When we moved into our house last May, my husband would repeatedly tell me how badly our house needed new landscaping. Naturally, being a first time homeowner and having always focused on decorating the “indoors”, I just didn’t understand why we would spend a fortune hiring a landscape designer and putting in flowers and plants when we could be spending that money on the fun stuff inside.  ”Why buy one Japanese Maple when you can buy two custom pillows?”

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{House landscaping before}

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And the backyard was as bad as the front (or worse). We didn’t even have grass! It was a big field of mud and totally flat looking.  Photos right before we moved in-

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Ben kept trying to convince me of enhancing our curb appeal and I just wasn’t buying it.  Then one day it hit me last June.  As the big Dallas hail storm descended over our little historical Hollywood Heights neighborhood and totaled cars, broke original stain glass windows, and damaged roofs, we were left with a huge mess to clean up outside. Hollywood Heights looked like a scene from a movie- our street was even on the local news! We hadn’t realized it yet, but our little clean up project from the hailstorm would soon turn into much more.

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Once we gathered up all of the leaves, broken stems, and even the tree branches that fell through my husband’s car, I realized that this was my chance to start over and make our landscaping what it needed to be.

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In order to execute our new landscaping properly, Ben and I decided we had to hire a landscape designer (a fellow Longhorn no less!) since neither of us knew anything about plants.

Mark drew up the plans for us and after a few tweaks, we were ready to get started! We knew we had limited time to get it done..not only because I was hosting a Sip and See for my sisters’ babies in November but also because the cold winter would hit and it was now or never to get these plants in the ground.

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We got the landscaping of the front yard done 12 hours before the party started and we were really impressed with Mark and the Green Thumb landscapers work.  We had a nice conglomeration of coral colored encore azaleas, bunny grass, double knock out roses and my favorite, the sculpted pom pom juniper.

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After we finished with the front yard though, it was time to get serious about the backyard.  Let me preface this with Ben has never ever been into gardening or planted a plant in his entire life up until this point but he decided to take on the challenge of the backyard himself- designing and implementing it. It was definitely no easy feat! So over a period of eight months, I stood back and watched as he transformed the backyard from our flat, dry, no grass mud field to a beautiful area with a diverse assortment of plants and flowers.

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{Our rosemary, mint and chive garden at the entrance to our gate…wish I knew how to cook!}

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Ben rearranged the stone walkways (for my new chairs no less), built a shed on the side of the house with his dad (good bonding experience), added a lattice above the existing fence (still in progress), and is now trying to grow ivy up the brick walls (may take a while).  He is out there every single weekend perfecting his garden and I have to say I’m really proud of him for what he has done with it all!  (I can’t say I was too much help though…the inside and patio furniture got the best of me :)

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While he was busy digging in the ground, I set out to find interesting backyard accents and furniture.

I managed to find this 1950′s seahorse bird bath on Craigs List for only $60!! (saw one in Houston and had been in love with it ever since)

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I also bought a cool outdoor metal bamboo dining set from my friend Christian at Think Twice (seats still need to be recovered).

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And then some of my favorite finds ever were these vintage fiberglass peacock chairs that I bought from Grace of A Storied Style. I added some Pottery Barn pillows to them for a quick easy bit of pattern.

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The fun didn’t stop there…I then hopped over to Scout to purchase this antique garden stool from my friend Kristen. They always hook me up with the best pieces! I then found a really interesting white iron bench from Lula B’s with a greek key motif- a total steal!

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 My mom even picked up my front porch patio chairs out of bulk trash from my sister’s neighbor’s front lawn (yes we’ve stooped to a new level!) and then I adorned them with graphic pillows and cushions to make them look more customized and unique.  All for a whopping $35/chair!

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Of course the front entry and office entry wouldn’t be complete without interesting door mats so I swiped up two from Ballard.  One was Suzanne Kasler’s personalized coir mat  and the other was their lion coir mat- both of which I’m obsessed with.  I love a good lion motif!

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If you haven’t been to Uncommon Market yet in Dallas, they have some great outdoor accessories (as well as indoor). I got two of these gray urns at an amazing price for our front porch. They each flank the door and are a great way to experiment with new plants.

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The one piece that Suzanne (the previous owner) had left ended up being our favorite outdoor piece of all (and no I’m not talking about her outdoor frog thermometer or her “cat and mouse” weather vane!) We actually really heart our Mrs. Powers doorknocker! I can’t help but laugh when I arrive home each day to this little old brass lady on a swing greeting me at the door.

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So once we were done with the backyard and the last plant was potted, I couldn’t resist putting Zoey on our Christmas card in front of the house because this picture really did sum up our ENTIRE year of being hermits who worked on the house non stop-

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So what I’ve learned is that outdoor decorating is a whole new kind of fun and a good activity that Ben and I can do together on the weekends.  Our next project will hopefully be to remove our old iron gate and build a new gated structure for the entry that will lead into EJ Interiors’ office.  Our inspiration? “The Secret Garden”….well, actually it was Ben who thought of this idea (what has he turned into?) but I won’t tell him I told you that!! :)

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4 Comments to 'Decorating the Outdoors: What I’ve Learned'

Carolyn 20 Jun 13 at 1:36 pm

This is just amazing! Love the Secret Garden inspiration and am so blown away… way to go Ben & Emily!

Ben 20 Jun 13 at 3:15 pm

wow. Ben’s work is amazing. what a transformation!

Momkat 20 Jun 13 at 11:16 pm

Just gorgeous. Love the concept of outside “rooms” within the garden. What great finds – especially the birdbath. Saw a similar one at the Guild Shop in Houston for 5X your price;)
Ben you can tell you put blood, sweat and tears into this project – Ha!

bmfw 21 Jun 13 at 8:39 am

Love the changes, but DO NOT grow ivy up the wall of your house. It can do some serious damage to the mortar between the bricks on your house especially since it is an older home. The roots will creap into any tiny crack and make them larger and increase the chances of water damage!!!

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