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One Room Challenge: A Front Garden Makeover

by - Wednesday, May 05, 2021

It's that time of the year when the One Room Challenge (ORC) rolls into town. And no one is as surprised as me to hear that, yes, we're participating once again!

If you're new to Rambling Renovators, welcome! My name is Jennifer. I help people create functional and beautiful homes, I help brands create digital content strategies, and I've been writing this blog since 2007. I live with my husband and daughter in Toronto, Canada in a centre-plan, colonial style house that we've infused with the fresh traditional style we love. We DIY all our renovations and have a fondness for architectural details, built-ins, and classic decor. See our home renovations here.

One Room Challenge Projects


If you're unfamiliar with the ORC, it's a biannual event where 20 featured designers and hundreds of guest participants are challenged to makeover a room in just eight weeks. Follow along on the ORC blog to see all the projects. You're sure to be inspired to tackle a project in your own home!

You might be wondering why would anyone want to take on this task? Because, at the end of the ORC, you end up with a home you love just a little bit more. I'm all for that and these days, I could use a change in the routine. Also - I'm a Capricorn and nothing motivates me more than a deadline, ha!

Our previous One Room Challenge rooms proved immensely challenging yet ultimately successful. There was our coastal basement renovation where the countertop installation, tile backsplash grouting, floating shelf install, wallpaper install, and styling and photography all happened in the final 48 hours before the reveal...

basement renovation, coastal decor, white basement remodel
basement renovation, coastal decor, white basement remodel

Or our French Inspired Bathroom where we had to rip out an entire half wall of newly installed tile because the joists behind the wall were not flush, causing a gap with the countertop...

blue bathroom renovation, french bathroom, blue white bathroom remodel
blue bathroom renovation, french bathroom, blue white bathroom remodel

Yet despite those setbacks and the demanding schedule, we're jumping back in. I will be honest though and say this ORC won't be as dramatic or ambitious as our previous projects. It will be something we've never done before so it will be challenging in its own way! 

And we're doing this during a pandemic with our city under lockdown (still) and even the Home Depot closed to everything except curb side pickup. An "easy" One Room Challenge project is just about all I can handle mentally and physically these days. 

Suffice it to say, I'm not putting extra pressure on myself to get things done on schedule... I'm going to go with the flow, plan a little, play a little by ear, and hopefully have something worthwhile to show you at the end.

So what space will we be tackling this time? 

A Front Garden Makeover

We're stepping out from behind our work-from-home desks and taking things outside. Over the next eight weeks, we'll be updating our front garden.

We've been transforming the exterior of our home slowly since we moved here five years ago. We started with replacing the garage door, repainting the shutters and front door, and adding new lighting.

mid century colonial exterior

Then last summer we recoated the porch concrete floor and relaid the walkway. We transplanted some hostas to the front for temporary landscaping and by the end of the summer, our exterior was looking lovely.

diy paver walkway, walkway installation diy
diy paver walkway, walkway installation diy

You might think this was enough, but it's now spring time, before the hostas have come out and the grass is looking terrible as it always does after the winter. Are you ready to see what our front garden looks like today?

front garden makeover before
front garden makeover before

Admittedly, I'm showing you our garden at it's very worst. The last two weeks have been so gloomy and rainy, adding to the tragic look of our landscaping. Consider this One Room Challenge project the next phase in our exterior transformation and hopefully the one that brings all the changes we've done so far, together.

The boxwoods are looking a little rough and if you saw my Instagram stories, I shared that we have a boxwood leaf miner infestation. I only hope that the insecticide spray I applied on the weekend is enough to save them!

We've also applied some dirt and grass seed to our lawn. With so many trees on our property, it's difficult to get the grass to grow consistently and we're constantly battling bald spots.

front garden makeover before

After we relaid the walkway, we left things as is as we knew we'd be dealing with things this spring. This large area of dirt is where we removed a high spot in our lawn last summer. Our home sits above the street level and the mound that was here blocked off some of the view. The long leaves you see are the start of a cluster of alliums and the other green shoots are the hostas.

You can see that we've started to think about our garden plan. We used the string line and hose to visualize the size of the garden bed. So professional, I know ;)

front garden makeover before

The area in front of the window is laughable. I'm not ashamed to admit that we know NOTHING about gardening which is why we have procrastinated on addressing our garden. Even in our last home, the shady front garden was one of the last projects we tackled before we sold the house. 

I'm ready to tear everything out of this area and start from scratch. The evergreen shrubs are spindly and the Soloman's Seal looks so lonesome beside the tree.

front garden makeover before

This side of our front yard needs some attention as well. I'm not a fan of the ivy, but it is easy to keep at bay and grows well beneath the shady trees. We should really hide that air conditioner as well. It's not a very attractive feature.

Part of our hesitancy in addressing the garden is that we spend a lot of time at our cottage in the summer. Maintaining a garden is not something we do well at... I'd much rather be at the beach. But perhaps we can create something that, once installed, will look beautiful and won't be too cumbersome to upkeep.

front garden makeover before

Goodness, this looks like a construction photo! With most of our interior rooms finished, it's time to address our home's curb appeal. We'll be fumbling our way through the next eight weeks I'm sure and make some rookie gardening mistakes, but things couldn't look any worse!

Come back next week where I share the plan for our front garden. And if you have any tips for this newbie gardener, I'm all ears.



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