Cottage Makeover: The Renovation Wrap-Up

For the past 4 weeks, Arkansas landscape designer Daniel Keeley has been walking us through the renovation of his 1,000-square-foot cottage in Fayetteville. For our final post, we've asked Daniel to answer some of the most common questions you posed in the comments section and to give us any wisdom he's learned from the process.

Q: What was the time frame of the remodel?

A: The time from purchase to move-in was 9 months, but there was an initial 3-month delay with getting started, so the remodel of the house and interior only took about 6 months.

Q: How long did garden installation take? Did you do it in phases or did everything go in at once?

A: The garden had begun during the 6-month remodel but took another 3 months to complete due to weather. If memory serves me, we installed the front garden in March. I moved in the house in April. The rest of the garden spaces were completed in June.

Q: The garden already has such a mature feel to it, despite being relatively new. How did you achieve that so quickly? Did you buy larger, mature size shrubs and plants?

A: Yes, I installed large shrubs and trees where possible, especially for the framework hedges and other prominent components. Here is a little pro tip that I try to use on all of our projects: I try to install plants that relate proportionally to each other at the time of planting the same way they will at maturity. If a particular plant is meant to be larger than others surrounding it, I typically purchase it in a larger container size than the surrounding variety.

Q: Painting the brick has been something a lot of people have commented on and it seems to be a bit controversial for some. Why did you choose brick over siding or shingles? What kind of upkeep do you expect on the painted brick?

A: Haha! I am familiar with the controversy. It was a bit of a controversy around here, as well. It seems that people either love or hate it. It is funny to me because I was worried when I first installed the brick (knowing I would paint it eventually) that people would think it was the finished product, even though I chose the brick not caring about the color, since I planned on painting! I grew up in the Heights area of Little Rock, AR...a great Southern city with painted brick bungalows from the 20's, 30's and 40's. They were and are a staple of The Heights neighborhood, and that is the feel I wanted for my house. When I bought it, the house had white, vinyl siding. I knew I wanted to improve the quality and formality of the structure through the exterior materials, and so brick was my choice, rather than siding or shingles. The color is Sherwin-Williams Black Fox. I have found it a wonderful and versatile color and have used it many times on other projects. I knew I wanted a dark color, and I love how it makes the house appear so settled in the landscape. I also knew I wanted a predominantly white flower color palette and consequently wanted a dark color to serve as a backdrop to the garden. Furthermore, the existing metal roof was relatively new, in great shape, and too costly to replace. The paint color is a good complement to the roof. I know some of the progress photos don't show it, but it's true that the paint color changes depending on the sunlight, and I am very pleased with the result. I have not had any maintenance problems so far. Any house requires maintenance, so in my mind, that is just part of it and when I have questions I ask the people at http://www.plymouthbuild.co.uk so I'm never really alone in my decisions.

Q: Is the front door stained at all or did you leave it completely natural? What kind of wood is it and did you seal the wood at all to protect it from the elements?

A: The front door is solid teak and is totally unfinished inside and out. I bought it online and chose the design which fit my desire for something heavily molded and fairly formal. A major theme of the house is the whole idea of indoor/outdoor living. As a complement to this theme, I wanted a teak door, since many classic outdoor pieces are made from teak. My idea of leaving the door unfinished was so it would weather naturally...just as the two teak benches in the front garden would. I also love driftwood, and this was my way of having a "driftwood door." I have not had any issues so far with leaving it unfinished...even though my builder was worried sick!

Q: When painting a room all one color, did you vary the paint finish?

A: Yes. The walls are eggshell latex, the ceiling is flat latex, and all trim and cabinetry is semi-gloss oil.

Q: How have you liked the tankless water heater? Would you install one again?

A: I worked extensively with a bathroom renovations Toronto company and let me tell you, there are definitely pros and cons. I installed the tankless to gain space. For that reason I would probably do it again, although I have not been totally satisfied with the hot/cold adjustment at the faucet. It is difficult to find the perfect temperature sometimes.

Q: In closing, do you have any lessons learned or things you’d definitely do again or wouldn’t do again? Any general renovation or remodeling advice for readers?

A: Definitely lots of lessons learned! As with any major project, there are a few things I would do differently next time (or with more money!) but for the most part I have been very happy with the outcome. My advice after several personal home remodels and countless client garden and outdoor living space projects is always the same: Have a plan! Choose quality over quantity! And be patient!

A HUGE thank you to Daniel for inviting us into his home, garden, and mind these past few weeks. Check out his firm and more of his amazing work online at dkdesignoutdoor.com!

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