Garden Design: Color Ideas for Creating a Unified Look in Your Garden

In my previous post about the potting shed we found on Craigslist, I talk about how using a strong, bold color on small outdoor structures can really add interest to your garden design.

This is one place where it is usually safe to be whimsical and have some fun with color, especially if the structure is nicely framed by plants and trees.

Creating a polished look

Buy why stop at that one structure? Why not tie together all the major man-made elements of your garden using the same strong color?  This is a subtle way of creating a polished mood for your garden that is uniquely yours.  Let’s just call this color your “signature color.”

I chose a color I call “snappy green” for our signature color because it looks fresh and unexpected.  It’s strong enough to hold its own when the garden is colorful, in the spring and summer, and also add some interest in the dead of winter.

Potting shed with paint and new roof
Potting shed with paint and new roof

Choosing your paint color

When choosing your signature color, think about what you have going on in your garden at various times of the year.

Think about your plants, trees and flowers.  Is there already a common color theme here, maybe one that you hadn’t noticed before?  Often times, whether we realize it or not, we are attracted to the same or similar colors when buying new plants.  What color could you choose as a signature color that would really play up the colors in your garden?

 

Garden design: The bench that my father built, painted to match the potting shed
The bench that my father built, painted in our signature green

Also consider your house and how your signature color will impact your house color.  Look at the big picture and find colors that play well together.

But remember, if you have a colorful garden, you will need a strong signature color to make any kind of impact.  And don’t underestimate the power of strong neutrals like ebony.

Blend in contrasting or rustic garden elements to enhance garden design

You don’t need to paint or match every garden decoration to your signature color.  A few rustic or contrasting counterpoints soothe the eye and add interest.  For example, the container below, which matches my signature color, stands next to a rusted metal trellis.

Garden design: Container with columnar apple tree
Garden store container with columnar apple tree

Our back patio is in close proximity to the garden shed.  Luckily, we found an off-the-rack Rustoleum spray paint color (“Eden” in satin) that closely matches the color we used on the shed, making it easy to paint and occasionally touch up the patio furniture.

Garden design: patio furniture with signature green
Our patio furniture painted our signature green.

Unless you want a very manicured look in your garden, the goal here is very subtle – to create a certain order, or flow, in your garden using your signature color, but without the color overwhelming your landscape design.  This way you are free to bring in pieces of garden décor and create little vignettes that you enjoy even if they are not your signature color.


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Party Decorating Ideas for Entertaining on a Budget

You don’t need to spend a fortune to create a memorable atmosphere for your guests.  With party decorating, it’s not so much what you spend as how you put it all together.  Here are three easy and affordable ideas.

Idea 1: For a fun inexpensive tablecloth, try a sarong

Sarongs come in so many sizes and patterns and most of them are less expensive than a new tablecloth – and more interesting.  They work as a tablecloth for small tables or as a table topper for larger tables.

(Tip: If the sarong doesn’t stay in place on the table, just use a neutral-colored tablecloth underneath it.)

Party decorating ideas - using a sarong for a tablecloth

This is a sarong I got at an outdoor market in Hawaii for around $10.  For this brunch, I paired it with vintage elements: my antique china, crystal and silverware, and a footed milk glass candy dish as an elevated flower vase.

Which brings me to my second tip.

Idea 2: Buffet table tip – Elevate food to add interest

For your buffet table, make sure your food is presented at different heights.  This creates a far more interesting presentation than if your food is  placed on platters that are all at table height.

Don’t worry if your serving pieces don’t match, and don’t worry if you are using a serving piece for something other than its originally intended use.

For example, it’s okay to elevate an appetizer like bacon wrapped dates by serving them on a footed cake plate.  Next time you are at the thrift store or at a garage sale, look for footed or elevated serving platters.

Party decorating Ideas: Thrift store finds: elevated serving dishes
Thrift store finds: elevated serving dishes

The glass cover, above, although not elevated, lends a vertical element to buffet tables.  You can make your own small elevated serving dish by gluing a small vintage plate to a brass candlestick.  Just make sure it’s stable enough not to tip over if nudged.

Other than food safety, there are no rules here.  So have fun with this one and your buffet table will be more interesting.

Idea 3:  Get creative with flowers

This is a little “old world” trick I learned from my mother, who learned it from her mother.

Times were tough for my mom growing up in Germany during WWII, and her family was barely scraping by.  She and her siblings usually didn’t get birthday gifts, but her mother always made the birthday boy or girl feel like a VIP, starting in the morning when their breakfast plate was ringed with flowers.

Buy why stop at birthdays?  If your event is going to be a sit-down meal, you could add this fun little touch to everyone’s place setting.  You can go subtle with this idea or create a big splash.  The possibilities are endless.

Party decorating ideas: Nasturtium and salvia with vintage china
Nasturtium and salvia with vintage china

 

You could even use edible flowers like nasturtium, chives and squash blossoms.  (Note: some flowers are poisonous, so if the flowers will be intended for consumption, always make sure first that they are edible.)

Flowers out of season?  Go shopping in your garden for attractive greens to use instead.



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Master Bathroom Remodel Part 1: How We Got Started

Big ideas for our small bathroom: dreaming up our master bathroom remodel

This is the little half bath on the second story that connected to our master bedroom.

Half bath before master bath remodel
Half bath before remodel

It really started life as a walk-in closet, and sometime in the 1950s it was converted to a half bath.  As you can see, it’s tucked into the roofline of the house.  We wanted to bump out the sloping wall along the roofline and convert this little half bath to a full master bathroom, which meant (gulp!) cutting a huge hole in our roof and putting in a dormer.

Not only would this give us enough space for a full master bath, but it would also add an east-facing window to the second floor.  And windows are a big deal to me.

The planning process – my heart was in my throat!

Adding a dormer to the 80-year-old house, if not done correctly, could really ruin its original charm.

I see this kind of thing all the time – unfortunate add-ons that obviously aren’t original to the house, and visually they do more harm than good.  I would rather have lived with the tiny half bath forever than have our sweet old house fall victim to that kind of abuse.

With remodel projects, I always feel more confident if I can really picture the finished product in my mind before we even start.  So I would stand in the tiny half bath and try to see all the possibilities.

Chris drew a template of the entire upstairs area – the finished space and the unfinished attic combined.  We used copies of this drawing to sketch out many possible bathroom configurations.

Master bathroom remodel
Chris’s drawing of the existing upstairs area

Then we would put the sketches aside until one of us had a brainstorm and wanted to add or change something.

We didn’t rush this process.  We looked at books and magazines for inspiration.  We attended several local home tours.  We researched dormers and photographed homes from the 1920s that had dormers we liked.

Finally we had a roughly sketched plan we both liked.  We were ready to get an architect to draw it up.

His drawings included several images showing how the exterior look of the house would change.  It all looked good to me on paper, and I prayed it would look good in reality.

Master Bathroom remodel

Master bathroom remodel

 

Finding the right contractor

For this remodel, we would be, as previously mentioned, cutting a huge hole in our roof and then framing in a dormer.  The dormer would then have to match the existing siding, which was the original stucco.  We would also be adding pipes and drains.

So we decided we would bite the bullet and hire a general contractor.  But how to find a good one?

We sent feelers out to friends and co-workers asking for contractor recommendations.  We cast a wide net from our real-life contacts so we would have several recommended contractors to choose from.

Then we considered the source. For instance, if I knew a particular co-worker to be a perfectionist and/or they had good taste, then we would definitely plan to meet the contractor that they recommended.  Bonus points if this perfectionist co-worker hired the same contractor more than once and was still happy.  Or if someone else recommended that same contractor.

Go with your gut

We scheduled meetings with the top three referrals to talk about our remodel plans.  All three seemed very competent but we just had a good gut feeling about one of them.  We liked him.  And as it turned out, we also liked his crew, especially the project lead, Bruce.

It never occurred to me how much time this crew would be spending at our house. That we liked these guys was a huge bonus because that made it easier for us to ask questions and request changes.  Bruce was honest with us when he knew an idea we had would not work, but he was also very accommodating about changes if they were for the better.

And he liked our cats.

Now that we had the right contractor, our work was done, right?  Wrong!  All our weekends were spent scouting finish materials and fixtures and making decisions.  In other words, shopping.  Oh the sacrifice!  More on this in Part 2.


 


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Color Tip: Go Bold and Have Fun with Garden Structures

Our Craigslist Find

After we removed a large dead shrub from our yard, we decided that a small garden structure would be perfect in its place.  This is the nice little used potting shed we found on Craigslist. We had it delivered from Eastern Washington via flatbed truck.

 

Garden structures: Potting shed before paint
Potting shed shortly after its arrival – before paint and new roof.

The unpainted, slightly weathered wood must have looked charming among the dry prairie grasses and sage bushes of Eastern Washington, but it looked wrong for our garden.  And with the months of rain we get in Seattle, it was only a matter of time before the wood became a host for that ugly black algae that thrives here, leading to a fair amount of maintenance.  Been there, done that.

Fun with Paint Colors

I considered painting the shed the same color as our house and garage, but this little guy needed more personality to really pop.  And since it was set away from the house and garage, painting it a different color would work.

At the time, I was obsessed with a color that fell somewhere between Chartreuse green and apple green.  A color I called “snappy green.”  I wanted that color on everything!  Of course, it is a color to be used with some restraint.  But outside among all the other greens, it’s actually neutral.  It’s fresh yet sophisticated.

Garden structures: Potting shed with paint and new roof
Potting shed with paint and new roof

After Chris painted the shed, it was re-roofed with a color that would play well with the snappy green. A skylight was added to the back of the roof to provide natural light.  A trip to the salvage shop netted some large concrete blocks that made a good front stoop.

There are many other strong colors that would have worked just as well on this little structure.

Work the paint color into your garden design

One thing to keep in mind if you try something like this is that you might want to make the strong color the “signature color” for all your major garden structures and furniture so that it ties the prominent man-made features of your garden together into a unified look.  For more details on this idea, see my post on finding a signature garden color.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a few images of the interior after Chris installed a potting bench, small shelves and a simple tool rack.

Garden Tool Rack: garden structures
Garden Tool Rack
Shelves
Priscilla with Shelves
Fun vintage finds
Fun vintage finds
Potting Bench: garden structures
Potting Bench

 


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Here are some fun vintage items on Etsy similar to those in our shed, plus some Shaker brooms that are not only attractive but great for tricky garden tasks like sweeping leaves out of gravel walkways.

00 shed box with tools 00 shed brooms 00 shed cultivator 00 shed level 00 shed stool 00shed washbaord


 


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Celebration of Life Party: Ideas for Saying Goodbye to a Special Lady

When we lost Chris’s mother Betty earlier this year, we knew she deserved a special farewell.  She would not have wanted a funeral or a sad memorial, so we opted for a celebration of life party to honor all the phases of her 94-year life and all the people she touched along the way.

Summer was coming and we wanted to host this celebration in our garden.  But how to make it special?  How to make it “Betty?”

Using Family Photos

We had boxes of old family photos, some dating back to the 1920s. And luckily Betty was very photogenic.  I was struck by how classically beautiful she looked in the black and white photos.  She looked like a movie star from Hollywood’s golden age.

And some the of the photos from the 1960s, like Betty with a Jackie Kennedy dress and hairstyle standing beside her 1962 Impala, were priceless.  Then there was Tomboy Betty, dressed in plaid flannel on hunting trips with her family.  A prettier tomboy never existed.

Cleary these photos had to be incorporated into the party. But a slide show would have been next to impossible on a sunny day.  So I scanned about 40 of the best Betty photos from all phases of her life and ordered 4 X 6 prints of them.  Then I simply took 8½ X 11 brightly colored cardstock, cut it in half horizontally, and glued a photo onto each piece of cardstock.

Now I had photos with simple mats. And strung together on a clothesline, they would make a colorful banner on one side, and a photo gallery of Betty’s life on the other.

The day of the party, we set up the party tent that would shade the food table, and we strung clothesline around all 4 sides of it at eye level and affixed the photos with clothespins.

Celebration of life: party ideas - use of family photos
Family and friends enjoying the photo gallery

Gifts for Guests

We told our guests that they could unclip and take home any photo they liked. That way they would each have the photo of Betty that meant the most to them and, since it was already on a simple mat, it was frame-ready.

A Place for Memories

Our little potting shed, standing in close proximity to the food tent, become the “memory room,” where we placed more portraits of Betty, her high school yearbooks, ceramic projects, wedding photo, bibles, and other memorabilia. I also put a laptop in there with a running slide show of all the photos I had scanned for the party banners.

Celebration of life party ideas: memory room
Potting shed converted to a memory room

Personal Touches

I rented white folding wooden chairs from a party rental store so that the party had a more unified look, and we scattered small tables and the chairs around the garden.

Betty had a lot of great little pieces of old linen and lace which I, being the vintage textile junkie that I am, had held on to.  I topped the small tables with her vintage fabrics.  I also used her teacup collection to create rose-filled cup and  saucer centerpieces for the tables.

When we lose someone like Betty after a long illness, it’s easy at first to only remember that person at their worst, during their illness.  But a party like this creates a relaxed atmosphere where friends and family can remember the good times and share those memories with each other.

Betty would have loved it!


 


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