Are we there yet?

Hello all — me again! As you might know, I took the summer off from this blog. It’s hard to write about beauty and design when your house is literally in the middle of a mud heap. We’re in the midst of massive redesign of our front steps, rear deck, fire pit area, and landscaping. September marks six months of misery living on a construction site, but I’m promised that we might be near the end.

[Hey, all you HGTV fans? Large-scale renos do NOT take 8 weeks. They don’t. They just don’t.]

Despite how nice this “before” picture looks, our front steps were not safe: The railroad ties forming the treads had wide cracks in them, where moisture settled and would turn to ice in the winter. I had visions of breaking my neck in my own front yard.


The rear, too, was a safety hazard. It had buckled in the middle due to poor, DIY construction that wasn’t to code.

Our renovation began in March, when I let my 13-year old and his friend let loose on breaking it down.

See how the deck surface undulates?


There go the railings!

All this seemed fun at first. That was back in March. But then our contractors got earnest with the demo on the day they applied for the permits. Let me restate for emphasis: On the day they applied for permits.

They were so confident that the construction permit would come within two weeks that they wanted to get a head start with demo.


You can probably see where this is going.



Once our house was denuded of front steps and back deck, we waited.

Two weeks came and went. And then a month. And then two months. And then all the rain came. And all the erosion. And the pools of water. And the… life … skittering on top of the pools of water.

And did I mention that before the contractors put plastic sheeting on top of the dirt mountains, one of the big rains sent a river of muddy water under the back door into our lower level?  Details…

Once the sheeting did go on, at least someone got to enjoy it.

Finally, after five plan revisions and a complaint to the top planning official at the county, we had our permits. So even though we were thrust into the mud in late March, the real work, like you see above with the concrete block delivery, didn’t start until late May.

Here’s a quick trip through our summer:





This brick niche will be a grill station, and the longer wall is seat-height level.




A future fire-pit seating area. The yellow cord is the gas line.

The plantings are finally set to arrive in the next week or so, along with the grill station. The cables for the front and back railings are still MIA. I’m never certain from day to day if anyone’s going to show up and do any work. And I think my neighbors hate me now — especially since those times (plural) when they had to come back with jackhammers and break up concrete in places where it shouldn’t have been poured. I’m so far beyond apologies that I just try to hide inside my house. They will be our first guests for champagne and hors d’oeuvres once this is done — that is, if it’s still warm outside?

Besides our dubious choice of contractor, who will remain nameless, we’ve been pleased to see Scott Brinitzer’s design come to life, after it was first imagined in this rendering:

More on the pretty stuff to come in the next post!


  1. wow really looking great Jennifer! love the new deck area in back and the new steps on the front really looks finished and like they belong to the house.

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