Follow blogger Carrie Waller on a day through a home improvement project.
My husband and I moved into our 1960s brick ranch a little over five years ago, and in that time, I’ve focused 100 percent of my energy on the inside. I’ve made-over every single room inside our retro home (even including the dark, windowless closet nook under the basement stairs!), but this past year it was time for me to shift my focus outside.
I’m embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t done much at all to our side entry since move-in day back in 2015. This side door under our carport is the door that everyone uses, so it deserved to make a statement, but it was lacking anything that came even close to that description up until now. The door was a “blah” cream paint color, the concrete riser wasn’t doing our lovely original slate stoop any favors, and there was zero personality to speak of. So, one day I decided to change all of that by using a few inexpensive craft store materials and other DIY supplies we already had on hand.
The first step in any of my DIY projects is gathering supplies. My husband works long hours during the day, so I usually work solo. We’re a child-free household, which means that I can get totally lost in my creative work without distractions or interruptions. It’s very common for me to forget to eat lunch during one of my project days because I get so “in the zone”!
The morning of this project was spent at the craft store gathering wood, house numbers, and faux succulents for a DIY house numbers planter I wanted to add to the wall by our side door. After I got home from the store, I went around the house gathering the rest of my supplies from our DIY stash (think: paint, brushes, leftover peel-and-stick tiles from another project, construction adhesive, etc.).
With my supplies at-the-ready, it was time to get down to business. The weather was absolutely gorgeous that day, and I remember looking around the floor at all of my tools gathered there, the wind rustling through my hair, then I took a big deep breath with a smile before kneeling down to get cracking. That moment right before I dive in is one of my favorites at the start of a makeover project. So many possibilities!
The first step was to clean everything up. I used a dustpan brush to sweep away all of the loose debris and leaves from the corners around the stoop and door, then I painted on the first coat of a new color for our outer screen door (“Illusive Green” from Sherwin Williams).
This phase took a little longer than I had planned, even though the surface area of the door is pretty small thanks to a screened-in cutout. I had to dig in deep not to get frustrated as I painstakingly cut in around all of the intricate mouldings and edges up against the brick, but I knew it would be worth it in the end. Finally, after about 45 minutes of painting (with the A Beautiful Mess podcast playing in the background), I was done with the first coat.
While that initial coat of door paint was drying, I started planning out the stoop makeover. The plan was to try cutting peel-and-stick tiles to size, and then sticking them over the raw concrete riser under the slate tread. I knew the sticky backing of the tile wasn’t going to be strong enough to keep it upright against the tile through the different weather conditions outside, though, so I used construction adhesive behind the tile to give it extra strength. This project went quicker than expected, and I was able to step back to admire the results in about the same time it took to do that first coat of paint on the door.
It was around now that I realized I had forgotten lunch, so I quickly stepped inside to prep a sandwich. I decided to eat it outside so I could brainstorm my next plan of action for our entryway makeover. As I munched away on my sandwich, I realized that I was dreading the idea of painting the door again (paint is admittedly my least favorite type of DIY project even though it’s the most high impact). After finishing up my quick lunch, I decided to work on the DIY house numbers planter box instead.
To do that, I glued a wooden box from the craft store toward the bottom of a piece of rectangular wood (also from the craft store). Then, I painted the constructed planter box charcoal black, and sealed it so it would do well outside. Next, as I let the paint and sealant dry, I created a faux succulent arrangement by sticking stems down into a block of floral foam. By this time the paint was dry, so I attached some house numbers to the top portion of the wooden backer board, stuck my faux succulent arrangement down into the box, and added landscaping rocks (pulled from our garden) to hide the floral foam. A couple of masonry screws worked like a charm to attach it to the brick wall beside the door.
By the end of the day, I could no longer ignore that lingering second coat of paint needed for the door. My husband had just gotten home from work, so he kindly took care of cooking dinner for us while I finished up the door paint.
We had already spent time the week before replacing the lighting (we got a new overhead flush-mount light fixture, and added a sconce beside the door, which we actually used the “puck light trick” on since there’s no electrical box there on the wall). So, with the lighting done ahead of time, combined with my newly tiled stoop, door paint project, and DIY house numbers planter box, I was ready to call this project done for the day. There was just enough light left in the sky for me to be able to check things over, and I was feeling pretty darn satisfied with myself (while also simultaneously kicking myself for waiting so long to do it!).
After that big DIY day of knocking out so many projects for the entry, I ended up taking a small break. I’ve learned that I burn out pretty easily if I “go, go, go” for too long on any one project. I’ve also discovered that a bit of separation from a makeover gives me the breathing room I need to brainstorm those last finishing touches. By the following weekend, I was ready to complete the transformation. A new storage bench beside the stoop, some outdoor pillows to match my new tile, a floor planter, and wreath made the entry feel oh-so-welcoming, and fit my vision to a T.
Moral of the story? Don’t wait! This project took only a day (plus an hour the following weekend, if you want to be technical), and could have been out there in all its glory welcoming our guests for the past five years. That’s a lot of visitors! I’m learning to prioritize our house projects a bit better so that they make the biggest impact, and this particular project has me feeling extra anxious to knock out a backyard patio project I’ve been dreaming about so we can keep the momentum up for outdoor living. Stay tuned!