller one and wish I’d gone with the XL to be better scaled to our space. Otherwise, we have been very happy with it. It is cast iron and very heavy. (I did give it a coat of high heat paint last summer, and need to do again after this year’s rain, because some rust follows wet weather. I used this paint with initial doubts, but it totally holds up to fire and makes the pot look brand new!)

 

modern firepit mid century

 

 

CB2 has a very formidable contender, the Ember Fire Pit. The design is so sleek and the bowl is a whopping 36 inches, all at a very good price:modern firepit mid century Next up is the fire pit I badly wanted, Design Within Reach’s Cast Iron Fire Bowl. But at only 23 inches and many more dollars, it wasn’t the sensible purchase. Those angles are calling out my name, though:modern firepit mid century While we’re in the $400 range, umm check out this gorgeous 47 inch steel monster:

 

 

 

modern firepit mid century

 

 

 

A smaller 31 inch cousin to the above bowl in an iron oxide finish on steel. So pretty:

 

 

 

modern firepit mid century

 

 

 

Same as mine BUT OVAL:

modern firepit mid century

 

 

An interesting one from Esschert Design:modern firepit mid century

 

So I know I said cheap and this is absolutely not that, but I can’t talk about modern fire pits without including the masterful metalworks of Modfire. Prices are 1K+, but designs are impressive and fun and worth a look…if only for their major Palm Springs street cred.

modern firepit mid century

And that concludes our foray into fire pits. Time to fire up the backyard friends! xoxo