With more than 37 linear feet of planter boxes to fill in our backyard, we didn’t want to take any chances. Although we’ve gotten much better at keeping the greenery in and around our home alive, we’ve had more than our fair share of strike outs. Our front garden, for example? It’s taken us three years…
  • Ellen from Ask Away Blog - September 2, 2016 - 7:09 AM

    OMG I love your yard! Great job on everything!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 8:02 AM

      Thanks, Ellen! Sometimes we forget how bad it was just 3 months ago. Crazy.ReplyCancel

  • Mrs Mike - September 2, 2016 - 7:42 AM

    My daughter took two years of horticulture and has an amazing green thumb. We also have a very sunny front yard (blazing sunlight!) and at her suggestion, we installed a drip irrigation system. This allows the plants to get continuous moisture (ahem, and keeps me from forgetting to water on a routine basis) which helps the plants thrive. HTH!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 8:01 AM

      That’s a great suggestion and something we’re still considering! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Carol - September 2, 2016 - 8:14 AM

    It looks incredible! I agree, Kim, that clematis is not my favorite. I much prefer morning glories – plus you get the fun of watching them open and close! Growing up, our next door neighbor had a telephone pole support wire in the middle of her backyard, which could have been such an eyesore, but she had morning glories climbing all the way to the top. So maybe my love is actually nostalgia.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 9:08 AM

      You’re right about morning glories – so fun! I told Scott I’d give these until next year to change my mind. I think blooming clematis is so pretty, so we will see…! On a side note, now I’m wondering if we shouldn’t plant morning glories on the hideous phone pole in our alley.ReplyCancel

      • Katie - September 2, 2016 - 1:25 PM

        No offense to Carol above, morning glory can be pretty…but I’d plant it with extreme caution. They are very invasive and will choke out anything else growing around them. They also have a habit of growing somewhere you did not place them, and putting out a ton of seeds. I live out west where it is considered a Noxius Weed. My childhood memories are of my mother battling the morning glory coming from our neighbors yard from destroying her garden. Now that I have my own garden, I am unfortunately continuing that tradition.

        • alex - September 13, 2016 - 8:32 PM

          that being said, they would totally be great on the telephone pole, because they are verrrrry resilient. wouldn’t place them in the beds because of the aforementioned reason, but they sure brighten up a spot in a chicago alley!ReplyCancel

  • Dave - September 2, 2016 - 9:53 AM

    Do I detect a huge bicep muscle on Scott’s right arm?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 9:57 AM

      That’s what he gets after loading endless wheelbarrows of brick pavers, gravel and dirt! You should see mine. (Yeah, right.)ReplyCancel

  • Claire - September 2, 2016 - 9:57 AM

    Try Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fertilizer. It’s especially good for plants that are trying to establish new roots. It’s cheaper on amazon too.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - September 2, 2016 - 11:00 AM

    We have planter boxes similar to yours in Chicago and often the perennials don’t make it. If you don’t want to replace every year I suggest insulating the outside and topping with a heavy straw mulch over the winter.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 11:09 AM

      Thanks for the tip! We did double insulate the interior walls of the planters. We’re crossing all our fingers that will help.ReplyCancel

  • Carswell - September 2, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    The backyard looks great!

    Just an FYI about ornamental onions/alliums of any kind – they are notorious spreaders and self seeders. I am on a concerted effort to get them out of my garden beds because they keep seeding themselves all through my pea gravel which seems to be a particularly hospitable environment for them. I am very sorry I planted them in the first place even though I love the globe shaped blooms.

    I really like clematis once it gets going – and there’s a huge variety of shapes and colour of blooms. It looks like yours has a great start – give it a bit of time – it may grow on you (pardon the pun). They are very low maintenance plants – I only thin mine out a bit from year to year if I can get to them before they start leafing out. When they get really unruly I cut them back to about 10 inches or so and let them start again – they can grow a lot in one season – as you can see.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 2:24 PM

      Oooh… good to know about the ornamental onion! We’ll keep an eye on it. And thank you for the pointers on the clematis! We need the advice!ReplyCancel

      • Pauline Dunlop - September 4, 2016 - 4:32 PM

        I too love clematis, particularly Montana for its strong growth. Hybrids can be very pretty too but I find they’re not strong enough and flowers die back too quickly. Mind you, I’m in Scotland UK, so my summers are only as warm as your spring (if we’re lucky) :-)ReplyCancel

  • hannah - September 2, 2016 - 12:28 PM

    eager for the trellis DIY! the house next door finally installed their privacy fence and i’ve been trying to figure out what i’m going to nail to it to let plants climb/hide some of the raw board :-DReplyCancel

  • Julie - September 2, 2016 - 1:51 PM

    The garden is stunning! I love gardens that mimic life: a little tangled, but full of color and texture.

    As a side note, be cautious with your pups and the rhododendron. I am not as familiar with the other items in your garden, but rhododendron is considered toxic if chewed on. Make sure they keep their distance :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 2:23 PM

      Thanks, Julie! Luckily our dogs have never shown interest in any of our plants. I guess they don’t taste enough like peanut butter. :)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - September 3, 2016 - 8:44 PM

    I love your garden you created! I would of definitely needed to reserve one of those boxes for vegetables; potatoes, carrots, lettuce, oh my! I can’t wait to have a garden (both in flowers & food) in my future yard. (We are Apartment dwellers currently)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 4, 2016 - 10:30 PM

      Thanks, Amanda! We considered veggies in the one closest to our stairs, but maybe another year. We love the idea in theory, but honestly, we probably couldn’t keep up with it!ReplyCancel

    • Ryan - September 6, 2016 - 4:35 PM

      I can’t keep up with annuals or vegetables even on my patio either but I’ve found that perennial herbs look nice, tend to need little water (at least the ones I pick out) and have the potential to be used in cooking which gives me a little more motivation to keep them alive. Try thyme (so many varieties), mint, basil, oregano, rosemary (have to bring inside over the winter), and chives. Trader Joe’s sells little pots and variety pots of herbs that can be a great start. And if they die? I just get more. I’ve killed my mint every year until this summer from not watering it enough.ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen Conery - September 4, 2016 - 1:32 PM

    If this is similar to our fall blooming clematis you might end up loving it! Ours is a MASS of small white flowers that have a sweet jasmine like scent. The only regret is that they don’t last as long as I wish they would.
    About morning glory… the article referenced above is for a relative of the purple flowered vine. Bindweed (convolvulus) is a perennial and is worse than awful to control. It spreads by underground growth and the tiniest piece of root will grow a new plant. But I doubt that any self-respecting nursery would sell that. The other plant (ipomoea) is an annual, but it’s a prolific self-seeder which is why it comes back every year. It is aggressive so you’d need to work at controlling it. You could remove seed pods before they drop or spread a corn gluten meal based herbicide that stops the seeds before they sprout. Or pull vines over and over.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 6, 2016 - 12:15 PM

      Thank you SO much for the info, Kathleen! We need friends like you (and all you commenters!) to come over and talk to us about plants.ReplyCancel

  • Ann L. - September 6, 2016 - 11:18 AM

    I laughed at what seems to have been an unintentional pun about “being on the fence” about clematis! As Carswell said, it will grow on you. :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 6, 2016 - 11:21 AM

      Haha, good catch! And thank you for your follow up pun. :DReplyCancel

  • Trude - September 6, 2016 - 3:13 PM

    It looks absolutely beautiful! And look at those happy pup faces. :)ReplyCancel

  • Katie - September 7, 2016 - 7:07 AM

    Don’t forget about bulbs. The pop of color and life they give the garden really makes me happy every time I see them when so many other things are still hunkering down for the winter.ReplyCancel

    • JULIE - September 15, 2016 - 1:03 PM

      Bulbs is a great suggestion Katie! I was thinking the same thing. They are so great to have at the cold dreary start to spring in Chicago. And they are as easy as (okay easier than) perennials. Plant them once in the fall and in the spring you have pretty blooms that die back just as many of your other plants start to fill in year after year.ReplyCancel

  • MB - September 12, 2016 - 12:43 PM

    Looks awesome! My best tip for new/learning gardeners is a soil moisture meter. Nothing fancy, like $8 from Amazon. Just shove it in a few different spots before you make the daily water or not water decision. Takes a lot of the guess work out.ReplyCancel


Our red brick patio pavers were laid atop 1-2″ of find sand, and underneath that is several inches of crushed limestone. The limestone layer extends under our DIY planter boxes, which will help with drainage and still allow for any powerful plants to root their way into earth – well, fingers crossed! In any case, the…
  • Steph M. - August 29, 2016 - 9:00 AM

    That color looks stellar with everything else! Great job!ReplyCancel

  • Lori - August 29, 2016 - 9:29 AM

    It looks fabulous! And as anoather bonus for choosing the small gravel, I think you’ll find that maintaining it is MUCH easier than those beach pebbles, which get leaves and debris lodged in the crevices that even a leafblower has a hard time removing. If you’re a bit OCD like me, you’ll find yourself out there on your hands and knees picking the leaves out…not exactly relaxing or low maintenance!

    As a landscaper, it was really interesting to me seeing the differences in what was available in the stone yard. Everyone here tends to carry the same stuff, and I’m guessing it’s all pretty “local” in a sense because stone so heavy to ship. You don’t see much cool grey stand up (the big slabs) here, and when you do, it’s $$$, but you do see a lot of creamy warm limestone and sandstone from central Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. But that’s part of what gives gardens their sense of place. I see bluestone and think of upstate New York, just like white limestone reminds me of Austin.

    Anyway, I love how your backyard is coming together and have soooo much fireplace envy! Can’t wait to see it all planted up and with furniture!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 29, 2016 - 2:11 PM

      It’s really nice confirmation to hear your feedback, Lori! You’re right – the pebbles holding onto debris would have driven us nuts. That’s just another perk of our Neptune Chip! Also interesting to hear about the more regional selections. Makes perfect sense!ReplyCancel

      • Kathy - August 31, 2016 - 7:16 AM

        I was thinking the same thing as Lori and praying that you would not chose a larger stone or a white/cream-colored stone.

        We had white stones in our landscape when I was growing up and I can’t tell you how many hours I spent cleaning leaves/debris out of those beds as one of my chores. Hated it and swore I would never do that to my yard. Plus, I think lighter colored stones only look good for about 10 minutes, then they just look dirty.

        The smaller gravel looks so polished and “clean” LOL! Great job again!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - August 31, 2016 - 9:04 AM

          Thank goodness we didn’t go with the larger stone! PHEW. That sounds like a chore I would loathe, Kathy!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - August 29, 2016 - 7:47 PM

    I love the photo with the train going through the yard on the L tracks. So Chicago.

    Your backyard is looking great. I really like the grey with the dark stain and the red pavers. Can’t wait to see the end result.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 30, 2016 - 10:18 AM

      Chicago is so pretty even in the rain, right?! In that same photo, all of downtown was hidden behind those thick clouds.ReplyCancel


After we built our planter boxes, the rain came. It came, and it came, and it came, and it took over a week to receive two days of blue skies in a row. The first morning of the sunny-double-days, we got right to work on phase two of the planter boxes – built-in bench seating, insulating…
  • Michelle Schreib | Birds of Berwick - August 23, 2016 - 8:03 AM

    I’ll have to go back and see what you’re planning for the fireplace, but I actually love the character of yours! It’s so cute and looks amazing with the dark planters. Green plants will only enhance this whole area, so bravo!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 23, 2016 - 8:08 AM

      Thanks, Michelle! We’re not digging the faux burnt edge around the opening, and the color isn’t our favorite. Just gonna modernize it a bit with a new paint job and convert it to propane! We’ll share all the details once we tackle it.ReplyCancel

  • Steph M. - August 23, 2016 - 9:01 AM

    They look great! I love the warm wood. This is going to be a great spot for outdoor dinner parties!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - August 23, 2016 - 9:21 AM

    Wow!! The bench and planting boxes look amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Brooke - August 23, 2016 - 10:25 AM

    It’s looking really great!

    I do have one question though, aren’t you concerned about having the fireplace so close to your fence and wood planters? I have an original Majestic Firehood with a list of setbacks based on the model and the Firehood requires 36″ clear on the sides and 19″ from the rear to any combustible walls. Other models have smaller clearances but some of those were gas burning not wood burning. Maybe yours doesn’t have as large of a clearance?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 23, 2016 - 10:36 AM

      Hi, Brooke! Some of our inspiration photos show this fireplace with even smaller clearances (and indoors even, which is this model’s original purpose), something we took into consideration, for sure! Another thing we’re doing is converting it over to propane, so it will no longer be wood burning.ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - August 23, 2016 - 10:58 AM

    This looks so slick. Seriously.ReplyCancel

  • Crystal - August 23, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    Are you going to be staining the back deck and stairs? Does it bug you that they are such a different color from the planters, being warm and bright, rather than a deep dark brown?ReplyCancel

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci - August 23, 2016 - 3:33 PM

    I love that you went with the dark brown which adds a great dimension to the space. And how cute is CC the sun worshipper… <3ReplyCancel

  • Dakwerken - August 25, 2016 - 3:50 AM

    I wanted something like this for our backyard for a very long time. Thanks a lot for sharing the great idea of making use of lawns and backyards so effectively!ReplyCancel

  • Jodi - August 25, 2016 - 10:14 AM

    Looking great!!ReplyCancel

  • Lavues - August 28, 2016 - 5:46 AM

    Great effort for making the bench, it looks really nice!ReplyCancel

  • Liz - August 28, 2016 - 10:13 AM

    Is it overly dramatic to say that the stain you chose is breathtaking?? ;-) I absolutely love the way the boxes and bench turned out.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 28, 2016 - 2:07 PM

      We’ll take it, Liz! Haha, thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Justin - September 22, 2016 - 6:00 PM

    This was such a great idea and it looks so great wrapping around the patio like that. The bench seat was also a great idea to throw in, all-in-all, excellent job!ReplyCancel


After we mounted our laundry cabinetry, we waited weeks to finish trimming it out. Instead, we’d say, we have to go to the grocery store today! Or, let’s lay brick pavers instead! Or, want to map out our planter boxes? I think we were getting burned out on the laundry room. It’s been a long, winding, renovation road since last…
  • Carol - August 19, 2016 - 6:55 AM

    Love it! This is fantastic!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Schreib - August 19, 2016 - 7:21 AM

    Thanks for the discount; I just ordered a bunch of samples! I can’t wait to redo my kitchen!

    Love the Laundry room!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 19, 2016 - 7:38 AM

      Scott and I often say that we wish we would have known about The RTA Store (.com) for our own kitchen remodel! While we love our cabinets, we couldn’t ‘splurge’ for things like soft close hinges, whereas they’re a standard for most cabinet styles at RTA. Best of luck! I love that the samples are entire doors, so you really can assess color and style in your own home!ReplyCancel

  • Casey - August 19, 2016 - 9:27 AM

    These look awesome! I’ve never heard of the RTA store but I will definitely check them out – I’ve always been frustrated with the standard cabinet options at my local hardware store. Now I’m totally inspired to give my laundry room a much needed update :)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - August 19, 2016 - 11:49 AM

    Love the room! So nice Libby has her own space!! Can you share a photo of the inside of her cabinet sometime?ReplyCancel

    • Antonella - August 20, 2016 - 9:26 AM

      Yes, please! And also how you organize the inside of the cabinets! I’m in an organizing funk and need all of the pros’inspiration I can get my hands on :-)ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly - August 19, 2016 - 12:22 PM

    They came out great! I love the simple crown you guys used on these and your kitchen cabinets.

    I discovered the RTAstore through your first post about them and have been dreaming of a far off kitchen renovation since. I’m torn between the Aspen White and Frosted White cabinets, so many decisions! I may just have to order sample doors to caress while I wait… Is that too weird?! Haha!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey - August 19, 2016 - 12:25 PM

    I love everything about this room but…will you be staining the counter? Maybe a richer dark color or closer to your floors? It’s a beautiful wood but I’m hopeful to see some contrast there.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 19, 2016 - 12:29 PM

      The counter isn’t done yet! I mentioned in the post that it’s still a work in progress – all we’ve done is cut it down. We’re debating on a finish, but we sort of love the light look. It will get sealed, which will darken it a bit, but we’re still on the fence for the actual finish.ReplyCancel

      • Alex - August 23, 2016 - 10:13 AM

        More questions about the butcher block countertop – did you install yourselves? We are waiting to finish out our laundry room with the same countertop, but now sure how we will do it since our walls aren’t exactly straight. Did you order an already cut down piece somewhere? (I’m in Chicago too so curious where your source is!) I’m scared to just buy a piece and have to figure out how to cut it…ReplyCancel

        • Kim - August 23, 2016 - 10:38 AM

          Hi Alex! We got the butcher block at Menards, and we cut it down ourselves. We will definitely be sharing that whole process once we finish it with the sink and faucet holes AND plumb everything, BUT to get the exact measurements against our crooked walls (crooked walls forever!), we cut out a template using a piece of foam board and used that as a stencil for our butcher block. Then we used a circular saw to carefully cut the two ‘crooked’ sides. In our case, we kept the front and right edge (along the washer/dryer) square.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah H - August 19, 2016 - 7:56 PM

    How is Miss Libby doing without her partner in crime? It’s been fun to see her on the blog/instagram a bit lately. We have two cats and a dog and love reading along with your pets adventures. Also – the laundry room looks amazing!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 20, 2016 - 8:58 AM

      You’re so kind for asking. She’s doing pretty good – being her snuggly, sweet self! I always worry so much about the others when we lose a pet! We’re always watching her to make sure she’s happy and content.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - August 22, 2016 - 11:11 AM

    I just used a very similar wall color in my bathroom makeover and I am in LOVE with it. Your blog is fantastic! Thanks!ReplyCancel


A few months ago, Julia asked me to change the way we think about photographing our homes. Let me explain – have you ever noticed that bloggers are always (always!) chasing that daylight? But what if we started pulling out the camera in the evening, after the sun has gone down? By mid-afternoon, I’m already…
  • Stacy @ Blake Hill House - August 17, 2016 - 5:30 AM

    The evening is the second shift around here. My people are coming and going. I often run in the evening or go to the gym. (I’m an avid long distance runner.) It takes every ounce of my willpower to do so after a full day. I drop into bed at around ten. One of my favorite feelings is being in my bed wrapped in a down comforter. My bed is my nook. In addition to my favorite comforter, I make sure the bed has clean sheets and lots of pillows.

    On the turntable: Fleetwood Mac or The Who. My taste in music varies wildly, but for some reason, our turntable only plays classic rock and roll. :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 17, 2016 - 8:13 PM

      Aw… sounds so NICE! I’d agree with you – nothing beats being wrapped in our cozy comforter, and we’re both out by 10, too!

      Also, excellent turntable selections. Rumors makes an almost weekly appearance around here!ReplyCancel

  • abby - August 17, 2016 - 9:31 AM

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE these nighttime photos! YES, while those blown-out, bright, all-white shots look great, it is so refreshing to see another “feel” to a photo. This looks COZY, and I want to be hanging out in that room right now. I love how CLJ does nighttime shots occasionally, so I am fully on this train and would love to see you occasionally post some more (even in the kitchen–I always love how our kitchen looks at night with soft lighting!).ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 17, 2016 - 7:37 PM

      Thanks, Abby! We love our kitchen at night too – we’ll have to shoot that room!ReplyCancel

  • Misty - August 17, 2016 - 5:36 PM

    I feel like the pups are aware that this whole photographing at night things is different… the look on both of their faces! lol
    love it though, so cozy and warm and adds a little something something that wasn’t there before. More intimate perhaps?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 17, 2016 - 7:38 PM

      Right?! They’re like, this is not the usual time mom takes our glamour shots…ReplyCancel

  • Gwen, The Makerista - August 18, 2016 - 10:24 AM

    I love the contrast in shape with your globe lights and it’s fun to see this space in a different light!ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - August 18, 2016 - 10:41 AM

    That gif wins! I love your home at night. Chicago, we’re coming for you!ReplyCancel

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci - August 18, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    I love this series. For many of us who work away from home all day, evening and night light are all we get (except for weekends). I do get “light and bright” house envy so this helps pull me back down to earth — you and the Marcums and Dana have evenings, too ;)ReplyCancel

  • Akiyo - August 18, 2016 - 12:39 PM

    Yay, another relevant post for us! :D We recently bought new light bulbs (went on the cheap side so they’re incandescent) with “white” light to replace a set of vanity lights in the bathroom. But they emit soooo much heat! We’re sweating as we brush our teeth. Haha! Do you have preferred lightbulbs you like using? I love how your lightbulbs aren’t yellowing the room.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 18, 2016 - 12:50 PM

      Even though LED bulbs are slightly more expensive than incandescents, they are 100% worth it! No heat, and the ‘soft white’ temperature of 2700 is so pretty. Old bulbs at that same color temperature used to be SO yellow. Bulbs have come a really long way! We’ve purchased from a few different brands of LEDs with great luck – Feit, Cree and Phillips. The only brand we haven’t loved is ‘EcoSmart,’ because they produce so much flickering if they’re set to dimmers and you want low light.ReplyCancel

      • Akiyo - August 19, 2016 - 11:14 AM

        Ooo, that makes total sense! We bought EcoSmart bulbs for one of our dimmer lights and it flickers like crazy. Thought it was all LEDs. Thank you so much for the reccs!!ReplyCancel