House-Proud: curb appeal before and after

Recently, Tall Guy and I have been putting some extra effort into transforming this house into our home, and I wanted to share the goodness, but not without a clear idea of where we’d started. So, last week I shared all the “before” photos of our home, in House-Proud: where it all began.

Today, I want to share with you some of the changes that have occurred, over the past few years, to beautify the front of our home. While it’s still a work in progress – everything is! – we’re very proud of our amped up curb appeal, and I think you’ll be impressed, too.


Front Exterior Before

The dominating image in the “before” photo is that giant Camphor tree in the yard. What isn’t entirely clear from the photo is that the Camphor tree was half dead. We argued about whether to keep it (in retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought it should stay), and put off making a decision until fate intervened.

A hurricane was headed for Florida and all the silly-string predictions pointed to this one actually making it to our coast. We realized that the half-dead tree was essentially a collection of wrecking balls waiting to be unleashed. So we called an arborist to check it out. He confirmed the tree was dying (apparently there had been a blight on camphor trees in the neighborhood, nearly all of them were infected), and said we could try to save it, and cut it back dramatically, for a couple thousand dollars. I then reached out to a guy who told me he’d take the whole thing down, THAT DAY, for under $500.

Tall Guy was thrilled. The tree came down. The hurricane faded into a tropical storm. It did spend several days over us, but no damage was done.

Talk about a dramatic change…

Tree_BeforeAfterPhotos, and composite, by Tall Guy circa 2012

Unfortunately, the dramatic results, and Tall Guy’s natural affinity for clean, clear spaces created a monster. In him, not me. He wanted to remove every tree and bush from the yard. Every. Single. One. Our neighbors were so excited about the clean-up that they came over with shovels, chainsaws and trailers, to help. I tried to save several things, but was left with one crepe myrtle (the small tree just to the left of the Camphor, above), one small dual-trunk palm, and one tiny, foot-high shrub by the front steps.

The original mailbox was a standard, cheapie, black plastic box on a white metal post. We were gifted with a gorgeous rubbed bronze mailbox and installed it on a new, cedar post. In the photo below I’m adding metal house numbers to the side of the post. In the background you can see the stark lawn (with lots and lots of mulch from the departed Camphor tree).

New Mailbox and Post 2012

Visually, one of the biggest changes during all-plant-exorcism was the removal of a dense row of bushes lining the front walkway. Between those bushes and the house were a lot of weeds in which several snakes had made their home. Out went the bushes, the weeds and the snakes. In the photo above, all that remain are the afore-mentioned palm and dirt covered in Camphor mulch. While it looked cleaner, we didn’t actually have a post-plant plan.

I began talking about making it into an herb garden. Tall Guy was leaning toward a sitting area. In 2013, I drew a plan that involved both a patio and an herb garden. By this time, some of the old weeds were coming back in. The photo below was taken immediately before we put the patio/herb plan into action.

Pre Patio Herb Garden

We cleared the dirt, then brought in small pebbles and sand to create the proper base and stability for our future patio. This photo shows the cleared space and piles of base/pebbles that we received.

Patio Materials

Prior to placing the new patio stones, we realized that we needed to get rid of the tiles by the front steps. As I removed them, we got ambitious. We decided that we would create an extended front stoop where the tiles had been. The photo below shows the tiles prior to our purchase of the home.

Front Entry Before

So we mixed and poured cement. (Pouring is NOT an accurate definition of what one does with cement, by the way. It’s not that fluid or that easy.) Then we started laying the patio stones.

Laying Patio Pavers

Once we had the pavers installed, and I was ready to start planting, we began considering the watering of the new garden. While the original sprinkler system had sprinkler heads within that section, the system uses reclaimed water. I did not want to eat herbs that had been bathing in reclaimed water. We hired a plumber and had a new line run through the garage wall into a new spigot, right over our new patio.

With a garden of nothing but dirt, I created pathways using plastic garden edging and mulch. The paths would allow me to quickly and easily reach, and cut, any herb that I felt like using. After many months of planting, transplanting and weeding, the herb garden was flourishing.

Herb Garden

However, after being a beautiful, herb-filled oasis for about a year, the tide turned. This year, the weeds took over. With a vengeance. It was beyond hand-weeding-help. And so, just two weekends ago, we completely tilled up the area and removed nearly everything. We then covered the entire span of the garden with newspaper, wet that down, and covered everything with mulch. In theory (and according to my online research), this should kill everything that is below the newspaper. Every last weed. In the spring, I should then be able to start all over again.

Along with the demise of my herb garden (sniff), we also installed new exterior lights.

Exterior-LightsHampton Bay Cottage Lantern

And so, today, this is what the front of our home looks like…

Before and After

Exterior House Front Before and After


Front Bushes Before and After


Front Entry Before and After

In the photo above, I’ve crossed out the house numbers (can’t be too careful!), but those are individual numbered tiles. I hand painted each of them, with a Spanish-style border and had them glazed at a local pottery center.

Front Garden Before and After

So there you have it. Fingers crossed that next spring I’ll be sharing more photos of a beautiful new herb garden!


I hope you enjoyed a peek at some of the progress we’ve made – keep your eye on this space for a look inside the home, soon!


  • Carry O.
    November 18, 2015

    Great job!!

    Sorry about the herbs. 🙁

    Ham looks photoshopped. :-p

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      November 18, 2015

      Ham might be photoshopped, but only in one of the photos!

      • Carry O.
        November 18, 2015

        What? I didn’t really think he was. I was impressed!!

  • Alana
    November 18, 2015

    It looks so good! Good job!! I hope the newspaper trick worked and you can have an herb garden again because that was gorgeous!

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      November 18, 2015

      Thanks, Alana. You and me, both! It only took about an hour, after the last of the mulch was down, to begin worrying that starting over was the worst idea ever.

  • Laura @ Life with Lolo
    November 19, 2015

    Wow! What an amazing transformation! I know how it feels to buy a house with “great bones” knowing a lot needs to be fixed. We have so much still to do, especially on the exterior. Your work makes me inspired to get started on it! Oh and I should mention – my house is pink. Thus the need for some updating! haha

    • Jeans and a Tank Top
      November 19, 2015

      I’d tell you to blame the pink on Mamie Eisenhower, but I have a feeling it hasn’t been that long since your house was painted! Nearly everything we did was weekend-warrior style, or on a single-project scale. One thing at a time and they slowly things start coming together. Plus, completing each project gets you all amped up to start the next one 🙂

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