Outdoor Outlet Switcheroo and A Brown Mulch Decision

So, I have this outdoor outlet that’s been bugging me. When ever I take pics of the front porch for zay blog, it always sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. The outlet that was original to the house had quit working.

When I purchased a new outlet, I thought a white outlet would be a nice change and look good with the white porch. Bad idea. I now realize I basically want the outlet to just disappear, not coordinate to the porch. It doesn’t look that bad in this photo below but in person, it’s really obvious.  (Christmas porch post can be viewed here: Christmas Porch with Triple Wreaths: Inspired by Grandinroad)


Sometimes I photoshop it out of photos just to make it go away.

It can really stand out when I’m trying to snag a close-up.

Update: Some folks have asked about the garland on the columns…tutorial for making the garland can be found here: Tutorial: Make Your Own Pottery Barn Inspired Christmas Garland


Once again, photoshopped out…much better.


Last Christmas I somehow managed to break one of the little lids off. I was trying to fit a big outdoor extension-cord plug in there for my Christmas lights and it popped off.  Since then, I’ve had the lid sort of wedged on there as a temporary fix to keep the rain out, but recently it fell off again. Time to come up with a more permanent fix.

Broken Outdoor Outlet_wm


I decided to try this outdoor outlet cover this time around.  It comes in gray, white and brown. I went with brown thinking it would better blend into the brick. The front will also expand outward to accommodate bigger plugs so hopefully I won’t break the top off again. I like how it has a nice big hole in one corner to allow for the cord.


Installation was a breeze. Just to be safe, I turned off the electricity to the outlet. To do that, I plugged a hairdryer into the outlet, brought the dryer inside to the foyer, turned it on, went downstairs to the panel in the basement and started flipping switches until I heard the hairdryer go off.  Once back upstairs, I tested the outlet again with the dryer to make sure it was really dead. Electricity scares the willies out of me!

To install the new cover, all I did was loosen the screws on the existing outlet. The outlet cover came with two long screws but my outlet already had long screws so I didn’t need to use the ones that came with the outlet. In the photo below, I had unscrewed the existing screws out a good ways.

Screws to loosen_wm

After I loosened the screws out, I slid the outlet cover down over the screws and tightened them back down nice and snug.  That’s it!

New Brown Outdoor Outlet

Here’s how it looks closed. Now I want to replace the outlet itself to a brown one so it will blend even better.

Brown Outdoor Outlet

It’s a bit less “in your face” than the stark white outlet was against the brick. Would look even better with a brown outlet inside, though…not that I’m perfectionist or anything. πŸ˜‰

Front Porch with Red Door 2_wm

You may remember I mentioned the door was getting a fresh coat of red paint. I decided to remove the brass kickplate that was at the bottom, visible in the Christmas picture above. I still love brass so I didn’t remove it for that reason.  I just felt like the kickplate shortened the door.

I will be putting a doorknocker back on the door, just need to find one I like. The original one was 35+ years old and was looking pretty rough. Over the years, I’ve had it polished and re-lacquered twice. The last time the brass guy was in the hospital and his helper friend did it and he did a terrible job.  He refused to redo it, saying they were closing the business so I was stuck with a bad lacquer job with runs.

I think I’ll go with another brass door knocker, I’m not too crazy about the oil rubbed bronze door knockers I’ve found online. I love the brass against the red door and I like how it looks with the black lanterns.  I’ve been eyeing some of the cute brass fox doorknockers, but wow, they are expensive! I’ll let you know what I ultimately go with but I’ll definitely be adding a door knocker of some type back.

Front Porch with Red Door 2_wm


Here’s what I’d really like to be adding…an old door like this!  Too much going on in the yard right now to focus on a new door, but maybe some day.

Door on Historic Home


SOD is on Rain Delay

I had hoped to be posting all about the new sod that was supposed to be installed today, but there’s been a rain delay. πŸ™  My sod guy called yesterday morning to say the sod farm can’t cut the sod because it’s too wet from all this blooming rain we’ve been getting. So, now the sod is supposed to go in on Thursday. If it happens on Thursday, I’ll post about it on Friday so you can see how it turned out.

In the meantime, the delay gave me more time to think mulch. Thank you for all your suggestions yesterday! I decided to give the Scotts Earthgro a try. It’s a pine mulch that supposedly will keep its color for one full year. It comes in red, black and brown. I wanted something that would look as natural as possible so I went with brown. I read online, mulches are colored with vegetable dyes and are supposed to be safe. Hope that’s accurate since I was breathing a bunch in while spreading it yesterday. I think I’ll wear a mask today.

I just started putting it out, you can see some at the top of the picture and some of it at the bottom right corner.  It’s a nice rich brown color. I purchased 26 bags yesterday, all my SUV would hold. I’m going to buy more today because 26 isn’t near enough to cover all the islands.  I’m getting some good exercise putting it all out. I’ve been listening to podcasts while spreading it so it’s actually kind of fun.

Scotts Earthgro Brown Mulch


Keep your fingers crossed for some rain-free days!  Thanks again for all your mulch suggestions. I will be referring back to your comments in yesterday’s post in the future, especially if I’m not thrilled with how this mulch holds up and retains its color. Will let you know how that goes. Remind me in about six months to give an update, if I forget.

Okay, I’m off to the doctor for an appointment. I think I’ve got a sinus infection, probably from all the rain.


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  1. Your new outlet cover is neat! But you know what you could do? PAINT it and paint the white outlet thingies the same colour as your bricks – then you truly would never notice it.

    it’s all paintable with the right paint, bet you could get a sample somewhere, worth checking into!

    • Michele, I thought about doing that with the cover before I broke it. I just my try that, paint it a nice brick color. Too bad they don’t make these covers in several brick-colored tones.

  2. Loved your hairdryer tip! Aren’t you clever to have thought of that? Saves a lot of running up and down stairs, too! Everytime I read your blog, I’m impressed. Keep ’em coming. πŸ™‚

  3. That is the same mulch we use. Love it and I put out 70 bags. Ugh!

    • Kim, I think it may take close to that for my islands, maybe a bit more. If it holds up, it will be worth it. Glad to hear you guys like it! I like how the few bags I’ve put out look.

  4. Susan – You wear me out! God bless you for all your stamina and creativity.
    I guess I had it too when younger, but at 72 I just look at your lovely web site, sigh and make believe it’s me doing all this stuff. I do so look forward to your postings and have forwarded many of your ideas to my British friends here in Pinehurst, NC. and a few relatives and friends back home in the UK.

  5. I used the Earthgro in the black color this year and so far so good. It’s only been 2 1/2 months though, but I am counting on the color lasting one year and will hold them to it πŸ™‚ I’m enjoying your front yard makeover. It’s amazing that taking down a few trees can change the look of the house so much. It looks great so far.

    • Debra Ruffing says

      I LOVE the Earthgro in brown. I got about 20 bags to top things off…and it looks great. Last year when my landscaper brought mulch it was horrid. He is not my landscaper anymore and I am so happy I got the Earthgro at such a reasonable price! It was recommended to me. Love it!

    • Me, too Pam…I hope it really lasts. This was on sale for 3 bags for $10. They had another Scotts mulch that had some special water retention feature but with all the insane rain we’ve had, that’s not much of a concern for now. Anyway, that stuff was a little more expensive but it said that it was the best color retention mulch that they (Scotts) made…but it still just said it would hold its color for 12 months. So I went with the stuff that was on sale since it said it would hold its color for a year, too. Thanks…getting rid of the trees has let so much more light in. I almost fill like I have a new house since it is so much brighter in the rooms on the front of the house!

  6. Edith Bice says

    Love the new outlet cover. I almost broke mine this past Christmas. I really don’t like how it is made and also the color is wrong so now I am motivated to change it. I agree about changing the outlet as well. As is, it looks a bit like some creepy eyes staring at you! I am a little bit of a perfectionist as well. Can’t wait to see the finished lawn! Hope the rain slows. My sister lives in the Atlanta area and her husband has his own landscape company and has had so many days of lost time due to rain!

    • lol about the creepy eyes…it does look like that. I know, the landscapers and tree guys have had a difficult time this year. It just won’t stop! Even when the sun is shining it is still raining at the same time!

  7. Sue Peters says

    Hi, goodmorning from South Australia , maybe I haven’t thought this
    through , (its early morning here) but could you carefully paint the white
    power outlets a suitable colour as a temporary measure??

  8. Linda Page says

    I swear, Susan, you have more energy than ten Rat Terrier dogs!!!!!! Come visit me and I will let you tackle my flower beds!!!! lol I hope you do not have a sinus infection. Those things just make one feel yucky!!! Send me some of your rain. We desperately need it here in East Texas. Your outlet looks good! You are so clever! Take card, friend!

    • HA! πŸ™‚ I just got back from my appointment and he gave me a prescription for Augmentin (sp) so I need to go it filled. The Mucinex D just isn’t getting the job done. I’m pretty sure it’s a sinus infection and probably due to this constant rain. I wish I could send you the rain because we are a soggy mess here!

      • Linda Page says

        I hope the medicine works quickly. There is nothing worse than having a soggy head in soggy weather! I an anxious for your sod to be put down and see some pictures. I just know it will look so good. I need mulch and I am so glad you showed us what you bought. I plan on getting the exact mulch for my beds. I like the brown much better than red mulch. The red always looked to me like someone spray painted your dirt! lol Get to feeling better soon.

  9. Okay, I have a question. Did you purchase or make the great mosaic pot on your porch. I am dying for one but they are so expensive for large ones and small ones from curbside are not very showy.

  10. Mary from Virginia says

    Clever idea using a hairdryer. Aren’t you smart?! Yes you are!

    Very nice outlet and cover. I does look nice against the brick.

    Hope your SOD is here soon.

  11. I appreciate all the new product info I find on your blog, like the expandable outlet cover you mention today. I looked at your Christmas porch pictures today, also, and love your decorated door and the porch columns. I especially like the column garlands with Christmas balls and lights. So, how do you add the lights to the garland on the columns? Are they on batteries or did you hide the cord and plug someway? I would love to use this for Christmas this year but don’t want ugly cords showing. Years ago when they first came out I tried the battery-powered lights but was disappointed when they lasted only a very short time.

  12. Also, you could also just replace the plug on part with a brown or black one and then nothing sticks out. It will blend in with the cover. I like the new cover..smart!

  13. I love the vintage door knockers. It may be fun to scrounge around in antique shops for one. I have a cast iron woodpecker one. He hangs upside down and when you knock on it, his beak hits the attached plate. Cast iron may be a little rustic for your decor though. Our house is a 96 year old cottage style so it looks great on it. But I’ve seen lots of brass figural ones as well. Good luck finding what you want. Have you thought about taking the outlet off and spray painting it brown? Just a thought.

  14. Susan,
    Great new outlet cover, dera friend!!!
    We’ve been looking for one for the back deck, so I’ll be sure to show this to “Mr. Ed”!!!
    Love the color choice for your mulch!!!
    I have an allergy to many of the evergreen families.
    Pine would not be suitable here on the Prairie.
    Do let us know how this works for your lawn!

  15. Isn’t it funny how those little things can just drive us crazy? That expanding one is nifty! I’ve never seen those. I have to agree, that last door was pretty amazing. I’d do glass in a second, it’s so charming!

  16. Suziq1023 says

    Why not a wrought iron door knocker to go with the lovely light fixtures?

  17. Why not move the potted plant in front of the outlet or place another plant there, because you can never have too many plants.

  18. Susan, we bought a chunky red mulch last year, well DH did and, we hated it. So this year we raked out the big chunks and put in the Scott’s Earthgro. We love it. We expect to just fluff it up with a rake next year and renew it the year after. We did buy an extra bag to have on hand for when we plant new plants. I think you will be pleased with how it performs.
    Everything is looking so lovely.

  19. Peggy Thal says

    Big job mulching! We used to buy a big dump truck full for about $400 and put it down in about 2 weeks. It about killed me. Later my son helped me and of course my hubby on weekends. I always buy the hardwood mulch as dark as possible. It does fade in the sun. Now in our newer home we have the lawn people do it and it is cheaper . They do a great job with 4 to 5 guys in a few hours. We have one acre. Some years we do it twice, just for looks. Hope you are feeling OK. You might have a problem from that much smell- I hate the smell! —-Your switch plate looks good. We have a metal bronze colored one. Like your door. Does need a nice door knocker. Pick something you love. Try EBay! I am a big lion fan. I kind of miss your brass plate , but it is just me. Like the new door you would like to buy. Just so exposed to anyone who comes to your door. Maybe I am just weird about it.i like to look before I open. Take care and feel well soon.

  20. ann pauley says


  21. Love the hairdryer idea. I immediately thought, “She’s brilliant!”
    I wonder if you could get dummy plugs in the color brown to go in the outlet? You know, the kind that you use to keep babies from sticking fingers or pins into the plugs? If so, that should be a quick, cheap fix.

  22. Ann pauley says

    THANKS FOR THE WEBSITE. I LOVE THE SNOWFLAKE EFFECT! i will be sure to email a photo to you.
    it was very pretty….
    ann p.

  23. Painting would be the way to go! I think a speckled paint on the outside and a coordinating solid on the inside would look great….the speckle paint I think would blend in more with the brick…there’s so many to choose from now I know you could camouflage it perfectly.

  24. I must be living under a rock because I have never heard of the Scott’s mulch. lol I would love to know if the color holds up for a year. Does it decompose as quickly as pinestraw, do you need to replace it yearly? Thanks and I am really enjoying reading about your outdoor makeover.

  25. mishelle says

    I used the same mulch but in red this year. so FAR PRETTY GOOD. i LAID OUT ABOUT 150 BAGS. mAYBE 200. I also got a few in black , because i use those in the very front beds for some contrast. I usually use the more expensive Preen , but honestly it didnt last as long as they say. I tell ya it is a big job to spread them.It wiped me out for a couple days, so take your time and make sure you stay dehydrated and pop a tylenol πŸ™‚
    btw, love your front door. AndI have painted an outlit before. It tends to peel off . I think yours looks great as is now. And i dontknow about you , but my eyesite is getting bad. If i had the same color outlit as my house , i may not see it! lol.

  26. Oh, Susan,
    it is such a good thing that “YOU are NOT perfectionist or anything”, otherwise you would have noticed those white “whatchamacallit” and they would drive you crazy, right? LOLOLOL
    (I’m sure you’ll find a way to camouflage them. πŸ™‚ )
    Susan, your Christmas porch is so beautiful and sooo magazine worthy!
    What are they waiting for, I ask you?!?!
    ~Sending some sunshine and big hugs your way~

  27. I have spray painted outlet faces before. You might try that to get rid of your little white “eyes” inside the new brown box. Just a thought. I love the new expandable outlet cover. It looks great!

  28. I had no idea there were options for outdoor outlets. We have the same as your original one but ours is behind shrubbery. Because of that & with it being low on the house, it’s difficult to see which direction to aim the plug since the lid hids it, when it’s raised. We are going to have to switch it out for the kind you bought. I like how the door swings open so that the outlet can be seen & also how it can be closed when an extension cord is plugged into it. Did you buy it at Home Depot or Lowes or did you have to order it online? Thanks, Susan!

  29. Hi Susan, re the outlet cover. I agree with Michelle that with a little patience you could paint it to blend in with the bricks. Changing the subject, do I spy a ceramic turtle sitting beside that bag of mulch? If he belongs to you (in accordance with Feng Shui practice) place him in the north east corner of your flower bed for auspicious success and good luck. (All the better as well if the flower bed itself is located there too.) ☺ -Brenda-
    P.S: Am still trying track down name of the Mulch that I mentioned in a previous comment.

    • That is a turtle! Isn’t he a cutie? He’s a little turtle stepping stone. Long ago I had a path through there and he was the first step on the path. The path used to curve and eventually wind its way back out onto the main walkway. That was before the Magnolia got gigantic and hid the other side of the path. I eventually removed the other stepping stones and just left Mr. Turtle. Let’s see, right now he facing north…but not sure he’s in the north east corner. I may need to move him because I would love some “auspicious success and good luck!” πŸ™‚ Thanks for that tip! Oh, and thanks for checking on the mulch.

  30. Carolyn Price says

    Love the red door, Susan. I have a red door as well. To the outlet issue ….. I had two white receptacles and cover plates on a wall I had just painted dark brown as an accent. Couldn’t live with the white, especially on a dark brown wall, even if they were behind the headboard. I just brushed on a few light coats of the brown over both. Voila!! No white eyesore! You only have the receptacle itself … the two white “eyes” peaking out of the plate cover … just dig into your craft paint supplies and paint right over it! You may have to touch up a little after you plug in/unplug several times if the paint scratches off the plastic but it’s easy and cheap and fixes it for you right away! : )

  31. Carolyn Price says

    Or … put a patch of matching brown felt on the inside of the cover “window” and no one will be the wiser! ; )

  32. With all the ” beautifullness” on your front porch, I never even noticed the outlet. But the black one does look better…when mine dies (the only way I can replace anything), I will go with one like that too. Also, if the mulch starts to fade, whip out a can of trusty spray paint to match the mulch……just kidding! Thanks for all the little tips you share in addition to the big projects….you have such an eye for detail.

  33. Hi Susan – Have been reading your blog for a while now but have not said hello. Loving the front porch and I am in a new home for two months now and have similar columns, etc. I want the door red, it’s currently white, but I want to know if your house brick is more tan or red. I have red brick with black shutters, just replaced my outdoor fixtures to black and wondered if you would advise if your paint is satin or semi-gloss. I remember it was Heritage Red by Benj. Moore., right???

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