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A Farmhouse Exterior Update – The Current State Of The House, Sports Court, And What Is Next

This landscaping project has been hard for me to get my mind around. We don’t have a final plan (will we ever?) and yet are moving quickly in some ways, very slowly in others which makes documenting a challenge. It’s exhilarating, intimidating, scary (financially), and yet we are full of hope and extremely grateful. We moved up here for the property. Having 2 1/2 acres of flat land close to a neighborhood and schools was a fantasy, and is why we finally moved back after wanting to for 10 years. We started brainstorming two years ago, thinking/hoping that we’d just landscape around the house and tackle the rest in phases. We’d add some chickens, goats, an alpaca or three, and a veggie garden then call it a day – and to some extent that hasn’t changed. But after 2 years of construction and no maintenance, it needed more than tweaking. It needed an overhaul. Oh, how I wish this was something we knew how to do ourselves or had the bandwidth to learn, but we don’t and instead are lucky enough to hire some experienced minds on both the design and the execution. As a reminder it’s almost 3 acres, and came with two houses (one I’ve barely shown you that needs everything and one we are living in), a massive sheep barn/carriage house that is falling down, a smaller barn that is so cute that I can’t wait to transform into something, a well house that we had to demo and now rebuild because we won the lottery and turns out it works(!), another well house that doesn’t work but acts as a cute shed, an enclosed paddock for future livestock, a sweet but not too healthy apple and pear orchard, and world’s longest cutest and most run down driveway. All of it is in the works to rehab, but honestly, it won’t be done for like 5 years and that’s okay (for the most part).

The Property When We Bought It

made by studio campo

We hired Cali of Studio Campo pretty quickly after talking to her on the phone and Zoom. She was about to launch her own firm after working at larger landscape architecture firms for years and we just really loved her vibe and vision. She did the illustration above to help show us and you what we are working with.

This was the view to the back porch when we bought the house. The two big bushes blocked all the light to the living room and we knew we were going to open up the doors anyway so those were taken out.

Woah. It’s wild to see how far we’ve come! I think “Progress part 1” was about a year ago. ARCIFORM really did an incredible job designing and executing the back porch, sunroom, and extending that wing. Here’s where we are today!

WOW. We live here and have obviously stared at this in person for weeks but looking at this photo while writing this sentence is an odd feeling – it’s not a house I ever pictured I’d be able to own or live in. It’s definitely not the house we bought 2 years ago. It’s so beautiful and grown up and well, I’m not sure I even deserve to live here but man am I grateful. Big thanks to every single reader who ever read a sentence on this blog. And thank you ARCIFORM for all your hard work turning it into this!!! You can see we added the back porch, sunroom, added a window upstairs so it’s more symmetrical, and all new windows on the bottom floor (vintage ones on top and sunroom windows to tie both styles together).

The mini porch on the right is to the mudroom (and ideally where the kids/dogs will drop school bags/shoes once there is some hardscape to it). We painted the house Pure White SW 7005, with Online SW 7072 as the trim color around the windows. We still plan on adding shutters to the second floor (likely a medium tone blue – thinking Smoky Blue SW 7604 because we love it so much inside – also does anyone know a good shutter company?). Right now we have sewer issues holding up this area of the property – we can’t trench for electrical, plumbing, or irrigation to the other areas of the property until the sewer is fixed (it actually started yesterday). Then the porch steps will get finished and the landscaping back here will begin (maybe – I’ll fill you in soon). We have to shoot around the house in May so we are focusing on those areas for now – hoping to plant in the next month in time for a rainy few months and then BOOM spring 🙂

A Sports Court Update

When we bought the property it had a massive sports court – like way bigger than a tennis court. But we LOVED the idea of it and like everyone else in the world, we are now into pickleball. It was in very bad shape (huge cracks with tons of weeds growing through them) and we went through every option possible to see how we could possibly keep it and just make it better. We had multiple resurfacers come to look at it and they all said they wouldn’t touch it because it would continue to crack. We thought about just keeping it for a few years, but knew that if we did eventually need to demo it out the machinery to do so would rip up any new landscaping we planted (which would be a lot). We also thought about just putting those sports court tiles on top, but opted not to do that for aesthetic and long-term reasons. We ultimately decided to pull the bandage off quickly and demo it out, to repour a smaller sports court that would be in better shape. We had multiple quotes ranging from $23 – $48k. We went with the $23k for obvious reasons.

Listen, if we were professional pickleball players we’d make sure it was poured perfectly but honestly we just wanted it to be better but didn’t need PERFECT. It was already such a sticker shock and not the way we had pictured spending our savings (from selling our house in LA). Plus the $23k guy was really lovely, nice, and ultimately did a good enough and fast job.

And it was a job. Like 6 layers of concrete because it had been poured over so many times. Our contractor said he could bring in a big rock-crushing machine and turn it all into gravel and then we spread it in our mud pit of a driveway to help with the mud/dust until we repour our driveway someday. So we were happy that it didn’t have to go far and that we could reuse it.

A Big Plot Of Dirt – With The Cutest Split Rail Fence

The “plan” for the rest of the project is still up in the air as we aren’t sure what is doable. I know that I want a pretty greenhouse (and we have leftover windows for it). I fell in love with the idea of a plunge pool from Soake Pools (hot tub in winter, very small pool in summer) but we are still figuring out if a crane can get it in here. My favorite thing we have done thus far is that split rail fence. We hired the most affordable fencing company (again, not where we want to spend our money). Brian was in charge of this because we both know that if I got involved in the design, I would likely make it complicated and expensive. We may never shoot the front and back entrances where the big privacy and vehicular gates are so I gave him full carte blanche to execute those (and they look great, although unfinished). But the fencing inside the property needed to be the right vibe, and I can’t TELL YOU how pleased we are with it. Sure, they put the gate in the wrong place (and we are adding another by the barn) but it’s a true split rail, made out of rustic wood, and it’s exactly what we had pictured. We will be adding more of that – possibly a shorter version around the greenhouse/garden area or around the sports court.

As you can see the sports court is still massive but has way less presence (in a good way). Brian is going to paint the pickleball lines (!!!) and I’m kinda staying out of it. I just love that we can go out there and hit the ball against the wall, ride bikes, rollerblade, etc. The kids already spend a lot of time out here which makes our desperate little confirmation bias hearts feel good about the decision to repour it.

More to come asap. Cali (Studio Campo) has been amazing and we have so many design plans and concept boards to show you. We also have an awesome expert landscape contractor that I’m going to tell you all about when we get further into the project as it’s a big operation and these people are very good.

It’s a lot and so many moving parts. It’s taken a decent mental jump to be ok investing so much into the exterior property. The reason we can do most of it is because of selling our house in LA and knowing that it’s a big part of my job (even those it’s not inside, landscaping projects are pretty popular which I get because it’s a lot) – both things I’m just so so grateful for. It’s going to be dirt for a while (but we got sod on the other side of the house!! Wahoo!!) with the hope that by summer we can enjoy it. Next week I’ll start showing you the overhead plans and all the mood boards that Cali came up with – paired with us changing our minds, changing the budget, changing our timeline – just not knowing exactly how we want to use the space. I’m happy she charged us by the hour because the amount of back and forth, editing, and rethinking she had to do with us was a lot. I can’t wait to show you what she came up with. xx

*The Pretty Photos by Kaitlin Green🙂


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43 thoughts on “A Farmhouse Exterior Update – The Current State Of The House, Sports Court, And What Is Next

  1. wow, finally a map with direction!!! Now it clicks in my head and I bring it all together. Where is when the sun, which deck/porch is where, etc. Big thank you. So appreciated

  2. How exciting to have such a wonderful property! Can’t wait to see your plans and watch it develop. Will you be parking in a garage or outside? Will there be covered access to the house or will you be dodging raindrops when hauling in the groceries? I’m very curious to see how the kids will be routed to the mudroom. All those little indoor-outdoor connections!

    1. Yes I’m curious, too! I don’t think there’s been any mention of where they will park and for no rational reason I feel that I must know!

      1. ha-ha-ha! I’m also quite irrationally invested in these questions – where will the kids be dropped off from the car, where is the mini mudroom vs the big mudroom? how will this all work?

  3. Thanks for the map! It makes a lot more sense now. Really looking forward to the updates on how it all develops. If you’re after some gardening inspiration (especially in terms of glass houses) check out Garden Answers on YouTube who are have put in a Hartley and are in the process of landscaping the area round it.

    1. Yes absolutely!! Work with Northwest Meadowscapes. They have great native seed mixes. I converted a little corner of my lawn into a meadow garden using seeds from them and all the pollinators loved it!

  4. So cool! One little bit of “advice from having been there”. We put in a “spool”–aka if a spa and pool had a baby similar to the Soake pool you are describing. We used it a ton and loved it, BUT! I would advise not going too big if you are going to use it as a hot tub. It takes hours and hours to heat up, and you feel like a climate villain for even doing so in the first place. If there is a way to incorporate solar, or heat it in some way that is not just gas or electric chugging along running up your utility bill, I would absolutely do so. Also, I would put it much closer to the house. You will never use it in the evenings if you and Brian have to run out there in your robes.
    Lastly, it was actually cheaper to hire a pool company to put it in ground than the listed price for the cheapest Soake pool. Maybe they have some advantages that I’m not aware of, but I was pretty amazed at the cost (Sorry Soake!). I looked at the site because we moved, and I wanted to check it out. It would potentially be worth it if they have a way to heat it that is more environmentally friendly though. Lastly, if there is a way to make it saline rather than chlorine based, go for it. But, as mentioned, get a quote from a local pool company. You can do in ground, customize the shape, make it look like a pond, and all sorts of other stuff if you design it yourself. 🙂

    1. My sister made a swim pond in her (massive) backyard which is absolutely gorgeous, great to use and beautiful to look at!

    2. Love the idea of a spool!
      Do you think the difference in price is a matter of materials? After Emily posted about the plunge pool, I fell down a rabbit hole on the topic. The prices quoted in this NY Times article are considerably less than what Shavonda Gardener spent on her pool ($60K, I think) and Chris Loves Julia (over $140K).

      Link is unlocked btw:

  5. Exciting! And I can imagine overwhelming. Hooray for great helpers who make it all manageable and get it done. ps — selfishly very curious about your siding process and hoping for a deep dive on it to help our own project.

  6. For shutters, couldn’t recommend Timberlane enough. We just replaced our shutters earlier this year and they came out amazing. Offer both custom wood and composite, and both options look so good. So many different styles and the hardware options really help to elevate the look. Can’t stand when they look glued on to the side of a house or aren’t the right size to look functional, and the team at Timberlane will work with you to make sure you get the look you’re going for. 10/10 would recommend. Promise I don’t work there haha!

  7. I so appreciate you sharing the prices as you’ve developed this property. It’s so helpful as a reader and renovation day-dreamer to understand when an exposed block of concrete is really a $23,000 upgrade! Glad the family is already making use of the new space and excited to see where the yard ends up!

    1. Somehow, each of the upgrades we did come up to 20k. I installed a big window/sliding doors, and with flooring in that one room it ended up 20k. My small patio+deck 20k. Upgrading flood control and a few rough plumbing upgrades in the basement 20k. Even a wood fence on our 6k lot with the landscaping comes up to 20k. Whatever project we touch it’s 20k. Now with higher inflation it might be more. Doing things less expensively means using the cheapest materials. Doing things yourself doesn’t always save money. Fencing would come up to the same amount because of time and equipment needed to complete. Same with making a patio and deck. Some things can be done, but taking time off may not be worth it.

  8. Just looked at Studio Campo’s website and I can immediately see why you chose them! Can’t wait for more landscaping updates.
    Also, seconding the thanks for the map! Gives the house a lot more context!

  9. It’s coming together! The fence is really cute but I am curious about the function. The bottom rail looks like it is so high that your dogs can just go right under it. Is this more for aesthetics only? Or is it taller because of future alpacas? Maybe your dogs are just well-trained and won’t try to escape?

    1. We have a similar split rail fence and it was installed with dark wire mesh running from the top rail down to the ground. The mesh is basically invisible from a distance, but it keeps our dog inside and other animals out. A really motivated dog could still just tunnel under the fence but hopefully Emily’s pups won’t figure that out.

  10. I have such empathy for how much work and money all this is… as we are in a similar place. And it must feel so much more challenging/overwhelming when it is your work as well. All these seeds being planted will bear fruit for generations to come… just think of the farm you are creating and how it will nourish your people and community – wow! It’s going to be worth it – hang in there!

  11. You found a gem! Love that long driveway and how the house with the outbuildings are in the middle with plenty of buffer zone around the property line. How fun to create your own oasis. The back view of the house is so sweet! great choices. We moved to a 50 acre property 7 years ago and the journey has been so fun. I’ve learned so much- can now identify every tree species and most plants, native and non native, and have learned so much about the wide range of birds that visit the property. It’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it and I remind myself these are all projects I’ve created, they don’t HAVE to be done, it’s something I get to work on. Reframing it that way allows me to enjoy it more and not get overwhelmed with “all the stuff that needs to be done”. Enjoy the process!!

  12. Hallelujah! Finally….a map with a north arrow! Yaaay!🙂
    Emily, you’ve snagged yourselves such a magical, unique property!
    I’m secretly wishing, wishing, wishing that you do a wildflower meadow.
    Big plans = bigger ideas.
    Cannot wait!!!!

  13. Love the map! When I read the legend titles, I felt like I was reading Anne of Green Gables again and Anne was titling all her favorite places on the property. The property is going to be gorgeous when you’re done with it! I’d love to see some natural ground covering planting. I know sod was probably a quick fix for your deadline but wildflowers growing naturally in your yard would look so beautiful.

  14. Your husband looks like Neil Diamond. Random, I know, but on a road trip the other week, ND’s face popped up as Sweet Caroline began and it then dawned on me that he looks like your husband… a little bit. Just FYI for a weird comment. 🙂

  15. This is looking so good!! And yes outdoor design/landscaping is soo intimidating to me!! anyone else? I live in the Phoenix area and am dreaming of a desert botanical vibe with lots of native plants, maybe a bit of no-mow grass dunno! in my backyard, we currently have grass which I hate cuz it wastes so much water and my kids don’t even use it! I’ve looked into Yardzen and other similar companies but from my Google searches have seen mixed results. Anyone from the Phoenix area with any insight into best way to go about hiring a landscape designer/architect?? do i need both to do a backyard overhaul?

    1. Depends on how much structural or hard scaping work you need done. If you’re primarily replacing plantings, a great nursery or garden center may have an in-house planting or landscape designer who could work more efficiently. Yellow Brick Home has some nice posts about their much more modest front yard revamp which goes that route.

      That said, I’m married to a landscape architect. After 7 years in our house we decided to redo our very small city backyard, including regrading to get rid of a slope that was funnelling water to the house, installing steps and a new bluestone patio, custom welded planter boxes, 4 trees, a 10×10 tiny lawn, and lots of smaller plantings. Total construction & materials was about $28k and made our yard so much more usable and welcoming. No regrets at all.

    2. I recently lived in Fountain Hills, AZ which is West Phoenix. We used Arte Verde for landscape + hardscape plus design at our home and we were very, very happy with the result. They re-used plants where they could, brought in boulders, and fixed drainage problems as well. You need someone who really knows the local conditions including wash dangers, knows all the desert plants, and also can install drip irrigation properly. Ask for photos of work they have done previously as well as references!

  16. I’m a little confused on what you’re calling things – I would think that is the side yard and deck, and the back yard and back patio would be behind the kitchen?

  17. I love the vibe of the exterior. The mixed, yet coordinating, windows. The porches and different height rooflines. Really appealing. I love the idea of a greenhouse. I’d die for one — sadly, I’m in a townhouse condo. I don’t the think the HOA would approve of me turning my downstairs balcony into a mini-greenhouse, but that would be awesome. I’ll admit I’m a little prejudiced against pickleball. Maybe it’s the dumb name? But if you gets people outside and moving, I’m all for it.

    Finally, can I tell you how much I LOVE the dogs romping around in most of these shots?

  18. I recently saw a plunge pool rebranded as a cocktail pool. Since I read that I’ve never wanted one more.

    1. Ingenious. Plum Guide’s clever tagline stopped me in my tracks the other day “If you’re 52, you have about 28 holidays left.” (Uk holidays = US vacations)

  19. It would be so lovely to have part of your acres planned for “re-wilding” which is native plants and species being put in without water hogging lawns or non-native species. This would allow a lot of birds, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to come and nourish on your land. Which they cannot do on a lawn.

  20. I can’t wait to see all the outdoor projects come to life!! I do agree to really investigate your pool options unless maybe you are partnering with this company?? Is this pool made of fiberglass? I have a friend whose fiberglass pool installation has ended up being an ongoing nightmare!! I don’t know why I need to know this but since I play tennis (not giving in to pickleball YET because I feel I need the extra running exercise tennis gives me), and I live vicariously through you sometimes, is your sports court big enough for tennis or just pickleball?

  21. Honestly feels like this house is crying out for a natural swimming pond. They’re much better for you because there is no need for chemicals – carefully selected plants do all the cleaning. And they’re much better for the environment as you have a section for flora and fauna and you’re not heating the water. Because of the planting it’s a beautiful feature in the winter and, on hot days in the summer, your own wild swimming spot.

  22. Just a farm girl heads up, if you do plan to get goats, that fence won’t do anything other than provide them a jungle gym to jump through. Livestock fencing needs to be more function than form, and I hate building things twice. It’s all looking SO good!!!!

  23. Pickleball is incredibly fun and fun to try to get better at! So great that you’ll have a court!

    One question – when the fence builders put the gate in the wrong place, why didn’t you make them fix it? It seems like mis-positioning a gate is a pretty major foul-up for such an expensive update.

  24. Love this! We also got a farmhouse and your posts are giving me so much inspiration on how I should renovate mine.

  25. This is such meaty content! I’m in the process of buying an older home, and there isn’t an attached garage. We’re looking at adding a motorized vehicular gate that will lead to the detached garage, but I can’t find much information on these. I know you mentioned you didn’t see yourself ever shooting those areas, but I’ve been wondering what y’all are doing for cars. I don’t think you have an attached garage, but a carport. Do you have gates? I’m all for the pretty farm content, but these nuts and bolts posts are also sooooo endlessly helpful!

  26. Omg, the current photos facing the house – all the heart eyes! It looks cozy but high end, farmhousey but modern, and all the elements tie in to one another. SO SO good, Emily! Can’t wait to see everything progress.

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