Thursday, April 19, 2012

Not-So-Extreme Makeover: The Front of Our House

Dear friends,

Last week I posted Easy Spring Decorating on a Dime on this blog, and promised to do one on thrifty decorating outside the front door and along the walkway.  Here it is!

I used to have a spring wreath for the front door,
but somehow misplaced it. I priced out new wreaths
at Olde Time Pottery, but didn't want to spend $20.
I was in a dollar store today and saw these baskets for wall mounting.
I bought two bunches of the white silk flowers,
borrowed the silk pansies from my dining room table,
and mounted my creation on the door using a wreath hanger and some ribbon.
So it wouldn't bounce as much when the door is opened,
I attached a magnet to the back of the basket, which sticks to the metal door.
I can change the silk flowers as often as I wish, such as for different seasons.
Total cost for new supplies $3. 

The front door was extremely grimy,
especially near the door knob.
I cleaned it with one of those white generic brand versions of Magic Erasers.
I also cleaned the stucco walls near the door with

Krud Kutter spray cleaner and some hot water
Since they are in an alcove, they aren't washed off by rain.
They were getting pretty cruddy!  I also had to scrape off a wasp's nest.
The door frame is still badly stained.  I'll have to repaint it soon.

I am so proud of my "new" mailbox!
You can see the "old" one below, with the pitted lid,
the broken plastic doodad, and the hooks on the bottom.
It's really the same mailbox, with a makeover.
I had my husband remove the hooks, I snapped off the doodad,
and then I really went to work. I sanded the mailbox to remove the rough spots.
Then I attempted to spray paint is dark blue, but it came out lumpy and runny.
So I decided to give it some real texture by marbling it with some leftover white spray paint.
I swirled it around with my fingers to give it a vintage metallic porcelain look.
Then I borrowed the WELCOME magnet from above my stove.
Sweet, huh?  Total cost for spray paint: less than $4.
(I actually painted our large street side mail box when I was a teenager,
a mountain scene on one side, and rainbow colored flowers on the other, with the sky on top.)

The unsightly old black mail box.
Corroded mail box lid!

I priced out new mail boxes at Lowes.
You can buy magnetic covers for street side mailboxes
at Olde Time Pottery.
Just under the mailbox,
a decorative sculpture on a small table.
It is just the right height for my
six year old daughter to enjoy.
Next to the door,
an artificial tree
purchased for a few dollars
at a yard sale
a while back.

I bought this garden flag at yard sale a few years ago for $2.
I couldn't find my old beat up flag pole,
so I replaced it with a $6 one at Olde Time Pottery.
This bird house,
hanging from the flag pole,
 is from my late mother-in-law.

I'm not sure where we got this mini-garden flag,
but it's getting worn out!

I may replace my old flag with one from Olde Time Pottery
since they are less than $4.

More pretty stuff to come,
 but I want to talk about eyesores for a few minutes.
Our house numbers are SO ugly!
They are black plastic with metal bolts.
I have hated them for years,
made worse since someone decided to scratch them up.

We are replacing them soon.
I've already been pricing them out at Lowe's. 
Plaque for mounting house numbers.

I removed the two concrete balls
from our garden walls.
One was broken at the base,
and both were all dinged up.
I put flower pots over the post holes.

Another eyesore: broken window blinds.
We will eventually replace them.

Flowers are a wonderful way to decorate
your front walkway!
I have two large pots on wrought iron stands.
I potted three dianthus plants.
Total cost for plants in this pot: $2.25 
There was a stray lantana plant, with beautiful little
composite blossoms, growing in the backyard.

I replanted it along the front walkway.
I hope it survives!  Welcome, butterflies!

Coordinating with the orange and yellow lantana,
I purchased four moss rose plants,
also known as portulaca, as Lowes for 77 cents each.
They thrive in full sun, and are succulents.

Potted begonia on garden wall.
Price at Walmart: 75 cents

Sign by Mary Engelbreit.
The black stand is left over from
my first daughter's outdoor wedding.

Time for weeding, too!  New trowel, hand hoe, and gloves,
all from the Target dollar spot.

Unfortunately, the thumbs of the gloves
wore out within a half hour.
Good thing I only spent a buck on them!

The strip right in front of the house looked horrible!
It took me a really long time to get it cleared out,
then move some of the mulch to cover up sandy spots.
I also put some kids to work:
my own daughters and some neighbors.
Yes, I paid them!
There is still much to do down
by the curb and along the terraced wall.

 Big eyesore: the overgrown palm (?) bush outside the front window.
It was taller than me and getting quite gangly with a lot of dead spots.
This is the "before" picture.
Here is the "after" picture.
First I pulled out all of the dead brown stalks,
and was amazed by the huge pile of debris.
Then I started cutting off whatever else was dead or sticking out.
I think I removed about a third of the bush.
I also cut down some other small invasive bushes from the same area.
I had to avoid two wasps who were disturbed
that I removed their nests from the bush.

This is the view from the street.
My husband put in this terraced wall and the star jasmine bushes
many years ago, along with the African lilies.
I will buy some more portulaca to plant at the top of the wall.

The bird bath, from my late mother-in-law,
badly needs cleaning.  Another thing for my yet-to-do list! 
Note the big ugly hole in the yard from where we lost
a small elm tree in a wind storm.

We used to have three orange trees,
but all of them had to be cut down.
I'm thinking of planting a new one
in that ugly hole in the front yard.
These are several feet high and cost about $20 at Lowes.

My mother made these three stepping stones
with my kids several years ago.
Those are stained glass birds and flowers
set in concrete.
She poured the concrete in the molds and had the kids lay out the glass pieces like a puzzle and press them in.

You can see more of my mom's 
stained glass in my
spring decorating post.
One final picture, the view from the front walk way.
Still some work to do, but I've made a lot of progress!
I tried to be resourceful and use what I already had.
My total cost for new items was less than $20
for live flowers, silk flowers,
a basket, spray paint, and gardening tools.
Results? Priceless!

I hope you enjoyed my little decorative tour of the front of our home!  What have you done at your house?

To recap, my best hints for making the front of your home look nice:

  • Walk around outside and make a list of what you think needs to be done. I kept mine in the notepad of my iPod, so I could revise it as I went along.
  • Talk to your other family members about what they would like, what they don't like, what they are willing to do to help, and what everything will cost.
  • Use what you have!  Check your back yard, your back porch, your storage bins, and even your indoor decorations.  You can rotate items for variety and to suit the season.  
  • Price out new purchases before you buy.  You can do some of this on the web, but I like to go in the stores and take pictures for later reference.  Keep your eye out for good deals at yard sales, but only buy it if you really like it and will use it.  No need to collect junk!
  • Plant live flowers in pots or in the ground.  I bought mine in individual pots, but they are cheaper if you buy them by the flat.  Even cheaper yet is planting from seed.  Research what grows in your area, and which plants need full or partial sun. If you plant out of range of your irrigation system, make sure you water as needed.
  • Use silk flowers where live ones are not appropriate, such as for a wreath or basket on the door, or in cold weather.
  • Keep everything clean!  Grime is so unattractive!  Check your walls, your door, your fixtures (such as an outdoor lamp), your mail box, etc.  Sweep your walk ways with an outdoor push broom or rinse with a hose.
  • Make sure to pick up little bits of trash as often as I you can.  Get your kids to help!  I am always finding candy wrappers and paper towels around our walkway.  I usually stash them in an old flower pot behind the garden wall until I throw them all away.
  • If at first you don't succeed with a project, try again!  Learn from your mistakes, and let them lead you to other options.  If you're really stuck, ask a friend for advice (or help) or look for instructions on the web.  Keep at it, and you might end up with a funky looking mail box!
Blessings of beauty,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. This blog post is linked to...

Equip & Encourage Blog Carnival

Equip & Encourage Blog Carnival

Project 52!  The photo theme this week is Things that Grow.
project 52 p52


  1. LOVE, love, love the "new" mailbox! I want one.

  2. How pretty and cheery! Nice job. :)

  3. It looks great. These kind of posts always inspire me to take a closer look at my own home.

  4. love those vibrant, happy colors!! thanks for sharing!

  5. That's awesome, Virginia! Thanks for sharing and giving me encouragement to have a look at MY home front again!

  6. Wow, I love that you put so much thought into that. My house could use a makeover too!


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