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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Bechen

Adding Dollarwise Curb Appeal to Your Home + Indoor Spruce-Ups + Patio Makeover Paradise

Updated: Jan 19


Kathryn Bechen palm trees


The view out our kitchen window has been glorious this spring. I love the simple majesty of palm trees! My husband Steve tells me that in about a week, the cactus will be blooming.


BTW, if you have windows that need some privacy from a busy street or some such, but you still want to let in the light, this window film is similar to what you you see on our windows above.


If you are new to my blog and website, welcome. Below is a bit about me and the topics I write about so you can see if you'd like to come back here now and then to join my happy little lifestyle tribe.


Arizona cactus Kathryn Bechen

Living a full and eclectic life, I am now in my mid-60s, (but young at heart), and I currently live with my husband Steve Bechen in Greater Phoenix Arizona, a.k.a. "The Valley of the Sun." Come this June 7th, we have been married 43 years. (You read right.)


We are veteran home DIY-selfers and currently we enjoy sprucing up our little cottage-style retirement home together, inside and out, and we usually have one or two projects minimum on our radar. Our home is a manufactured home built by Cavco and because it's small, it's easy to clean, maintain, cool, and live in, and we like it that way. It's also paid for 100% as we did not want to enter our retirement years with any debt so we worked hard and strategized for many years to achieve that goal. And we have maintained our zero-debt status during these times too. How? Hard work, strategic spending, simpler living, and saving. Did we have hurdles? You bet; it's called life. (I read a book on resilience the other day. Don't bother. This is the only book any of us needs to study and achieve resilience, in my opinion. My favorite edition that I began reading in my teens, before Kindle was a word.)


Last year around this time, we created our secret garden patio on our home's side driveway/carport and we enjoy having a cool drink and snack out there in a pretty space that was once a blah space. Aesthetic transformation and home comfort is our gig! This was also our positive way around not being able to travel during the pandemic; instead we brought the "vacation party" home. Here's how we created our secret garden if you'd like to give your carport or patio an upgrade and create more living space too when you make it like your outdoor room. I outlined the process we thought through and planned out here before we started and our planning m.o. can be used by anyone who wants to upgrade a patio space, whatever the size of your home or patio space.


Do you love your home? Does it need sprucing up? Do you want or need to move to a different home space? Here's help.


In addition to our home projects, we also enjoy dollarwise travel and especially staying in Bed & Breakfast Inns because they feel more like home. More about that here. We also love little bistros and charming towns. (Pre-pandemic.) Big and loud venues are not for us, so you won't find us anywhere near Disneyland-esque places. (Sorry, Mickey!)


Even though I am retired now from writing for publications/publishers, I still write this blog (I've had several blogs over the years, but this is my current one), and I also write my own eBooks that are mostly about dollarwise home and home office organizing and decorating. Over the years, I have written several eBooks, and am writing more. (Slowly; I am now retired after all!) I also manage my website and blog all on my own now with no outside tech help. This gives me autonomy and is avoiding past tech headaches that became a nuisance.


How did I get started doing all this? Oh, that's a long winding road story but here it is if you're interested.


Kathryn Bechen Arizona cottage

We've been sprucing up the front of our little home this spring to "up our curb appeal" a bit.


Why do we do this or care about it?

  • Because driving up to our home and seeing it spruced up makes us happy

  • Because it's nice when neighbors who are walking by tell Steve how cute our house is when he is working the the "yard"

  • Because we like making our neighborhood prettier and tidier; we think that's being a good citizen. Some who walk by have told Steve they are going to install sun/privacy shades like ours

  • Because it's fun when the Amazon drivers now give us a thumbs up for our new sign that tells them exactly where to put the packages

  • Because Steve enjoys being outside just putzing around our property now that he is retired

  • Because curb appeal and home spruce-ups increase the value of your home



Our latest spring home spruce-ups have included:


  • Urn planters that Steve screwed down really well so they don't fall off in the wind. (We get 70 mph winds sometimes. It's the desert!)

  • Flowers for the urns. If I had to choose again, I would buy more colorful flowers, but oh well, that was an experiment so those can be replaced another year. We put foam inserts in the bottom of the pot and I just stuck the flowers in at random. Easy; no floral design degree required!

  • I love the new wreath we hung on our door; the bright color is yummy! Similar.

  • Last year we installed a white trellis near the step and I recently ordered this flower basket to hang on it but it has not arrived yet. Similar trellis.

Does your home need some dollarwise curb appeal? Remember that you don't have to build on a whole new front porch or paint your whole house, (unless you do have to do those things because the porch is rickety and unsafe or the paint is peeling and scaring off the neighbors!) You can usually make your curb appeal look better with just some simple little dollarwise spruce-ups like shown here. Use your own creativity and resourcefulness. You'll hear me encourage you to do that a lot because I believe God planted creativity into all of us and we should use it!


BTW, if you'd like more cottage-style outdoor decorating tips, here is my tips eBook on cottage style.

But as I said, they are just ideas that will hopefully help you come up with your own!


Kathryn Bechen front door

I want to paint our front door a bright color, but Steve's desk is on the other side of the door inside and it's a Herculean task to move three L-shaped desks and all his computer stuff so we have not painted the door just yet. Also, we get such intense sun in AZ that it might be better off to leave it white as paint colors fade easily.


That's the thing with home DIY; you go with the flow and you go with the house, apartment, or condo that you have now. In other words, there is no sense trying too hard to make your home look like a stately colonial mansion when you live in cozy cottage or studio apartment. (That would be like 64 year old me trying to dress up like a super model. Um, NO.)


Kathryn Bechen Arizona cottage front porch decorating

On the right side of our cottage, we added this architectural element on the wall. I am not sure if I like the shabby chic paint on it, but that can always be repainted so we shall see if this look grows on me. If not, paint has always been my number one favorite dollarwise decorating tool. It's a game changer that can make any room or home look better fast. Ecos is my favorite paint. It's not inexpensive, but it's totally worth it because it's non-toxic! It applies like a dream. No smell. They have stains and sealers and many other products too.


Kathryn Bechen package delivery sign

This new sign is why the Amazon delivery drivers can now put the packages in a place we can find them!


How's your package delivery going?


For me, I don't think I will ever go back to in-store shopping as I like delivery so much. And I have set up several lists on my Amazon account so I can shop easily and not forget something. I weed them out now and then and it shows me how much I don't need to buy. Like Thoreau, I prefer simpler living. (Without having to cut down my own trees for firewood though. For me, that would hardly be simple.) :)


Kathryn Bechen cottage front gate

The new blue sign replaced our ugly old computer sign. Much better! And since the drivers were going up the stairs and banging banging banging on the door right by Steve's desk every time they delivered something, Steve installed a locked gate so they can't bang on the door because they'd have to jump over the gate to get up the stairs! :) Similar gate. Now they give us thumbs up and put the packages in our trunk as they can see the blue sign very clearly.


Problem solved.


We also added this cute cardinals house numbers sign to our gate, but I don't have a photo of that.


Kathryn Bechen Arizona cottage kitchen

Our kitchen has been feeling blah to me. (Yes, I get like this.) :) I considered painting the end wall for color but instead I decided on this removable vine wallpaper. Can't wait to see how that goes! I added a little cutting board to the wall. One of these days we plan to install this vinyl backsplash tile which always adds a nice touch for little money.


But as Steve says, "One project at a time."


It's the little details that make a house feel like a personalized home, truly. You may not have ornate crown molding or gold cabinet handles, or a big gourmet kitchen, but you can easily change that with a few dollarwise techniques. (Other than a BIG gourmet kitchen, but if you make tuna sandwiches for lunch, like I do now since we added tuna and salmon back into our diet, there is no need for a BIG kitchen.) :)


Kathryn Bechen cottage home

Adding faux fur rugs to hard chairs helps "TT syndrome." (Tired tush.) :) I folded our rugs in half and they fit perfectly and that made double padding. They wash up well in the washer too. Might not win any interior design awards, but they serve the purpose. Sure, with age comes TT Syndrome, but also wisdom to know when good enough is good enough. (Contrary to what Instagram would have you believe.)


I love these elastic band tablecloths. Any food wipes right off and once in awhile you can just toss them in the washer and just a minute in the dryer and zero wrinkles. (I don't do wrinkles. I do still have some standards, never fear.) I bought three colorful ones that make me smile. We bought our vertical bistro sign last year, (no longer available), and the wall basket works great for our napkins and coasters and salt etc. as we have a small table. These napkins are wonderful for every day and they come in nice colors. The stains come right out, (even spaghetti sauce), and they are so soft. They don't wrinkle and I think the fabric will last a long time. I personally have used cloth napkins forever; I don't like paper napkins -- how they feel or the waste they create.


Bistro sign. Notice this bistro sign is horizontal and ours had to be vertical to fit our wall. A great example of what I meant by decorating around the house you have.


Yes, when it comes to home and life, I am environmentally conscious, as much as I can realistically be without living in a cave or owning a bicycle. (Steve has the bicycle.) You're welcome, climate change. :) We also repurpose things as much as we can, and we don't buy all that much either which is the first step in being environmentally friendly, and in living a dollarwise lifestyle, in my opinion. Also, repurposing goods. I used to shop at least some at thrift and antique stores, but with the pandemic, I use Amazon now for efficiency and delivery. (Don't email me about all the boxes; we recycle.)


Steve Bechen Arizona cottage

Steve replaced our old shelf liner with new brick removable paper. (That is not environmentally friendly, no doubt.) One day I opened the cabinet door and it was in my hands as the entire hinge pulled right out of the cabinet and was headed for my foot! This is because AZ is so dry, no matter how many humidifiers you have. (We have three like this in case you are wondering.) This cabinet door situation comes under my mantra of "don't let your house hurt you," so I asked Steve to just leave the door off and I said we could turn the space into a cute open pantry!


At first he wasn't overly thrilled about having no cabinet door, but now he likes it. This is a life theme with him, and then he tells everyone how great it is, when at first he thought NO! God love him; he's the practical analytic sort so living with my creative brain must surely be taxing to his. :)


Why is it anyway that most men don't like open shelving showing dishes and food, and painting cabinets seems like a cardinal sin to them compared to stained wood! Does that go back to dark cave man times do you think?!


Geesh, I can just hear a cave man say (grunt) to his wife, "No honey, we don't need container labels and a Sharpie pen, or wallpaper, because we have hieroglyphics!"


See what I mean, wives?! :)


Kathryn Bechen cottage mini pantry

Mission accomplished: I hung my heart cutting board in there and organized the food. I weeded out our recipes and put the ones we wanted to keep in these lovely and sturdy floral binders. I store my foil and roll our brand of Ziploc-like bags in a magazine holder. Cute so far! I want to either paint the side walls a pretty color or wallpaper them in another pattern than the brick, for some contrast. Also, these removable labels I just bought are wonderful along with a Sharpie pen.


Kathryn Bechen cottage Arizona art

We weeded out our art recently and made a new wall arrangement in our Master Bedroom, which we are sprucing up too. Memories of our travels in our collected paintings make us happy. New York City, Coronado Island, San Francisco. Long long ago.


So far, I have found these pretty linen pillow shams, a new shower curtain, and ...


Steve Bechen cottage bedroom wallpaper

this removable wallpaper. I was going to paint the wall but the more I thought about it, and since I wanted a Bed & Breakfast Inn feeling like I wrote about here way back when, I decided to go with wallpaper. Stay tuned; this might get done in a few months.


If you need dollarwise decorating tips, this eBook will help you with that. Want to make your home feel like a cozy cottage inside and outside? My cottage-style eBook will give you oodles of affordable ideas you can easily implement. 191 ideas, to be exact. (As one reader once wrote about a book of mine: "Kathryn's decorating ideas don't require you to take out a second mortgage on your home.") Amen, sister!


Kathryn Bechen mission cross photo

I was under the weather over Easter so did not blog Easter greetings so I send you belated ones now. He is risen!


Speaking of the cross, I took this cross photo at the San Diego Mission many years ago. If you ever get a chance to visit there, it's beautiful. My favorite mission in Cali is Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. Below is a pix of Steve from years ago there, toting my purse for me, God love him. This mission has "Quiet Days." For $40 you get a private room with a bed and lunch. And quiet. Wow; what a value in today's noisy and expensive world! The mission's grounds/gardens are beautiful. Steve and I enjoyed several events and retreats at that mission when we lived in California and I miss that place.



Speaking of Easter, I read a young Christian pastor's book recently that I really liked so thought I'd share something he wrote in there with you as I find it so beautiful and true. He wrote ...


"To follow Jesus, especially in the Western world, is to live in the same tension between grateful, happy enjoyment of nice, beautiful things, and simplicity. And when in doubt, to err on the side of generous, simple living." p. 203 on my Kindle from John Mark Comer's book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.


I love this sentiment. Thank you author/pastor Comer!


I wish you a beautiful dollarwise home and lifestyle, whatever its size, shape, and location. I wish you a calming home, and a tidy one.


Many are struggling with housing availability and costs right now for varying reasons so if you have a home, please thank God for that every day.


“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Hebrews 3:4


Happy almost summer!


Kathryn :)




"Celebrating the art of simple, charming, dollarwise living"

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