I’m unimpressed with my landscape design skills, but that shouldn’t be too surprising as A. I’m not a landscape designer and B. Technically Brian was supposed to be in charge of this outdoor project because “you’ll take too long and make it too expensive”. He’s not wrong, but mostly that’s because unless we want to DIY it ourselves good design takes time and landscape/hardscape design and materials aren’t cheap. DUH. This is a GREAT example of “doing it ourselves” not really panning out. I didn’t have time to really dedicate to it properly, so we rushed things a bit. Before winter came (when landscape work stops) we found a small window of time where we could snag the turf, snag a firepit, and we found the last hot tub on the mountain that wasn’t a three-month lead time. So we threw them together and VOILA! I love the turf, “stream”, and hammock, but the firepit was put in too big the day before the turf arrived, the plants have died because they need “water”, and the hot tub area is surrounded by a dirt patch full of literal dog shit. It’s actually hilarious and we’ve gotten used to it, but when people come over and see the pile of dog shit next to the hot tub, it reminds me that we aren’t quite done with this yard.
But we did get a new table and while this is a terrible shot of it (It’s Friday morning with an iPhone), we are one step closer to making the lower deck much better.
It pains me to show you this, but it’s all a process. The old table was an indoor table from Ikea that we happened to have so we shoved it out here and y’all it did not fare well. It was totally disintegrating and falling apart (and became kinda disgusting to eat on). The new table is AWESOME because our needs were very specific – we needed an insanely durable dark metal table and no it couldn’t be outdoor quality wood because the weather is extreme up here and that might last a few years but not 10. Of course, you can put “outdoor covers” on it but up here it will dump 2 feet of snow one day (which comes through from the deck above and piles on the table) and then 4 days later you can sit outside for lunch it’s so warm. So putting covers on and off is annoying, PLUS it’s right outside our scenic doors which means that we would be staring at a big covered table all winter while we hang out in our family room. Finding a black rust-proof metal table that is long enough to seat 8 comfortably and is not ugly is virtually impossible. I found this last summer on Williams-Sonoma (and it’s commercial quality – YES) but it was out of stock before I could snag it. So this year I DID. I know it doesn’t look that exciting, but the proportions are at least modern and I love how seamless it is with the deck. It’s tonal, monochrome, and modern – so now I need to make the whole space look, well, better. I would love the chairs to have a warmer element to them (like wood or wicker) but I also don’t want to just buy new chairs when these are perfectly good and comfortable. New lights, a few plants, style it out with people, food, and fun, and call it a day.
But honestly, we use the heck out of this yard (upper deck reveal coming soon – I LOVE IT and will NOT be embarrassed to show you how it turned out). We still love the faux grass (real grass is not permitted up here and the bark was driving us NUTS with these two muddy pups). We’ve made some good changes (we upgraded our BBQ, ordered this outdoor kitchen counter instead of customizing anything, and got that dining table). But the hot tub is still surrounded by dirt (on a cement pad) and the chain link fence is not exactly pleasuring my eye.
THE DEAD BUSHES
But so many projects left undone. I know I’m slammed designing the farmhouse, so I need to not be so hard on myself but we did kinda have a year to do this…
Now I must defend ourselves – where we live (Lake Arrowhead) has had a population EXPLOSION. Being only an hour and a half from LA and historically pretty inexpensive (comparatively), all of LA basically migrated up here during covid which skyrocketed the real estate but also made it virtually impossible to find subcontractors to do small jobs. No one wants to prioritize some lady to build a deck around a hot tub – it’s just too small of a job.
Besides, before we were vaccinated and knew that being outside was safe, we weren’t psyched about having people working at our house. That’s all to say that we are moving in two months to Portland and not only do I want to enjoy this backyard a lot this summer, but also we’ll likely start renting it out and as a source of pride, I want it to look BETTER.
Two summers ago for the reader event (woah time flies), I hired a gardener to plant these laurels along the fenceline to disguise the chain link fence and provide privacy. Normally they thrive up here in both freezing winter and hot summer with minimal care, but they were too new and they didn’t fair well without enough water in the summer/fall to make them strong enough to last through the winter. The ones near them (same plant) had deep enough root systems to live with zero maintenance. So now that we are leaving I don’t trust that anyone will water them, we don’t want to invest in irrigation and yet just digging them out and having a line of turf does NOT sound beautiful.
But I feel a bit like my hands are tied. I don’t mind DIY’ing something with someone else, but Brian doesn’t love handy work in actuality (oh… he does in theory!), and we don’t have the right equipment. Besides the days go so fast, the weekends fly, and “building a new fence” shockingly doesn’t get done. I’ve also learned that no matter how much I try to manipulate him (It will be fun! You can have a sundae afterward! We’ll do it together!), forcing your husband to do a big house project that he doesn’t deem necessary is an absolute lose/ lose for your weekend and your marriage. He doesn’t care about the fence – he thinks it “goes away” and maybe he’s right. He normally is. He doesn’t see the point in investing in making it better. So without a handy person, a gardener, or an enthusiastic husband I’ve left to actually do this myself. And my fencing skills go as far as playing Peter Pan with sticks with the kids.
Oh and then worse/final of all I found out that we aren’t allowed by the HOA to build a solid fence – it can’t be enclosed. And let’s face it chain link fences do the job just fine. They keep the dogs in, coyotes out, and they are zero maintenance. Besides, we already have it, and spending $7-10k putting up a nice-looking wood fence that we might have to pull down seems crazy when we are frankly not that interested in investing more into this property as we have bigger fish/farms to fry.
You can barely see the chain-link fence in the photos, which I suppose makes them seem like less of a big deal. But I know it’s there, and green which definitely gets more disguised than any other color up here.
But then the other day the creepy Instagram Gods tempted me with this:
It’s an expandable privacy green edge, that you place in front of what you want to disguise. Let me be VERY CLEAR – this product is likely a garbage landfill and I don’t think anyone should buy it. It’s $39.95 and based on the website it reminds me of the time when I bought the Baby Shark that moves like it’s a real baby (so cute!) that was really just a fake CGI video ad. When I got it (for Christmas for the family!) it was just a foam shark. Like a $40 pool toy, shipped from the other side of the world that the dogs quickly ate. We now call this “baby shark shame” in my house (likely on the blog, too), when you make an idiotic impulse purchase that goes in a landfill. No more baby shark shame here!!!
But it’s just so TEMPTING. In the video online it’s so satisfying. They just open it, extend it, and voila! Bu Bye chain link, hello beautiful boxwood hedge!
Now AGAIN, I’m not condoning this product. In fact, I really don’t think it should exist unless it’s for your wedding and you need to disguise something disgusting. But it got me thinking that if this product exists for this cheap, surely someone has created some sort of product that doesn’t involve rebuilding a wood fence inside the chain link fence for people like me. This existence of this product proves there is a hole in the market, and surely there has to be a better way to fill it than this???
But we all know that “cheap, fast and good” solutions aren’t a thing. So maybe I’m SOL. HELP.
So maybe what bugs me the most is the gate and behind the hot tub. Maybe I should replant in the areas where the new-ish laurels died and set up a drip system just for this for the summers until they get established. Leave the perimeter of the fence as -is, but maybe upgrade the gate and make the hot tub area better, but accept the perfectly good, functional fence. Heck, we are lucky to have a fence at all.
So with a quick search I found this chain link fence upgrade idea –
We could paint it out the dark green of the house and maybe where you see the fence the most it would just be a nice painted wood?
Then for the hot tub do a similar version in green that makes it feel like a “room”? I know in LA I would easily be able to hire some people to execute this in a weekend, but up here I don’t know how to get it done.
I know that that isn’t terribly inspirational but that seems doable with a handyman? Something like this, but even simpler?
I just want to not step from hot tub to dirt – OH AND I FORGOT TO TELL YOU THAT IS WHERE THE DOGS POOP. Not IN the hot tub (picture that if you want to LOL a lot) but currently right to the right of it, in the dirt patch. So it’s like a poop patch. Right outside the romantic hot tub. Now you fully understand the lack of appeal of our hot tub. Now I’m not complaining about the hot tub just would love to not have it surrounded by dog poop and chain link fence.
Looking at this the hot tub area seems WAY more of a priority than the chain link fence (poop removed for your Pinterest pleasure :)) I might even reach out to Yardzen (which I should have in the first place) and see if they can come up with a plan for the deck, hot tub privacy surround and any sort of fencing solutions. We are going to be living here for 2 months before we move to Oregon (sob) and then we’ll be down every winter and summer (and literally every 3 day weekend until someone in the family starts complaining that they want to “experience the world” or even “go somewhere new”). I know it seems crazy to invest more into a house that you are not going to be fully living in, but leaving it in this state feels sad/wrong when the inside of the house is so pretty. But yeah, I just don’t know how to do it and it’s not my skill set. Also, Brian is officially fired as the in-house landscape designer. Don’t worry, he’ll bounce back!
So here are my questions:
- Any genius chain link fence disguising ideas out there that don’t contribute to a landfill or requiring replacing it altogether? Any climbing plants that thrive in mountains?
- Does anyone know anyone in the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead/San Bernardino area that can build a hot tub deck (or just rocks! literally I’d take just rocks!) and a privacy wall? I can design it to be super easy/simple, I promise. I just need a willing and skilled (and available) person to help execute.