Author Archives: Rocket Lady

How To Build A Patio In California

How to build a patio in California…?

I’ll cut to the chase, after getting past the city requirements, I thought we were talking about a cement truck backing into our yard and dumping out the concrete ready to be shaped into place. I mean how hard can it be? Everyone has a patio.

But it turns out, at our house, it first involves about 6 weeks of digging.  Digging with tractors, digging with jack hammers, and lot’s of digging with pick axes. Digging to that point where you can’t see the top of the digger’s head because he’s digging so deep.

We expressed to a few people, one of which was our handy contractor, that, had we known about all of the digging, and the city requirements for a patio build, we would’ve probably put in a pool. Mr. Contractor explained that yes, a pool would’ve actually been easier and cheaper…that here on the coastal side of California, they like to dig those patio footers down to about middle-earth, ensuring that even an act of God couldn’t move that concrete.

Well despite that bit of not-so-helpful-after-the-fact information, we’re keeping our eye on the prize. At the end of this, we will have a beautiful indoor-outdoor living space. And in the meantime, we live in the sheer exhilaration and terror of the crew coming each day to demo and dig…all getting us one step closer to the build.

Here’s a little review of the last six weeks…

WEEK ONE:  Well, to start, I missed the very first strike of demo day: 

And then, they were off and sprinting…
BTW-Week One consisted of only two days, because they started on a Thursday. If only I could accomplish this much in two days: 

END OF WEEK TWO: So, we high-tailed it out of town for a week. When we returned and pulled in to our “driveway”, this is what we saw:

WEEK THREE: The crew came back after the 4th of July holiday, and actually started framing out the planters that will be in the patio. Yay for building stuff! 

Don’t be confused though, they’re still digging over on this side…

END OF WEEK FOUR: just some refinement digging…

Now to be honest, I’m not sure what happened in Week’s Five and Six. There were little structures built to hold dirt in and mark where the garage will be. The trenches were dug deeper. And there was lot’s of rebar being bent into shapes.  Oh…and there was this thing that happened with our septic tank – but that’s another story for another day (and not in a blog post).

Anyway, all of this was getting us ready to have our first inspection – which is happening today!
So, enjoy our current view as we wait: 

If our inspector is happy, there will be a cement truck here by the end of this week, pouring the footings for the planters. As explained by Mr. Contractor, this will be the first of probably 4 different concrete pours in the process.

Really…you can’t just back the truck in and dump a whole bunch of concrete down??? *sigh*

So stay tuned…more to come. And hopefully we’ll find out what is going to happen with all of that dirt!?!
Follow along on our entire house remodel here. 

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Bureaucracy And The Hedge

For those of you following along, you’ll remember The Hedge, and if you are just joining in on our story, let me synopsize…We had a 6 foot oleander hedge. It blocked our view. And it was dying. And it was ugly. So we removed it. We thought we’d replace it with a short fence.

3 years later, and we’re demoing the existing asphalt driveway, patio and front porch and we’re starting over with a new house-level patio, a new garage and driveway. The hope is to create a beautiful indoor-outdoor living space, with relaxing and inspiring areas that can be used to write, record and play music.

After numerous revisions with the architect and the city, here is our plan:

We happily broke ground a couple of weeks ago, but I have to admit, there were many times over the past 3 years that I wanted to ditch this whole project.

Oh boy. We were so naive. We thought – all we need to do is hire a landscaper. They’ll draw up some plans. We’ll give some revisions. Then demo. Then construction. And then we’ll have our beautiful outdoor space. It should take a few months, we’ll be done by summer! Of 2015.

Well, two ‘landscapers’ (btw-what exactly is a landscaper??), two contractors, two engineers, one surveyor, one architect, many many many meetings with the city, and a neighborhood review later, and here we are – with plans, ready to be executed and implemented!

Like I said, there were many times I wanted to bail out, but there was one person whose words and encouragement got me through to this point: My mom.

Throughout my life, I watched my mom ease through interior design, landscape and construction projects with decisiveness, firmness and perseverance. She just doesn’t let frustration overwhelm her and she keeps things moving forward despite obstacles.

Many times in the past few years I’ve recalled some of my mom’s parting words as I left for college: she explained that perhaps the biggest lesson I was about to learn was how to successfully navigate through a bureaucracy. She said, if I did in fact graduate (which I did…yaya Cal Poly SLO!), that I would take with me crucial life skills, necessary to flourish in today’s economic, political and social environment. Attention to the details, following the rules, tenacity, diplomacy…all of these things would matter in every day life.

Then she explained that the next 4 years would be unlike any other time in my life, so I’d better enjoy it!

As her words would cross my mind, (usually while standing in front of a clerk at the city planning counter), it only seemed right that I resist the urge to yell obscenities back to the person asking for some random detail and another check to get me to the next step in the process…that I bite my tongue, take a deep breath, smile, and follow the rules.  Yes Mom, that college education was totally worth it!

After 18 months of city planning and neighborhood approval reviews, there was a sublime sense of victory as I crossed the last threshold of city planning before beginning our project…it was bureaucracy at it’s fullest and finest…

Since we are in a fire hazard area (aka, the entire state of California), we had to submit a “Fuel Modification Plan” to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The plan included full size architectural drawings, with every existing and projected plant identified, listed according to regional zones, along with a detail on the irrigation locations, AND a signed document stating that the plan is true, and our “covenant agreement” to water the plants.

So, I took a day out to make a fuel modification plan. And then I took another day to deliver the plans. And then they were approved…ish.

All I had to do then, was:

  1. Get our Covenant Agreement notarized:
    (Notary Public Fee: $15) 
    2. Get a cashier’s check, payable to the Los Angeles County Fire Department
    (LACFD Fee: more than $400 and less than $600) !!
    (Bank Fee for cashier’s check: $5)

    3. Go to the County Registrar’s Office to certify and file the plan
    (Certification Fee: $35)
    (Filing Fee: $17)
    (Parking: $6)

    4. Mail the cashier’s check and the Covenant Agreement to Los Angeles County…2 different offices.
    (Stamps: $.98)

I included the fees for this last step, not to be snarky (well maybe to be a little snarky), but  really, to illustrate bureaucracy at it’s fullest. These were not permit fees. These were not plan check fees. These were random, not to be expected, not outlined in the process, over and above fees…fees that went to FIVE different government entities, and a bank, and a notary.

As I sit watching the demo crew rip apart our driveway with tractors, pitchforks and jack hammers, I can’t help but feel a sense of victory. Not victory-victory. I mean, I didn’t destroy the bureaucracy. I didn’t even fight the bureaucracy. In fact, the bureaucracy is alive and well. But I navigated the bureaucracy. I worked through it.  And here I am. Smug and victorious. Watching my driveway get demoed.

Pictures coming next time!!!

And in the meantime, for more about this project, start here:  The Hedge

Thanks for following along!

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Shipping Container Studio – Crane Delivery

Our newly modified shipping container – soon to be recording studio iso-lounge – was delivered exactly three week’s ago today. I’ve been so excited to share pics and video of the delivery, but in that three week’s time, we’ve finished mixing one record, began mixing another record, shot a music video, released a single for one of our band’s, Moxi, began PR for it, went on a cruise to Alaska and demoed our entire yard – including our driveway, patio and front porch (more on that later)! Oh, and Bobby also finished tracking a few new songs and he wrote and recorded five new cues for TV.

*sigh*…we’re tired!

So, we’re settling back into normalcy, and are ready to share all the container details. A short summary of what we’re doing here…

The big picture is this: we are converting our existing garage into a studio space, which will be wired to a shipping container that sits next to the garage. The container will be a writing lounge and iso booth. The board and gear will be in the garage space.

Simple enough, yes. EXCEPT that, we are building a new garage on the opposite side of our property, and demoing the driveway (which leads to the existing garage). And the driveway had to be in tact to get the container into the place that we wanted. So, the container had to be delivered before demo day.

We bought the container from IPME in April, and worked with them to insulate the bottom of it, and to fabricate and install steel window and door frames. We kept the existing bamboo floors because they look amazing. And that was it – we didn’t go any further with the modification, because of our time constraints on delivery. Our demo crew had a hard start date, so we had to get the container in it’s place – which will leave us to handle electrical, a/c, insulation and drywall all on site.

Delivery day finally came, and while Bobby and I were stressing about the fact that a crane was going to pick up a 7000lb+ container and lift it up and over our house and set it down a foot away from a huge slope on the side of our property, the people doing the actual work were chilled out, calm, and very efficient. In fact, the whole delivery happened so fast – we couldn’t believe it, they were done about 2-1/2 hours after they started. Here’s how it all went down…

First up, the guys (aka, serious man-men), had to get the crane into place. Driving it across our driveway took some skillful maneuvering: 

We were concerned that the crane wouldn’t even make it down the driveway, but like I said, these guys are pros. We freak out backing our little car down the driveway, which, by the way has a rearview camera…the man-men just laughed at our stress faces.

Anyway, right as the crane footings were getting into place, our container showed up on a truck…

Adding to the surrealness of the day, our neighbor, Rick, who owns a towing company, was the man-man who showed up with our container!  Apparently, these guys work together all the time, so they stopped for a quick strategy convo, and then got to it:

And then, of course, Rick had to back his truck on down the driveway (don’t worry, he’s a pro man-man too):

I have to be honest here, one minute I was taking pictures of neighbor Rick untying the container, while it was on the truck, and the next minute, it was off the truck sitting on the driveway. I have no idea how it actually got off the truck. And then one minute later, they were attaching the crane straps to the top of the crane getting it ready to go: 

It was at about this moment that we were asked if anyone was in the house…which there was. We had someone inside hanging some shelves…and of course our fur babies were hiding in the bedroom. We were gently asked to make sure that everyone come outside until they were done.

It’s fine. These guys are professionals. Don’t worry. Just a precaution. *stress*

We cleared the house, and then…it’s lift off time! Up and over the house we go:

And. Just like that. Done.  Thanks Man-Men!

And now…um…how do these doors open…?

So, here it is! Check it out…double doors and a window on the main side. This main window will face into a window in the garage/studio. And we’ll have a deck built around the footing to tie it all together: 

The window on this end looks out on the LA-Long Beach harbor and over into Downtown LA.

The existing container doors will be fixed open, with another set of double doors with windows, adding to the visual length of the container and adding more light inside: 

We. Love. It!!   Time to celebrate!

Check out some video of the crane lifting the container over our house here. eee!

Now to finish this beauty out…if you’d like to follow along and see more about this shipping container remodel, check back here.



Container Modification Progress

I stopped by IPME this week to drop off some paint samples and was able to check out the progress on the container modifications. Moment. Of. Truth.  Is this gonna work? Is it gonna be cool? Functional? Worth it????

Or is it going to just be a big metal box sitting in our yard…looking like…you know…a shipping container:

Not. Cool.

Thankfully, my fears were completely put to rest and my expectations were far surpassed. The container is amazing! It is a 20’high cube (9-1/2’high as opposed to the standard 8’high) – and with the window modifications we’re making, it already feels open and spacious.

Craig Rapoza, the COO at IPME, and Brian Tanzer, the Sales Manager, took me on a little tour and filled me in on their progress. These guys are great people to work with – full of ideas, extremely flexible, and super upbeat. Craig designed the steel doors and window frames – which will be the focal point of the space. 

Before they made the cuts for the windows and doors, the container had to be crane-lifted on to these supports, so the foam insulation could be sprayed underneath. This will help to keep the sound down inside the container:

We decided to have all of the window frames set out about 2 inches from the container and the doors – this will give a little bit of dimension and adds another solid industrial feature to the exterior. 

There will be two sets of double doors like these. One on this side as shown – which will open to 120°. And another set will be installed just inside the container doors at the end. The container doors will be affixed open at 90° and, together with a little porch that we’ll install after delivery, will add about four linear feet to the container’s length. These doors were tack-welded on so I could see what they would look like:

On this opposite end, there will be a huge picture window, with a steel frame to match the one on the side. And we also put a 6’horizontal window on what we’re calling the canyon side – so we can…you know…see out to the canyon.  

You may have read last week’s post about our flooring questions. The vote tally so far is to go with a gray linoleum with a white herringbone plank woven in on one end of the container. But since then, we found out that the existing container floor is painted bamboo.  It looks pretty great at the moment – but may be a little dark. So, we’re gonna live with it and see how we feel about it once it’s delivered. 

This next week, IPME will finish the window and door frames, install the 1/2″ glass, and then paint the exterior…everything will be painted a dark charcoal color…except for the chrome bars on the container doors and the Customs Seal…we’ll leave that as is…legit: 

And then, a simple delivery, with a crane-lifted install. Over our garage. No big deal. Unless the crane tips and falls into the canyon. I’m not nervous about it all.

If you’d like to see more about this shipping container remodel, check here.



Shipping Container Floors

We pulled the trigger on our Shipping Container Studio Space!!
Last week, we bought a brand new 20′ high cube container, which will eventually find it’s home in our yard near our old garage. Together, the garage and the container will become a great writing room for Bobby and CatBeach Music. Here is a little mock-up I pulled together:

We bought the container from IPME, who helped us nail down the specifics of the modifications we’re making, including the steel framed windows and doors they are fabricating for us. IPME is also spraying foam insulation to the bottom exterior of the container, and handling the exterior paint. We plan to finish out the container interior ourselves.

Our first decision on the interior is to finalize our flooring choice. While the floors will be the last thing installed, we have to decide what we’re using and how they will be installed now as this will inform IPME where to place the door frames.

The container comes with bamboo subfloors, which some people finish as their final flooring. We love using natural materials, so the obvious choice for us would be to go with bamboo. But we decided to do something a little different and a little more playful.

We’ve been hearing about this resurgence of linoleum, so we thought we’d check it out. We went to Linoleum City in Hollywood and learned all about this wonder product. First of all,  much to our amazement, linoleum is a raw, all-natural, biodegradable material made of linseed oil (the oil in flax), pine resin and wood flour. Who knew!?  Second, there are some new linoleum manufacturers offering modern colors, textures and designs. Very cool!  And lastly, yes, you can still find the weird dull-colors and plastic-y looking tiles that we all remember from the 70’s.  No thanks!

After looking through hundreds of choices, we narrowed our search down to a manufacturer called Forbo Marmoleum. They have some really fun colors and potential applications that caught our eye. We really like their flat sheet linoleum product called Marmoleum Walton Uni – in the color called ‘Paving’. It has virtually no texture to it, and will be applied in one sheet. Here is an example: 

We like the idea of just a gray floor that mimics concrete, but we also like the idea of doing something a little playful with the floors. The great thing about this product is that you can get super creative with the floor design. We played around with a few marmoleum tile options flowing into the gray sheet, and created some tile patterns the appear inside of the gray sheet.

Take a look at these 3 options and let me know which one you like best in the comments!

OPTION #1:

OPTION #2:

OPTION #3:

Thanks for giving me your feedback. I’ll be posting updates on the container build – so check back here to follow along!

 



The Emmy’s, A Shipping Container, and One Heavy Jacuzzi

Do you ever have those seasons where it feels like the whole world opens up and gives you green lights…all at the same time?

We are in a ‘go-time’ right now, and honestly, we’re just trying our best to keep up, while we meet all of our commitments and have some fun along the way!

Last weekend was no joke, but we made it out alive.  The most glamorous and enjoyable moment was when we walked the red carpet at the 2017 Emmy Awards! Bobby and his co-writer, Daena Jay, were nominated for an Emmy – Best Original Song – Daytime. This was the second nom in a row for this songwriting team. They didn’t take home the award this year, but we certainly had fun celebrating all things music and television.

But, before we threw on our fancies, Bobby and I went over to IPME, and bought ourselves a brand new shipping container. Yes, a shipping container. You know, the big steel boxes that travel around the world on freight liners. A container that will be delivered into our yard in three weeks. The yard that is right next to our house. Where the shipping container will stay forever and ever.

I’m a little timid about the idea. Does it show?

Ok, actually, in spite of my reservations, I’m pretty excited about this project. We’re modifying the heck out of the container, with custom steel windows and doors, and added soundproofing and lighting. And then we’re going to tether it to our garage – which, all together will make up a nice studio space at our house. Here is a first draft Sketchup of what we’re planning: 

More sketches and pictures of the container mod to come. But in the meantime, we needed to make room in our aforementioned yard for the container. It’s landing place was occupied by an above ground jacuzzi…so we had to find a new home for the spa asap. Thankfully, our friends Tom and Christy were looking to add a jacuzzi to their backyard. And within a matter of days, Tom brought his friend Tulio over to tackle the transport.

They had it on it’s side before I could even grab the camera…but here are some snaps of the process: 

Upon close inspection, there was some termite damage to the bottom frame. 

Tom will have to build a new frame before installing it over at their house. 

The guys stopped to have a brain storming session about how to get the jacuzzi from here, into the truck. Seems it was just a smidge too heavy to carry. 

‘Let’s back up the trailer and flip it side over side onto the flatbed:’

I’m pretty sure I was sipping on a nice glass of rose at this moment. 

As the guy’s were finishing up, I looked at the space that the 8 foot-wide truck was sitting in, contemplating the 8 foot-wide (and 9’6″ tall) shipping container that would soon fill the space. And I noticed something….

As you can see from this angle below, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to getting the container past the roof…and not tipping down the slope. (And no, it can’t be crained in…we’ve got above ground telephone wires…thanks a lot Palos Verdes). 

Rest assured, pictures have been sent to people far smarter than I. I’m confident there is some three-armed container lift or some other monster that will handily solve this delivery problem. Right!?

The only issue after that will be for anyone who wants to remove the container…because this driveway will be long gone, and replaced with a cement patio that sits about 3 feet higher than the ground.

Nothing to worry about here. Just breathe. It will be fine. 

And with that…off goes the jacuzzi to Tom and Christy’s for a new life! 

Well, obviously, going to the Emmy’s was the best part of the weekend, but still, there was something thrilling about pulling the trigger on the container, and beginning to get the space ready for it.

I have a feeling the next few months are going to be a site to see….stay tuned!



Moxi On Vinyl – DREAM FEED

DreamFeedCover

This cover art speaks everything I’m feeling right now. Spring is happening in an electric way all around…and I can barely keep up. We have so many projects that are at various stages of growth – and we’re anxiously cultivating and coaxing and grooming them. If all goes well, I’ll spend the next year sharing new creations – beautiful sounds, visuals and spaces – a year’s worth of rebirth and renewal.

We are kicking off this new season with a tribute to our favorite dream pop band, Moxi, and to indie music’s coveted Record Store Day. A compilation of their first two EP’s – ‘In My Dreams’ and ‘Through The Dark’ – in one luscious pink vinyl LP, designed by Matt Champagne.  Details below!

MOXI ON VINYL!
Record Store Day – SO CAL Special

Just in time for Record Store Day, 2017, Moxi is releasing their first two EP’s on collector’s edition vinyl.
Dream Feed is available now, exclusively, for the special price of $16.99 at our fave local record stores:

Crème Tangerine – Costa Mesa
Third Eye Records – Long Beach
Fingerprints – Long Beach
Amoeba Records – Hollywood
Permanent Records – Echo Park

Please pay a visit to one of these fine record shops and get some Moxi love!



And Over Here In Project Planning Land …

The first quarter of 2017 is such a blur.
But I gotta say, it was (and continues to be) a productive and rather focused season in the studio. We’re gearing up to release loads of new music with a bunch of fantastically talented artists – and we’re excited to share!!

Meanwhile, as Bobby’s been holed up at CatBeach – doing his thing, I’ve been in project planning mode (one of my favorite places to be). I’m still working on initial details on a bunch of plans, but I just can’t wait to get started…so, I thought I’d give a few sneaks…1) First up is this super fun shipping container retrofit that we’re installing on the side of our house, overlooking a huge canyon and the LA city lights. The container will be a multi-use space primarily focused as a writing room, complete with a set up to record vocals. Bobby and our friend Craig, of Rook and Render, dreamt up this whole thing last year. And I laughed. These two have LOT’S of ideas and this was just one that I figured would come and go. And then, I received this little mock-up. And I knew…this thing is happening. And now, here we are…fine-tuning some details and hopefully placing an order for a new shipping container this week!

 

2) Behind the scenes, I am working on a little re-branding of Catbeach Music. We love our hand drawings of Bobby and some of his gear, which is the mark in our logo, but we’re looking to freshen it up a bit with new lettering and color palette. And I’ve got a new website and catalog database in the works as well. I just love the way these little details can come together to launch our business to the next level.

 

3) If you’ve been following along here on Records, Rockets and Rosemary, you know that we’ve been working on a house remodel for a few years, which started with a dream to create an indoor-outdoor living space. This project got stuck in the city planning department, so we put it on hold for about a year. But our plans are back at the city, complete with a new drainage plan for the entire property. We’re hoping to break ground with a two-week demo schedule starting in May.

 

4) And lastly, I’m learning all about designing rooms for accessibility – making spaces comfortable and useable for everyone. “The Accessible Home” by Deborah Pierce is a great resource.  We’re looking at ways to make my brother-in-law’s home a better fit for his lifestyle. We just installed this elevator lift and we have plans to modernize his bathrooms and kitchen. So fun!!

I’m just getting started on all of these projects. I’ll post details along the way, so follow here and let me know if you have any questions about the planning, process, or vendors!



How Many People Does It Take To Hang A Light?

How many people does it take to hang a light?   Well, in our case 6. It took SIX people and four months to hang our new pendant lights.

So, I do realize that hanging pendant lights in a kitchen is a very normal and very easy project. Normal and easy that is, when the lights are normal…and easy. But not normal and easy when you are me, and this me picks out not normal and not easy pendant lights.

I, instead, picked out beautifully cast brass lights, which were handcrafted at Futagami, a brass foundry in Japan. When my lights arrived last summer, I could hardly hold back my glee. We hadn’t even started demo on our kitchen, but I would regularly take them out of their little resting box and picture them hanging over the island, offering a very kind and welcoming light.

What I did not know in all of my glee, was how difficult installing these lights would prove to be. There were a series of problems that we had to work through.  And it took a small army of people to find solutions. While I loved the idea that these gorgeous art pieces came all the way across the world from a distant land via an ancient practice…that, in fact, was also the source of most of our install issues.

1. To start, the lights were delivered without any electrical housing or wiring – as you can see from the pic above of the lights straight out of their delivery box. So I valiantly sat myself down in front of the computer and searched until I found the pieces that we needed from Vintage Wire and Supply. *Note: Person Number 1 (Me!). I chose a twisted wire with bronze antique housing and cord grips. Here’s a pic of the new wiring:

And, then we discovered a series of problems, all of which were beyond my excellent internet searching skills: 

To resolve the next few issues, Bobby and our contractor Craig, both searched high and low for non-standard mounting pipe sizes, metric threaded pipes, and just in case that didn’t work, alternate cross bar and junction box sizes. I’m pretty sure they went to every electrical store in Los Angeles. And they returned with lot’s of options. None of which worked. *sigh*
*For the record, that is Persons 2 and 3. And Person 4 was an electrician, who, in the meantime, cut the drywall holes for the junction boxes and pulled the wiring to the holes. 

And then, we were stuck.

And, as has happened many times in my life, it was Dad to the rescue. I was complaining about all of the barriers I was facing, and he asked me to bring all of the pieces up to his shop in Ventura. We did so. And then ran the other way…

A few week’s later, Bobby and I went to visit him and get an update. To our surprise, we didn’t just get an update, we got solutions!

To start, he fabricated these circular white plates from a metal sign he found by the side of the road. The plates would go in between the canopy and the drywall and would cover the junction box hole. Problem #2 solved!

Then, he showed us how he cut down a special crossbar that he found, which matched the thread on these special brass pipes that he also found. All that was left to do, was to re-thread the canopy so it would fit the pipe and the crossbar. Problems 3 and 4 – check! 

It was at this point that my Dad passed the baton to my oldest brother Dave, another problem solver and ultimate optimist. He tackled the last problem regarding the junction box hole and finished out the install.

Dave has this handy tool…a saw that shaves out a specific depth of wood. So he set the saw to a depth that would be sufficient to house the box and began shaving.  And me. I helped. I can hold a flashlight like nobody’s business.  Problem 5 – solved, check, done!

All that was left to do was to wire the lights, set the junction boxes and plates over the holes and set the lights to the right matching height. 

Here you can see how the plates blend right in to the ceiling. A little caulking will easily hide the shadow at the edge of the plate:

Moment of truth…go to closet, get some light bulbs…and yes…we have light!

I woke up the next morning, and found a return to the glee I had when I first set my eyes on these beauts.
4 months and 6 people later. It took a team of creative thinkers. People who didn’t require me to take the easy way out (as in – return these crazy lights and buy standard lights from Lamps Plus). That is how many people it takes. 6 creative and handy people. And I love them all so much (well, maybe not the electrician…).

Thanks for stopping by. Read more about this remodel here!



Soapstone Love

The best part of a remodel is, of course, picking out the finishes. We knew we wanted to focus on white oak for the cabinets, which would blend in beautifully with the lightened pine floors. But it took us a few go arounds to finally land on the material for the counters. We wanted to keep the kitchen rustic, with a modern touch. We liked the look of concrete, but felt like it was maybe a bit too hard. We wanted a natural stone rather than synthetic. We wanted something with a bit of movement in it’s finish, nothing too sleek. And we wanted the color palette to remain neutral.

We were introduced to the idea of soapstone, a natural metamorphic rock, that contains talc and magnesium. There are harvests of gray, gray-green and black colored stone, with beautiful lines of talc running through the slabs. We discovered that soapstone is an ancient stone that has been used in science labs for centuries due to it’s durability and it’s ability to withstand bacteria from raw foods and can handle great variances in temperature. AND the best part, it’s virtually maintenance free. Soap and water…that’s it!

I researched the few local distributors of soapstone, and found one in Ventura that grabbed my attention. Stone West has loads of different slabs and lot’s of the stone. And they also explained that you can either finish the stone with an oil, which makes it darker and sleeker, and hides grease stains, OR you can leave the stone at it’s natural finish.  I decided to take a drive up the coast and check out their stock. Here are some samples…you’ll notice that they range in color from lighter gray, to green-y gray and even black:
We ended up choosing a slab of Barroca soapstone, which comes from Brazil. Here’s our slab in the raw: 

And just a few weeks later, it was delivered to us, cut and honed, with a flat corner edge. Here are some pics of the install:  

And here is the final product. We love them so so much! If you are looking for a rustic alternative to concrete, granite or marble – check out some soapstone! 

Check out more info on our remodel…!