June 14, 2017
- I thought I was immune to poison ivy after a childhood of dirt rolling and naturing without a single case; I was positive that I could not get it. So when I started hand excavating the front hill of my house I wasn’t even considering the possibility of it. Coupled with the fact that I DID NOT SEE ANY poison ivy, AT ALL, it didn’t even cross my mind. Cut to one week later when I’m walking around looking like Jabba the Hut caught Leprosy (not cute), I was seriously pissed off.
The landscaping at my house was disastrous when I moved in, it was totally overgrown and looked like it hadn’t been touched for 20 years, so I decided I was going to take it on as one of my solo projects (also because every landscaper I surveyed about it, looked at it, and basically never called me again). So I came to terms with the fact that I was on my own and got to business. The difficult part about the landscaping at my house was not only that it was totally overgrown, but really the sheer scale of it. Normal people are like, “oh how cute, let me get a couple shrubs and plant a hydrangea…” and I’m all like, “Ok 66 linear feet, by 12, means 6 yards of mulch and 37 SHRUBS… that’s after I excavate the 12 feet of overgrowth, and dig the 37 holes and fill with a fertilizer mix, oh and the drought, have to factor in the drought, need granite cobble stones so a pallet of those at $1.75 a piece and I need 200 of those…” So, it wasn’t the easy peasy situation that my pinterest dreams are made of. Nevertheless I persisted…
At first I just had to clear the dead overgrowth, don’t have a lot of pictures but here is a good idea of what it looked like:
So given how serious the growth was, I had to get an excavator to first clear the space:
starting with a clean slate
Once it was cleared, I figured I was GOOD TO GO, no visible vines etc. so started digging those holes. I have since learned that poison ivy doesn’t actually have to be visible for you to get it (real F**king cool). Apparently the oil of it, within the vines and leaves can spread onto other plants, onto rocks, onto gardening tools and clothing. So last summer I officially got it 4 TIMES, on my arms, face, one time DANGEROUSLY close to my lady parts, I am not kidding it was a NIGHTMARE. Poison ivy on your inner thighs is a new level of torture, you can’t even walk normally, TRUST ME… pure torture. Every time I thought “ok, I got this, I am fully covered in practically a HAZMAT suit,” gloves, long sleeves, rubber boots, whole nine… I STILL GOT IT.
I spent a large majority of the spring walking around with bandages taped all over my body to not scare away my clients. What’s worse; your real estate agent covered in opened wounds (barf) or covered in mysterious bandages?? I prefer the mystery… So after I planted all the shrubs (which looked oddly small once they were in – sort of a casualty of 66 linear feat of space) I decided I was going to weed mat the whole thing so no vines could grow up in-between all of my plantings. I weed matted at night because I was heavily medicated due to above referenced poison ivy and I couldn’t sleep, so no pictures really. Here is how that section ended up coming out;
Who knew I had a granite wall there?!
Why are these plants so tiny?!!!! They were much larger looking when I bought them.
So at that point I was finished with that project for the summer – cut to last week when I decided the top of this hill looked unfinished and started another project. I wanted the top of the hill (seen above) to look more complete, so I started edging out a new bed.
making a new bed
This seems like an easy task, but ripping up well established dirt might as well be ripping up cement. NOT EASY. Once I ripped up all of this grass I realized I had about a thousand pounds of grass with dirt attached to it to move somewhere which I hadn’t fully thought out…awesome. But what was in the grass roots?! Oh you know, just some more F**king poison ivy!!!! (face meet desk, desk -face, slam, slam, slam) Moving along…
Bed and shrubs...21 to be exact.
I got 21 more shrubs for the top, Japanese Holly, which looks similar to boxwood but grows faster. Boxwood is that super chic, great for a landscape architecture/style design plant but it grows and what I consider to be a glacial pace…I have no patience for this. If you have 20 years to watch shrubs grow, go for it, if not – pick something else. This is what weed matting looks like:
weed mat in between plants.
I bought a pallet of granite landscaping blocks to edge it all out and another 3 yards of mulch. After a lot of sweat, a jammed finger between granite blocks, and a moderate amount of blood (no tears), I finished the job.
Granite block edging
Flower and shrub bed
My Peonies in Full bloom
So in conclusion… hire a landscaper.
November 24, 2015
Because I’m clearly a psychopath, I took on a new house project after finally finishing my last house. I fell madly in love this gorgeous house on Allerton Hill, in Hull, MA and HAD-TO-HAVE-IT! The only bad part was that it was way over my budget, and when I say way I mean like $100,000 more than I could afford. Thankfully, my lover suggested we just offer what we could afford, and thanks to some small miracle – they accepted the offer!! (I used this as an excuse to drink excessively in celebration for about a month – go me!).
In that I’m dating a contractor who is awesome at his job, I figured; why not take on a bigger project than the last one?? Well… here you have it.
When I submitted the offer we waived the home inspection contingency which I wouldn’t recommend unless you have done this before, but it helped me get the house – so it was worth it. I also waited 5 months to close on the property to give the seller more time to get out, also one of the reasons I was able to get this house. Sometimes when you are trying to get a deal, you have to be flexible – actually ALL THE TIME when you are trying to get a deal you need to be flexible. If you want to score, be prepared to wait it out.
Long story short, once we closed and got the keys we realized how many problems there were with my dream house… commence the drinking again!! Also, I had my mothers words reverberating through my head, “don’t buy that house, too much work, Hillary DO NOT buy that house, you will be miserable, you have to fix everything!!”
I mean, who really LISTENS to their mother anyway, am I right?
Anywhoo – I still love the house and don’t regret taking on this massive project. I went to work one day with the house looking like this:
- “DO NOT BUY THIS HOUSE” – My mom, enjoying Wine on the front porch
Then I got home from work one day and APPARENTLY, the entire porch was separating from the house so we had to rip the WHOLE thing off. So What I thought was going to just be a porch rebuild, turned out to be ripping off the front of the house and rebuilding the whole thing!!! Good times…grabs vodka bottle, locks herself in bathroom…
From the Back yard:
Although this has turned out to be a pretty large “first project” on the house, not counting that I’ve painted every room in the house. (We are also going to gut the entire first floor, move the kitchen to the middle of the house, open up all the walls, do new electrical, lighting, add a bathroom and finish the attic…just to get started) – I STILL LOVE THIS HOUSE.
I mean, this is the view from my bedroom:
View from my bedroom
This is Allerton Hill from Aerial view – Our house is three up from the giant one on the corner (The Honey Fitzgerald Mansion)
SO stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses! That is, if I don’t give up and move first!
October 21, 2015
I’m sure (unless you’re living under a rock in a dark cave) you’ve heard the term “Feng Shui” thrown around in regards to interior design. But you may be asking yourself, what really is “Feng Shui”? I come across this term on a very frequent basis due to my location (working in Quincy, which has a large Chinese population), and with many of my clients who are concerned with making sure a property they are buying has the right mix of Feng Shui elements. I’ve had deals fall apart solely based on a door placement, or which direction the structure is facing – so understanding Feng Shui, and what makes it so important can come in handy for anyone.
Feng Shui in short is a way to harmonize people with their environment. It has to do with the spatial arrangement of items in order to help with the flow of energy. The theory is that if the Feng Shui in your home is done properly, it effects the energy flow in your life, which helps your personal harmony and in turn helps you achieve life goals and a better life. Feng Shui is all about placement and position to create harmony in a persons space, which transcends into their life.
Feng (wind) and Shui (Water) are the two natural elements that humans need to live, they are the cornerstone of life and therefore the essence of life – which is their “Chi”, their life force. Your “Chi” is really your life force, it is the essence of you, and there for the Feng Shui of your space effects your Chi, and your life as a whole.
Now before you go thinking to yourself, what is all this new age zen junk that I’m reading ??? – consider this; 28,000 years ago Neanderthal cave men chose their caves and living habitats based on the direction the cave faced, the elevation, and the access to water. As early as humans have existed, there has been a connection to location and living environments based on the flow of water, wind, and life.
So what does this mean for you? And how can you incorporate elements of Feng Shui into your everyday living environment?
* First and foremost you need to Clear out your clutter! Clutter and mess is an all consuming problem that whether you know it or not can really effect your Chi. You have to get rid of those extra clothes, papers, junk on tables, unnecessary furniture. Clear the space, to clear your mind.
* Good quality Air and light is essential to good Feng Shui. Open up those old shutters, clean your windows, let natural light and air flow through your home bringing positive energy your way and letting you breathe easy.
* The front door or entry way into your home is a key factor in Feng Shui, it is where all energy enters and exits the home. Make sure you don’t have cracked front doors, or squeaky hinges, make sure the entrance to your home is tranquil and welcoming. This will effect the Chi that enters and exists your home.
* Live plants are an important part of this as well. Having plants in the house to catch and rejuvenate energy and oxygen is a great part of embracing the Chi.
* Let water flow towards the center of your home because water carries prosperity in towards the house. Many people chose to have a water element or fountain at the entrance to their home facing inwards. Also check leaky faucets, and where water drains – you don’t want prosperity draining out of your life.
* Fix broken items around the house which create added frustration. Have a broken door, closets aren’t opening or closing, handles are missing, windows are broken, outlets don’t work, etc etc. fix these small items. They may not seem like a big deal but they are small irritations that contribute to the demise of healthy Chi.
* Feng Shui in your bedroom is the most important space in the home to pay careful attention to. Because we spend so much time in our rooms sleeping it is imperative that your bedroom have good Feng Shui to it. Your bed should be up against a solid wall with no windows behind your head, this give you a safe surface behind you. If you have a head board try to have it made of solid wood which will help promote good Chi by providing additional support behind your head. Foot boards however are considered bad for Chi because they block forward progress. And NEVER have your feet facing the door as this as seen as a ‘death position’ as the dead are always carried out feet first, so this is seen as a potential way to drain your life force. Your bedroom is a place to relax and turn off the stress of every day life, it is important to not have loud music, or TV’s blaring in your room, you need to invite tranquility into your space. If possible, avoid having your cell phone on your night stand, and the TV at your feet on all night, work towards tranquil colors and peaceful lighting. Another surprising No-NO when it comes to bedroom Feng Shui – King size beds are bad for Feng Shui, I’ve always agreed with this but the principle behind this is that it creates too large of a space between you and your partner. Also, many King size beds are on a box spring that is split or has a line down the middle, which acts to separate the two halves, this is very bad for intimacy and good bedroom Chi. The goal of bedroom Feng Shui is to create a safe haven of comfort and tranquility, think soft sheets, nice lighting, flowers and candles, natural woods, calm and quiet with very little clutter to create a relaxation zone.
July 8, 2015
About 2 years ago a purchased my first house in Squantum, MA. (North Quincy really). I was, and still am totally obsessed with the location. I bought a little bungalow for myself and figured I’d fix it up as I went. Apparently, fixing a house on your own isn’t easy, at all! I did have some help from friends, family, and concerned passerby (Thank you random shirtless man for making sure I didn’t fall of my ladder and die while cleaning my gutters in the pouring rain, I owe you one sir).
What was a major love/hate relationship with fixing stuff, turned out to be an amazing learning experience. In two years I feel like I have learned years’ worth of useful knowledge and am a regular fixture at Home Depot and Curry Ace Hardware (special thanks to the late night Home Depot crew who dealt with me while I was drunk and ran out of whatever material at 10pm). I now can walk into any house and have a much more in-depth understanding of what it takes to make a home exactly how you want it to be. Trust me, it’s not at all like HGTV, AT ALL, it’s a million times harder, and messier.
Below are some photos of my finished product. I got an AWESOME tenant (I love her) and have now bought and even BIGGER piece of Junk house that I can document the progress of on this blog (although, I pretty much always forget to update this thing). Before I share the “After” photos, I wanted to give a few tips to my fellow “Do it yourself-ers” who are just getting started or considering remodeling a house or condo on their own.
1. However long you think it’s going to take…Triple it.
Seriously, things take a lot longer than you’d like. For example. I decided to put a front porch on my house to make it look less like a trailer. Just a small little porch for friends. Well a porch requires permits, and inspections, and an actual contractor who is AVAILABLE to build your porch (everyone is busy right now who is in the trades so get ready to wait). Aside from buying all the materials which may or may not be in stock and need to be ordered (yes you have to SPECIAL ORDER even the most obvious things), you have to handle all these other unforeseen things. Let’s say you have a hose on your house, hoses are nice to water plants and whatnot, but if you want to build a porch on your house, well you have to move the hose, and in order to do that you need a plumber, and well plumbers are busy! See where I’m going with this?? IT TAKES TIME!! Sit back, get a cocktail and get ready to wait. Building a porch doesn’t take a week, it takes a month or more, and there you have it.
2. However much you think it will cost….Double it.
So I wanted a new front door, pretty normal right? I went to Home Depot, they have nice doors for $175.00…SCORE! Well no; are you going to install a front door yourself? …SURE!! I CAN DO ANYTHING – I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! No, actually you can’t, I’m smart and I couldn’t either, so don’t feel bad about yourself. Call a contractor or your favorite uncle who lets you pay him in beer (this takes 3 times as long fyi and is usually crooked). And then you have to pay people, even if it’s in beer, it still costs money. New front door? $600.00, easy.
3. Get the right tools to do stuff, it makes it a billion times easier.
You want to paint? Sure! You should, you can save a lot of money painting yourself! But get the right tools, like a Roller extension (easy little thing that you put on your roller for high walls so you don’t have to climb up and down a frigging ladder all day, saves you hours and back pain). Get a small set of your standard tools, screw drivers, pliers, MEASURING TAPE, hammer, etc. and keep them handy. Tightening up a toilet, or changing out hardware on cabinets is easy peasy – IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS. (Ikea screw box and tools DO NOT COUNT).
4. Don’t be cheap.
If you buy the cheap stuff, it breaks, and also sucks. Don’t waste your time and money, just get the real thing the first time and get to work.
5. Nobody’s going to help you so don’t get all teary when they don’t.
Your cousin, Uncle, Friend from band camp, all said they would “totally come over on a Saturday and help you remodel your entire house!!!” … NO, they won’t. Literally, it seems glamorous, but after about 2 hours of painting Peach Pagoda on your bathroom walls you can pretty much guarantee yourself they never call you again.
6. Think about something for a long time before you do it, and do it in the CORRECT ORDER!
I can’t stress this enough. Before you decide to do a project, get an understanding of what it entails so you don’t have to do it all over again because you didn’t realize it corresponded with something else you were going to do. For example, you decide to re-finish your floors, but then want to take a wall down? Well what do you think goes where the wall once was? FLOORING, and if you want it to match you should probably do them all at the same time, know what I mean? And really think about the whole picture before you do something, you may end up moving stuff around and all your hard work and more importantly all your MONEY gets wasted.
7. Don’t over improve.
I mean this in the most sincere way. Some people have a moderate house and they think they are building the friggin Taj Mahal. Know your neighborhood, know who your end buyer is going to be and don’t over spend. If you are in a moderate area, don’t do a $70,000.00 kitchen and expect to make that $70,000.00 back. You don’t necessarily make back what you put into a house and you need to keep that in mind. And not everyone has the same taste as you. You may love bead board and starfish…guess what, NOT EVERYONE ELSE DOES. Keep that in mind.
The most important thing is to take your time and not waste money!
Here are some of my before/ after pictures. A lot of the updates don’t really show up in the photos but trust me, this place is like night and day!! Moving onto another project!! Stay tuned for updates!
after with porch!
Kitchen after! Took down 1/2 wall, granite, new sink, crown molding etc.
granite, new sink, lighting
These were my floors
yay new floors, also - recessed lighting!
bedroom and broken closet
This closet rocks! Took down the whole wall and rebuilt
made this a dining room
Laundry room nightmare, I wish I had a before photo! Turned out ok!
November 6, 2014
Ok, this may sound strange (like most things I say) but I am OBSESSED with trash picking. I mean, I don’t like rummage through looking for snacks or anything but in the city I live in, everything gets put out on trash day. I kid you not, there is so much awesome stuff (in 30 years I’m destined to be a hoarder) on the curb. I love getting random furniture off the side of the road and bringing it back to life! You can get some really unique stuff, which is generally old and WAY better quality than the ikea crap everyone buys these days.
I was driving down the street and found this amazing piece of furniture that had lived in an old lady’s bedroom for 40 years, and was all yellow and nasty from cigarette smoke but it was this amazing shape – kind of a retro mod style that really grabbed my attention so I HAD TO HAVE IT.
I set up shop in my drive way and got to work. If you want to do something like this (and do it right so it doesn’t look like crap), here’s what you’ll need:
It’s important to use OIL paint with a HVLP sprayer (which stands for High Velocity low pressure). Using a sprayer is way better than a brush as it helps you avoid brush strokes and
keeps the paint going on evenly to give you a factory finish look. Wilbond is important to use before sanding as it takes off all the old lacquer and shine. Then Sanding to make it all smooth and also remove old smells/stains. Dry Dex is a very versatile product you can use all over your house, to fill nail holes, to fix little things that need to be painted etc. it’s an awesome product. You should also wear a breathing mask (not pictured) so you don’t huff all the chemicals.
In the beginning
Remove old hardware
Fill holes with drydex
Spray with primer (white), keep coats light, let dry
Spray with color. OIL PAINT takes longer to dry so be patient!
Add new hardware and BAM! Trash - CHIC!
May 20, 2013
I wish I had a better camera because this thing looks awesome in real life. It’s very sturdy and is made with quality materials so I was super happy with how it turned out. The entire project only cost me $30.00 (but I had a lot of the materials, which are worth investing in if you like this kind of stuff). On to the NEXT!!
For as long as I can remember I wanted to own my own house. I’m not into drugs, but I might as well be, because I look at real estate like a crack smoking , street walker…Can’t get enough…MORE, MORE, MORE, NOW! So when the day came that I closed on my first house, I was so excited I sweat through my brand new Calvin Klein dress bought specifically for the occasion, pounded 6 cups of coffee (not an exaggeration), go lost 3 times going to the registry of deeds I had been to multiple times before, and puked in my mouth a little. Needless to say it was one of the best days of my life. Seriously, AMAZING. I had worked so hard for that day and it was finally here. I signed the papers, grabbed the keys and ran to my new house.
Having worked in real estate for a while I knew the “buy the worst house in the best neighborhood” lecture pretty well , because I gave it to my clients on a weekly basis. Taking my own advice, I negotiated the price down on the cheapest house in my DREAM neighborhood to what was a ridiculously good deal so I was pretty confident in my decision even though I knew there were things I had to fix.
It’s funny how when you’re shopping around at houses you see all the good things, but the day it becomes yours you suddenly realize all the flaws (kind of like boyfriends, really perfect, until they’re yours, every day). So when I walked up to the front of my new fab-pad, and the front door literally broke off, I thought it was probably just a lucky sign of how smart I was in purchasing this house.
It seemed odd when I walked into the front porch that everything looked more crooked than I remembered it at the walk through. Closet doors seemed off their hinges, shelves were slightly off, and what I thought were “beautiful hardwood floors” were floors that hadn’t been refinished since the year I was conceived.
I didn’t have time for “buyers remorse” and besides, this is what I do, so no regrets here. But I had to evaluate how I hadn’t noticed cracks in the ceiling and separated beams just the morning before. Was I losing my mind? Perhaps… but seriously? And then it occurred to me, the first earthquake in 100 years had just happened in Massachusetts two days prior! And suddenly it occurred to me that my 1903 salt box, bungalow had seen better days.
Let the project-ing begin! Stay tuned, but for now, enjoy (and by “enjoy” I mean “cringe at”) some “before” pictures:
My nasty bathroom... oh dear.
Kitchen, kind of yuck, but i've seen worth.
I hate laundry, this room isn't helping with that.
Pristine hardwood floors!
Don't even get me started!
Right after the 100 year earth quake. My closet totally busted...AWESOME!