Backyard Before and After


After a long, long backyard renovation, we are finally done!  And I’m really excited to show you the ‘after’ pictures.  But first, let’s look back to a year ago:

Ravenna House Backyard 2 Ravenna House Backyard at House

Pretty awful, right?!  I’m a little embarrassed to even show you guys those ‘before’ pictures, but that’s what it really looked like while our attention was focused on the interior renovation.  Oh so messy and wild!  After a good 6 months of work, here’s what the backyard looks like now:

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard PatioThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna BackyardThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard towards houseThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard at GateThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard concrete name printThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard shed

We did a lot of work back here.  First we tore down the unstable garage, removed quite a few trees, laid a patio, fenced the yard, built a shed, and finally installed the gravel path and landscaping.  You may have noticed the patio is outside the fence.  The patio doubles as overflow parking for guests so we decided to only fence in the yard area–a compromise to allow a fully fenced space for little legs to run.  Unfortunately we did a lot of work during the winter, meaning we fought with the rain over the colder Seattle months.  But we lucked out with a couple nice Spring days this month to lay the sod.

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard sod The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard sod projectThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard workers

We are absolutely loving having a space to play outside, even if it is small.  Wilder likes to run around in the grass and take care of the plants – or should I say stomp around in them?  He often goes into the shed and picks out a couple of tools to “fix” stuff with.

The Grit and Polish - Wilder in his work boots 22 monthsThe Grit and Polish - Wilder in his work boots 22 months 7

He’s a pretty special little guy, that one!  Those Timberland boots (aka his “work boots”) have been glued to his feet!

The Grit and Polish - Wilder in his work boots 22 months 5

Oh and lest I forget our other boy, Bubba is pretty satisfied with the new backyard too.  He likes to run around in the grass and bark – I’m pretty sure he’s just expressing his excitement to be outside without a leash!

What do you think…do you like the new backyard?  Please tell me you think it looks better than it did a year ago!




A Reclaimed-Wood Shed


While Garrett and I are busy working on the plans for the Dexter House, I thought it was a good time to show you the backyard shed we built at the Ravenna House.  If you follow along on Instagram, you know it took us a good 3 months of weekends to build this thing.

The Ravenna House is, like most small old Seattle houses, a little light on storage.  So Garrett and I planned on building a shed from the get go.  We discussed a few different design ideas, but ultimately ended up with a sloping roof with an overhang big enough to leave the stroller under, and salvaged-wood siding (saved from the garage tear-off).

The Grit and Polish - Backyard Shed

I should mention that we’d still like to finish out the shed’s soffit with some sort of bead board and add a facia piece, so we’re not 100% done.  But I’m really not sure we’ll ever get to it, so we’ll just call the shed done enough.  Did you catch that sneak peak of the fence and grass?  Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in another post!

Here’s what the process of building the shed looked like:

The Grit and Polish - Shed 1The Grit and Polish - Shed 3The Grit and Polish - Shed 4The Grit and Polish - Shed 5The Grit and Polish - Shed 6The Grit and Polish - Backyard Shed Siding

After the siding was complete, we built an oversized (about 40″x8′) door, hung it, and covered it in old fence slats (removed from the Bryant House), which we laid in a herringbone pattern.  I wish I had taken pictures of the chevron-laying process, but we installed it during one of Wilder’s naps, so we were a tad bit rushed.  The door actually turned out to be my favorite part of the whole shed, but really I’m happy with the whole thing.  It’s functional and big and a tad bit whimsical…perfect for a Poshusta backyard shed!

The Grit and Polish - Backyard Shed

Wilder, as always, was a big help on this project.  He “worked” on the shed, rain or shine, as long as there was a tool for him to hold and a dada to follow around 🙂  Really that kid loves tools and building more than any youngster I’ve ever known.  I’m not sure if building is just something that he loves or it’s how we’re raising him, but I often think that at the ripe old age of not-even-2, Wilder is already destined to become a contractor or an architect or something in the building industry.  Dare I say, it’s in his blood?!

The Grit and Polish - Wilder with Hammer 2

Who needs toys when you’ve got a hammer…!

Here’s a look back at earlier progress on the backyard and even farther back.  What do you think?  Do you like how the shed turned out?  Stay tuned for a full backyard reveal,  including that grass yard and cedar fence!



p.s. loved this eclectic house tour, especially the reclaimed shelves in the kitchen!

p.p.s. What you’ve always wanted to know: why asparagus makes your pee smell.  You did want to know, didn’t you?!

p.p.p.s. Best real estate markets for buyers and sellers in the US.  Seattle ranks 4th as a seller’s market.  Not super surprising, but still pretty crazy!

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Outside Projects


We’ve been really lucky to have 4 straight sunny weekends here in Seattle.  With so much of the nation experiencing record-cold-and-snowy-and-just-plain-awful winters, it doesn’t seem right that Seattle – a city known for wet and gray winters – should be having such lovely weather.  But there you have it.  I’m certainly not complaining!

Needless to say, we’ve been doing a lot of work outside lately.  First we built a shed and then a fence and now we’re planning landscaping.  I promise you guys more updates as our outdoor space comes together.  But for now, here’s a picture from Sunday’s gate-building project.

The Grit and Polish - gate construction

Yes, Wilder’s wearing snow boots.  He’s only been in snow one time this winter, so at least we’re getting some use out of them!

Hope you’re staying warm!!!



p.s. I am literally drooling over this salvaged house!

p.p.s. How to make your kid smarter.  Sure, why not.

p.p.p.s. I always love reading about real estate in Manhattan.  It’s just so old and lovely and expensive!

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Our Previous Patio (Introducing the Wallingford House)


Last week I showed you guys our patio project at the Ravenna House.  It doesn’t look like much yet – the backyard still needs plants, fencing, grass, a little pizzaz – but we’re making progress.  This week I thought it would be fun to look back and show you the last patio we built, which was at our Wallingford House.

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio at night 2

I haven’t told you guys much about our Wallingford home other than it was our first, so a quick introduction…

The Wallingford House

Wallingford House Historic Photo

Garrett and I bought the Wallingford House in 2008 with every last penny we could scrape together.  The house, built in 1916, was a small craftsman with 2 beds/1bath, 9.5′ ceilings, an unfinished basement, lots of natural light, and a unique detached cottage/workspace in the backyard.  And I was in love.  Like head-over-heels in love.

We moved-in in September with full hearts and an eight-week-old-puppy named Bubba.  The puppy was cute and energetic but the house was in various states of disrepair.  Originally we planned to live in the house forever and fix it up as we went but I got laid off and our plans changed.  With Garrett in graduate school and me without a job, we were no longer able to afford the mortgage, so I suggested we finish-out the basement, rent the house, and move into the backyard cottage.  And that’s just what we did (more on all of that here).  But let’s get back to the patio.  Here’s what it looks like now:

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio All 2The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio lavendar 2The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio benchThe Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio blueberriesThe Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio table

The backyard at the Wallingford House is dominated by a detached, 2-story cottage with a 200sf footprint (I’ll show you that structure another day).  There’s also a cute, small shed for storage, which Garrett built me.  The rest of the yard is really private, due in large part to the green-wall of laurel hedges on our south property line.

The Grit and Polish - Wallinford Patio Collage 1    The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio Table 2The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio fence arbor

We spent a lot of time building this backyard.  We did all the work ourselves and on a tight budget.  When we first bought the property, there was a giant kiln and overgrown-everything in the backyard.  Over a few summers (both while we lived in the house and then the cottage) we removed the kiln with a jackhammer and some family muscle, tidied up the landscaping, fenced the lot with wood from Papa’s scrap pile, planted wisteria and lavender and blueberries, and then laid the patio.  I loved this project.  I loved dreaming up the space.  I loved construction.

Here’s an iPhone picture of Garrett and I rebuilding the back deck, which connects the house’s back door to the patio.  Like all things, the deck ended up being a lot more work than we expected after finding mold in much of the structure.

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio Deck construction

The deck was the last major project in the backyard and we were thrilled when it was finished.

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio back deck

We had a lot of fun in this backyard – during construction and especially after.  We hosted large parities and intimate dinners around the farm table Garrett and I built.  We enjoyed sunny afternoons and snowy mornings (well at least one) with friends and family and people from the neighborhood.  But mostly it was just Garrett and I, before kids, spending quiet evenings under twinkling lights, with a cribbage board and some beers.  Ahhhhh I really miss this backyard!

BUT, if we get busy, the Ravenna House will have a backyard to play cribbage in too…



p.s. Are you ready for Thanksgiving?!  Here are some really spectacular recipes from around the country.  I’m excited about trying Nevada’s turkey French Dips with leftovers.  And are you kidding me with Persimmon pudding, Indiana?!  Sounds delicious!

p.p.s. You and I are going to spend a lot of time cooking this week, right?  Well here are a few modern-meets-vintage kitchens I wouldn’t mind baking some sweet potatoes in!

p.p.p.s. Wilder is really getting this renovation thing down.  Now if we could just get him to wear pants…

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It’s a Patio…in my backyard!


Well guys it’s officially rainy season here in Seattle.  You know what that means.  We expect a lot of wet weather, day in and day out, for about six months.  But  this year has been different.  We’ve gotten a spell of cold that’s had the sun shining bright and the falling-leaves dry.  So far, it’s actually been a beautiful fall, and we’ve taken full advantage of it to make progress on the patio.

After we got back from New Orleans, we rented a plate compactor and leveled out the gravel base we had laid in the backyard.

The Grit and Polish - backyard patio prep

Disregard the mess along the sagging fences.  Some day Garrett is going to build me a storage shed.  And than a fence.  🙂

We wanted the patio to be long – about the length of the parking pad – and 12′ in width.  That way we can use it for overflow parking if need be.  We prepped the patio area with gravel and after we graded and compacted it, we started laying pavers.

The Grit and Polish - Patio Construction 3

I scored some free granite paver left-overs from a commercial plaza downtown through a connection at work.  The pavers are generally 1’x2′ in size but we also got a lot of miscellaneous-sized cut pieces.  So we fit them together like a puzzle.  I think it looks pretty cool plus they were free.  And free is my favorite price 🙂

To lay the pavers, we set down a couple inches of sand in a small area – about 10sf- and leveled it using a 2×4 and some old yard-tool handles.  Here’s Wilder stepping in the leveled-sand on the first day of laying pavers:

The Grit and Polish - Patio Construction 1

Wilder didn’t actually get to lay any pavers due to the fact that they weigh upwards of 50lbs.  Per piece!  But Wilder did get to throw the small cast-offs around.  Plus he helped by “digging” and picking up leaves.  This kiddo loves to help. When he sees dada put on his work boots, he starts jumping up and down and squealing, knowing he gets to go outside and help dada work.  And when I come out to inspect the work (someone’s got to do quality control after all), he loves to tell me about it in giant hand-gestures and babbled-sentences.  It’s really the sweetest!

Here we are about half way done laying the patio:

The Grit and Polish - Patio Construction 2

And here’s the finished product, Wilder-tested and approved:

The Grit and Polish - Patio Construction 4

I’m noticing our concrete driveway is looking a little lackluster these days.  While I doubt we’ll get around to repairing the concrete, hopefully it gets a good power wash.  Or maybe just a good rain.

We swept sand in-between the pavers.  After a rain storm or two we’ll probably have to lay some more, but for now it’s done.  We still plan to lay some kind of border around the patio – not sure if it will be concrete or just a flower bed.

Well it’s nice to be able to say (finally) that the patio is done.  Done, done, done!  Next up: a shed for mama and a fence for Bubba!

More on the backyard renovation here, here, and here.



p.s. This New Orleans house is amazing.

p.p.s. Have you guys been listening to Serial?  Get on board…it’s awesome!!!

p.p.p.s. I would live in this NYC apartment.  Oh yes, yes I would.

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Inspiration for our Slow Moving Backyard Reno


Our tiny backyard renovation is moving slow.  Really, really slow.   It feels like we renovated half of the house in the time it’s taken us to remove a garage, lay some gravel, and cut down a few trees.  Now it’s October – just about rainy season here in Seattle – and we find ourselves with a giant dirt and gravel pit in our backyard.

Backyard 10-10-14

It’s not looking like much.  In fact, our backyard is plain depressing.  Sure, in my heart of hearts, I know that it’s going to look beautiful someday.  But I just hope that day comes before the zombie apocalypse hits and we no longer care about patios. Or, on a less dramatic note, I hope we get this project done before we buy a new house.  Because at this glacial pace, that’s a real possibility.

What we need around here is some good old fashioned inspiration.  So I spent a little time on the web and compiled some backyard eye candy:

Ravenna House Backyard


Resources available on Polyvore

Our entire lot is less then 3000sf, so the backyard is quite small.  Maybe 1000sf.  But I actually kind of like that about the space.  I think it feels intimate and cozy, or at least it will when we put in a fence, patio, and landscaping.  Like a rustic retreat from our urban surrounding.  Kind of like these:

Al-fresco Dining Victoria Pearson via PinterestVictoria Pearson via Style Files

Laurey W. Glenn via Southern LivingLaureen W. Glenn for Southern Living

francois halard for vogue via Dust JacketFrancois Halard for Vogue via Dust Jacket

Oh I can’t wait for our backyard to look half as good as any of those!  Now if we could just get moving on it…



p.s. Fun quotes about parenting around the world.

p.p.s. I love this new old bathroom’s floor.

p.p.p.s. So it’s true – John and Sherry are gone from my life 🙁

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A Backyard Pruning Masacre


We have had a couple of productive weekends.  Lots of college football, family gatherings, and working around the house.  Bubba and I cleaned up the kitchen, made mushroom pasta for lunner (you know, lunch-dinner), and took lots of photos for an upcoming guest post I’m writing for one of my favorite blogs (more on that soon).

The Grit and Polish - In the Kitchen with Bubba 2

What a good puppy, right!  Not the best at shake, but he tries hard.  And now that I’m being honest, he didn’t really help with the cleaning, besides licking up crumbs left by Wilder.  But he sure is good company, so there’s that…

Garrett and Wilder had far different work on the docket.  Tree pruning, fort-building, apple foraging and dirt-smearing.  Well Wilder took part in the fort-building, apple foraging, and dirt-smearing at least.

The Grit and Polish - Backyard fort in circle

As far as real work went, Garrett removed 4 out of the 6 trees in our backyard. Now I’m really not one to take out mature landscaping, but we planned to do so at the Ravenna House for a few reasons:

  • Our lot is less than 3000sf, and six trees is overkill
  • Many of the trees were in various stages of death
  • They really weren’t pretty
  • Some of the trees were blocking the sun (a cardinal sin in Seattle)

Before I show you pictures from the tree removal, I’d like to preface them with a word of caution.  Cutting down trees is not something I recommend as a DIY.  It is definitely not something I would DIY.  But Garrett is stubborn and he used to fall trees for the Forest Service, so he’s not exactly an amateur.  Plus I trust his judgement.  Even with a chainsaw.

So here are some pictures of the backyard pruning massacre:

The Grit and Polish - Backyard pruningThe Grit and Polish - Backyard pruning pileThe Grit and Polish - Backyard Tree Removal 2

It looks like a big ol’ mess right now, but with a little imagination I can totally see a beautiful patio, a farm table, dinner parties and golden, twinkling lights.

Once Garrett put down the chainsaw, Wilder got to go outside to play in the carnage.  It’s been quite fun for the little guy.  I think he’s hoping we never build a patio back there 😉

The Grit and Polish - Backyard pruning and fort-building

The next weekend Garrett rented a chipper – yes, there were a lot of Fargo references – and ground up all of the trees.  It cost $300 for the rental and took a couple hours with the help of his sister and father (Wilder wasn’t allowed to participate in this part), but he turned all those trees into wood chips.  Hard to believe 4 trees fit in the back of a pickup truck, but indeed:

The Grit and Polish - Tree RemainsThe Grit and Polish - Chipper Rental on Truck

Those wood chips will soon be shipped off and used for mulch at gramma’s farm. And then finally we will start on the patio.  It’ll probably get done just in time for the rainy season…

You can find more ‘beautiful’ backyard progress here and patio inspiration here.



p.s. Love Emily’s bright and brass kitchen.  That backsplash is killer!  Plus it’s great to see she reused elements like the cabinets and didn’t just gut the entire darn thing!

p.p.s. I think I like Steve’s dream home the best…sorry Dana!

p.p.p.s. Zoey Deschanel’s bright and cheery and beautiful LA office.

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Garage Demo Day and Tractor Rides


This past Saturday we made some serious progress in the backyard.  You will remember that we have big plans for the space, starting with demoing the garage.  Ahem, can a garage really be called a garage if no sane person would park a car there?  Well anyway, the garage came down with a dumpster, a skid-steer and three able-bodied adults.  Or should I say three and a half.  

This is what the garage looked like at the beginning of the day:

The Grit and Polish - Backyard garage demo day.jpg

If you remember, we have had a shared garage with the neighbor (more on that here).  And there was no way to pull down our half without pulling down their half.  Lucky for us, they were as sick of looking at the rotted-old thing as we were, so down it came.

A closer look at our half of the garage:

The Grit and Polish - garage demo .jpgThe Grit and Polish - salvaging garage siding and a trash pile.jpgThe Grit and Polish - garage demo helper.jpg

We salvaged the siding from the side of the garage, which you may have noticed was missing on the left side of the pic above (behind our very skilled laborer, Wilder).  The garage looks pretty sketchy, right?  Like a murder scene from a horror movie.  Well we did find a rotten axe buried in a wall, so…

We rented a 30 cubic-yard dumpster, which was delivered around 10am on Saturday.  We had the driver put it in the driveway between the houses.  It barely fit…

The Grit and Polish - garage demo day dumpster delivery.jpgThe Grit and Polish - garage demo.jpg

I had about 60 little heartattacks, worrying that dumpster would hit one of the houses (and I’m pretty sure so did the driver), but he got it there, without so much as a dent.

We also rented a skid-steer – at least that’s what Garrett called it.  Dear hubby operated the thing and pulled over the garage while the neighbor and I looked on (Wilder got to watch too with Bunia from his bedroom window).

The Grit and Polish - garage removal.jpgThe Grit and Polish - removing the old garage.jpg

The biggest part of the job, was getting all that wood into the dumpster.  Garrett used the skid-steer to haul the debris to the dumpster while the neighbor and I made sure his loads weren’t too wide to fit in-between the houses (seriously, why didn’t they plan for dumpsters and skid-steers back in 1926?!).

The Grit and Polish - post garage demo.jpg

It only took us a few hours to fill the dumpster.  It’s crazy how much wood was in that old garage!  Around 3pm, the dumpster was hauled to a disposal facility.  There was actually too much waste to fit in the container (yes, more then 30 cubic yards!!!) so we ended up with an extra load in the pickup, but we got ‘er done.

Here is the same space less then 10 hours after we started:

The Grit and Polish - garage demo completion.jpg

There was even a little extra time for a tractor ride with Dada:

The Grit and Polish - garage demo and tractor rides.jpg

And again on Sunday:

Wilder in the tractor.jpg

Those skid-skeers come disinfected, right?

Now that the garage is gone, we can actually fit a car in its spot.  And that’s feels pretty awesome.  With this project wrapped up, we’re on to a patio, fence, and creating a little backyard oasis.  But with a busy August on the books, I’m not sure when we’ll get to it.  Maybe next month.  Until then, at least I can finally park back there!


p.s. check out this amazing townhouses’ patio from Vogue via Dust Jacket.

p.p.s. obsessed with this backyard tent.  Consider this part of my summer bucket-list for next year.

p.p.p.s. a whole lot more of my favorite outdoor spaces on Pinterest.

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Backyard Horrors and Optimistic Plans


Oh the horror of our backyard…

Ravenna House Backyard 2Ravenna House Backyard at House

It’s like a scene from The Walking Dead, but worse.  Much, much worse!  A falling down garage, a wood pile, the chain link fence, a trash pile.  And dog poo everywhere.  Scary!

On the plus side, I hope you guys are getting a good dose of my-backyard-looks-amazing compared to this one right now.  I mean no one’s backyard has ever looked worse, right?  And we haven’t even talked about the garage.

Ravenna House Garage 4Ravenna House Garage 2

You probably noticed that we share a driveway and garage with our neighbors.  Our neighbors are AWESOME but sharing is never ideal – just try to ask for one of Uncle Dougie’s french fries.  As the garages stand (or rather lean) today, they’re both too small to fit cars in, and out of courtesy, we try not to block the driveway, so we both end up on the street, fighting for a spot most nights.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the garages may topple at any second.  The roof literally has more plants growing on it then our yard.  And the joists that aren’t missing are rotted.  Since the neighbors and ourselves share what is essentially one two-car garage, our falling-down-garage problem is really both of our falling-down garage problem.  One we’re hoping to fix with a giant dumpster and a couple sledge hammers this summer.

Our lot is less then 3000sf, so we aren’t expecting some expansive yard, but there are a few things we want out of our limited outdoor space:

  • Off-street parking: this is a must in our busy, parking-restricted location.  We hope to get 2 off-street spots when we demo the garage.  Not exactly sure how yet, but that’s why they call it a goal.
  • A fully-fenced backyard: this isn’t too tricky since 2 of the 3 sides are already fenced.  But Bubba will be so thankful for a spot to bask in the sun.
  • An urban-oasis/brownstone-yard feel: this is where a little pinterest inspiration comes in.  I gathered a few photos of backyards that call to me.  One or more elements or maybe just the feel seem to fit the Ravenna House yard.  Anyway, here’s what we’re I’m thinking:

Backyard Inspiration collage 7-14-14

All pictures via Pinterest. Top row: Decor 8, viva Full House, Sulia | Center row: Design Spounge, Lonny Magazine, Unknown | Bottom Row: Unknown, Coco+KellyUnknown

Wouldn’t that be nice?!  As you can see, I’m a little heavy on inspiration and a little light on progress right now.  But that too shall come…as long as we don’t buy another house;)  I plan to draw up our space with 2 parking spots, a patio, outdoor dining, and a little patch of grass, any day now.  Wish me luck.

I will be SO excited to have an outdoor space to relax and bbq and eat outdoors.  And I’ll be more then a little excited if our place turns out one-sixteeth as nice as those inspiration images.  Plus, I’m pretty sure that these two are excited to do some bird-watching from outside:

Wilder and Bubba at the Window


p.s. This 1700’s Connecticut house takes the prize of the most amazing country house. Ever.

p.p.s. If you’re in Seattle and have a spare $3 million (and the exterior paint doesn’t bug you), this Victorian may just suit your fancy.

p.p.p.s. I’m stalking some great renovations lately.  Check out Sarah’s beautiful foyer and stair transformation and Nicole’s exciting hallway progress.

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