These photos of my yard are probably the closest you'll get to seeing my house. I live in a cute and drafty old stone Tudor. Meanwhile, I build houses that are more "chic" than "cute" and more energy-efficient than drafty. I have a yard I'm proud of, and I'm perhaps most proud of it in the spring, when Nashville indeed springs up around us.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post (with some fab Pinterest inspiration photos) about ways to create a resort-like outdoor space, but in this post I'm getting a little more specific with foolproof gardening tips and tricks. I should start by saying that landscaping is such an important personal thing. Not everything works for everyone and different light conditions may prevent you from being able to do all the things that I describe in this post, but these are some pretty good guidelines for most yards and conditions across middle Tennessee.
Foolproof springtime-in-Tennessee plant combinations: Some of my favorite combinations of blooming plants and trees this time of year are Bradford pear trees (can't believe I'm saying that) and forsythia and redbuds and dogwoods and bridal wreath spirea and daffodils. That combo is just magical, and it's so Nashville. And don’t forget the azaleas and the rhododendrons. My favorite azaleas are this intense purple, and when they bloom they’re electric.
The ultimate year-round plant combination: There are certain, specific plants that I like over and over in landscapes, and this may sounds like a cop-out, but when you put hydrangeas with boxwoods and arborvitaes it just always works in middle Tennessee. Hydrangeas start to be perfect right about now, but at any time of the year, I’m a sucker for hydrangeas with arborvitae and boxwoods. During the winter months, this landscape becomes a whole other canvas. When you see a heavy frost or a snow on a landscape with hydrangeas, boxwoods and arborvitae, you get a shrub that was all leafy in the summertime that’s now just twigs right next to a ball of green. There’s just something about the way the winter weather treats this combination of plants that makes it almost as lovely and stark in the winter as it is lush in the summer.
Plant contrast: I’m kind of classic about plantings, but I’m also kind of peculiar about the way they’re put together. I think the best landscapes are formal and informal all in the same space, and I think juxtapositions—think tightly clipped, round boxwoods next to plants that are just wild and untamed—create the most interesting yards.
White flower power: I pretty much just like white flowers, especially in a formal setting. Really the reason why is because of the way white flowers look at night. White flowers are the only flowers that reflect whatever light there is in the dark, whether it’s the moon or the streetlight or a light coming from the inside of the house. Plus, day or night, I love white with all the different shades of green—lime green and dark green. It's fun to have all the mainstays in your garden that I mention above and then fill all the blank holes with white impatiens if you’ve got a shady garden, or white vinca in areas that are sunny.
Embrace the wildflowers: Everyone in Nashville wants to have gorgeous lawns, and I want that, too, but really only in my front garden, which is more manicured. In my backyard, I like to embrace the wildflowers that come with spring. I put off mowing until the very last minute, because it kills me to wipe out all the little violets and strawberry vines and dandelions and clumps of clover. It looks like a pasture back there. And, of course, in the middle of that pasture there are boxwoods and arborvitaes and things. So it’s sort of formal, but very unmanaged this time of year. I think it’s good to take pleasure in the season’s first wildflowers.
Too much of a good thing: I like for plants that are alike to be clustered together. It’s more of a commercial approach, but I think things like hostas look best when they’re clumped together in masses, rather than just one here, one there.
By the moonlight: Plenty of people use floodlights on their house that just blind you and make it so that you can’t see anything for the light. But I love when somebody instead puts a spotlight in a tree and it mimics moonlight as it shines down and makes shadows from the tree limbs on the yard. It's also cool to put uplights against the wall of the house, behind plants, to create those shadows. You still get light, but you can actually see what you’re looking at.
Are you a gardener? What are you favorite plants for springtime in Tennessee?
I’ve lived in 12South for a bazillion years. My grandparents called the neighborhood home when I was growing up, and I bought my little home here when it was still crusty and working class. When I moved here the neighborhood was filled with older people, and they all kept their yards flawless and their houses—even if they were painted orange—were fabulous.
I was surrounded by such characters—so was right in my element—and I loved them. Every Sunday they were all away at church until 3 o’clock, and when they baked, you could smell it from a mile away. One woman, Ms. Hill, lived in this little brick house. There was a gorgeous hydrangea bush outside, and she was always in there baking a pie. I loved her.
After she passed away, somebody in her family held onto her house as rental property. Then, this classic house fell into my lap, thanks to my realtor friend who called me about it and said, “Can you believe that house in your neighborhood just sold?” I was like, “No! That’s Ms. Hill’s house!”
When that person’s funding fell through, you better believe I was standing next in line for this house, which was probably built in 1937 or 1938. The basement is the most pristine thing you’ve ever seen. The foundation is solid, and the floors are all level. It’s on a corner, and it’s cute as hell.
I just couldn’t resist.
I’m trying to protect my street from the bulldozers. I’m doing a renovation and expansion to my house, and I found out this week that some of my favorite neighbors are also going to do a second story addition on their house. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to preserve and update this house and to help protect 12South’s character.
Here’s what we have planned for this house:
1) I’m going to put a second floor on the house, not unlike what I did nearby with the Lawrence house.
2) I want to make a section of the exterior super tall and change the pitch so it’s steeper like what Bynum Design normally does.
3) I’m also going to see if I can connect those porches so that there’s a wraparound. I want to put a really cute dormer here on the roof.
4) On the backside I’m going to build back and either extend a master suite around a courtyard—like we did on Lawrence—and connect it to a garage, or have a detached garage and a courtyard space between the house and the garage and hopefully put in a swimming pool.
5) Ms. Hill had a huge hydrangea bush, but some stupid kids who lived in her house for awhile just mowed it down. I’m going to try to resurrect it if I can find the roots. The house itself is almost hidden behind this magnificent magnolia tree (that Ms. Hill planted for all I know) so I’m going to have the tree trimmed.
6) Plus, much, much more.
Important side note (which you will not find in ordinary MLS listings): A neighbor on a corner adjacent to this house is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s an old man who has been there forever. He’s just the coolest man—so, so awesome. Whoever ends up living here will be beyond lucky to have a neighbor like him.
I’m so excited to get my hands on this home. I'm gonna do right by Ms. Hill. Stay tuned.
I was tempted to call this post "Foolproof Exterior Paint Colors," but that would be misleading, because even though I do share 12 of my favorite exterior colors, they were all arrived upon after much hemming and hawing and hand-wringing. So before you take my word for it on any of these paint color selections, read my tips about the process of how to pick the best exterior paint color for your house.
1. Consider the light and the time of day. There’s something about the light, inside versus outside, that makes selecting an exterior color more difficult than an interior color. I guess because we spend so much time inside it’s easier to pull together a paint scheme if you’re in the right light. When you go outside, and you take a color that you love for interiors, and you put it on the outside of a house, it just doesn’t work somehow. And it’s because the light’s different. When I’m picking a color, I’ll go back at different times of the day to see how it does in the changing light.
2. Try as many as six to eight colors. I’m a perfectionist, so I will agonize over finding the right exterior color. I’ll go with all my paint decks and sit there and hold stuff up and stare. We’ll drive contractors crazy because we’ll want six or eight quarts of paint brought over to decide and blocks of color put up. Even then, when you paint a square on a house, you can’t really visualize it because you’re not seeing it related to the color of the trim, or the effect of different light or shadow.
3. Remember where you live. It cracks me up when people in Nashville paint colors on their houses like in Florida or the Caribbean. The light’s different here, so it looks garish. When you’re near the equator it’s a whole different ballgame. What I’m trying to say is: If you see a picture of a beach house on Pinterest that you love, you should not go paint your house in Nashville the same color because it won’t work. The further north you go, that’s going to continue to change, so a color that works well here may not work in Manhattan or Wisconsin.
4. Have patience with the process. Exterior colors are tough. It’s a process, really, to arrive at an exterior scheme. If you throw up a paint scheme on a house and it doesn’t work, you're going to get a sinking feeling every time you pull in the driveway. Take the time to pick out the perfect color. It's worth it.
5. Complement the landscaping. Your paint color has got to be appropriate to both the style of the house and to the landscaping. For instance, if you’ve got tons of landscaping, you don’t want to paint your house blue. That was a tenet of the Craftsman movement---that paint colors should be muted and earth-toned, grounding the house to its surroundings. This means different climates are suitable for different color families.
6. Contrast versus similarity. If you’ve got enough detail on the house, I love having similar colors together on an exterior because it’s subtle, part of the art. If you have a lot of texture on an exterior, I will even sometimes paint a house in one solid color because the shadows create that interest. It really works, especially on a lot of our white houses. There’s no need for a secondary color unless it’s the front door, as we’ve done.
7. Ask a pro for help. Should I tell you some of my secrets? Oh, heck, here are they are. These are 12 of my favorite exterior colors. I hate applying the same answers to more than one project, but we do like to hold on to colors that have been successful for us in case we ever need to come up with a scheme quickly. This makes me sound like I only use Sherwin-Williams colors, which isn't completely true, but which is mostly true.
If you live in Nashville and need help selecting an exterior color, we welcome you to call us for a paint consultation.
Dee Bynum has his finger on the pulse. Whether it’s following trends, scouting emerging neighborhoods and infill opportunities, or overseeing the development of a design, Dee’s dedication to—or obsession with—his projects is renowned.