{project house} our backyard makeover.

our yard has always been a bit more than we could handle since day one. there was lots of landscaping done by the previous owner, but without a strict yardwork regiment & a very green thumb, the plants just took over! there were big privacy hedges on two sides of the yard that needed at least annual, & very expensive, professional trimming, & lots & lots of plants planted right next to each other. needless to say after three years of minimal yardwork on our part, things had gotten a little out of control. plus, the lawn (at least in the backyard) was super uneven & very spotty.

sure enough, I got a bug this past spring to get our yard under control so that it looked as nice as the rest of the house! (apparently a big house remodel will do that…) we started figuring out what we wanted our yard to look like, what our budget was, & reaching out to landscapers to start getting bids. we also decided it was worth it to hire a landscape designer since neither of us know anything about landscaping & we didn’t want to put a lot of time & money into our yard without some kind of design. a friend/neighbor of ours gave us the contact information for Erin Lau Design & she was wonderful! we initially had her out for just the front yard design, but brought her back out later in the summer to do a backyard design as well (we did two 2-hour consults, if that helps anyone who is interested!). not only did she give us simple, easy-to-maintain designs, she gave us a plant list to choose from, & the offer to buy any plants we were interested (cheaper than going to a big box store & saved us from having to drive out of town to a nursery).

of course though seattle had other plans for us & really tested our patience with this project. even though we started the process in the spring (may-ish), our spring & summer were so warm that it didn’t make sense to start any work. if we would have had removal of the old plants & grass done that early, our yard would have been a dirt/mud pit the entire summer! some times it stays cool enough to plant grass in the summer, but everyone we talked to told us to wait until the fall to plant grass & other plants & trees. so we waited. but, the wait did allow us to do some of the work ourselves & save some money. we removed all of the plants from the yard over the course of the late spring & summer, aaron chopped down the laurel bushes that ran the entire east side of the house (with a hatchet & a chainsaw!), & we removed a lot of the rocks that were all over the flower beds. we hired some crews to take out the big bushes that lined our back fence (north) as well as a stump grinder.

after going back & forth with a few yard contractors, we decided to go with EcoYards to do the sod removal, levelling, sprinkler & drip-line installation, & new sod installation. yep, you read that right sprinklers. it was a decision that we sat on for a long time, mostly due to the high cost, but we decided it was worth it after hearing from a neighbor who has the most beautiful front yard that sprinklers were the big secret & a friend who is in the lawn & sprinkler industry. for us, it was worth the investment since we both knew it was the best chance we had at keeping everything alive! {side note: most homes in seattle don’t have sprinklers. we get quite a bit of rain, & during the summer almost everyone lets their lawn go dormant (yellow) & then wait for it to come back green in the fall.} plus, a major selling feature was that this irrigation system has rain sensors so it can adjust the amount of water it puts out based on the rain fall – so cool! we have a little weather station on the back of the house.

finally (finally) we had the crew on-site & they were here for two weeks. it was crazy to see the transformation & we are super happy with the results! we have planted six trees in the backyard, plus mulch in the flowerbeds. then in the spring we will plant the remaining plants in the backyard, & do the removal & planting of the front yard.

without further adieu, before, during, & after pictures! {sidenote: the yard was really hard to photograph with the privacy hedges!}

BEFORE {May, June, & July 2014}:

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{the back hedge & rhodie (left).}


{the back hedge. you can see our neighbor’s garage back there.}


{the laurel hedge that was on the east-side of the house.}

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{the back hedge coming down!}


{& the hedge is gone!}


{we actually had the laurels trimmed this spring since we were on the fence about whether we wanted to get rid of it or not. we quickly decided we wanted it gone… oh well!}

20150530_235614269_iOS  {aaron putting together the shed.}20150627_190245140_iOS

{after years of being behind the back hedges, the side of our neighbor’s garage was in rough shape.}

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{the side fence (west) coming down in July, along with all of that ivy!} 20150703_195756981_iOS

{aaron & our neighbor taking down the old back fence.}

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{setting the new posts.}

20150705_173758172_iOS{a new fence!}

20150712_200407391_iOS  {the old laurel. you can see the gap to the right where we had a quince taken out in the spring.}20150809_180438419_iOS

{aaron chopped down ALL of the laurel hedges – by hand! – over the course of the summer, & then we slowly got rid of it in our yard waste.}

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DURING {September & October, 2015}:



{the lines sprayed for irrigation – white – & the flower bed boundary – orange.}






{aaron planting our new trees.}



AFTER {November, 2015}:

20151115_214648396_iOS{peering in thru the east-side gate.}

20151115_214706282_iOS{along this side of the yard are three trees which will hopefully give us privacy in a few years.}

20151115_214718293_iOS{there are two more threes along the north/back edge of our yard.}

20151115_214725856_iOS{I wanted to keep the old rhodie!}

20151115_214739720_iOS{another tree at the end of the flower bed.}

20151115_214749660_iOS{a work in progress, but on the west side of our house is a dog run – the dog door is on this side of the house – & the new home for our little shed.}

20151115_214754487_iOS{we still have this giant tree in the back corner. it’s nice to have a big, mature tree, but boy it has so many leaves! i also added our little lawn flamingos!}

20151115_214806594_iOS{& back towards the east-side gate.}

we are thrilled with the work that was done & how the yard is shaping up. it has been a lot more work on the weekends, since we are actually doing work. & by “we” i mean aaron! he is out there every weekend raking, mowing, etc. we are SO excited for this next spring & summer! i’ll be sure to update this spring too!

have you done a yard makeover lately? any suggestions or hints for us newbies?


a safer staircase.

as many of you know, when we finished out our basement last year during the renovation, we had to add a staircase inside the house (since the existing staircase was outside). after a few different versions of a new floor plan, our architects came up with a genius way to incorporate an internal staircase that would feel like it was original. the only bummer was that it would take up nearly the entire second bedroom (used as our office). but, since we were adding three additional bedrooms, the sacrifice didn’t seem too extreme.

opting to keep the entire house in wood floors, this included having wooden stairs as well. & let me tell you, they are gorgeous (look here for the professional photo!). our contractor & floor guy used new growth fir that was stained to match the existing floor upstairs. the stairs also houses sadie’s dog door on the second landing since that is at ground level (& the rest of the basement is below ground).

as much as I LOVE these stairs, they aren’t perfect. for one thing sadie drags in so much dirt (so much!) & debris on her feet & legs, & despite our best efforts the stairs really should be cleaned once a day. the other thing is that wooden stairs are super slippery! aaron & I have both taken a tumble down the stairs (don’t worry, both of us are fine!) but it is scary since we are often toting eloise up & down the stairs. plus, if sadie’s nails aren’t really well trimmed, she slips around too if she takes a turn too quickly!

aaron & I talked a few months ago about possibly adding a runner, but then decided to table the discussion for a while. & we would have to be pretty creative about the installation of a runner since there are two big turns & two landings… enter: Puppy Treads. a lightweight, non-slip walking surface that easily installs on hardwood (or tile) stairs to protect from falls.

installation was super easy & took just a few minutes. I chose the bottom two stairs before the first landing since that is where most of the tumbles have occurred. slippery little suckers! first I started by really cleaning the stairs. I swept the entire staircase but only deep cleaned the two stair treads I was going to install on. (I have been loving the Honest Co floor cleaner!)


then I set the Puppy Treads on the stairs to see about placement. I put them on the right-hand side of the stairs since we tend to walk towards the inside of the staircase. they are pretty long though, so in hindsight I probably could have put them in the middle of the stair tread & been just fine.


next, peeling off the paper backing. the nice thing was that the Puppy Treads were substantial enough that they didn’t curl in on themselves as I peeled off the backing (that’s the worst!).



then onto adhering to the stairs. it was suggested that we use a rolling pin or wallpaper roller to help get the air bubbles out. honestly, the rolling pin didn’t seem to do much.


lastly, was admiring my handi-work! I managed to get them on pretty straight & get most of the air bubbles out!



so far we have been really happy with our new Puppy Treads. they give good gription (that is a family term!) on your feet as you walk down the stairs (down is really the problem in our house). I don’t love the look of them (although the transparency helps!) but I feel a lot more comfortable when I am carrying eloise down the stairs for naptime when I hit these two stairs which makes them totally worth it! cleaning is also great too – the material isn’t sticky on the top side, so no dirt or dog hair gets stuck & sweeps right off. & they also don’t seem to attract dirt or dog hair either, also a plus! all in all we are happy with the Puppy Treads & probably wouldn’t put them on all of the stair treads, but may want to add a few more to the problem areas (likely the bottom two stairs of the next two sections!).

bonus for all readers: get 10% off Puppy Treads with the code BLOG2015.

thank you Handi-Ramp!


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{this post is sponsored by Handi-Ramp & the Puppy Treads shown were provided for my review & all opinions are my own. thank you for supporting the brands that support Emerald City Diaries.}

project house {pro photos}

so many of you have been asking about seeing updated photos of our newly renovated space. we have been so eager to share, but nothing seems quite finished. I know the rooms will never really be “finished” but I am hoping to get to the point (soon!) that they are blog worthy enough to share.

any-hoo, I did want to share some professional photos that our architects had taken a few weeks ago.

Lower Entry

Lower Entry Bathroom email

Lower Entry Stairs email

Lower Exterior email

{photo credit: Perspective Image Photography}

I also finally updated the Project House tab so you can see all of the phases of construction (pretty much until we moved in).

I wish my house always looked that good!


project house {diy sputnik chandelier}

a house update – it’s been a long time, huh? I guess that’s what happens when you have a baby at the end of a house remodel… in happy news, I am going to share a fun house update! {& in even happier news, we are 100% DONE with construction!}

as soon as I started seeing the entryway come to life – demolition of the office & old entry walls, & drywall – I started brainstorming what type of light fixture would go above the stairwell. the space is so big & bright with two big windows centered in the space, & was begging for a big, bold, & dramatic light fixture. given our very tight light fixture budget, I started the hunt for an awesome DIY & found the perfect one!

much like jenny over at Little Green Notebook {her blog is absolutely inspiring!} I was dreaming of a sputnik chandelier (like the one pictured below). wouldn’t that have been amazing? needless to say, this wasn’t in my budget. luckily, jenny created an ikea hack for a DIY version of a sputnik!


{sputnik chandelier via}

I followed jenny’s tutorial pretty much exactly, but have included in progress photos of my version. while I had plans & the supplies to do this project by late spring, I didn’t find the time to actually do any of it until I started my maternity leave at the end of july. so, you can picture me at 37 weeks handpainting all of these flowers {that’s two coats on each side!}. by the time I had finished painting the flowers, I made aaron find our paint sprayer so I didn’t have to handpaint the rest of the fixture!


& the final product!


this is such an amazing piece & I am so, so proud of it! it makes such a statement & you see it as soon as you walk in the front door. one of my favorite DIYs to date!

& for reference, this is what the original ikea fixture looks like. an improvement, right?


have you DIY’d a light fixture?


project house {week 18}


{wall sconces in master bedroom // vanity in master bathroom // clawfoot tub in kids’ bathroom}


{light fixture in master bedroom // downstairs hallway lights}


{dutch door for the laundry room & handles on the closet doors // bath fixtures waiting to be installed // living room is coming together}


{downstairs hallway looking towards master // upstairs hallway with new light & attic access}


{light fixture in entryway // front porch light fixture // stair hand railing}

this week at the house {& for the rest of the project!} is all about details. the electricians were in this weekend getting lighting fixtures installed, & outlets & covers installed. the interior paint is mostly finished with touch-ups needed, but that will probably not be totally done until after we have fully moved back in.

this week the plumber is in to install the bath fixtures &, fingers crossed, the electricians will be back to complete their work. at the end of the week the entryway floors & stairs will be fully finished & sealed.

we have been able to “move back in” to the main living space, though we aren’t yet living there full time. hopefully that will happen sometime this week! the new space is starting to come together though & hopefully we can really start on the nursery soon!

fingers crossed our completion is a bit earlier than more recently anticipated {maybe, next week??}


project house {week 17}


{paint touch up in kitchen // “moving back into the living room” // windows over the stairwell papered for painting // door painting in the office}


{paint touch up in the living room & readying the space to move back in // lots of cleaning happening – so. much. dust. // the new hardwood floor peeking thru // painting doors in the kids’ bathroom}


{entryway window // looking downstairs at the new paint // painting supplies including our handrails // door painting in the master bedroom}


{painting supplies – a better set-up than I use! // 38 week bump at the house // more doors}

in the first picture of the kitchen, the floor looks a little wonky because there are two plywood pieces in the floor – one over the old chimney space & the other over the old heating vent. there is currently linoleum in our kitchen & it would be more hassle than it is worth to try to patch these two small pieces. we have grand plans to do a kitchen remodel on that side of the kitchen, including new flooring {hopefully we will uncover old wood floor underneath the laminate!} at some point in the {near} future.

last week the interior painting started, including all of the new dry wall & trim, & the touch-ups of the upstairs space {living room, kitchen, hallway}. this work was technically supposed to be done by the end of last week so we could start moving back into our old space this weekend, but when we showed up at the house on saturday morning, the painters were there. & that repeated on sunday too. a bit of a bummer for us since the continued work prevented us from really being able to move back in. at this point we are shooting for a move-in at the end of this week. fingers crossed!

in better news, we are getting so close to the end of this remodel! tomorrow the electrician is supposed to be in to install the outlets & lighting fixtures. the plumber is scheduled for later in the week or early next week to install the bath fixtures. exterior painting touch-ups are also on the agenda, but not quite as imperative as that work doesn’t effect our ability to live in the space.

in the final countdown! how much longer do you think we have?


my weekend in pictures.


{my last day of work was on friday. so strange! hello maternity leave!}


{whole foods was having a huge sale on bars on saturday. aaron decided we should stock up!}


{we were the clampetts this weekend when we picked up some box springs for our new bed & had to tie them up on the roof of our car!}


{we met some friends at black raven brewery for a great date night!}


{so enjoying peach season! & thanks to my husband for removing all of the skins… even though he thinks it is so ridiculous.}


{after a few trips back & forth over lake washington this weekend, we finally got stuck at a bridge crossing this morning. at least it was a pretty view of the lake!}


{we spent some time at the house this weekend & started moving back in. good thing we are getting some help with cleaning since there is a layer of dust on everything!}


{we finally got summer weather back in the PNW! I always worry about keeping sadie cool when the weather is hot. then I see her lay in the sun & I realize I shouldn’t worry so much.}


{lots of cleaning was happening this weekend. I think this is foreshadowing what our foreseeable future looks like.}


{lots of painting – by our subs – was completed at the house this weekend!}


{another dinner date this weekend with friends at skillet diner in ballard. so delish!}


{sadie was loving the cold concrete floor at lowe’s this evening. I sort of wanted to lay down with her!}

we had big plans to spend lots of time at the house this weekend & really start moving in. we were a bit foiled when there was still interior painting being completed in both our old space & new space. we did the best we could but still have a long ways to go – that’s the way renovations work, right? the weather was absolutely amazing though so it was such a great summer weekend. I officially start my maternity leave tomorrow & have about a million-&-a-half things on my to-do list before baby lower makes an appearance. how was your weekend?