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Before & After: A Vintage Florida Cottage and Garden Saved from the Landfill—on a $12,500 Budget

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Before & After: A Vintage Florida Cottage and Garden Saved from the Landfill—on a $12,500 Budget

June 25, 2018

A few weeks ago a rare thing landed in our in-box: before-and-after photographs of a Florida cottage built in 1935. Before: decrepit, with a sagging roof and a front porch straight out of an episode of Hoarders. After: a charming, cheerful garden and house. The transformation was extraordinary.

Even more exciting, the designer and homeowner Mary Maslow and her husband, Tim, also sent spreadsheets to show the budget, down to the cost of the paint. Here’s a rare look at the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of a landscaping project.

  • House: Built in 1935 in Winter Park, Florida; “a two-one, 750-square-foot home with a detached, one-and-a-half-car garage featuring a full, one-one, 500-square-foot apartment above, and a studio space attached,” Mary says.
  • Purchase price: $199,000.
  • Scope of the project: “It required a full gut renovation,” Mary says, including a new roof, removal of large trees in the front yard, a paint job, siding, and landscaping and hardscaping.
  • Budget for the exterior of the house: $5,500
  • Budget for landscaping and hardscaping: $7,000
  • House purchased: 2014
  • Work complete: 2017

“After” photography by Zach Stovall.

The Maslows installed a &#8
Above: The Maslows installed a “Florida-friendly garden” themselves to save money, including a crushed-shell driveway ($1,600). (For similar ways to plant an eco-conscious garden, see Landscaping Ideas: 16 Simple Solutions for Sustainability.)

Armed with the couple’s spreadsheets, we also pored over the details of the interior overhaul, from how much the kitchen cost to the DIYs that saved them some pennies, on Remodelista (see The $65,000 Whole-House Overhaul: An Eco-Minded Florida Cottage Transformed, Budget Secrets Included for the full rundown). Today we’re taking a look at the exterior, landscaping, and hardscaping, all completely overhauled by the Maslows.

 The finished Florida cottage, four years later.
Above: The finished Florida cottage, four years later.

When they first saw it, the falling-down shack was covered in so much wild Florida growth that the Maslows almost missed it. “We were looking at a different house across the street and I happened to turn around and notice it poking out of the overgrowth,” Mary Maslow says. “I said to my husband, ‘Now that would be a fun restoration.’

“It went on the market two weeks later. In an area known for tearing down small, dilapidated houses to build new, we were ecstatic to have the opportunity to save it from the landfill,” she says.

When the Maslows found it, the house had a sagging porch and the roof was in dire need of repair. The couple set about restoring the exterior of the cottage: stripping the original doors and windows themselves, with plenty of elbow grease; replacing some of the siding with GAF WeatherSide Fiber Cement Wavy Shingle Siding, to match the existing; and painting the tired exterior in Behr’s Lunar Surface with Ultra Pure White trim. (A genius tip: They added a drop of black tint “to hide dust and dirt,” Maslow says.)

Painting and siding were, in the end, the biggest part of the Maslow’s expenses for the exterior of the cottage, coming in at $4,730.94, including some paid help from a pro.

Before

Before. Talk about curb appeal.
Above: Before. Talk about curb appeal.
Before, the front of the house was almost entirely obscured by foliage.
Above: Before, the front of the house was almost entirely obscured by foliage.

After

A new tree for a new start.
Above: A new tree for a new start.

The couple allocated part of their landscaping budget to digging up two huge, “very invasive” camphor trees growing perilously close to the front of the house—and blocking almost all interior light. They hired a local crew to take them out; while they were at it, the Maslows had the team trim about eight gnarly old oaks in the backyard.

The total for all of the tree work? $775. “After the camphors were torn down, we had them turned into mulch and spread it around the outside of the house,” Maslow says. “Apparently camphor mulch is very good at repelling unwanted insects.” (See some healthy, unobtrusive camphor trees in-situ in Garden Visit: Beautiful Bones at Cape Town’s Vergelegen Winery.)

Florida-Friendly Landscaping

Among the native and Florida-friendly plants they chose (and planted themselves, with the help of their family): Muhly grass, fountain grass, oakleaf hydrangea, sweet almond, and silver saw palmetto for shrubs; and camellia, gardenia, beach sunflower, gaura, and coral honeysuckle for blooms.
Above: Among the native and Florida-friendly plants they chose (and planted themselves, with the help of their family): Muhly grassfountain grassoakleaf hydrangea, sweet almond, and silver saw palmetto for shrubs; and camelliagardenia, beach sunflower, gaura, and coral honeysuckle for blooms.

The Maslows left the excavation and sod installation to the pros.

The total: $2,572.40

Another big portion of the exterior budget: tearing down the dilapidated screen porch in favor of a new, open deck that brings more light into the interiors. The couple hired a team to pressure-treat the existing posts and encase them with weather-resistant fiber cement trim for stability. Total: $1,075.45.

Before, the porch was unusable, and filled to the brim with bric-a-brac, old pots, and storage.
Above: Before, the porch was unusable, and filled to the brim with bric-a-brac, old pots, and storage.

The Final Numbers

The final product: neat, tidy, and charming.
Above: The final product: neat, tidy, and charming.

Throughout, the couple opted for simple hardscaping, including new concrete curbing leading to the front door and around back ($1,800). All told, hardscaping costs came in at $6,285.

Exterior: Paint, Siding, Porch

  • Budget: $5,500
  • Actual: $5,806.39
  • Difference: $306.39 over budget

Landscaping: Trees, Plants, and Hardscaping

  • Budget: $7,000
  • Actual: $8,857.40
  • Difference: $1,857.40 over budget

Though the Maslows came in over budget on both the exterior and landscaping, they say they were still surprised how much they could save. “There is a lot of planning that goes into the design and livability of everything you plant, but it is easily the biggest bang for your buck,” Maslow says. “It’s also so simple to DIY.”

N.B.: A testament to curb appeal: We spotted online that the house recently sold for $400,000—that’s $2o1,000 more than the Maslows bought it for in 2014. See the listing here.

If you are planning a landscape overhaul or just a minor rehab, start with our curated Garden Design 101 guides to Exteriors & Facades, Driveways, and Decks & Patios. For ways to save money on your landscaping overhaul, consult our posts:

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