Category Archives: Outdoor Spaces

Repainting a Doormat

April is the month when our homes and yards come out from hibernation and are begging for some freshening up.  There are several quick and easy tricks to help make the most of your home’s curb appeal.  

Doormat AFTER

This week, I focused on the doormat.  A doormat is a fun way to add color and personality without a big commitment.  A few years ago, I found an extra large doormat at Costco, and I really like how the size fits our porch.  Of course, after a year or two, doormats start to fade significantly. 

Doormat BEFORE

I decided to start painting our old doormat, because I really hate to throw things away that are still in good condition and have a useable life.  I read online how people have used spray paint or craft paint to make designs on doormats, so I decided to give it a try.

Doormat some color

Because my mat had deep cutouts, I worked with the raised shapes and painted on lots of bright color.   Where the rug wasn’t completely faded, I used the pattern and lines that remained as a guide.  I used leftover acrylic craft paint from my stash, and a medium-sized paintbrush.

Doormat progress

Since I used several different colors, I tried to balance their placement across the rug.  I also tried to use each color at least three times.

Doormat midnight

It took quite a few hours to paint everything, so I am hoping it lasts for a year or two, but we’ll see.

Doormat AFTER

Is your home calling out for a refresh this spring?  Have you ever tried painting a doormat?  If you have, let me know how long it was until the paint faded again!

Front Porch Update for Fall

With Halloween and Christmas being the two holidays most decorated for, we have been seeing black cats and bats popping up all over town.  Ironically, I am not one to do a lot of decorating for the seasons or holidays.  If I do, they tend to stay there for awhile past their celebratory time.  This year, for some reason Fall has me digging out a wreath for the front door and painting a doormat.  

A few years ago, I made my favorite Fall/Halloween wreath ever.  I spray painted a grapevine wreath bright orange, and bought several little rubber snakes to weave through the branches.  It still makes me smile, which means I still get to use it on the front door.  To update it a bit this year, I added some orange and black feathers from our craft closet.

Front door update: snake wreath, spider web door mat, magnetic letters

The snakes could be replaced with branches of leaves, mini pumpkins or even little turkeys for Thanksgiving. I love to decorate with grapevine wreaths.  They are so simple and inexpensive, and look great in their natural brown or spraypainted any color of the rainbow.

After seeing some fun painted doormats on Pinterest, I decided to make one of my own.  Since it seems we are going with a Halloween theme, I cut the mat into a half-circle shape and painted a spider’s web on the doormat with white craft paint.

Spider web rug

Since it felt a little small for our porch area, I moved the flower planters and pumpkins closer to the door for a more cozy feel.  After Halloween is over, I plan to repaint the larger doormat that was at the front door.  It is very faded and could use a spicy new paint job.  Even if it only lasts the season, it could be painted again in the spring, or exchanged for a new one at that time.

Our yellow door is metal, so I had the idea to use my kid’s magnetic alphabet pieces to spell out BOO. In the future, I will probably paint all of the magnets the same color so they stand out better against the door.  It is a fun and easy way to update a little message for your visitors.  For example, ‘Be Thankful’ for Thanksgiving, or even a simple ‘Hello’ for an everyday greeting.  The kids have been having fun rearranging them and adding some of the other letters from our fridge!

Arranging pumpkins, gourds, fall mums and other flowers around your front door also adds to the festive fall mood.  The succulents I planted in the spring are still looking really healthy, so I decided they were just perfect for fall, too!  We had a few pumpkins from the garden and some large rocks that fill in the space.

Indoors, we are taking advantage of the last flowers growing in our yard and gardens and filling up vases all over the house.


We have a tree that has flowing branches with berries and they are also pretty in a small vase or jar.  Add a pumpkin spice candle or a simmering pot of homemade citrus and cinnamon potpourri and there is no question that fall is in the air.


Kids Outdoor Activity Center

Inspired by a recent article in Family Fun Magazine and a desire to have easily accessible activities for my kids, I decided to make an outdoor activity center.

After rescuing a sturdy metal shelf from my donation pile, I decided against spray painting it for now.  I like the shiny black color, and if it starts showing signs of rust, I will clean it and use a primer and rust-resistant spray paint made for metal.

Ideally, you would place your ‘activity center’ under a covered area to protect it somewhat from the elements. For now, ours is in the little fort area because it is partially covered.  Because my cart is pretty small, I want to add wheels to the bottom to make it easy to roll into the garage when needed.

Next, I shopped my house and collected tubs and containers that won’t get ruined outdoors.  Plastic milk crates, plastic shoe boxes with lids, and metal nut or coffee cans with plastic lids were my top choices.  I also had a few plastic baskets from the dollar store for things that don’t need to be covered.  I spray painted the metal cans and the shoe box lids to make things more colorful.  Labels on everything help both kids and adults return items to their designated boxes.


Family Fun Magazine suggested some supplies: sidewalk chalk, sand toys, bubble mix, washable paints, outdoor games and balls, kid’s gardening tools, flashlights and jump ropes.  I also added water beads, colored salt and metal trays for writing letters.  To keep things interesting, we will also have a rotating ‘nature’ box where they can collect things like rocks, leaves or whatever we happen to be observing that week.  A large plastic tub with a lid is great for storing outdoor pillows for reading, or towels and blankets for swimming and fort building.


Add a tub of ice to keep water bottles cold, a small cooler for snacks and you have all the ingredients for several hours of outdoor fun.  Pop open a large umbrella for shade, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Summertime Picnic Table

Last spring, there was a wholehearted attempt to create a beautiful outdoor oasis on the concrete slab in our back yard.  You know, a budget-friendly replication of those those gorgeous outdoor spaces with a barbecue grill and dining set for cozy alfresco dining, modern cozy sofa and chairs for intimate conversation and a fire pit made for marshmallows.  And lights! Lots of beautiful twinkling lights.

Working with a non existent budget, I purchased a faded green plastic Rubbermaid table from Idaho Youth Ranch for $8.  I decided I would spray paint it a neutral gray color and it would be perfect with some brightly colored chairs.


Except it wasn’t.  Six cans of gray spray paint later and I still had a table that looked like a splotchy mess.  Some parts were glossy and some were matte, and bright sunlight only emphasized each flaw.  Luckily, the legs and edges turned out okay, so when the top had plates of food on it, you couldn’t really tell how bad it was.  I was disappointed though.  My inexpensive ‘fix’ wasn’t amazingly beautiful and it was turning out to cost more than I planned.


I have since discovered that an initial coat or two of spray primer probably would have made all the difference in my finished product.  The table top had weathered enough that it was just absorbing all of the paint, and a primer would have sealed the surface first.  In spite of its imperfections, the table was well-used last summer before being stored in the garage for winter.

Most people would probably call it quits on the old table and say ‘lesson learned.’  On the other hand, I was determined to keep a perfectly good and sturdy table from the landfill.  I brought out the gray table this week and decided to see what I could do with it once more.

I don’t know how well this will hold up, but I primed the whole table with indoor/outdoor primer, then painted it with two coats of leftover gray exterior house paint.  I will keep you updated on how well it holds up, but I am happy with how smooth and even the coverage is.

I love gathering ideas on Pinterest and noticed some cheerful stenciled and geometric patterns on table tops.  I decided to use painter’s tape and some leftover paint to make my own design on the top of our patio table.  I sketched up an idea on paper first.


Then I measured it out and drew it on the table with a pencil.


To make things a bit easier, I traced the design onto the front and back of parchment paper (like a ‘carbon-copy’) and then transferred it to the table.


Then I taped it off with painter’s tape.  I sealed the edges of the tape with a quick coat of gray paint, to keep the colored paint from seeping under the tape.  worked like a charm!



Next, I painted several coats of acrylic craft paint on the taped-off shapes.  For the circles, I had just traced around a cup, so I did my best to paint inside the lines.


When I took off the tape, I had nice crisp lines!


I could have left it like this, but it felt a little ‘flat’ to me, so I added a few hand-painted details.  My husband laughed at me, because I had taken so much effort to make crisp lines, and then I painted over them.  I just ignored him. ha.


When all of the paint was dry, I coated the entire table with a water-based outdoor urethane to protect it.

IMG_3002As far as thrift store furniture makeovers go, this particular project cost more than I anticipated.  Still, it came in under $50, and when you consider the cost of a brand-new table, this one doesn’t seem so bad.


Paired with an outdoor rug and brightly painted chairs, I think we are well on our way to a fun outdoor dining space.


Bring on the sunshine, cheeseburgers and icy lemonade!




House Painting Update

Early this spring, I posted about updating exterior paint colors. We had a cream colored house with black trim, and we were thinking about a navy blue with light/medium gray trim.

Before: Cream with Black trim

Idea: Navy with Gray trim

As we talked about it and looked at paint colors, my husband encouraged me to be adventurous instead of sticking with a ‘safe’ color choice.  And so, adventurous we went! Hire Encore Painting professionals to help you decorate your house just like you had on mind!

  We LOVE the color, and have had so many compliments on it from our neighbors.  It really feels like it fits the style of the house, and our own unique style as well.  I went with a sunny yellow door, and I changed out the porch light and house numbers.  A few things are still in progress (like the upper trim), but I might just be done until Spring.  I’ve decided that exterior painting is not my favorite thing ever.

What do you think about our bold colors?  It’s not for everyone, I know.  Any takers for painting trim from the top of a ladder?

photo (4)

Take a Number

The other day at Home Depot, I found very similar house numbers to those I have been drooling over online.  And instead of being over $15 each, they were around $6.  Here it is held up against the new house paint color, Valspar’s off broadway, color matched to Glidden paint.

Speaking of house paint, it is coming along s.l.o.w.l.y.  But I am making progress.  I have had to be ultra careful in the prep and cleanup because we found lead in the existing paint.  I have learned a ton in the process (like next time we will buy a brick house! ha), and it is looking so much better.  We are now leaning toward a bright yellow front door instead of green…I’ll keep you posted.


Welcome to Fort Hermance

One of many fond memories I have of growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere North Dakota is building forts and playhouses with my sister and brother.  Mom helped us turn an old shed into a very cool playhouse, with white painted shelves for our dishes, and bright red curtains for the windows.  We had many tea parties with the mail lady, and various cats and dolls stood in as extra playmates.

All winter long, my daughter has been making forts and tents out of our sofa cushions.  She and her brother spend lots of time sliding down the sides and hiding in their own little caves.  Now that much of the play day is spent outdoors, my husband and I were looking for a way to create a simple play fort for the kids in a backyard that is mostly garden, and lacking in trees.  We also wanted a space that would cost us very little money to build, and that could be adapted and personalized by the kids.

Last summer, Jer removed a never-used deck from the side of our house, and just happened to save all the wood ‘just in case’ he might need it someday.  When I started showing him pictures of playhouses and forts and talking about designing one for our kids, he mentioned that pile of wood on the side of the garage, and I could see the excited glint in his eyes.  After several discussions, we realized a 5ft x 5ft area against our fence with two additional 2ft tall sides (formerly housing our garden compost) would make a fantastic fort.  All it really needed was a roof.

My husband scavenged around for a bit and came up with two long metal fence rods and some wood fence panels.  They had all seen better times, but we knew they were just what we needed.

Several hours later, we had a slanted roof and a little fort that was reminiscent of a tiki hut.

I was thinking of using concrete squares as the flooring, because they are inexpensive and could be packed in tightly for an easily cleaned floor.  But, my husband wanted it to be even easier to clean, because we have seen several black widow spiders around our home. So, he went above and beyond and built in a plywood floor.  Now it is easier to clean out any unsavory creatures. I put two coats of primer on it, which is what the photos below show, but I bought some exterior paint today to give it some fun color.

Since a tall fence is one side of the fort, we chose to mount pegboard backdrops to give it some color and also create an interchangeable space for the kids to hang and display their things.  I had the pegboards left over from a previous time, so they need to be either repainted or touched up.  I would like to figure out a fun way to incorporate some of their art and craft projects to that wall, too.

We will paint a few surfaces to make it fun, but wanted to leave it pretty simple to encourage imaginative play.  The addition of outdoor pillows and seating make it the perfect spot to read books and daydream, or to bring in more blankets and toys to create a hideaway.

My daughter and I have plans to make a ‘beaded’ sun screen for one of the windows, and I will likely add some washable curtains across the front at some point this summer.  We added some outdoor lights and some potted plants for now.  My eventual goal is to have all of the decor able to withstand the elements.

It will be interesting to see how our fort transforms with use and age.  I anticipate some pirate ships, fairy castles, and island adventures in its near future.

The best part? Because we were able to repurpose most of our material, it cost us less than $80, including the plywood floor, paint, and twinkle lights.  Sometimes our hoarding tendencies do come in handy!

Have you been reusing materials for something new? We would love to hear all about it.


Front Door Update #1b copy

Front Porch Inspiration

Note: This post ties in with my April 26 article in the Idaho State Journal on Creating a Welcoming Entry.  I will link to the article as soon as it is available online at

As we think about new paint for the exterior of our house, we are also looking at the front entry and some simple changes we can make to seriously update the look and make it feel more welcoming.

This is the idea board I put together so we could start brainstorming ways to make it happen.

1. The 3 windows in this door from Home Depot tie in with the 1950’s style of our home.  We will likely try to find a used one somewhere if possible.  Painted in Behr’s #420B-5 Sweet Midori, it would be a fun contrast to the navy or gray we are thinking about painting our house.

2. New house numbers in a modern style will really add some character to the entry.

3. A round doorbell in brushed silver ties in with the house numbers and is a fun twist from standard doorbells.

4. A brushed silver door handleset ties in the midcentury style door with a nice rectangular look.  I definitely don’t want a lever handle on the inside at this point, because it is much too easy for my little guy to open.

5.  I love the cheeky humor and friendliness of this door decal.  I am crazy about the font, too.

6. Striped rugs in bright colors go with everything.  This one is similar to my inspiration rug.

7.  Tall cylindrical planters tie in with the brushed silver hardware already being used, but they would be beautiful in a poppy color, also.  They could also be planted with colorful flowers.

8. I would definitely add some color with a few pots of flowers lining the steps.

9. I love the simple look of this outdoor wall light, but it could also be spray painted to compliment your color scheme.  I want to replace all three of our outdoor fixtures.

10. Of course, colorful rain boots are always on my list and make fun styling props!  Not that we get enough rain to really justify a pair of rain boots.


I have been drawn to this photo from Better Homes and Gardens for awhile now.  We plan to cut the metal centers from our porch railings and insert cables…we will keep you posted when we do.

What do you think? Is anyone else working on making your front door entry more welcoming?  Have you ever tried to do cable railing? Let me know in the comments!   I am finding that our front entry is used much more frequently in the summer, so I am motivated to give it some style.

Exterior Paint Colors

We have been thinking about exterior paint colors around here as the weather turns warm and we are spending more time outside.  My article for the Idaho State Journal on Saturday, April 19 was about Choosing Exterior Paint Colors.  You can find an online version of it here.

I have been experimenting in Photoshop to get a feel for some colors we might like.  Please forgive the less than perfect photo editing. My goal was to quickly see colors, not really render it exact.

Current Exterior: We want to make it more fun and a bit different.  I like my blue door, but am not against changing it at all.


My first thought: Navy trim, medium gray body, and a green (but not this green) door.

Not bad: first tried this with all the trim the gray color and it seemed pretty dark.  But we like it with the window and door trim white, with the roof trim charcoal.

Probably our favorite right now: Lighter gray trim, navy body, and a fun green door.

What do you think?  Have you seen any fun exterior paint combinations lately?

Creating a Backyard Getaway

Note: As written for the Idaho State Journal, Saturday April 5, 2014.

Snowstorms aside, it’s that time of year when our thoughts start turning toward the outdoors.  We dream about sunshine, barbecue, picnics and long evenings spent enjoying the warm weather.  It is also the time of year when people start thinking about making patio furniture purchases.  Here are some tips to get the patio of your dreams.

1. Think about your ideal outdoor experience.  Since you likely won’t have beaches and palm trees in Pocatello, you will want to create your own backyard getaway.  Decide what colors and settings make you happy and relaxed.

2. Determine the main functions of your outdoor space.  This is especially important if space is limited.  If your main event is dinner on the deck, you will want to invest in a table and chairs. On the other hand, if you prefer to lounge and read a book after work, your money is better spent on some comfortable adirondack chairs or an outdoor sofa.  A fire pit and low seating may be ideal if you prefer chatting and roasting marshmallows.  If space allows, you might decide on a nice mix of all three.

3. Make the patio an extension of your home.  Think about your outdoor space as another (seasonal) room.  If your patio or deck is welcoming, you will want to spend more time outside.  Consider outdoor rugs to soften and define the area.  Add pots or beds of plants and flowers to blend the edges between indoors and out.  Weatherproof cushions and pillows can add comfort and color to your furniture.  Electrical or solar lights add to the ambiance as well as guide your path after the sun goes down.

4. Select furniture for comfort and durability.  There are a wide range of weather resistant outdoor products available.  I suggest trying out several options in the stores to see what is the most comfortable for your intended use.  Select the highest quality you can afford, and consider how and where your furniture will be stored when not in use.  I  prefer to mix and match pieces, so you don’t end up with a look that is boring or predictable.

5. Create shade.  Nothing turns you indoors faster than no chance of shade for relief from the blazing sun.  As hard as it may be to remember right now, it does get hot here in the summer.  Your outdoor room will be used much more frequently if you have shady spots created with trees, umbrellas, pergolas or awnings.  It is also practical to locate pools and sandboxes in areas where shade can be provided.

6. Establish privacy.  Your outdoor room will feel more like a retreat if it has a feeling of enclosure, especially if you have a hot tub or dining area.  Fences, lattice, pergolas and landscaping can all lend privacy and help define your space.

7. Accessorize. The simplest way to turn your deck or patio into a welcoming and personalized space is to add weatherproof art, colorful dinnerware, juicy burgers and cold lemonade.

Follow along with me this summer on as we turn our slab of concrete into a fun outdoor room.

Patio Inspiration #1

As some of you may know, I am writing a weekly (Saturday) column for the Idaho State Journal’s new Home page.  I am really excited for this opportunity and have been enjoying the challenge.

This week we focused a bit on our outdoor spaces, and I talked about ways to create a backyard getaway.  As Jer and I talk about summer plans, one big thing that keeps coming up is to ‘do something with the patio.’  We love to spend time outside as a family on the evenings and weekends, so any effort we put into making a relaxing outdoor space will be worth it.  Since we are also planting a giant garden again this year, our patio progress might take all summer and beyond.  I promise I will keep you posted as we take our concrete slab and turn it into our very own relaxing outdoor room.  For now, here are a few things that have inspired me.  Click the numbered links below the images for more information on each product.




1. Threshold Heatherstone Wicker Patio Loveseat with Navy cushions.  We might be going with navy trim on our exterior this summer, so this would tie in with the house and pull out the color a bit.  I love the straight lines of the loveseat and the modern look fits well with the simplicity of our home.  I like to use pillows like this abstract flower and geometric print to tie in all the colors and the song bird pillow to add some whimsy and a few accent colors.

2. A few red pots of flowers or plants add a pop of color and keep the blues from dominating too much.  Any bright color you love would work here, since blue is a pretty good neutral and almost every color will work with it.

3. A simple round table adds some curves to the mix.  While this works well as a side table, it could also be used as a little brunch table for two with some fun chairs pulled up around it.

4. Strings of lights add so much ambiance, turning the party from blah to magical.  I like these from Target with the fun shaped filament bulb, but round bulbs are also fun. Consider solar string lights for a soft bluish glow.

5. Pots of plants in fun accent colors tie your decor together and help blend the patio into the yard or garden space.  I chose cobalt planters for inspiration, but turquoise, pink, yellow, white, red or green would also be fun options.

6. A neutral table and chairs lets you change your decor and update easily.  I like gray because it goes really nicely with bright summer colors, but brown woods also work well.

7. Chair cushions are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to add some color or update your outdoor spaces.  These seat cushions tie in all the colors of the larger furniture pieces and the rug, and have a fun zig-zag pattern.

8. An indoor/outdoor rug is the piece that will tie it all together and give your space the feeling of an outdoor getaway.  This rug in a mix of blues is a statement piece, but still neutral enough that it would work well with a variety of accent colors.


As I said, these are all just inspiration images.  Many of them are way out of our budget right now, but we have some projects and ideas in mind to make it much more affordable and uniquely ours.  Is anyone else working on an outdoor space this summer?  What is your inspiration?