A little backstory (back about, oh, a week):
We went to my brother-in-law’s church this weekend. We just woke up Sunday morning and a little voice told me to go. It seemed so random because we hadn’t even talked to my BIL about it, but now I think it wasn’t so random. As we sat and listened to the message about sacrifice….
“Sacrifice mean you give up something that matters to you.”
“God is saying: Jump….I’ll catch you.”
“Sacrifice proves that I trust God more than I trust myself.”
…Mr. LBB and I kept looking at each other over and over as the pastor spoke….because it felt like it was tailored for us….ever feel that way? You see, I’ve been praying and praying over the last few months for what direction to take with my work and our family life. I feel like I’m being led in a certain direction: to do more. to pursue things that matter. It’s been more of “when should I jump” I guess. Then at the end of last year around Christmas a few things happened that really set things in motion. It’s a long, crazy, amazing story to tell about what we are going to be doing, so I’m sharing it in pieces over the next two weeks, but the first little tidbit is that we’ve decided to sell our house.
It’s been a decision we’ve been weighing with a heavy heart over the last year because it’s the house we always thought we would grow old in. It’s a house with years of love and labor put into it. It’s the only house Boo has really ever known. It’s a spacious house that was renovated with a large studio space and separate office/casita so that I could make a living in it. But things change. We expected to fill the house with a large family and that just hasn’t happened yet. Also, to expand our family we would need the funds that we’ve invested into the house. So it’s a catch-22. But more than just those decisions there are some enormous changes coming down the pipeline for us. In December/January a few things happened that made all the heaviness go away, at least most of it.
So anyway, without sharing too much too soon, a few weeks ago we put the house up for sale by owner. I was always kind of hesitant to share the front of the house because it just seemed kind of intrusive. But now I don’t really feel that way because soon I know this will be: our “old” house.
Anyway, this is just a small part of the whole story, but I’m kind of doing having to do it in pieces because it’s a lot to cover.
Let me start with some BEFORE photos of the house from when we first started work on it, back in 2007/2008. We lived in a little condo about a half of a mile from the house until the big work was done and we could actually inhabit it. This is right after I had all the dead landscaping torn out:
We bought it as a foreclosure and the bank had let it fall apart over the span of a year. It had been vandalized, left open repeatedly, and most of the landscaping and trees had been allowed to die in the desert heat because they disconnected the water. Mr. LBB and I had a vision for it though….it was a large lot and had some good bones (I know it’s hard to see the good bones at this stage but bear with me!):
The concrete in the back had been patched over for years and the pool was original from the 1970’s. There was a huge concrete wall that cut the yard in half to make a dog run in the back of the yard:
The first thing I wanted to do was remove every single overgrown plant, bush and tree. Funny, but every person I approached for the job refused to cut down the olive trees in the front. They said they couldn’t bear to cut them down. I just wanted them cut down so that we could put a circle drive in the front. I never could find anyone to say yes….so I left them. I guess that means they were meant to stay….and I’m so glad everyone refused to cut them down because the mature olive trees are beautiful now….nursed back to life over the last few years. They are kind of pesky with their rainfall of olives once a year but we’ve learned to spray them with a fruit prevention.
So want to see the house now? After 6 years of hard work?
Here’s the front today:
I supervised all the renovations and we did as much work as we could ourselves. As we started renovating the roof was dry rotted so we ended up having to take the whole roof off. It worked out for the best because we added the new entryway. Here is the house right after the stucco was finished….with one of the olive trees that no one would cut down:
The front doors I ordered from a wholesale unfinished wood factory and I stained, installed them myself. Saved almost 75% of the cost!
The story of the huge palm trees and the art of bartering. The huge palm trees are Washingtonia filifera, one of the only native palms to the desert. I would have never thought we could afford to plant these in our front yard but funny how things turn out. A friend of ours who is a date farmer just happened to have 15 of the palms sitting in front of his packing house, but being a date farmer he wanted to replace them with date palms. He said we could have them if we took them out. Mr. LBB took him up on it and said he’d move all 15. He traded 9 of them to a friend of ours for helping to move our 6. So one weekend the 15 palms were were dug up and loaded with fork lifts onto a 42 foot semi truck flatbed. I rented a crane by the hour to pick them up and place them into 7 foot holes that 3 guys had come out and dug the day before at 5am in the morning. The trees were so unkempt that they had all sorts of bugs and scorpions living in the bark. Around the desert you pay by the foot to have the bark scalped….so that’s what we did. It’s a messy job and completely worth the money we paid for the scalping. Now I leave them natural with the underbelly of palm fronds. I like the full look and it actually keeps the palm trees from growing too high too quickly.
Here’s when they were being put in:
Each tree was taller in diameter than Boo was tall. She and Diesel watched the planting from her window seat in her room.
Here’s the back of the house before:
For the back we added a huge trellis / pergola. My exact words were “I want a BEEFY pergola.” This one is beefy! It took a special saw and a template to cut the “scroll” onto the large beams. Here’s Mr. LBB sanding them down before I painted them. The trellis / pergola took longer to paint than anything in the house because I had to move the ladder 4,000 times!
We expanded the overhangs and added larger sliding doors. Can you spot Diesel in the photo below?
We took out all the concrete and eventually put in the pavers. We maximized the paver area to cut back on grass for water conservation. We also added the overhang to the master bedroom.
So it was a HUGE project. Bigger than we ever anticipated. I managed pretty much the entire process while lugging Boo all over town to every home supply store. I met some amazing subcontractors along the way….like our plumber Oscar. Some days I’d babysit his daughters so he could work on the house. Boo loved the company. I did run into a few bad apples though and firing is never fun. Weird but I could always tell right off if I was uneasy about someone. My gut was always right.
The first two things we did before moving into the house:
1. Installed pool safety fence.* It ran about $1,000 but I wanted to be worry free about Boo or Diesel falling in if I happened to turn my head for a second. It was our FIRST priority. It also comes down easily in small sections and is easily put back up…..but only because we numbered the sections! When we were tinting the windows a week after installation, the installer commented “I’m so glad you installed a pool fence before spending money on anything else. My son drowned last year in our pool.” It was heartbreaking to hear his story.
*My other safety guard was having an alarm system that “announced” each door as it opened…by name. “fault living room door” Although the “fault” sounds more like a bad word and everyone is always asking “wait, WHAT did that just say?” AND….it’s REALLY scary when you are asleep in the middle of the night and an earthquake triggers: FAULT Master Slider. That is RIGHT next to my side of the bed.
2. We planted a hedge. For privacy from the neighbors….although it didn’t do much for privacy for a while! We used Ficus for our hedge because it does very well in the desert. It grows fast and can grow about 2 feet per year so it does require yearly pruning. The only downside is that the plants need to be propped up until their roots and limbs grow large enough to support the height. We almost lost a few to heavy wind one year. They also need a lot of sun because they don’t grow so well where the palm trees have grown over them.
Look how tall the hedges are today! Taller than the house! They grow like crazy. Our gardener has to ask our neighbors for access to their yard to cut them. You can see he’s stopped pruning where he can’t reach.
The curbing to outline the grass was done with a small machine you can rent, but it’s almost cheaper to just hire someone to do it. We paid by the foot. The concrete was dyed to match the pavers:
The built in grill was a recent addition. We had the grill for a while, but it was just sitting in the back of the house and needed a gas line and a base. The base was built and voila….finally a grill! The granite was a throw away scrap piece:
A humbling story about our landscaping. We had the palm trees, but the rest of the yard was just sand. Mr. LBB and a friend spent a few weekends with a Bobcat terracing it and adding large boulders that they had picked up at our friend’s farm. We had every intention of adding plants and making it look nice, but then I was diagnosed with cancer. Pretty soon we got notices from the city that neighbors were complaining about it. (yep we were that house) Then, on Sienna’s birthday in February 2012, our friends the Miller family, surprised us and planted the entire front yard with cacti, rosemary, and agave plants. The plants were small at the time, and it felt like extreme yard makeover, and I wish I had taken a photo so you could see the difference, but I just didn’t feel well enough to think about it. It was such a kind gesture and we’ll never forget it. Thank you Chris and Jen!
Mr. LBB loves working on landscaping. He’s always adding or moving plants around. Bougainvillea lines the entire driveway now and the external walls:
That little area between the two palm trees used to be Boo’s sandbox until recently. She doesn’t use it anymore so we finally planted some desert plants to spruce the area up:
This is one of my favorite plants: The elephant foot palm……it resembles? Yes, an elephant foot. This one has been moved a few times….it was a gift from Mr. LBB’s grandparents for Boo’s baptism:
We planted tiny citrus trees a few years ago and now we have an endless supply of lemons, grapefruits and oranges. I use a few lemons everyday. Now I just need a picker so I can reach the ones at the top of the tree!
We were thinking at one point about putting pavers on the driveway….but who wants to rollerskate and scooter on bumpy pavers?! Not me….or Boo. This is why I love looking back at old photos though. The house looks bare in the back. No bougainvillea across the right wall. The trellis was just finished off the kitchen and vines planted. The lemon tree is tiny and even tinier are the Ficus vines planted against the back wall. You can’t even see the house behind us now. Also….I totally forgot that I owned that Tahoe.
Now the lemon tree is huge…..and I’ve gone all green and sustainable with my Prius.
This is the trellis /pergola off the kitchen sliding door. It’s like a little courtyard….it would be perfect for a fountain. The vines have grown up so much that it’s almost completely covered. It’s also home to about a gazillion hummingbirds.
We finally added an electronic gate a year ago so that Boo and Diesel could play in the driveway without me worrying that they’d get hit by a car. We live on a pretty busy street. It also adds extra privacy and security. All the lights we added are energy efficient and come on automatically when the sun goes down.
We went solar last year. These are the inverters. Mr. LBB found the canopy in a trash pile. There wasn’t anything wrong with it except that it was faded. He just painted it to match the house. I have no idea what an inverter is….I just call them flux capacitors:
We really had the perfect flat roof for solar panels. They are well hidden behind the parapet of the flat roof:
I think what I love most about the desert is the outdoor living at night. The air is cool and it rarely rains. We’ve added landscape lighting slowly and peice meal but the house looks so pretty illuminated at night….we should have done it years ago. (at least maybe the front steps, we’ve had a few falls….)
I love the original kidney bean shape of the 1970’s pool. We cleaned up the tile and resurfaced it. The desert trend is to use the pebble type coating but I love just a classic white pool….the water is always a beautiful bright blue. Our pool is almost 11 feet deep. It took about 4 days to fill it back up after we resurfaced it. The original Mediterranean-style blue tile was in perfect condition, it just needed to be sandblasted and re-grouted in a few placed:
We are always doing projects outside or eating dinner on the patio. We bought patio heaters for Christmas 2 years ago for the cold nights.
The trellis and grill area. The city requires that all gutters be internal…i.e. there are no gutters on the outside of houses. Those little spouts in the column are the water drainage from the roof. I don’t really understand the logic of sending water THROUGH the walls of a house.
Whew. Lots of work over the last few years but all well worth it. We have enjoyed living here and know that someone else will love it just as much as we have. It’s time to let it go though and move on to the next chapter in our lives. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. My friend Megan says that my house will sell when I’m ready to let it go. I think by posting this I’m saying I’m ready. Now I’m just praying the right buyer comes along soon. If you know anyone looking for a home in Palm Desert….in the best desert location (within walking distance of El Paseo) let them know.
I’m working on sharing the inside as well. Posts to date: