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Before and AfterRenovating my House

My Design Studio Behind the House

By 05/11/2012August 8th, 201737 Comments

Last weekend we ripped out every single plant in my front yard and this past weekend, we moved to the backyard. Here is what my future design studio looked like when we took possession.

Do you think there is enough concrete here? it’s coming out.

We will need serious landscaping in the front and back of the house and that is the most challenging for me since it’s so not my area of expertise! Here the two sheds on either side of the large shed have been removed.

Here the old opening for the doors and the windows are disappearing.

There will be french doors and sidelights in the middle and a larger window on the East wall of the studio. I did not specify quick enough where the lights on either side of the doors should go and they were too far over and too high so my contractor moved them down as far as he could (picture of that not shown).

There’s an awning all across the deck in the backyard. This is what the whole thing looks like (the deck needs to be painted), the awning I’m not so fussed about at the moment although the skinny posts are not attractive. Apparently its needed when the sun wraps around in the summertime.

We are taking out everything except 2 trees. Half the backyard is concrete and the other half is lined up with stuff like it’s all under arrest with the overgrown bushes and the gazebo which is all a total eyesore! I can barely stand to look at it.

I posted the gazebo on Craigslist for free and received 20 emails. I responded to the guy who said “I have 5 friends who will help me take it down”. And Saturday they came.

I was amazed that they were able to get the roof off in one piece but 6 guys couldn’t lift it so they cut it in half.

And got it all onto a trailer!

I was so happy I did not have to get it taken to the dump!

We spent most of the day on Sunday ripping out a raggedy wire fence all along the cedars and three plastic compost bins which clearly would now be an eyesore. The post is what’s left of the clothes line which will be removed with the concrete.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to show my back or front yard to you again until some serious progress has been made, it just hurts my eyes to look at it, haha.

And I really want my design studio to look like this:


My doors will not be quite as fabulous as these!

So there you go my lovelies, a reader told me last week that when I posted about how awful my backyard was but didn’t show it she felt it was missing so I’m showing you the serious work-in-progress that it is. Take a good look because you won’t see it again until there is something pretty to look at!

Have a great weekend!! xo Maria

PS. Come and see me this Mothers Day weekend, I will be at the Pure Painters Booth at the EPIC show at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. Look for their colourful booth!

I will be there:

Saturday, May 12 from 1:00 – 5:00 pm and Sunday, May 13 from 11: 30 – 3:00 pm.

Related posts:

The Before Photos of my New House

Maria’s Happy Living & Dining Room

Maria’s White Kitchen Details

Download my eBook, to learn what you didn’t get in Colour Theory. How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

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

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.



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  • And I’m sure it WILL look like that picture my lovely 🙂 Gorgeous! Can’t wait to see! How fun for you!!!

  • StagerLinda says:

    So exciting! Please don’t deprive us of the work in progress. I love seeing the progress on your new home. It is so inspiring to go through the process with you.

  • carol ann says:

    so enjoy watching the progress step by step…loving the picture of what you want the doors with side lights to look like. wow
    ps… the pictures today were normal, not sure why but thought you might like to know…

  • Julie says:

    Love seeing this transformation. Am sure there must be landscapers out there that would be happy to work on your garden in return for a fantastic colour consult, and best of all a chance to show off their landscaping skills on a very popular blog!! C’mon all you landscapers what are you waiting for! haha.

  • Maria,

    I agree with StagerLinda and Carol Ann, please keep showing all the steps you are taking because it’s good for your future clients to see your experiences. Later you won’t remember how much you put into this heartwarming home that you’ve built.

    Your home office will be lovely and even better than the photo because it will be yours and your made it happen!


  • Cathy Z says:

    Hi Maria, quick homeowner tip – not design related, you have that covered! Keep a running spreadsheet of the date and costs you are putting into your home on hard/fixed items. It’s a very useful reference for refinancing, appraisal and future home selling matters!

    It’s fun sharing your house with you 🙂

  • Laura Jens Sisino says:

    Wow, what huge progress! I am still in awe that the guys were able to carry that gazebo off. I am just glad I wasn’t the one driving behind them on the road 🙂 Keep sharing! We love this.
    Random, if gardening/landscaping is not your thing you may want to consider keeping some/more of the concrete than you anticipated. Low maintenance. You could take some out for beds and then use some very large cool planters mixed in. I noticed your inspiration has a lot of concrete which looks pretty good.

  • debbiecz says:

    We had that SAME yard 18 yrs ago…today it’s a jungle. So many interior design principles will apply to your yard, you’ll do fine. When you start landscaping remember to sit in your studio/home and look out – what will you see?

  • Hi Maria – I’m with the others…..keep showing us the work in progress!! Love what you’ve done so far – I think you are right on the money with your design studio inspiration – very West Coast with the white colour and the big windows out onto a patio – perfect for taking those much-needed coffee breaks. As for the awning you hate – why don’t you cover the posts with some sort of pillar and plant a wisteria at each post so that you create a “green” ceiling.

  • Donna Frasca says:

    That’ll be a little paradise when complete!

  • Beth says:

    What an exciting journey – you work so quickly! And it’s going to be a wonderful studio and yard. You might want to focus on finding native plants for your back yard, whether you hire a landscaper/gardener or it’s more do it yourself. At least in the U.S., many garden centers are clueless when it comes to native plants. They have many benefits – like no or very little watering or maintenance after the first year, (assuming there’s not a drought the second year). Some are great for birds, butterflies, etc., too. There are resources to help…

  • Linda V says:

    Bravo to you Maria, you’ve achieved so much already. I agree with Heather, Wisteria would be a beautiful option for your awning, but make sure your structures are really sturdy. Eventually Wisterias grow very large and have had some bad press for pulling structures down. So much to know about gardening and plants! But as Debbiecz says, what you already know about colour/design (colour flow, rep. of shapes, vignettes etc) applies to landscaping as well, so you’re halfway there. Happy houseshaping.

  • Heather says:

    I pass on the suggestion that you check with the neighbours to find out if you have deer in your area. If you do, your plants will need to be poison (daffodils),have a strong smell (lavender, rosemary) or have thorns (but not roses). Anything else you plant becomes very expensive salad for the critters.

  • Heather says:

    Another thought – as you consider your garden design. I have found it important to think about who will maintain the garden. Will you be paying a gardener to do it or does someone in the house have (or plans to develop) an interest in gardening? Might you want to grow some of your own vegetables? Gardens are wonderful and very important but they don’t look after themselves. This comes from someone who once got so carried away with creating a garden that it required two gardeners to help keep it up. Now I believe the simplier the better.

  • Marlo says:

    I’m really enjoying watching you transform your home. The studio is going to be stunning! The large space and the amount of light coming into it would be a dream for me. I’d love to have a studio like yours and use it as my art studio.

    That was one big gazebo. It didn’t look so big from a distance but when I saw the guy holding up the roof…wow…it’s huge. Good thing you found someone to take it.

  • Barbara says:

    Can I please just say…”I told you so.” Keep showing us the ugly because it helps inform the beautiful results!

  • SandyCGC says:


    I agree with all the others – please keep showing us your progress both inside and out. And that studio – one would think it actually was your after pix – it’s going to be beautiful. I think Julie has the right about about the landscapers. I would get them to make presentations a la HGTV landscape challenge programs – you have clout and there could be a lot of reciprocity and benefit for them too. Ask them about native plants as Beth suggested and let them know what you envision in the future, wbat your needs are for taking care of it all and get them involved in ideas for your patio with post and awnings. It COULD end up costing a fortune but I bet it won’t, whatever it costs will be well worth it, and I know it will all be stunning when it’s done. And please, please keep us in the loop all the way. We’re so excited and happy for you!

  • I am even more excited to see your future studio than your house (although I know that will be fabulous too). I would LOVE to have my own private little office in my backyard but I will live vicariously through yous

  • Hi Maria
    Well it looks like you are learning about the ups and downs of renovations – the hard way. But that is so good. You are doing a great job and will learn so much so that when you are in someone’s home who is contemplating a same or similar project, you will have all of that experience to draw on. This is not something you can learn from a book. I love watching you just wade in and get it done. Good for you . Les

  • Jackie says:

    I was so excited to read about the outdoors. I can’t wait to design our own garden when we move, but it wil take years. I am really influenced by the permaculture movement, making your home and life sustainable so I would encourage installation of a food forest. It doesn’t have to be super high maintenance, even berry bushes can be beautiful and useful for food. I would have taken that gazebo too…but I get why you wanted it down…just nie to have vertical wooden structures to grow ivy against…very romantic in my eyes. Love the studio pinterest photo…mmm!

  • Karen says:

    Hi Maria – I am with the other readers – please show us the progress of the landscaping and studio – kind of like “This old house” on PBS!

    I want to add a huge “thumbs up” for giving away the gazebo – too much good stuff goes to landfill.

    I have a feeling you have a practical neighborhood – where a good use will be found for almost anything you give away – ( except don’t let anyone build a shed “complex” like the one you just tore down!

  • Jumping on the show is progress bandwagon! Like it or not, it is educational to show it. It indpiresand motivates. Question: if you are in a residential area, are you allowed to conduct business on your property? Here it needs to be zoned commercial. It’s a bummer because I would be doing just as you ate if I could. Icannt wait to see how this turns out. You always inspire me! :). But I think you know that already!!

  • Maria, I can’t believe how much you have already accomplished! I have to weigh in also and tell you that you really must keep us on this journey along with you! I know you are not into before and afters, but many of us so are. Think of all the readers who will benefit from your journey to the home that fills YOU with happiness. Let’s have the “durings” as well. Way to go, and keep up the great work. Best, Ellen

  • Karen says:

    I know that was hard for you but I truly loved seeing this step by step progress. Loved seeing how the guys got that gazebo out too. Look forward to seeing it when it’s done and it will be just as gorgeous as the one that is inspiring you, even better. Thanks for sharing.

  • Judy says:

    When you do the landscaping don’t skimp on good quality soil and amendments. SO much easier to do at the beginning. Your studio will be so nice!

  • the guys who came and picked up the gazebo probably made out like bandits.

  • As a garden designer turned garden writer, I would advise investing in a professional consult with a local designer as there are similarities but also major differences to interior design. Long before you think about soil, plants, colours or anything to do with actual gardening, you need to create shapes and structure. American designer Joe Eck called it ‘sculpting the void’ ie the open spaces where you will be in your garden, as these are what your eye ‘reads’ most strongly in a garden. Regular ground plane shapes like circles, squares & rectangles (including interlocking) usually look best for your voids (lawn, paving, decking etc) & then garden, gradually rising in height, fills the rest to the boundary.

  • Julie says:

    So glad to see your photos Maria! (This is whiny Julie from the other day!)

    I haven’t changed anything on my comp, but can see your photos perfectly….thanks!

    Looking forward to your house progress…

  • Kim says:

    I am totally inspired by the incredible amount of progress you have made ALREADY on your new home. And I like how you chose who would be getting your gazebo, because the guy had a plan…..and friends who could help. I can hardly wait to see all the finishes you will choose, but seeing the progress is fabulous!

  • Michele in Salem says:

    I agree with everyone who said that we’d love to watch this project as it develops.. It’s fun to cheer you on and we learn so much that way. There’s lot’s and lots of potential for your your yard, don’t worry, it will get there!

  • Janet says:

    Your design studio is going to be awesome! The awning will allow you to keep the studio doors open even when it rains. Thanks so much, Maria, for letting us view your creative process.

  • marcy says:

    Maria, I love to see your vision and how you are planning it – it is going to be gorgeous! What a wonderful office studio!

    I look forward to seeing you at Blogfest!

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    Maria –
    Landscaping is easy. It’s just like decorating. 🙂

    1 – Plan your use areas. What happens where? What is the traffic flow you want?

    2 – Specify role and functions needed for objects (plants or furniture) and whether it will be plants or hardscape.

    Don’t narrow the choices too fast. Stay with the functions you want as long as possible, then see what’s available for your climate.

    3 – Pick product that will perform the required function. has details.

    Excuse the bad formatting. Yahoo! has had some problems with formats.

    And on that sea of concrete near the studio – consider having it sliced and only partly removed. Make plant pockets in the concrete, or even slice channels for groundcovers.

  • Veronica Domurat-Tostado says:

    I’m reading a lot of your previous posts and I love everything that you are doing to your home. The inspiration picture for your studio is amazing!! I dream on having a space like that sometime too 🙂

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