Styling with Faux-Succulents

July 07, 2011   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Entryway   //  By: Emily   //  12 responses

I had been keeping my eye out for succulents all spring. Not the obvious itsy-bitsy potted variety sold for $2.99 at Home Depot (which of course I want all of because they’re so tiny, cute, and full of potential), but the more difficult to find faux breed. You know, the ones that you’re more likely to find buried in a pile of faux-hydrangeas and faux-ivy vines at your local faux-loving craft shop.

The whole reason for this wild-faux-hunt? I was going to try and make a wreath decorated with the plants. (And also write a post testing how many times I could use the word faux.)

The collection started small and grew slowly at first:


Part of the reason it took so long to collect is that I was gettin’ my thrift on by only using those little 40-50% off coupons for A.C. Moore, JoAnn’s, and Michaels, and then comparison shopping between the three stores to find the most realistic looking plants at the most reasonable price. At my stores they weren’t even in great supply, and I only found 5-10 pieces to pick from at any given time, and sometimes were damaged, discolored, or just plain weird-and-not-naturally-in-NY-faux-looking.

If you’d like a little product/store comparison:

  1. JoAnn’s lines were phenomenally overpriced, had less of a variety, but were in turn heavier and seemed more durable.
  2. Michael’s were less expensive, plentiful in breed, and still looked reasonably good, albeit a lighter, and less likely to survive a drop from a 2-story house kind of material (not that I might accidentally launch one out my bedroom window anytime soon).
  3. (And I never went to A.C., I just used their coupons at Michael’s when I needed to, since they accept competitor discounts after all.)

I lucked out last time I was at Michael’s because the line of succulents I had been slowly buying went on sale – 50% off each. I couldn’t use the coupons on top of that discount, so I bought up as many as I could of the $2.99 variety; each plant was then marked down to $1.49 and I left the store with enough faux-succulents to get started on my project.

Noteworthy bonus: Many of my stems had 3 separate small faux-succulent heads, meaning it was like a 3-for-1 deal-io; the smaller pieces acted for nice filler between the bigger faux-guys.

Faux-succulents beside real succulents.

The wreath I had planned to use all along was free; Mom and Dad have a plethora of grapes on their property and make dozens of wreaths a year accidentally as they prune and clean up the vines.

I started by clipping all of the succulents to have a short stem (between 1″-2″, there was no rhyme or reason). There was a metal wire through the stem, so wire cutters did the trick easily. Using a thin gauge wire that I had on hand, I cut many pieces about 4″-5″ long (again, no methodology) and wrapped one end around the base of the succulent head. The way the stem was affixed to the plant, I was able to pretty tightly wrap the wire with needle nose pliers.

Wiring each succulent.

From there, I began securing the succulent stems to the wreath – the wire and stem went through the wreath, and the wire was wrapped securely around a piece of vine to position the succulent head in place and still keep the wires hidden.

Back of wreath

I clumped the faux-plants tightly together, and alternated placement of the smaller heads, bigger heads, and the varied colors too.

Back of wreath

The wreath came together very quickly – the project from beginning to end only took me as long as it took to watch an old 30 Rock (I’m still way behind on my DVR programming).

I didn’t fill the whole wreath, because I wanted some of the natural wreath to be exposed and keep the faux-pieces nestled tightly; I think it worked out pretty well and looks balanced.

Finished wreath on front door.

I hadn’t planned for the purples in some of the plants to complement the door so nicely, but they do. I really like this wreath on the front of the house for summer; the greens are fresh, and truthfully, the plants themselves don’t look very fake, especially from the road.

And, because the wreath and wire were already something I had on hand and the faux-succulents were all bought at discount, I doubt that I spent more than $12 on the whole project. Not shabby for something that will hopefully last awhile.

Faux, faux, faux (for good measure).

Playing With Fireplace Gas Lines

July 06, 2011   //  Posted in: Basement, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses

Oddly, the best photo I have of the gas log insert is this one, from May 2009, taken within the first 10 days of moving into my house. I was in the middle of painting the living room, the fireplace, and polyurethaning the floors. It’s also glaringly obvious that I had already painted the dining room it’s first color, a lively coral pink. Fun, and so ahead of Pantone in embracing the Honeysuckle. (I still wish I could have made it work.)

Living room in progress, circa May 2009

There are small stones you see at the bottom of the fireplace; they were removed (probably shortly after this picture was snapped), and I left the fake logs and mechanism hooked up directly on the brick floor.

I guess the fact that I have no other recent photos that highlight the fireplace insert so clearly just further evidences how much I disliked it. I’m surprised it took 25 more months to remove it.

Did I ever use the fireplace? Not even once, even though it was fully in working order (it was on and functional when I did my first walk-through ever). I never turned it on myself to revel in the happiness that comes with a working fireplace, even though I do love a nice working fireplace in the fall and winter. And I can start a real wood fire just fine, but the gas-powered log system freaked me out.

So recently, we removed it. Naturally, we planned for the worst and assumed that there was going to be all kinds of capping and investigation involved, but it turned out to be pretty easy. See, the gas system just pulls forward in the fireplace itself to expose it’s gas hookup:

Gas pipe exposed behind the fake logs.Upon further exploration, we found that the pipe extended down the hole for ashes in the floor; just within the hole but out of the camera’s line of sight was a gas valve, turned off:

Hole for ashes in the floor of the fireplace. The gas line was run up through this trap door.

The good sanity-ensuring news is that there was a second valve in the basement on the back of the fireplace; it was also turned off already. And after double checking (and triple checking) that neither were going to start spewing natural gas in our face, we unscrewed the logs from the gas line in the living room.

Living room fireplace, sans gas logs.The doubly-sealed-off gas line was tucked carefully into the hole, but not before making some safety tags using some on-hand envelopes for us to reference in the future (or alert future homeowners and inspectors):

Gas line warning tags.The second tag was attached to the line and valve that are more readily visible and accessible in the basement.

Flagged: Gas Fireplace Piping Exists Here.

With the pipe carefully tucked away, I’m busy investigating the best paint to use inside and on the fireplace base, since I do want it to be a functional fireplace for myself or someone else someday. Suggestions based on experience appreciated.

Making Life More Matchy-Matchy

July 05, 2011   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, Garage   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

True story: Many visitors don’t even realize that it’s my garage since it doesn’t match the house in any way.

It’s cinderblock. It’s like a nice little bomb shelter. And it looks very out of place in a sea of traditional American Foursquares, but it’s functional.

At the time I was planning to re-side the house, a friend suggested that I have the garage sided too to make the property look more cohesive; a great idea and suggestion, but it would have pushed the whole project out of my price range. The alternative inspiration? There’s another garage on the street constructed with the same cinder blocks, but those homeowners have subdued the overall structure by painting the surface the same color as the respective house.

It looks damn good.

It was entirely the inspiration behind painting my own garage (such an inexpensive project when compared to siding the whole structure). It was finally last week that I sucked it up and decided to get the job done (photographing the garden and tomatoes against a dingy backdrop put me over the edge).

Dad's tomato plant haven.

Contrasting again the gray siding, it really did stand out in the backyard more now than it did when the house was sided white. This is a photo that was taken last month before the tomatoes were planted:

Back of the house, and the white block garage.

I started the project by studying paint chips taped to the siding, trying to match the new garage paint as closely as possible to the Mastic Victorian Gray of the house. Behr Porpoise is the color that won out; it’s a shade of gray that’s nearly identical to the house siding down to the subtle lilac purple shades that present themselves in a certain light.

Porpoise is the paint chip furthest to the left in the trio on the right. Third color from the right, if that makes sense. Behr 790E-3 in (and I selected Exterior Satin) if you’re looking for an exact formula.

Color selection for the garage.

After thoroughly power washing down the garage walls, I used a brand-spankin’ new 3/4-inch nap roller (9 in Rough from Home Depot). Besides having chose that product for it’s price – at just under $4 it was half the price of the “premium” roller of it’s kind – it’s definitely a nap that’s best suited for rolling on rough and uneven surfaces like brick and stucco.

Worked like a charm.

First gray paint on the garage!Even with the rough roller, it took a lot of work to get the paint in the many nooks and crannies. About an hour into painting, I was this far along, and my muscles were getting tired:

Making good progress on painting the garage.I went evenly over all of the bricks, but left the window and door trim for another day and another color.

The only section that didn’t get painted was the wall to the right side of the garage door. It’s covered with ivy that will need to be carefully removed and (hopefully) transplanted. I did paint along the trim as I could, but those vines cling with all their little might, so removing will probably involve scrapers and surgery one of these days.

Blocks on the right side of the garage door are covered in ivy.

I had used almost a full gallon to this point, so when I clean that ivy up, every last drop will be used to finish painting this column. And note: I didn’t paint all 4 sides of the garage – just the exposed side and the front – that’s how I made my gallon of paint last. My neighbor has a fence along the side of the garage on her side, and whatever remains visible over there has never been painted. The back of the garage isn’t painted either, but it backs up almost to the property line.

The new garage color makes a nice difference from the deck and in the back yard; the tone is subdued just enough to take away the bright glare on a sunny day, and make the garage feel like it is a part of the same property. I have to show you two photos, since the backyard and garage wall tend to look a lot different depending on the time of day and level of sunshine. This first one, taken on a sunny morning shows the back of the house shaded and the garage in full sun (makes it look much lighter than it feels in person):

The backyard on a sunnier morning.This second picture was taken later in the afternoon on a cloudy day and you can more easily see how the paint is an exact match:

The backyard on a more overcast afternoon. And mischievous Cody.

I’m in the picking-out-trim-paint phase of the game this week, and hopefully can make some more progress to complete the project. I’d like the trim to match the house trim, if I can find the perfect white. I’ll save the why-are-there-so-many-whites discussion for another day.