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Renovating my House

Ignorance is Truly Bliss: Before & After

By 08/18/2013June 30th, 202157 Comments

Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After

“I’ll tell you what really bugs me about your house”, MaryAnne (my Landscape Architect) said to me one day.

What? I held my breath waiting for her reply. . .

“The two stovepipes that stick out of your roof!” (below)

Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After

Before (the day we took possession, that’s my nephew)

I literally ran out of my studio that morning, to the front of the house and said “OMG you’re right”.

And I have never registered them before in my brain. I was so busy looking at the truly ugly landscape prior to our renovation, I never noticed them.”

In actual fact, they should have a box built around them clad with bricks so they look like a real chimney instead of just a stovepipe sticking out of the roof.

I laughed and said “Well, they never bothered me before, but they bother me now! Thanks for that gift MaryAnne”.

So here’s the thing. That might have happened to you when you read this blog. You might have had some harmless pink beige carpet in your house, sitting there, minding it’s own business, doing the job it’s intended for and then you read this post and think “Ugh, I think I have this very colour in my home.”

Ignorance is bliss in this case.

And you just need to understand that the professional will always notice something that you will not. That’s a big reason to hire one by the way. Otherwise, you might find yourself going down the wrong dusty trail in your renovation. There is no way my landscape would look like it does without MaryAnne!

I’m sure I would have eventually noticed my stovepipes, however I had bigger, more ugly areas of my house that I cringed at every, single day before the demolition.

I still haven’t bought shutters, so I’m showing you this side of the house today.

Succulents & Cosmos


Cosmos & Succulents

During the flagstone installation

Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After

The Silhouettes I ordered were installed last week and the huge bonus I wasn’t expecting was how much street appeal they added to the front of the house. Now the windows don’t look like black holes anymore.

We planted Thyme and Alyssum in between the flagstone. While the Thyme appears practically dead and looks like it’s just barely hanging on, the Alyssum is so happy.

Next year the Thyme should look more filled in. 

Funny story. When we got home from our last trip, my luggage had not made it with us at the airport. The next day, the delivery man looked like he was tiptoeing through the tulips as he walked down the pathway trying very hard to avoid stepping on the flowers.

Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After

I do love the scent when I walk to the house from the driveway.  Isn’t my new column so much better than what was there before? What a difference.

Remember back in the Spring when I planted the Succulents beside my front door? Well I thought you might like to see what they look like now.

Cosmos & Succulents


You can see I have already replaced the petunias in the smaller pot with Fall Mums.

Cosmos & Succulents


Here’s another before again:

Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After


Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After

After (Try not to look at the stovepipes okay?)

Love the Cosmos daisies but deadheading them certainly is a full-time job! I planted the ones in front of the living room window a little later so that’s why they look more full on the left side in front of the dining room windows.

Here’s this angle again:

Ignorance is Bliss: Before & After


Ignorance is Bliss: Before & AfterAfter

Looks so much better with the new gutters and the downspout moved against the house from where it was before along the post, before it became a column.

By the way, I found a fabulous urn at a local supplier but I am going to wait until the fall to install it in front of the living room window, otherwise the daisies will get trampled by the time it’s in place – concrete is heavy!

Hope you enjoyed the update!

Related posts:

Why Pink Beige should be Banished Forever!

Cloverdale Paint Party on Elizabeth Avenue

How to Choose the Colour of your Flagstone: Before & After

Smart Light Control for my Living Room from Urban Aesthetics

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 



8 pins


  • Melinda says:

    What a transformation, bravo! I am no landscape architect, so take my advice for what it is worth, but I would definitely plant grass between the flagstones, the continuity would look fantastic.

  • Karen Dyck says:

    When I planted a flagstone walk, similar to your’s, last year, I bought creeping thyme, Corsican mint, and scotch moss. The Corsican mint has been the best performer for me. I suggest that you plant a few different ground covers to fill in your flagstones, even cutting those 3″ plants into 2-3 pieces, and let them fight it out. This has been a pretty hot summer for something like creeping thyme to get established. You might have better luck planting in the fall.

  • Angela Taylor says:

    Have never seen Allysum planted this way, it’s quite effective, but not the most practical of plants for a walkway. Suprised your landscaper recommended that and not something closer to the ground. Irish Moss is quite pretty too.

    • Stacy says:

      I agree! Though the Allysum certainly is pretty, it seems rather high and like it would grow like crazy; something lower to the ground seems more practical for this path. But the overall concept and execution is gorgeous!! Thank you for all the inspiration Maria!

  • Rhonda says:

    Such a gorgeous transformation! Love all the white flowers with the yellow seat cushion!

  • Maryanne@the garden says:

    If I can interject, the alyssum was a quick fix substitute until other “step able” plants were available at the nursery. I am total agreement as to the alyssum , but for this season it looks beautiful. You did an amazing job in such a short time.

    • Cyndia Montgomery says:

      I adore the alyssum, and would keep it for future years as well! It creates a tousled effect that I find quite nice!

  • Pretty! By the way, you don’t have to deadhead the cosmos. If you leave them alone, they’ll go to seed and next year you won’t have to plant them 😉 In fact, you’ll probably have more than you need and will be pulling some out 😉

    Allysum as a ground cover…hmmm….never would have thought of that either, knowing their growth habit…a little tall for between flagstone. But my goodness I’d love the smell as I walked past them…beautiful fragrance!

    • Barbara says:

      True that you don’t HAVE to deadhead the Cosmos. However, they look terrible when they are done and are going to seed. Having them next to the walkway makes them very visible. Myself, I would be out there every single day deadheading. And picking up the ones snipped off.

      I do it about every second or third day for ones that aren’t even too visible in my garden. They will self seed just fine!

  • Mary says:

    Stunning! I hired Maryanne to transform my front yard too. She’s fantastic!

  • Julie S says:

    Your alyssum will probably self-seed and you may find yourself pulling it up next year 🙂 Careful with mint, it is VERY invasive (all kinds) and will spread into your lawn & mulch and be tough to eradicate. I love your afters! She did such a great job designing your landscaping.

  • Greg Balzer says:

    Well, I AM a Landscape Architect, and I must say that the yard and entry certainly do look more inviting.
    Regarding the stovepipes, I’m not sure making one larger (into a chimney) would necessarily improve things. Maybe you could try painting the stovepipes a color that matches the roof or the sky so they disappear. Or perhaps you could relocate them?

  • BillP says:

    What a beautiful transformation! Congratulations.

    I think that Mary Anne is out of line to mention the stovepipes. Rooftop mechanicals are a fact of life- she should keep looking towards the garden and continue doing what she does so well, the garden.

  • Love, love, love it!!

  • Tricia says:

    With such a beautiful entrance to your home, no one is looking at the roof and the stove pipes. I get upset with mechanical necessities now and again but they are what they are…necessities. I feel the same way about outlets and light switches. There is never a perfect place for them. Just enjoy your beautiful yard and go back to not thinking about stove pipes.

    • Lynne says:

      I agree. Your beautiful garden completely draws the eye down and no one is going to notice them. I think Mary Anne wouldn’t have either if she had not been taking the time to look for flaws (I don’t mean that in a negative critical way, by the way. I just think the garden was nearing completion and she was looking further afield).

  • Ignorance truly is bliss because I would never have noticed the stove pipes either. But they are hardly noticeable with all the other lovely things going on. I agree with you about the allysum – it’s a bit big for a pathway planting. The thyme will fill in nicely and you’ll have a beautiful carpet of fragrance along your path in a couple years. It’s a huge and beautiful transformation!!

  • Sarah says:

    Wooly thyme would look lovely planted between the flagstones. I have some between the stepping stones in my garden and eventually it grows to form a dense carpet that is low to the ground.

    • Janet says:

      I have wooly thyme too between stepping stones. It meeds a haircut about once or twice a year, but looks good and is easy to care for. Blooms a lavender-ish in June or so (California).

  • Donna Frasca says:

    I have never seen Alyssum planted on a sidewalk like that.Look a little dangerous to me. You’ll have a tough time getting rid of them because they reseed themselves year after year after year. They may even pop up in your lawn but on the lighter note, they do smell amazing!

  • Cat says:

    I agree regarding ignore the pipes. I didn’t even notice them. You aren’t looking for perfection – just a pleasing general overall look and you’ve achieved that. We can’t control everything in life and if we try – we will never enjoy what we have or be content. Regarding the Alyssum …. it’s good to try new things and ideas – sometimes they are fun for a short period of time and never to be repeated. That’s how it goes – some things work and some don’t and you don’t always know until you try them. Very pretty. Really like the fabric seat. Outdoor material? Nice – I might try that – I have this lovely tablecloth I bought at Home Sense and it’s an indoor/outdoor material. Nice touch!

  • Jennifer Smith says:

    Your landscaping is fabulous. I agree with your other readers. Those stove pipes are no big deal. I have a few myself. Love the bright yellow cushion on your settee.

  • Alisa says:

    I would never notice the stove pipes because I’m too distracted by the landscape. Most everything looks great, but I have to admit that I had to look hard to notice all of the most beautiful elements because the alyssum is so overpowering. I think if it was a plant lower to the ground and just plain green in between the flagstone (like moss) it wouldn’t look so busy and distracting (not to mention a walking hszard).

  • Beautiful work! Love the curvy bench, too, and the clever repeat of your yellow there.

  • Susan S says:

    I shudder every time I see those before pictures. 🙂
    One of the prettiest transformations I’ve ever seen!

  • Sandy LeRoy says:

    Maria, we always paint utilitarian items like the stove pipes on your roof in the color of the surface they adjoin to make them disappear. It works for downspouts, utility boxes, etc.

  • Mia Staysko says:

    This is lovely, though I have to say I really dislike the alyssum. I would feel like I had to tiptoe around each one of them to avoid stepping on them. To me they just create an obstacle course and that’s no way to treat a potential visitor. A landscaping mis-step IMHO, pun intended!

    • samantha says:

      I agree with you. Why have a bench that you can’t sit on without crushing flowers underfoot. A little editing wouldn’t hurt.

  • Candace says:

    Your house is fabulous! But you are right–ignorance is bliss. In the process of remodeling my kitchen, I now see much more that bugs the hell out of me.

  • shelley says:

    Bravo, Maria and Mary Anne! Isn’t it amazing how landscaping can beautify a house and yard. What about rooftop landscaping? Kidding. I wish I could get allysum to grow with such vigour, I grow it to attract beneficial insects. My go-to steppables for pathways are low growing sedum (suits my drier Ontario summers) and wooly thyme.

  • Maureen says:

    I think the silhouettes make a big difference to the curb appeal, what a bonus! Love alyssum but not in flagstones. Those stovepipes to me mean you have heat in the winter! We’ve all got them on the West Coast, I wouldn’t worry about them. Maybe in the East where everyone has brick chimneys (and houses) they would be more noticeable, but not here. They blend in with the grey sky 🙂

  • Franki says:

    Lookin GOOD! franki

  • Kari says:

    Can you tell me why it was decided to add the one section of fence in front of the dining room windows? It doesn’t look bad; I just can’t see the benefit of why it’s there.

  • Lisa says:

    Wouldn’t worry about the stove pipes either….paint ’em and forget them. The alyssum…well, live and learn! That’s part of the process ofmlearning to garden!

    But, my 2 cents: not loving the fence near the bench along the driveway. Looks out of place and makes the driveway look like a handicap ramp with hand rails.

    Would pull out the fence on that side and use some plantings and/or other garden element to guide people to the pathway!

    Love the new blinds!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, my new decorative fencing will not be pulled out anytime soon. It relates to the right angled fencing in the large garden bed beside the driveway that you can’t see. It looks out of place right now because there is no plant material around it yet. We will do all the Perennials next Spring. It creates a nicer transition between the driveway and the bench where we sit to enjoy the mountain view. Maria

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    What a wonderland! I love it, Maria –guess, like all gardens each plant will kind of tell you where it wants be. If the alyssom isn’t right there, always can plant it somewhere in the backyard….it’s all part of the beautiful learning curve. Only thing I see your succulents saying, as they stretch their little necks to get the sun, is, “Put me out in the FULL sun, Mommie!”
    xo, paula
    PS: Have you seen the latest craze in container gardens?—The Fairy Garden? OMG !!!!THEY ARE SO YOU! Pretty sure you can see them on Pinterest.

  • AK says:

    Maria, I’m getting a pop-up every time I come to your site. Can you set it to remember cookies so that we frequent readers aren’t constantly having to close that window to read your content?

  • Susan says:

    So lovely, so welcoming!
    Like walking on clouds to your front door – I love it.

  • SandyCGC says:

    Love your yellow bench, Maria – it’s the perfect touch and so totally you. The Silhouettes do add a big invitation to come into the house, and I love the succulents. And yes, the alyssum is out of place but MaryAnne already explained why it’s there and you already explained what you’re going to do about it. In the meantime, you have your very own fairy garden – your bench seems to be sitting in the midst of a bunch of fluffly little clouds so deal with it and enjoy it while it’s there. Stovepipes? I have the air conditioning unit (in the back, thank goodness), turbine vents/whirlybirds and a solar tube on my roof. Hadn’t even noticed the stovepipes on your roof; don’t really pay attention to the stuff on mine. So paint them to match or spend some time/money to make them look like chimneys if they really bug you, or raise your eyes skyward only to give thanks for all the wonderful people who have helped you achieve the beauty of your new home! And thanks so much for sharing it all with us.

  • I agree that the landscaping looks fabulous, and is a huge improvement. I also agree with AK about how annoying the pop-up is every time I read your posts. I’ve been reading your blog for several years, and signed up long ago. I’m already on board, and don’t like being asked again to sign up every time.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks for being on board Diane 🙂 My web guy has changed it so it only comes up once every 7 days now. Thanks for your feedback. Maria

  • Kathy says:

    Lovely bench area, makes me want to sit there with a book. Understand about not seeing the stovepipes at first, then once pointed out, it’s all you see. Had a pink-beige carpet that was “hidden” from me due to the paint color in the room (it had the same undertone). Once the paint changed, it suddenly said, “Look at me”, like your stovepipes do now that you’ve noticed them. Paint is being changed to go with the pink beige undertone and calm the carpet. Perhaps paint is enough to make your stovepipes look like they belong as well. What suggestions did Mary Anne have for them?

  • teresa says:

    Amazing transformation! The bench and seat look so charming and inviting WITH the alyssum. Enough with that already folks! Maryanne already explained the reasoning behind it as a temporary fill-in, although it will probably self-seed with little prompting and would look lovely as a transition in the border. That’s the beauty of a garden: there’s always next year! CTD

  • Margo says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. I LOVE it!!!! It is amazing to see the transformation of your house from ordinary to superlative. It shows me what can be done take blah to wow, LOVELY!!!!!

  • Babs Loyd says:

    Your improvements are impressive. The blinds look great and I love the bench and cushion. Flagstones look fabulous and now I will consider them for a walkway from our driveway to front door–checking the color via samples first to see if they complement the house. Thanks for the inspiring advice you consistently come up with, I look forward to each post for its good info.

  • Barbara says:

    Stovepipe chimneys seem to be very common here in BC. All the houses around me have them, and honestly, you never notice them.

    Our last home in Ontario had a nice brick chimney, big enough to hold the stacks of two fireplaces, and had decorative touches. We had our fireplace cleaned before putting the house up for sale and the guy said the chimney was a problem and it needed VERY expensive brickwork done on it. And to boot, it would not meet building code after the repairs….

    Be happy with the simple stack!

  • BillP says:

    I’d run the mower over the alyssum, at a high setting, of course.

  • Amy says:

    I think the alyssum looks fun! The great thing about a garden is that if you don’t like something, just wait a week and it will change. They grow and evolve.

    If the allysum is in the way of the walk, just pluck a few of them out in the middle to create a “allysum-less path”. Just don’t walk in bare feet through there…might get stung by a bee!

    It looks beautiful and don’t spend the money on the stove pipe. Take the money that it will cost and buy something frivolous that you love…every time you think about the stove pipe, go look at that crazy-decadent purchase and smile.

  • Wendy says:

    Rather than a brick disguise for the stovepipes, maybe a painted box, same material and paint as house body, could be made to order by a carpenter. Done all the time in milder climates. Trim it like the house too. Looks more contempo. Other than that, looking good, Maria!

  • Angela says:

    I suggest spraying the stovepipes the same color as the roof and ignoring them! Your yard is the focal point and it’s beautiful!

  • mimi says:

    The alyssum with the lamb’s ears- gorgeous!!! And I don’t care if it is impractical – I still love it between the flagstones!! Your landscaping is just looking awesome!


  • Fran says:

    Your walk way looks like you could be walking through clouds! Love it.
    The cosmos are very nice. When you have perennials next year you will not have all those flowers for the whole summer.
    The succulents under cover may be the best thing because if they get too much rain they will suffer. Yours are very happy, just rotate the planter once in awhile.

  • Love the transformation Maria! I didn’t even look for the stovepipes in the ‘after’ photos!

  • karen says:

    It’s a gorgeous transformation Maria! So inviting, I can’t say it enough. Love the look, Maryanne’s vision was spectacular. It is true that we see things so often we don’t see it anymore. For me, I appreciate the honesty of something that is out of sorts, ie: on your rooftop. Just because something has to be there why can’t it look beautiful as it can also. I think Mary is right, Maryanne is wonderful and I appreciate her opinion. II also love her ideas. As for planting the Alyssum, is that not what gardening is all about? Giving it a try to see how it does or how we like it. If it needs to be moved or corrected we do just that. How most of us all learn. Trial and error. What some may love others may not. In the end, it is your garden after all.

  • alyr says:

    The reason the stovepipes bugged Mary Ann is because she’s American and we don’t generally see them here.In fact, I had NO clue what they were for aside fro the obvious – venting of some sort probably a wood stove or some other rare thing. NOT found in America.

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