Oh my goodness, this school year is doing me in. I’m only homeschooling one of my kids again this year and only part-time, but it’s such a hectic schedule and lots of driving. I feel like a stereotype and have resorted to highlighting my calendar so I don’t forget where I’m supposed to be during any given timeslot. (Literally just got up to consult said calendar to make sure I’m not supposed to be somewhere right now.) All I do is drive and listen to WTF episodes. Marc Maron is feeling more like family at this point than my actual family. (Podcast recommendations???) As always, I have so many house projects that I can’t wait to get to, but my current reality is that I can usually only find 1/2 day a week to squeeze in extracurriculars, and right now that means slowly trying to put the lid back on the can of worms that the exterior paint job opened up.
In an effort to save money, but mostly deterred by color decisions and the repairs we needed to make before painting, I volunteered to paint all the random fences around our property. The work is tedious but fine; the decisions paralyzing. I was hoping to have a “hooray the exterior is done!” post ready by now, but the best I can do is tell you all the things I’m confused about:I started with our “trash fence,” the one that hides trash cans, and the long curved fence that separates our driveway from our backyard (we have a weird corner lot). After loving the high contrast of our new exterior lights (more cute lights here), I toyed with idea of painting the fences black, ultimately deciding that I love a sun-drenched view of the backyard from inside the house. Went with white. Needed 3 freaking coats and I’m almost done but not quite. And of course I discovered a termite infestation and rotting boards and the whole fence should be replaced ASAP but who has the time or money? For some reason every fence post on our property, besides 3, was put into the ground with no concrete footing = a never-ending buffet for termites. WHY WHY WHYWe desperately need to build a new back gate after wind storms trashed this flimsy one. I wondered if yellow would be fun so I took the opportunity to try it out on the junk gate before we dismantle it, slapping on a coat of the same color I used on our kitchen pocket door. I didn’t love it at first and thought it was too much with our orange door, but now it has grown on me so much and I can’t imagine any other color. Put me down for multiple crazy colored doors please. I’ll probably go with a slightly less fluorescent acid yellow, like the one nearest turquoise below.And I’d like to return the gate to its original design, as seen on this google maps screenshot below from before we bought the house. I am that creep. The diamond!Aaaand then we have this weirdo back fence situation. The entire stretch of our driveway and backyard has this 4′ cinderblock retaining wall at the property line. The trellised fence above belongs to our neighbors and is set back a foot. Behind that fence is our neighbors’ driveway and garage at eye level and I hear that, long before we moved in, there used to be nothing between the houses! I’d love to have a monolithic 10′ tall fence across the entire back stretch of our property to hide this current mish mash, but I have no idea how to approach it. It’s no simple thing to add height to an existing cinderblock wall, and we can’t put posts directly in the retaining wall or in the ground directly in front of it because there is footing below. Our only option for in-ground posts would be about a foot into our yard. Privacy plants might be the easiest and cheapest solution, but those require maintenance and water and take up space – not ideal. I’m thinking about a wall topper/extention, where you screw “posts” directly into the side of the cinderblock and build up from there but I’m not sure if 6′ of height is feasible. I decided to go ahead and begin painting the mosaic wall white where the tan is while we think more about this one. Ideas welcome because we are stumped!!! Now on to this other fence between our backyard and side yard. Of course, it also needs repairs. This time, a water damaged gate. (But look how fresh and crisp!)Again, the mess of back fences where properties converge. How do I make that pretty??? Should I paint the chimney??? We weren’t 100% sure so we didn’t have our painters touch it. And now that I see it with the new paint job, I’m even more conflicted. Around the side yard is where things really got thrilling! We know this fence was rotted and we keep doing quick fixes on it hoping to squeeze another year out of it. But this time the quick fix revealed the obvious, but one we oddly never considered, reason for the rot: major termite damage. OH MY GOODNESS CALIFORNIA I LOVE YOU EXCEPT YOUR TERMITES. If this sounds really irresponsible, it kinda is, but I just painted over the whole thing like nothing is happening because I need a few months before I can deal with this. Went with a dark charcoal black and I love it. It makes the fence (and my termite problems) disappear instead of looking like a continuation of the longest rambling ranch ever built. Lastly, I’ve been so stalled on these screens. I was set on painting them black but then decided to go with textural white, and primed them accordingly. But they are so lost from the street in the sea of white when I need them to break up the long stretch of house, that I’m thinking of going back to the original plan of black. Pardon the weeds and random chair collection. A very lo-fi mockup has me excited. Now trying to decide if I should use the same dark charcoal on that side fence or go true black. And what sheen? I drove to the paint store the other day and then drove away because I couldn’t make decisions.Oh and I forgot the other thing I need to deal with. The painting inadvertently killed some of our plants. Agaves are generally ok with abuse. Don’t water them. Dig them up and leave bare roots out in the sun for a month. NO PROBLEM. But dare cover them up with something like a drop cloth for even one day, and they will revenge rot/die on you. Our beautiful agaves by the front door took the brunt of it. And the sansevieria experiments in the rock bed above that were barely hanging on before the dropcloths are pathetic now.
So there you have it. My can of worms. The good news is that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the white house. It made our black roof look beautiful (who says stuff like that?) and offers a minimal and graphic backdrop to all the plants and furniture and colorful doors/gates. Best of all, it’s such a better match to what is going on inside the house. I still have a moment of doubt every time I see a dramatic black house or a pastel aqua beach bungalow, but I think I made a good choice this round for this particular house. Now to nail the other 50 decisions and ignore my termite problems…And I’m sure there’s typos in here but carpool duty is calling so sorry goodbye!!!!
Great news over here: we are having the exterior of our house painted. As in, HIRING THE WORK OUT! I was planning to spend the fall doing the job myself, but after such a stressful and overwhelming first month of school/homeschool for me, we were curious what it would cost. When the quote came back extremely reasonable, we decided to clamp down on our spending over the next few months and go for it. My very talented designer/DIYer friend, Karen at Destination Eichler, described watching her house get painted by someone else like a mini vacation. I hope that’s how I feel too… because yikes are we ever dipping into that travel budget, haha!
The change of plans really truncated our timeline and I needed to pick a paint color like immediately. Thankfully, I already knew I wanted to go all white. Our painter expressed a preference for Sherwin Williams, who happened to be having a sale the week we decided to say yes. Pro tip: turns out they are pretty much always having a sale to create false urgency in suckers like me. In an effort to save every penny we can, I spent hours choosing a paint color to buy everything at sale price. FYI, I did ask if I could buy 30 gallons of untinted at sale price and come back to have it tinted if I couldn’t decide before the sale ended and got a reluctant “I guess.”
There are like 100 white paint colors. What the heck, do we really need this many options? Talk about agonizing over a boring decision. After reminding myself how much money we were spending and how this is basically a 10 year commitment, I dedicated myself to doing my best, turning into the neighborhood freak who painted white squares all over her house and stared at them for days.
Here’s my process in case you are in the same boat on a sea of tedium:
- Search for exteriors you like. I’ve been gathering exterior inspirations on Pinterest for the past year so I already had a good collection going. I picked a few favorites to investigate further and see if I could get any info on the paint color. I did come up with a few, but none were SW. (This was my favorite for sure, in Dunn Edwards Whisper, and also this!!)
- Pull together a general idea of what you want. Me: bright, warm but NOT BEIGE. Crisp but not blue. Clean and fresh without feeling dead. Basically a glowy white. We have mostly stucco so it was super important that it didn’t look depressingly beige.
- Pay major attention to the different light at different times of day in your neighborhood, and what hits the majority of your house the majority of the day. Here, we generally have gray overcast mornings that pull out every weird undertone of paint. Then a good chunk of the day offers bright, sunny, contrasty light that blasts the front of our house, making even the faintest pastels appear saturated. Late afternoon brings the warmest, orange light where every surface glows.
- Get like 50 paint chips. I grabbed even the ones I thought I wouldn’t like, walking outside at the paint store to double check my direction in the natural light.
- Bring them home and eliminate. I tried to do this outside but my current exterior tan color was distracting, so I moved the operation inside to a sunny pure white wall. For me, blue undertones, the only thing I was sure I didn’t want, were the first to go. I wavered on whether I wanted green undertones, but ultimately I eliminated those too because I lean warm and generally don’t love cool colors (though Makerista’s recent gorgeous paint job had me thinking maybe that greenish SW Moderne White was all I ever needed). I liked a lot of the pinkish/red undertones, but since we’ve lived with a pinkish hue for 5 years, I ended up eliminating those too for a more dramatic change. Next, I eliminated grays because, after some thinking, I remembered CRISP not murky. I kind of continued this process until I was left with 12 colors, all falling in the bright warm white/vanilla range.
- Google exteriors in all of those colors. Painfully, I whittled it down to 7 colors. I really liked this exterior color in SW Alabaster and this one in SW Westhighland White.
- Buy paint samples of the finalists and paint them directly on you house. I painted on several different sides, on both wood and stucco (after pressure washing the spots and drying ugh).
- Observe the samples throughout the day. Oddly, the three I loved at first glance on the wood board and batten were the three I hated on my stucco, mostly because they were so similar to the current color which I think is gross beige. And the one I thought was way too bright on my wood was the one that made the stucco glow. Eventually I eliminated Shoji White and Ivory Lace for being too gray/murky. I cut Creamy after being scared of the possibility of going real beige real fast. Westhighland White and Greek Villa were the ones that I was drawn to the most but I kept Alabaster in there because, although it didn’t wow like the other two, it was a good sturdy white. Eventually, Greek Villa went too because, compared to WHW and Alabaster, it was missing that hint of warmth.
- Paint large papers with your narrowed down colors. Carry them around to every nook and cranny of the house for another day. WHW was a hands down winner in most locations and times of day…it radiated and glowed while Alabaster looked flat and gray. But in full sun, they were so similar and a few times I even liked Alabaster more.
- This is so stupid just pick a color because they are all the same. OK, Westhighland White it is.
- THIS ONE IS KEY: Go to buy the paint and then find out it’s only available in exterior satin when you are set on using flat. WTF even, I hate you SW.
- Complain on IG. And get a color suggestion from one of your favorite Palm Springs designers that happens to be the same paint as your favorite inspiration exterior to begin with: Dunn Edwards Whisper. FOR REALS. Check with your painter if he’s cool with Dunn Edwards. When he gives an enthusiastic yes, swatch it, see that it is almost identical to the other one you wanted, love their customer service, and be done.
And that’s how you pick a white paint color haha. Such a joke. In the end, though, I chose one I’m really excited about. The one I should have just gone with from the beginning I guess!
Painting is almost done and wow what a transformation. I‘ll share more soon but lets just say 1. don’t forget your sunglasses and 2. we are SO Halloween ready with this color scheme. xoxo Jenny
Highlight of my summer right here everybody! One super simple paint job and the backyard is now my kind of crazy. You can get a good idea of how blah this retaining wall used to look like in this post. And now, excusing the millions of fence spider webs, get a load of it!
*Update: See the whole backyard here and our patio here :)
The mish-mash fence situation back here leaves a lot to be desired. The tall fence belongs to our neighbors and sits a foot back on their property. The style isn’t what I would choose, but it beats having nothing by a long shot, as a driveway sits at eye level on the other side. Conveniently, it’s the same color as our fences and house so, in that sense, it fits right in. The actual property line is the retaining wall and wood lip. I would love to build our own fence one day on that line to match the other original fences on our property (or somehow extend the cinderblock up another 8 feet), but that day is not today. This is me trying to make the best of these unorthodox layers until then, in a kooky desert kind of way.
If you are wondering about painting raw cinderblock: I pressure washed first, then used a exterior primer, then one coat of exterior paint (as seen in the last post). Most exterior paints and primers are suitable for masonry these days, so no need to find anything special. For the colors, I used sample sizes of exterior paint and went to crazy town.
I know a cinderblock aesthetic isn’t for everybody, but let my wall be living proof that it could be a major missed opportunity to ignore it. Being the kind of girl who feels she deserves to be surrounded by vintage breezeblocks in insane patterns, this suits me so fine. If the unlikely day comes when I tire of this loudness, it’s a quick fix to tame it back down. You’ll hear ZERO regrets from me! -xoxo Jenny