Porch Progress

When Kevin and I found and purchased our home, it definitely wasn’t the exterior that sold us. Two squatty windows complete with a unibrow-esque roof peeked over overgrown bushes onto a lumpy, dead yard. But, you know: location, location, location…

We’ve invested quite a bit of time (we painted the exterior ourselves–never again) and money (new, larger windows) to get the outside in better shape.

Updated Exterior

As with all homes, the work is never finished. Our exterior looks a lot better but still needs some work. There is still a lot of landscaping to do! I have grand plans to add a concrete walkway in front of the bushes and new stairs that would lead directly to the front door, rather than the side entry porch we have now. I really think it would be a more welcoming entry to our house, however it is definitely a project I’d rather pay a professional to undertake. And hiring a professional means forking over the dough. Which means taking the time to save. With larger improvements looming on the horizon, this porch improvement definitely goes on the “someday” list.

We’d added a new storm door, updated the light fixture, and replaced the mailbox in previous bouts of project-energy. But I have a bit of an all-or-nothing personality, and part of me feels that it’s not worth investing any more time to make my porch pretty if I can’t go all the way. I’ve even had front door paint sitting in my hall closet unused for two years.

Plain Porch 1 Plain Porch 2

I realize this is ridiculous so after some prodding and inspiration from my sisters, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. First, I power washed the side of the house, windows and porch. The abundance of cobwebs was disgusting. I busted out the paint and tackled the front door. The cute stencil on the mailbox is definitely one of those “hot from far, far from hot” type of things. A new planter with a sunny yellow mum added a bit of color. I’m grateful that mum season is short since I can’t keep plants alive for the life of me (this is actually mum numero dos). I also turned to Pinterest and created a few  seasonal decorations for the door.

Halloween Porch
(Haunted house sign recovered from our basement, Halloween door inspiration found here)

Fall Porch

(Fall wreath inspiration found here)

I also added a bench in front of the windows and an outdoor runner in hopes of covering some of the stained concrete. Unfortunately that didn’t work as well in execution as I thought it would in my head. The stains don’t look as obvious in this picture but they are very apparent in real life. I had hoped to make some cute, fall-themed outdoor pillows but didn’t get around to it. Maybe I’ll get something together for the Christmas season.

Porch with Bench

Next spring I may add a few planters and stain the concrete, but I feel like this a good start to making the porch a more welcoming entrance to our home! It definitely cheers me up as I come and go.


Picture Perfect Porch

When Austin and I closed on our house in April, the front porch had no hope of earning a spot on our growing to-do list. In fact, as moving day approached, the simple concrete stoop was a point of pride for me as I routinely crept by (and snapped Instagrams of) our contract-pending/show for back-ups/SOLD (!!!) little cottage on the corner. It was welcoming focal point for our signature lot with a slightly winding path to the street.


As we pulled in to unload our mishmash of belongings, I felt a pang of panic as I looked adoringly at our first home. “Wait a minute! I think the previous owners accidentally took those beautiful urns that flanked our entry way! And what about that wreath? Surely we contracted for them to leave the forsythia wreath…”  Upon closer inspection of the contract porch, I realized those beautiful touches from the previous owners masked a few flaws.

Crumbling corners were perched preciously… giving the illusion of a perfectly sculpted stoop. I half-heartedly tried to puzzle the pieces back together for the first few weeks of home ownership, but as the summer wore on, my care and patience for the porch waned. Plus, that bright green lawn got a little crispy and I realized the tree out front was on its last legs (roots?). It was easier to close the curtains and forget about the front, especially when our side door seems to get way more action from visitors and the Jimmy Johns delivery guy.

More mind bending then you might think...

But even with the crumbling porch, Austin and I love our little home. It is where we pieced together our first grill with a tiny wrench (without a single threat of calling off the wedding) and where our parties with kegs and themes will evolve into gatherings laden with cupcakes and wet wipes. When it is just us under the roof, we both agree there is nowhere we would rather be… Which is precisely why I’ve chosen for our wedding photographer to snap our engagement photos at the Birch House. Which (I’m not sure Austin has realized yet) means there is a lot of sprucing up to be done and my first focus is that sad, sloppy, little stoop.

The faded doormat (one of our first home purchases) no longer provided the spirited WELCOME it once boasted. In fact, the only thing it really welcomed was a whole bunch of rolly pollies.A nice sweep and scrub brightened helped to initially brighten up our entryway and evict its creepy crawly inhabitants. (Aside from the rolly pollies, there were a number of sticky spiderwebs… not the intentional Halloween-y kind. Blech!)

porchAfter the initial scrub down, I felt like a little more inspired by the blank space. After observing the emptiness, it hit me… “Wait a minute… are the stairs not centered on the stoop?!” I called Austin out to confirm. I mean… it was pretty obvious, but he gave me a reassuring pat on the back as I grappled with the reality (first world problems to the max, I know.) that I have about 2 1/2 feet of stoop on the right and 1 1/2 feet of stoop on the left. This is definitely not in line with perfectly symmetrical design I had planned from the get-go. I suppose there is a “rule” against symmetry in design, though. Have you heard about that? So maybe it was meant to be. Regardless of the wonky alignment of the porch, one thing was for sure, those pots are super wimpy. We plopped them on the porch our first weekend in the house, planted begonias and didn’t ever look back. (Not even to water them. Oops.)

porch planters

The empty pots above were what we picked up at Home Depot. We mistakenly thought they would be much bigger. I even hemmed and hawed over them possibly cramping the porch while Austin obsessively checked Fantasy Football offered his best input. After 20 minutes of pacing the Home Depot Garden center, I settled on pots that I would have to spray paint to get exactly what I wanted and then they turned out to be all wrong. I wasn’t too disappointed about having to return them, since it hopefully meant I would find something that wouldn’t need to be tweaked.

home depot

After realizing the Home Depot pots just weren’t “The Ones”, I took to trolling Craigslist again. In the weeks leading up to our Home Depot excursion, I had focused on finding something second-hand online. There wasn’t much to be seen for a reasonable price (I was looking for two planters under $50) and what was available was all wrong: A forgotten and forlorn 1-800-Flowers vase, an urn that resided outside a funeral home for five times my budget and some farm equipment, just to name a few items that didn’t quite fit the bill.

plantersWe decided to grab a Red Box once I had officially admitted defeat in the planter search. After visiting 3 different Red Box Kiosks to find World War Z on Blu Ray (the DVD option available at each kiosk wasn’t cutting it for Austin) we found ourselves at the dreaded Wal-Mart down the street. Now, don’t get me wrong… Wal-Mart totally has its perks. It just so happens that our local store is where despair resides. Long (dimly lit, crowded and screechy) story short, that is where we found two massive (but lightweight) pots that didn’t need a lick of spray paint! We plopped them on the porch to be filled later, shared a high five and indulged in Brad Pitt zombies.

In all “real-time blogging” honesty, an entire week passed with empty pots. There were even a few days of rain that would have been great for anything we had planted, but instead, the pots filled with murky water. I could tell you it was because of the weather or the shorter days that I didn’t get around to filling the pots, but here is the truth: I am inanimate following 3.8/5 work days. I can barely feed myself, let alone decorate or garden after 5. And really, its quite easy to watch a weekend pass packed with football games/weddings/parties/errands/hangovers. Luckily, with a push from Katie, we were able to shop the mum market together and found the most beautiful arrangements of grasses, mums, cabbage and some colorful leafy things for a real bargain. I’ll spare you the planting details, so just take a look:

 porch planted

With a renewed vigor and feeling of accomplishment fueled by forced compliments from anyone who even glanced in the direction of the newly planted pots, I was able to power through spray-painting the creamy colored pots and pop in some bright yellow mums. (Yellow mums are my favorite for fall!)

What’s that? You’ve noticed an inconsistency in my stash? Those gorgeous (HEAVY!) concrete urns were, in fact, a lucky new find. Austin’s grandpa recently called us over to help them downsize before they moved and as soon as I spotted these urns I couldn’t focus on all the other wonderful items they had up for grabs. (But hello, monogrammed flatware! How nice it will be to have enough spoons for more than three bowls of ice cream! And crystal! I didn’t know I loved you until I was actually granted the ability to serve three different wines in three different glasses at one single dinner party! Now who is bringing the wine?)

Ideally, I’d like them to have some leafy greens or even pansies, but time is of the essence since we’re working on the engagement picture deadline. If I planted something now, I’m sure it would look all dweeby and misproportioned… Like when your parents force you to buy your shoes too big during your formative years and you show up to school that first day in your glaringly spotless clown shoes. (Or was that just me?) Thankfully, a trip to our family’s all time favorite pumpkin patch was all it took to fill our pretty little urns without making them look all fourth grade with buck teeth and a yield sign hair cut. See?


So in the end, the porch is so much more welcoming and it is exciting to invite our guests (and our pizza delivery guys) to use the front door. I’m glad to have the hassle of buying the pots out of the way so that each season we have a new canvas without a single trip to Wal-Mart. As for our engagement pictures… click here to check out the amazing work of Rita Clark Photography. We are so lucky to have found her!