Filed under: yard

the backyard reveal!

We had a few scheduling delays, but guys – the backyard is DONE. While Avery was down for a nap yesterday Kyle and I grabbed the baby monitor and quickly scurried to sweep the deck, round up the hoses, and shoot a few photos. Twenty minutes after we finished it started pouring and our deck was once again covered in itty bitty little fir cones (aka bane of my existence) from our neighbor’s tree.

Anyway. Let’s take a gander, shall we? [And if you need a sobering reminder of what our yard has been through and what the proposed design was, refresh here.]


Spiraea in front of the planter box, Brass Buttons and Speedwell as the ground cover.


Ahh, real grass (freshly striated from its inaugural mow)! As you can imagine, Bailey is ecstatic. The crew removed all the old grass/weeds with a sod cutter, laid down new compost, leveled it all and then rolled out this beautiful-ness. Having a big grassy area has never been a priority for us, but it is nice to have a little patch for Bailey and Avery.


In the great chair debate, we went with the ones from CB2. So far, so good. (By the way, that’s Creeping Jenny and Hebe in the south planter box.)


Instead of running the grass to the fence line, we decided to soften the edge with some low shrubs and plants (Bishop’s Hat, Evergreen Huckleberry, Lavender, Lenten Roses and a Red Flowering Currant). We kept the older Italian plum tree and transplanted the Katsura.


The evening light made it tricky to photograph the north side yard, but you get the idea – Kyle actually saw cut the existing sidewalk to create a pattern that would compose with the new pavers at the deck steps. (We still need to add a guardrail at the basement stair. Always something, y’know.) We kept the Winter Daphne (the only plant to survive 6+ years at chezerbey) and around it are more Huckleberries, Hydrangeas, a Vine Maple and Inside-Out Flowers as ground cover.


We decided to relocate the edibles to the strip in the middle of the driveway. This gives us 360 degree access and the plants aren’t as permanent in the event that we need to drive a car back there. (I’m so late to the tomato game, but hopefully buying starts that had actual tomatoes on them will work out.) A row of Little Gem Magnolia trees line the new north fence and will eventually create a bit more privacy. Orange Hummingbird Mint and Pt. Reyes Ceanothus help fill in the bottom.


Oh yeah – new fence, did we mention that? We knew at some point we wanted to replace the boards on the existing fence (it was done more recently, so not in too bad of shape but definitely some rotting boards) and figured we should do it now before access became an issue. The hope was to reuse the existing fence posts and footings but a few of the posts were rotting so a new fence it was. Fortunately, we split the project with our neighbors which saved on costs and labor. (Side story: they have chickens and during the construction process Bailey got into their yard while the chickens were out. There’s nothing quite like seeing a goofy and somewhat uncoordinated golden retriever attempt to catch a fleeing bird.)


We’re also happy with the new table from Crate&Barrel. The ipe deck has grayed out quite a bit since we installed it two years ago, but we’re planning on doing a fresh coat of Penofin next month. (Remember when we did the first coat?)


After letting the steel hang out (err…develop a patina) in our driveway for the last two years, Kyle finally got around to welding up the remaining planter boxes.


Along the south fence line is a row of bamboo that will provide privacy and a nice vegetative screen in a year or so.


This. Yes. If you saw my Pinterest spree of summer cocktail recipes a few weeks ago this is why. (We bought outdoor pillows for the Adirondacks from C&B.)


Kyle installed pressure-treated 4x’s at the base of the fence to compensate for the grade change between our yard and our neighbor’s. To hide the ugly PT wood, Kyle installed 1/4″ steel plates with countersunk flush brown-tip stainless steel trim head screws. (If you had any doubt that Kyle was a perfectionist, well…countersunk.flush.brown-tip.stainless steel.trim head.screws.)




Kyle also installed 1/4″x6″ steel edging between the grass and planted areas, welding the seams and corners.


Funny story – the one plant that we were a little unsure of were these somewhat tropical looking guys in the north planter box. Turns out, a minor typo was made to the latin name on the planting list and they were supposed to be California Fuchsias (which look quite different). We’ll probably transplant the existing plants to pots and pick up a few actual Fuchsias.


There are also pavers that connect the deck to the driveway and our trash/recycling/compost station on the north side of the house. We were a little concerned about all the sharp edges with the steel, so Kyle went back and rounded all the corners to make it slightly more kid-friendly (as much as raw steel can be I suppose).


Instead of extending the horizontal cedar boards to the front yard, we collaborated with our neighbors on the design and installation of hog wire panels that are attached to the 4×4 posts and covered in cedar trim boards. The idea is that the hog wire will become the structure for a future double espalier with our neighbors (there are panels on both sides). We’re not sure what we’ll plant just yet, but have been thinking of some type of edible. (Kyle’s vote is for hops.)

Finally, who’s got two teeth and is super excited about the backyard?


This girl.

Once again, a big thank you to Mark Garff at The Watershed Company for an incredible design and to the folks at JP Landscape Services for another quality installation. We love it now but also can’t wait to see what it looks like in a year when everything has had a chance to grow and fill in.

This weekend calls for sun and temps in the 80’s. I know where we’ll be.

backyard furniture

Work has been crazy lately so we decided to take a break and give ourselves a Sunday Funday. Turns out, a Zerbey Funday includes watching a little Arrested Development and going outdoor furniture shopping.

With our focus on the backyard this summer, we thought it might be time for a furniture upgrade. Our current table and chairs were purchased from IKEA five years ago. They’ve served us well but we didn’t take great care of them, leaving them out during the rainy season more than once (oops). The wood (acacia) is now dull and splintered and although it would be possible to sand and refinish, it would be a lot of work. We’ve also been wanting a larger table, one that can seat 6-8.


So, we bought this table from Crate&Barrel. (Thanks to a Memorial Day sale and our trade discount, we saved a good bit of money too.) It’s a dark gray powder-coated aluminum and seems very well made and durable. We plan on owning it for a long time. (We also bought a cover!)

As for dining chairs, we’re stumped. Ideally, we’d like something that is inexpensive and stackable. We’ve also talked about doing a bench on one or both of the long sides. Although we generally like to stick to neutral colors on big pieces, this could be an opportunity for some color.

Below, a collection of options:


1. IKEA Roxo chair, $20. I like the color and the price. I don’t know how comfortable it would be but our local IKEA is out of stock anyway and since it’s a seasonal item they likely won’t get any more. (Note to self: buy Christmas stuff in October and summer stuff in March.)

2. Room&Board Aruba chair, $119.00. We tested this one out in person and it’s fairly comfortable. It’s just not that fun and also more than we’d like to spend if we’re talking about getting multiples.

3. IKEA Reidar chair, $49.99. I’d actually be ok with this chair, but I’m not sure Kyle’s on board. (Does anyone have this chair? Is it comfortable enough?)

4. CB2 Lucinda chair, $69.95. I like this one too but we don’t have a CB2 store in Seattle so I’m hesitant to buy without trying it out first.

I feel like Kyle and I have scoured the interwebs, but maybe there’s another option we’re missing? I think we’d be ok with buying 4 chairs in conjunction with buying (building?) a bench or two. Our stopgap solution for the interim might be just to use our existing four chairs. Boring.

So, although we were not successful in purchasing new dining chairs, we did find some of the lounging style…



Adirondacks have been on our list for years. For a while Kyle wanted to design and build our own modern versions, but we found these FSC-certified teak chairs at Crate&Barrel and decided to just go for it. We actually started our Sunday Funday going to DWR and Room&Board, thinking we’d choose the no-maintenance adirondacks from Loll. Surprisingly though, they weren’t nearly as comfortable as the C&B ones.

Happy with our purchases, we decided to head home. But on our way back to the car I spied mini Adirondacks in front of Pottery Barn Kids. Moments later, this happened:


(Kyle bought her the new shades about 10 minutes earlier.) I voted for the white chair but Kyle insisted on pink. Plus the matching umbrella. (Also pink.) Then Avery started clapping and I caved. Not only were they on sale but I also got to finally use the Pottery Barn gift card that we received as a wedding gift nearly 8 years ago!


This weekend Kyle and our neighbor are building a new fence and landscaping is slated to start next week. Summmmmatimmmme!

front yard landscaping: one year later

It’s been nearly a year since our front yard project was completed. For the most part, it’s thrived (we did lose a few of the red flowering currants) but I had no idea just how much until I went back and looked at that reveal blog post.

For example, last year…


…and this year!


I’m still a little in awe that the plants are alive and doing so well (but that’s why we left the job to the pros, right?). We were elated with how it looked a year ago but it’s so much better now. I especially can’t get over the lavender in the planting strip. (The planting strip that was, y’know…paved in concrete when we bought the house.)

Ok, let’s do a few more…



It’s growing, it’s growing! (By the way, we purchased and planted the red Japanese Maple last month.)

Ok, one more set…




We watered throughout last summer (June-September) and then let Mother Nature do her thing. (One of the perks of living in the PNW, for sure.) Kyle’s done a little weeding, but nothing that required too much effort.




The ground cover is really starting to fill in between the pavers!




I was skeptical that we’d be able to do much with the narrow strip of dirt between the driveway and north side of the house. But, hello Lenten Rose and Sorrel. You look pretty amazing. Mark, our landscape architect, designed the plantings so that different things would be in bloom at different times. The roses bloomed a month or two ago and it was such a pleasant surprise since it was still rather wintry out.



The gas meter and bollard (so we don’t drive into it?) are slowly being shrouded in plant life. Yeeeessss.



Blue Star Creepin’.



One of my favorite areas is actually the south side yard. It’s turning into a lush little forest and I love it.




We’re really happy with the work that our friend Mark Garff (The Watershed Company) and JP Landscape Services did in the front yard and can’t wait for the big backyard transformation. I’ve been having visions of Adirondack chairs and a pitcher of Sangria. Come summer, come!

summer project: the backyard

We’ve been chipping away at our backyard since we bought the house nearly (gulp) 7 years ago! Although the space hasn’t seen a lot of love yet, it has been a very useful staging area for all of the other projects we’ve taken on. This year, we decided to bite the bullet and make the backyard our summer project. And yes, we’re going to hire the same company that did our front yard install last year. (Woohoo!)

But first, let’s rewind to 2006 and review what’s been tackled so far.





Mmmhmm, the infamous before photos. Although it needed a lot of help, we were actually thrilled to have such a big backyard in Seattle. The detached garage/carport was an added luxury.


In 2007, Kyle replaced the two gates that separate the front yard from the back. This was a project of necessity as the yard was not very dog-proof. Bailey’s not usually one to flee, but after a neighbor found him running (well, it’s more like a waddle run) down a somewhat busy street we knew we had to do something.

Fence and ARE studying 007

In 2008 we finished the job we started the previous year and replaced the fence on the east and south sides. (No more white pickets!) This involved completely ripping out the old fence and posts and starting from scratch, but oh what a difference it made!


In 2009 we focused on the exterior of the house, so once again the backyard was a staging area and spent most of the summer covered in painting tarps.

remodel - week 5 006

2010 was the biggest year for our house (it’s when we remodeled most of the main floor) so the backyard was woefully neglected.




In 2011 we started to get excited about the potential of the backyard. We jackhammered out most of the concrete, built a deck and Kyle welded up a steel planter box.


2012 brought our focus back to the front yard, but we did manage to build the side yard roof (which mostly keeps rain from coming under the basement door).


And this is what we’re looking at for May of 2013. Weed fest.


Kyle rolled out his welder a couple of weekends ago and got to work on the second steel planter box on the south side of the deck. The steel panels had been spread out on the driveway, developing a 2-year patina. Like a nice wine y’know.



We ended up using a lot of the “temporary” pea gravel that we put down around the driveway for the foundation drain project. So, that area is looking extra fantastic now. (And yeah, weed barrier is a joke.)

Ugh, that carport. That whole structure befuddles us. We can’t come up with a good temporary fix (that doesn’t involve a gigantic tarp) and are unsure what the long-term plan will be (we have about 4 different scenarios that we rotate between).

All that to say…well, we’ve made some good progress but the backyard still needs a lot of work. Here’s a glimpse at the current plan (we made some revisions and substitutions since our first go around last year).

\WSBSCompanyPROJECTS2012�4 - April120401 - Seattle Zerbey

The goal is to have everything complete before Avery’s first birthday. Can you say backyard party? BACKYARD PARTY!

side yard roof

Here’s one thing we’ve learned in our 6+ years of remodeling: tackle the crappy jobs first. (Trust me, your future self will thank you.)

When we bought our house it was very much in a need of a new roof. Unglamorous but necessary, that became our first major project the following summer. At the time, we were young(er) and had lots of pent-up DIY energy, so tearing off a roof seemed like a moderately fun time.

Or not. For a few anxiety-ridden days we literally had no roof over our heads. (Our previous neighbor took this photo from her second story window, probably thinking “those crazy Zerbeys!” all the while.)

Our initial strategy was to shovel debris directly into the dumpster in the driveway. This worked fairly well for the north side, but not so much for the south (where we optimistically thought we could just toss shingles up over the ridge). Before we knew it, we were knee-deep in layers upon layers of old shingles, intertwined with rusty nails. By this point we were exhausted and hadn’t even started the actual installation yet.

Our poor little house. When we need perspective in life, Kyle and I look at these photos.

All this to say that when it came time to tackle another roof project, we were glad it was a substantially smaller one.

One of the things on our pre-winter to-do list was to build a small roof over the basement stairs. Although there is a drain at the bottom landing, it often gets clogged with leaves and needles so during heavy rains water ends up finding its way under the basement door.

So, we decided a new roof was in order. It seemed like a quick, knock-that-out-in-a-weekend-or-two project, but of course it never works out that way. Kyle started this project a month or so ago, but progress stalled as we switched our focus to Studio Zerbey. Fortunately, we had a break in the rainy weather earlier this week so Kyle spent an afternoon wrapping things up.

The design we came up with is fairly simple and reflects our goals to create something functional, aesthetically pleasing and affordable. The roof’s size and shape were dictated by the location of the dining room window sill and maintaining adequate head clearance going down the steps. Kyle used two cedar 4×4 posts that are attached to the existing concrete wall. To reduce the depth of the beams, we used two 2×8’s (bolted to the columns) and tapered the outboard edge to avoid a head-knocker situation. (We considered applying a finish to the cedar, but opted to let it gray out to match the fence and gates.)

For the sheathing and rafters, we matched the main roof using painted beadboard plywood and 2x’s.

At the house, the rafters are attached with Simpson clips to a 2×4 ledger board that is attached to the wall framing.

The tops of the beams were cut at an angle to account for the slope of the rafters (we decided this would be easier than bird-mouthing or notching each one).

In lieu of standard building paper, Kyle used Grace’s Ice & Water Shield to protect the plywood sheathing before installing the shingles. This is a more durable product and better suited for low-sloped roofs susceptible to wind-driven rain.

It’s a sticky-back product so installation can be a bit more time-consuming, but you also don’t have to fuss with staples.

With the underlayment on and fascias and flashing in place, Kyle installed the shingles (the easy part!). We used shingles leftover from the main roof project and because it was such a small area Kyle simply hand-nailed them in place.

It’s not so bad, right? This is definitely one of those projects where we could have done something fancier and more “architecty” but couldn’t justify the added costs or creating a focal point of what is essentially a service entry. Eventually (and before Avery is walking) we’ll add a guard rail that will match the design of the adjacent gate. It will be constructed as a removable panel in case we need to move things in/out of the basement at some point.

Where the roof hits the wall of the house, Kyle tucked a piece of flashing up under that row of siding and secured it with a series of nails. The flashing protects the joint between the two surfaces and helps direct water out and away. We still need to install a gutter and downspout, but Kyle picked those up today so y’know…maybe they’ll be up by Thanksgiving?

Obviously, this area still needs some landscaping and hardscaping magic as well.

Here’s a glimpse of how our front yard landscaping is fairing. Our neighbor’s Horse Chestnut is dropping all of its leaves in our yard (the nerve!) and our red-flowering currants pooped out on us, but other than that we’re pretty happy with how the plants are transitioning to winter.

The only plant remaining in the backyard portion of the side yard is the Winter Daphne. In fact, I think it is the only plant that has survived our six years of remodeling.

There has also been discussion about preserving part of this side yard for a future hot tub. (For hydrotherapy purposes of course.) Hmm, maybe that was a purchase that should have been made before six years of manual labor?