After FOUR years it seems appropriate to show you that we do indeed have a secret front yard. Despite my apparent (obvious) lack of privacy, I kept this off the blog until today – never even photographed it! I was always tweaking, always wanting to improve it, so selling it gave me the opportunity to dial it in. So before the reveal, I want to show you what it looked like when we bought it and how we turned it into an almost Disney-like, butterfly friendly, birds chirping, hummingbird bathing private magical English country front garden.
When we saw the original listing, above, we loved the house immediately. It’s covered in ivy, has such pretty architecture, original brown coat stucco and it’s set back from the road. It is one of two houses first built on this hill in Los Feliz by two brothers, both architects/carpenters, both covered in ivy. It is SPECIAL. We loved it immediately.
But we were excited to make it our own, not to mention create some privacy and more purpose for all that space. So over the last four years. we did the following: 1. Replaced the path, 2. Upped the landscaping (including trees), 3. Put in irrigation, pathway and landscape lighting, 4. Fixed all the drainage issues and put in a french drain, 5. Replaced the garage doors, 6. Painted the trim, 7. Put in a citrus grove, 8. Added a water feature and 9. The most expensive yet worth it – created a privacy fence with electronic driveway and pedestrian gates.
Right before we sold it I amped it up even MORE because this property is dreamy and I frankly have too much home pride to release it to someone else and show you guys without it being at its absolute best. Brian didn’t agree with my investing in it at the last minute, but I did and I’m so happy that I’m leaving it at its most beautiful for someone to take over. You don’t buy this house for the closet space, you buy it for the magic. The charm. The yards. The butterflies and hummingbirds. So over the last few years, I dedicated a lot of time and money to making the front yard special and magical to match the backyard and the inside. At times it was almost ridiculous–with multiple butterflies flying, birds chirping, and hummingbirds bathing at the same time so I guess it worked. 🙂 It’s like the movie “Enchanted” which we recently watched with the kids and they LOVED (maybe because it reminded them of home).
For whatever reason, I didn’t take close up before shots BEFORE we started remodeling but you get the gist of it here. There were boxwoods and dying grass (because there was either no or bad irrigation) and that’s about it. I could have just nursed the grass but once we had Pete landscaping the back and a ton of extra plant/bushes we realized how much prettier the front could be.
The side yard was just dirt and totally unused – partly because it’s very sloped and hard to figure out why you’d go over there with such a great backyard. In retrospect, I would have leveled it (tiers?) or raised it and turned it into a large vegetable garden but I didn’t realize that I would be so into gardening until a year ago, then winter + pandemic + move equals no changes. But it gets a lot of sun and could have been a great use of space. Instead, we put in a grove of citrus trees – some thrived amazingly, some not.
This is the ONLY shot I have of the side yard, my apologies. It’s so hard to even see it!!! We used DG (decomposed granite) and put in irrigation for the 7 citrus trees, but some of them didn’t thrive because the DG kinda suffocated them so we had to give them more space and water. But the ones that thrived sure were fun for the kids to pick and yes, make lemonade :).
I worked with Pete Hieatt (Deluxe Plants) a few years ago on the yard and man has it grown in (in a good way). I think the rains from last January and the spring rains we had this year made it THRIVE. The tree is an evergreen pear that blooms bright white blooms in the winter which made us so happy.
The path was a pretty bright red brick. Early on we had to demo a bunch out to fix a drainage issue, which we did, so one we had to spend the money to replace it we figured we’d put in something we loved more.
We chose a meandering path of flagstone – the same that we put in the back, with DG in between. At one point we had lot of greenery and even white flowering ground cover in between but as you can imagine with a lot of traffic it doesn’t last long. Here’s what it looks like now – the plants have EXPLODED.
To save money we kept the brick retaining wall that the flower bed was on and the brick at the entrance but mixed the flagstone wherever there was a path.
New Garage Doors
The old ones were original, wood, rotted and so heavy. Then they broke and I think we kept them that way for months before we decided to invest in new doors. These were only $3k, metal, BRAND NEW and the white matched the white close enough to our trim (here are similar ones). Anyone else with an old house knows that while there are some things you want to remain old, totally unfunctional, dangerous, garage doors are not one of them. I could have customized them to be cuter (add windows, etc) but it’s just not where we wanted to spend money. We always meant for the garage to be an extra room (it has cute windows inside!) and even at one point had California Closets draw up plans for it to be a workshop/craft room, and accessed through our playroom, but because of what I do it instead became storage for furniture and props. The potential is there though and in California you don’t really need to park your car in the garage unless you have a fancy car, so basically if I weren’t a furniture hoarder you could make this a whole other room which is VERY popular right now with isolation.
THE GATE AND FENCE
As a reminder, there was no gate on this property. Now we aren’t big “stay off my lawn” people but we are big “don’t let kids get run over” people. A lot of people walk on our street (it’s strangely well known for walking) so sure, we wouldn’t mind more privacy, too. So pretty soon after moving, I designed the gate and now it’s so overgrown with jasmine and ivy that you can barely even see it!
The gate and fence should be its own post as there was so much information and learning involved. It was 100% custom, electric, and yes an investment (I think around $20k). In our neighborhood you can’t have a tall fence, I think that 48″ might be the tallest you can get. We didn’t want to close off all the view so we chose a picket fence (but considered something more decorative and metal to match the patio railing in the back). But we ultimately loved the idea of a picket fence to make it feel more cottage-y and cozy. The driveway gate and the pedestrian gate had to be designed by me which was scary as it’s not something that I have done before, but I actually LOVE how they both turned out.
We set it back a few feet so we could have a sidewalk and somewhere to step onto when we get out of the car.
It took over a week to install. We used a company called “Shamrock” (tell Patrick I say hey) and the quality and execution were great, but he’s hard to get a hold of (FYI). Here’s what it looks like now (via the real estate photos, there were cars parked when Sara and I shot, but you get the idea).
Oh, I do love a water feature. It’s hereditary as my dad LOVES them and passed that obsession down. I think I installed this one after we lived with our “stream” up in the mountains and the sound of the water is so calming, the birds bathing is so sweet and I just wanted one so badly. I bought it via Unique Garden Decor.
It normally has more water in the bowl and birds bathe in it which you can watch from the playroom through the windows.
Speaking of windows, we took the ivy off the windows to give that room some light. We just clip them as they start growing over the glass, but the entire root system of the ivy is at the base so we can’t remove the stick part or else the ivy over the whole house would die, and then I would die.
I’m going to miss that front door VERY MUCH. The red, the roses, the lanterns. It made me happy every single day.
Right before we took these photos I realized that the area to the left was blank and then I realized that I had an extra outdoor bench floating around. I styled it with cut flowers in a basket and boots and now I want that life again – minus the gutter, another fun way to spend money and invest in your home 🙂
It was a lot of work and a big investment and took probably a year and a half to execute (without a shoot date/deadline I’m just like the all of us – prioritizing our own house is so hard), but I’m a firm believer that the spaces you see every day should bring you joy. We hung out in the back on the patio and in the yard because it just made more sense with the kids, but I loved how the front really told the story of the house the second you saw it. And yes, I’m getting VERY sentimental about leaving it permanently. Every house has a soul, sure, but this one has so much old soul that is impossible to manufacture or replicate. I’m so glad our family got to be part of it for 4 years. xx
In case you missed any of the other reveals so far check them out: The Living Room | The Kid’s Shared Bedroom | The Basement Guestroom/Office | Basement Bathroom | Elliot’s Room | Kitchen and Dining Room | The Entry