Category Archives: outdoor spaces


yellow front door and grey brick: a porch makeover

3rd July 2014

So my sister-in-law Alexandra and I always love talking home decor and crafting. We chat about our favourite blogs, she introduces me to new ones, and I oooh and aaahh over her lastest sewing creations – she makes the most gorgeous blankets and pillows, when she has a free second as a mama of 3 seriously cute kiddos. Anyway she and my brother-in-law John have a great house in Toronto, but the outside has been a lacklustre since they bought it a few years ago. Not terrible, but just a little tired. It actually almost put them off of buying the house altogether.

From afar, the brick and black paint doesn’t look too bad..


But things were chipped and tired. The black porch showed every spec of dust, and the black door plus black window and deep red brick was all a little dark. The brick had been painted that dark red, and the mortar was painted black, too – weird. Based on the brick at the side of the house, it was in fine shape, so we aren’t quite sure where that motivation came from. before2

Anyway, a few weeks ago, the time had come to do a bit of work out there and they decided to start by giving everything a new coat of paint: the bricks, the door, the deck.

Alexandra knew she wanted grey for the brick facade, so they tested a few options. The darker grey won out – more dramatic for the white railing and pillars to pop against.

They had the brick painted grey, the door painted a cheery yellow (isn’t it sweet?), and the decking painted in the lighter grey tone. {Pics are from an iphone, but you get the idea}



Doesn’t it look so much happier and refreshed? Plus, now they can say “Oh, we’re the house with the yellow door!”. Apparently our uncle who was coming to stay with them walked right by the house because he didn’t recognize it! Thought he was on the wrong street. A sign of a great transformation.


I love the sleek silver house numbers that have a mid-century vibe to them, and the older style post box.

They have plans for even more spruce ups, but I think the transformation so far is stellar. They used College Pro painters (you know, the company run by University students) and said that their workmanship and professionalism was excellent. Two of my best girlfriends were painters for College Pro one summer – great way to get in shape and be outside enjoying the sunny weather.

The paint colours:

  • Brick Paint – Sherwin Williams Gauntlet Gray (SW7019)
  • Porch Paint – Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray (SW7017) **Two shades lighter than brick paint
  • Front Door Paint – Benjamin Moore paint matched to a Sherwin Williams colour ‘Bee’ (SW6683) **Bee wasn’t available by SW as an exterior paint, so they were able to colour match it to Benjamin Moore

Nice, right? I have always loved the grey + yellow combo, and I think it suits their house perfectly. What about you guys? Love a yellow door? Doing any work on the curb appeal of your place this summer? 

turquoise front door - square

a DIY turquoise front door

22nd November 2013

Remember back in this post when I lamented over our front door color? I wasn’t sure what to choose that was going to go with our red brick exterior and brown screen door. Well, ever since I painted our screen door black, my color options for our front door were wide open. I could go with any of my original contenders (yellow, red, or navy), or could stay true to my aqua-loving self. The result? A turquoise front door!

A painted turquoise front door on a red brick bungalow. A perfect DIY project to amp up your curb appeal! - via the sweetest digs

First step was to tape off the door. I used an “exterior surfaces” painter’s tape from ScotchBlue that I hadn’t tried before (this is the stuff). The special feature is that with a bit of pressure when you are ripping it off the roll, it tears off in a straight line – no scissors needed or wonky cuts! It only took a few tries of getting used to breaking it off, and it really made things a cinch. Taping off all of these little windows took waaaay less time.

A painted turquoise front door on a red brick bungalow. A perfect DIY project to amp up your curb appeal! - via the sweetest digs

When I was browsing my Martha Stewart paint deck, I saw her teal colour (called “araucana teal“) and I was sold. It’s a really saturated color, knew it would go well with our red brick and black accents, and it just felt happy to me.DSC_0783

I had it colour-matched at the Home Depot to CIL’s exterior paint in a satin finish.

[Update: After living with this paint finish for a while, I would recommend going with a semi-gloss or gloss finish. We found that the satin finish marked easily.]
DSC_0786I gave the door a sanding before getting started. I didn’t go overboard, as we will replace this door when we do our major addition/reno, but I wanted to get some of the major dings sanded down a bit. Then I washed it down with a soapy cloth, let it dry, and got started on painting. Remember that your paint job is only going to be as good as your prep work, so make sure to put the time in (even though I know how annoying it can be!).

First up was to cut in around all areas with moulding with a 2″ angled brush. I just cut in around the door knob, but if you’re worried, either tape off the hardware or remove it all together for painting.
A painted turquoise front door on a red brick bungalow. A perfect DIY project to amp up your curb appeal! - via the sweetest digs

Then finish off the rest with a small foam roller. It took three coats for full coverage. The foam roller will give you that more smooth finish, free of brush strokes.


Below is a better photo of the colour. It’s very much a teal. I couldn’t be happier. DSC_1175

You can see that there are still some dents in the door (this is an OLD door!), but the paint did a nice job of distracting from them. They were more noticeable in the glossy white, which was super dingy looking. And even though we still have our old doorknob, I love the way the brass now looks next to the teal.DSC_1176



I really like the balance of the cool turquoise with the warm red and rich black accents. It’s a happy little marriage of colours.DSC_1180

With the screen door closed you can’t see the turquoise as clearly, but there is still a pop of colour from the street. DSC_1188-edited

This is one of those projects that I so wish I had done when we first purchased our home. The turquoise door and black screen have really changed the curb appeal of our place and make it a really happy place to come home to.

Want more door painting tips?: Check out how I painted some interior doors gray and got a factory finish. This post has all the how-to details!

What colour is your front door? Are you into bright doors? Love neutral beauties? I definitely still love a black or deep navy door. I think we might go that route in our future once the addition/reno is done. 

the DIY files: painting a screen door

25th September 2013

So remember this post back in May when I threw around some options for paint colours for our front door? And how I was trying to make it work with our uber-ugly brown screen door? The screen door that didn’t match with our house numbers, mailboxes, or shutters?

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Well, I couldn’t make a decision about the front door colour because I just felt like nothing would look good with that screen door. We didn’t want to take it down as we leave our front door open fairly often, and it provides an extra layer of insulation in the winter. And we didn’t want to replace it with a new one, since when we do our reno/second story addition, we are going to replace the whole front door area and will get all new doors at that point.

So what’s a DIY, budget girl to do? I took a bit of a risk and decided to try and paint it….with the lazy girl approach to painting – I didn’t want to take the door down and then have to re-install it, so I just taped it off in place and went for it. No priming or sanding or anything.

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I grabbed some of this matte black tremclad rust paint from the Home Depot.

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It’s the same paint that I used on our shutters and it holds up well in the outdoors. I wiped the door down with soap and water, patted it dry, and started brushing on the paint with trepidation. I’m not sure why I was so nervous. I envisioned the paint not sticking well to the metal, getting drips, or coverage being poor. Well, after just a few minutes I realized that things were looking pretty darn good.

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Oh, and if you’re wondering if I did this project recently with the baby in tow… nope! This was a days-before-delivering project. I think I was 39 weeks + 5 days pregnant? Hello, belly!

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It took about an hour to do the first coat, and then about half an hour to do the second (I let the door dry for about 4 hours in between coats). I didn’t paint the mesh screen part, but you really can’t tell that it’s brown next to the rest of the black door.

DSC_0551 (2)Peeling off the tape was a cinch, and the lines came out really crisply.

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The result? Love, love, love. I feel like it makes a huge difference to the curb appeal of our place. DSC_0558

And since I did this project about 7 weeks ago, I can happily report that the door still looks good as new. The paint has great coverage and there are no chips or peeling parts to be seen.


The door looks so much better from the inside too. It cleans up the space and plays off nicely with the black light fixture we have in the entry-way.



And now I feel like I have total freedom in terms of front door colour – pretty much everything going with black, white, and brick!! sa-weet!

Please don’t pay any attention to the garden and rest of the curb appeal, m’kay? We totally ignored the outside of the house this summer. Oh and that weird zig zag line in the brick? It’s due to some issues we are having with our foundation (that we will fix when we do the second storey). DSC_0555Now onto that front door… so many options!

Have you guys tried painting a screen door? What about your front door? Have a favourite colour? I’m totally kicking myself for not having done this sooner!

getting our roofing on

22nd October 2012

So on Friday you saw how we installed some new shutters on our little house, and I mentioned (among other tasks) that re-shingling our roof was on the to-do list.

You can’t see super clearly in the photo above how bad the shingles on the front part of our house had gotten. They were all peeling away and some had even flown off last spring with some gusty storms. Our garage, which is free-standing, was in the same condition and needed some serious re-shingling. See below how the shingles are peeling? Luckily though, it was just the front section of our roof and garage that needed re-doing. The two sides and back of the house were totally fine (you can also see a glimpse of the side of the house in the photo below).

I’ll let you in on a little secret that I haven’t actually talked about on the blog yet. We’re hoping that in a couple of years we’ll be able to put a second story onto our house. We live in a neighbourhood that is super trendy and luckily the market in our area can take a bigger house. We’re actually probably the smallest house on our street. This past spring, our neighbours put a second story on their house, and it looks fabulous. Needless to say, there is a lot of planning and penny pinching that has to happen before we can go down that path, and a fix of our foundation (I’ll save that for another day!). What we are trying to do in the meantime though, is not invest too much money into things that would need to be torn down and re-done come second storey time. The garage roof was one of those things — we’re hoping to knock it down and build a new one alongside the house (attached), giving us a way bigger backyard and additional building space above the garage. All that to say, that we decided to hold off on replacing the garage roof and just focused on the front part of our house. We’re not getting any leaks, so hopefully it will hold up for another year or two.

Since it was only one side of roof that we were tackling, and because you know we like to save money wherever we can, instead of getting big roofing companies to come in and do the whole thing, we hired our contractor/builder/plumber/jack of all trades friend (the same guy who helped us with our bathrooom reno). He has a reasonable hourly wage, had all of the equipment we needed for the job, and is super skilled (he has built his own houses from the ground up!).

The whole thing happened in a day. Here is DIY Dan bringing shingles up. His job was to get the shingles out, cut to size if necessary, and haul up onto the roof.

Then it was our pal’s job (thank you, Daryl!), to hammer in the shingles one-by-one. This team effort meant the job was so speedy.

Luckily the under-pad from the previous roofing job was still in pretty good shape, so the boys just had to lay down a new piece of black base sheet on top (this stuff) and then shingle. We used lifetime shingles in charcoal from Home Depot (these guys).

After about 5.5 hours, it was looking good as new!

The shingles aren’t exactly the same as the ones on the sides, but are only slightly different variations of charcoal. You can only tell if you’re looking really closely.

Budget breakdown?

  • $220 in labour
  • $300 in supplies (shingles, under-lay, nails, etc) –> this may be off by a few bucks since we still have a return to do
  • $16 in rentals (for that big ladder)

TOTAL: $536

Not bad for a whole new roof front. It definitely would have been a lot more if we had gone with a roofing company, so we’re feeling pretty grateful to know someone in the industry who we can hire on his own.

What about you guys? Had to do any roofing on your place before? It’s not really one of those fun things to spend time or money on, but if you have ever watched any episodes of Mike Holmes, you’ll know that all of the fun decorating stuff doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the structural part of your house looked after!  Oh and has anyone done any huge renovations (like added a second story) onto their place? Any tips and advice are so welcome!

we shutta done this earlier

19th October 2012

Okay, was that pun just way too cheesy? I said to Dan last night that I was trying to come up with a title for this post and couldn’t stop thinking “just shut up, shut up” a la Black Eyed Peas, but that it didn’t really make sense. So this one was what popped into his head. Serious giggles, some singing/dancing to Black Eyed Peas, and more bad puns ensued.

Alright, let’s get down to business. This is our wee house early this spring. Please ignore the black (and later red-ish) squares over our house number. There is SO much we want to do to amp up our curb appeal, and we have sort of neglected it to date, other than planting a few things. We always get so busy in the summers with cottages and travel, that we aren’t often home to get outside things done. One easy upgrade that I have been wanting to do for a long time was install some shutters.

So when I saw these guys at Home Depot for $50, I scooped them up. They are a hard plastic, instead of the expensive custom wood ones, but look really good from afar and are paintable in any colour you choose.

We held them up to make sure they were the right size, and then promptly left them in the back of our garage for the past 2 months. Whoops. Told you we weren’t good at getting outdoor projects in the summer.

So I finally pulled them out and gave them a couple coats of black paint. I originally was going to use a can and paintbrush, but when I realized there were so many nooks and crannies in the shutters, spray paint seemed like the much more sane option. I used a high-quality outdoor/all-weather matte black spray paint and applied it in numerous thin coats. Definitely didn’t want any drippage on my pretty shutters.

Then it was time to install. These things are actually super simple. You hold them in place, drill holes in all 4 corners and 2 in the middle on either side, and then tap the plugs in. Here is the play-by-play.

Drill, using a hammer drill and masonry bit:

Tap, tap, tap:

Done! Be warned that the drilling is super loud. Definitely not something you want to do at 6am on a Sunday morning. Neighbours might get a little cranky.

Here is the after shot. The shutters definitely add a lot more depth and character to our little pad. I’m bummed we didn’t actually finish this project in the summer so that the house wouldn’t look quite so shleppy in the after photo. We clearly need to do a bit of raking and the plants in front are looking pretty sad. But the shutters are so much better, huh?

And of course, there is SO much we still need to do out here. Sigh. That ugly brown screen door next to our new black shutters totally makes me cringe.

Most are cosmetic, except for the whole roof re-shingling thing. It’s actually on the schedule for this weekend. Will let you know how it goes!

Have a good weekend, everyone! Got anything fun planned? Probably won’t be as exciting as our roof work (ha!)! And last week’s giveaway winner was announced – go check back to see if it was you! 

the inspiration files: window flower boxes

19th June 2012

This is the first summer in our pad that the hubby and I have actually had time to think about the landscaping and garden (our first summer here we spent renovating the basement and the second summer we were living in England). So we have been trying to tackle some outdoor projects to spruce up our curb appeal – details on those to come soon! One of the projects that I have had on my to-do list is to build a flower box to hang from our front window.

When we were living in London, since gardens/backyards were pretty hard to come by in the city, people seemed to really try and make the most of any outdoor space they had to add some greenery. Check out a few of these photos I snapped in our old ‘hood, Maida Vale.

Aren’t they pretty? I love the pop of colour and how welcoming they make the houses feel.

I went browsing around on Pinterest to see what other inspiration photos I could find.

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

Don’t you like the way the greenery crawls over the front of the box, like in the one above? I also love the mixture of plants in that box – some flowers, some shrubby things, some leafy things. Can’t you tell that I know a lot about plants and gardening? Ha!

Since we have added some colour to our front garden, I’m thinking either a black or natural wood box would be best. I’m also starting to picture some shutters. Too many ideas!

How about you folks? Been doing any gardening yet this summer or other landscaping projects? Ever added shutters or a window box to your pad? If so, got any tips? 

help choose fabric (and get a discount!)

7th May 2011

So a few weeks ago I let you guys know about my involvement with the ‘bloggers give back‘ project — a group of bloggers that have gotten together to transform a garden for a great charity in Toronto (you can read about it here).

Well things have been progressing pretty steadily since then. We’ve got Canadian garden guru Frank Ferragine on board to design the healing garden and IKEA Canada has just shipped a ton of amazing outdoor furniture for the space (thank you, IKEA!). Happy days!

All of the bloggers involved came up with a “mood board” of how they envisioned the garden (check them out here). Here’s what I came up with. Solid basics punched up with fun fabrics and cool accessories. I thought it was also important to have separate lounging and dining areas. I have to admit, this totally got me dreaming about what I’d like to do to our backyard when we get back this summer…

We are now at the stage where we get to pick fabrics from another one of our amazing sponsors, Tonic Living. They are donating two Bench cushions for the long Falster Benches that go with the Dining Table, and four throw cushions for the ARHLOMA chairs. I’m totally digging the “Slick, Mink” and “Flatiron, Pacifica” (geometric patterns…whose surprised?!), but we want YOUR input.

How to help:
1. Visit  Tonic Living and see their outdoor fabric collection
2. Come back here and leave a message with which fabrics you would choose.

Plus… get a discount yourself!  Tonic Living has kindly offered our readers a 10% discount off EVERYTHING in their store (with no minimum). Sweeeet! The code is BLOGGERS and will be good until the end of 2011. Happy fabric shopping!!


tiles for miles

12th January 2011

While in Spain over Christmas (you can read about that here), I fell in love with the colourful tiles that the Spanish use all over their houses (both outside & inside). They reminded me of the tiles I had seen in Portugal a few years ago, full of colour and intricate patterns.

The balconies were usually pretty exceptional – covered with tiles, potted plants, and sometimes even decorative plates. Check out this balcony from Granada. It has been officially voted the best balcony of Spain for something like 3 years running:

You can spot the tiles even on the underside of most balconies. Amazing, huh?

As you can guess I wanted to buy some tiles while we were there, but the ever-practical Dan reminded me about baggage weight limits and the fact that we are living in a London flat at the moment. Not the time, Gemma! However, when we are back at our Ottawa home and get around to building our backyard deck, I’m definitely going to try and incorporate some of this fun, Spanish flare.

What do you think? Is it colour and pattern overload for you, or are you loving it as much as I am?