Category Archives: House Remodel

Stuck On These Cabinets

cabs5Welcome to my Writer’s Block. Or let’s call it my own personal War of Art. Or perhaps I will just start by simply saying, I’m stuck…I don’t know how to begin this post, and I don’t know exactly how to say what I want to say.

This post is about our new kitchen cabinets – the focal point and foundation of our kitchen remodel. And the truth is, I’ve been thinking about this particular post since I started blogging. And I haven’t posted anything in two weeks because I’ve been just thinking about this one post.

Without sounding too precious, I love these cabinets so much, and I feel immense pressure to honor them and the artisans who built them, by capturing all of their beautiful details in just the right way.  Ok…I know…that is slightly over the top. But, I don’t care. I love them. And my stuck-ness is because I love them. I am stuck on them. I am stuck on my kitchen cabinets.

So, here I am, sitting at my computer. Still stuck. And I need to just power through and write…just get on with it.  This is just a post about kitchen cabinets after all!  So here goes:

Our kitchen remod began, as all good remods do, with hours and hours on Pinterest. I was drawn to the rustic-nordic-modern designs, and found a number of beautiful bespoke cabinet designs that I loved…that were unfortunately built in England…like this beauty from Plain English Design:20_pe_osea_2-1-1145x763

Or this lovely from DeVol Kitchensdevol-shaker-1

We actually looked into working with these companies, but in the end, between labor + materials + shipping, it was above our price point. I’ve since heard that both of these companies are beginning to deal directly to the US, and I would highly recommend them!

After months of dreaming and pinning, we sat down with our contractor, Craig, to chat about this particular design direction. We had met with different local millworkers to discuss our project – but I kept getting cold feet. I really liked the rustic nature of bespoke shaker cabinets, but I was afraid that something would be lost in translation and that we would end up with cabinets that were more standard contemporary and not rustic. The lines were just too close for me. In the end, Bobby and Craig encouraged me to really go after what I wanted…not to settle. And that is what I did. I went back to the Pinterest/World Wide Web drawing board, and I found my ultimate design inspiration from an article about Rene Redzepi’s home kitchen. Rene is the chef of a restaurant in Denmark called Noma that we hope to visit someday. He enlisted Garde Hvalsoe to build his cabinets…and I just fell in love with their unique millwork and design. I hadn’t really seen anything like it before – and I could visualize the way it would come together in our home.  But once again, this company is based in Europe.  *hmph*

So, with Bobby and Craig’s encouragement sitting fresh in my mind, I drew up my own plans for white-oak cabinets with dovetail details, lot’s of drawers for my daily-use items, open shelves, and huge storage spaces inside the island and pantry.  Craig brought in a killer artisan millworker, Carlos Lopez, who completely understood what we were going for.  This guy is designing and building for some of the best new restaurant start-ups in L.A. And somehow, we were able to get his team in on our project and they were able to bring my dream kitchen into reality.

Finally, I’m so excited to share some pics of the cabinets and our almost complete kitchen!   I’ll start with the island – it’s the perfect place to congregate while we’re cooking…and I can’t even explain the vast amounts of storage space that it provides: cabs4

The other side of the island is my working triangle between the sink, refrigerator, and stovetop. It also has a new warming drawer, dishwasher and open shelves for cutting boards and cookbooks:
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The bank of cabinets along the wall is made up of all drawers on each side of the stove/oven combo. We found that the drawers actually make storage of daily items more accessible and organized. At the end of the wall is a beautiful pantry with pull-out drawers and shelves for things we want to keep out of the way, like the microwave:
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We added in this great little seating area next to the island, in front of the tri-fold doors, which now open to the patio – it’s the perfect spot for our morning coffee! You can also see a preview of our temporary redwood steps (new patio will be in remodel phase 2 – coming in 2017), and our new exterior paint color: cabs8cabs9cabs14Oh my gosh. It feels so good to finally share these cabinet details with y’all. If you want to read more about our kitchen remod, check out some of my other posts!  And some serious thanks to Craig and Carlos for their beautiful workmanship!!!



Refinishing Floors: Not Glamorous But High Impact.

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About half way through demoing our living room and kitchen, our contractor mentioned that our floors were going to need some serious work…there were repairs to some of the planks and we needed to lace in new planks to fill areas previously covered by cabinets. That led us to address some serious concerns about the yellowed-out finish of the floors – how would that look with our new white oak cabinets? And…while we were at it, the ceiling beams needed to be sandblasted to bring out their natural color.

Welcome to Project Creep.

I should be honest here. The project manager in me was 100% against these ideas. We hadn’t budgeted or prepared for this costly and messy plan. I knew this would probably double the timeframe of the remodel and I was not happy about the last minute clearing of 3/4 of our furniture into the garage.

Thankfully, my husband, who naturally explores ideas with great creativity and freedom,  gently pushed me to see the importance of tackling the floors and the beams. He explained that in the end these would be the finishing touches that would pull our whole vision together. And that even though we didn’t plan for it, now was the perfect time to do it – we were already living like we were back in a dorm room…so let’s just go for it!

Our first step was to find more pieces of our existing wood floors – a Southern Yellow Pine. We were able to track down the company, Authentic Reclaimed Flooring, where the original planks came from. We needed about 200 sq. feet, which they were able to send out to us the next day.

What I didn’t know, was to make sure that the delivery included a pallet jack delivery all the way into our house. Instead, the driver pulled the pallets off the truck and dropped them in the driveway, leaving them for us to deal with. Rookie move. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, these gardening shears did not cut the metal ties… floors2Bobby to the rescue…tin snips…that’s how you cut metal ties… floors3 floors4 floors5While Bobby brought in the lumber, I secured some help to pack up the kitchen items. Those would be the same kitchen items that I had previously moved into the dining room. My great initial strategy to avoid packing everything up, turned into double the work. I only cussed once. Or twice.  floors14Next, time to move all of the furniture to the garage…thankful for friends…floors15And now, let the fun begin…
Our contractor, Craig, outlined the needed repairs with Francisco – perhaps the most diligent and hard working flooring specialist around. First step was to fill in all of the open sub-flooring areas, then replace any damaged planks with new: floors6 floors7 floors8This was the last we saw of our floors before we packed up our pups and hightailed it right on out of town. It’s ok, let the sand fly, we’ll be here for the next month (at my in-laws house!):floors13We received some photo updates along the way…new planks laced in to the old:floors16Bringing in new planks right up to the new cabinets:floors17Next Francisco began the refinishing, by first sanding off all of the old varnish:floors9After he sanded the floors a few times, he had to break for the ceiling sandblasting. We don’t have any pictures of the sandblast process, but basically, just picture sand being blasted at full speed and power, at the ceiling. No big deal.
Anyway, once that was all done, Francisco returned to add 2 coats of Bona’s Nordic Tone to create a whitewashed effect and to keep the floors from yellowing: floors18He finished with another two coats of polyurethane for some protection:
floors10 floors11And now…this is the part of the story, where I look up at the beautiful rustic beams, and I look down at the gorgeous whitewashed pine floors, and I acknowledge that my husband is a genius…I can’t even explain how much I love the results.
And yes, it was all worth it! floors12See the full progress on our house remodel here.



Window Splurge

One of the features that drew us to our home was the panoramic view from the main living space, kitchen and dining room. It’s something that we are extremely thankful for and appreciate every single day.

We have some pretty great picture windows to frame that view. But what can I say, we wanted more! So our kitchen remodel actually began with some new windows – which would not only increase our sight lines, but would also be the first step in creating an indoor-outdoor living space.
Here are the two main changes we set out to make: windows2 windows4

Our contractor, Craig Gore, brought out my favorite dynamic duo, Chase and Perkins, from Perkins Construction, to handle the window install. We picked out a beautiful tri-fold door from La Cantina and a Milgard picture window + awning  window unit.
We began with the La Cantina trifold.  First step: removing the wood siding and preparing to cut into the wall. Note: it was at about this moment that we found out about the subterranean termites who had been squatting inside the walls (Unforeseen Issue #1). Cut to me heading straight to the phone to secure termite treatment.
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After conferencing about the termites, the old window came out, and the guys cut the new hole. Next up, waterproofing the new opening with flashing: windows7

Due to the size, weight and movement of the tri-fold panel door system, we had to install an 8′ structural header: windows9

The guys laid out the frame for the tri-fold door before the final install. And Chase is just about ready to tear down the siding for the new Milgard window: windows10

Unfortunately, when they went to install the Milgard, Perkins discovered that the frame had been damaged during delivery. So, instead of the new window, we had a nice boarded up window until a Milgard rep could come take a look (Unforeseen Issue #2). Between the plywood and the trash pile, I’m sure the neighbors were beginning to mumble amongst themselves:windows14

About a week later, Milgard sent out a team to come look at the window frame. I showed them out to the garage, where the window was stored. I went back inside, and just about one minute later I heard a nice loud crash (Unforeseen Issue #3):windows21

I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but I’ll just leave it at that.
About 10 days later, the new window was delivered (Thanks Milgard!), and the plywood was gone:windows15 windows16

Thankfully, we didn’t run into any unforeseen issues with the La Cantina door. Here it is with it’s gorgeous bronze finish on the exterior. And the black flashing gave us a good idea of what this side of the house would look like if we painted it charcoal (eeee! dare we!?):
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Lyle and Phoebe were instant fans of the big huge opening that the doors provide…they don’t mind the two foot drop, but alas, stage 2 of this remodel will be pouring a new patio to be flush with the house.  windows13

Bobby is also a fan of the open indoor-outdoor feel. This was a calm moment before the final kitchen demo:
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And finally, here is the La Cantina after demo…looking all beautiful and happy.windows18

One thing to be sure of when you start a remodel, there will be unforeseen issues. So remember to just breathe…it’s not the end of the world…and choose to exercise grace and patience! This will carry you through to each moment, when your project starts coming together – and it’s even better than you thought it would be!

See all the progress on our house remodel here.



Impatience Is A Virtue

impatience1I am not a patient person. It is perhaps the worst of my fatal flaws. Often times I make decisions simply because I want a decision to be made, not because I have taken time to think through the possible options.
I think my impatience stems from a serious hate of waiting. Waiting is the worst. The worst.  I remember having the biggest baddest tantrum of all time out in front of the public library when I was about 6 years old….because the library was not open…yet. I think my mom wanted to leave to take me to the movie theatre and was offering to bring me back to the library after the movie…but I was inconsolable. I had my heart set on going to the library and nothing else would do. My poor mom.

Somehow, I married the most patient man I’ve ever met. Bobby sails through life, without placing any pressure on people or situations. Through our various renovations, he is always a picture of calm…so whenever we get the inevitable, “it won’t be here for another week” notice, I look to him to set the tone in response and I try my best to copy his demeanor.

Now…without going so far as to brag about my ultimate character downfall, I have to say, there are times when my severe impatience works for me. It’s true, impatience can actually be a virtue – at least according to Jim Stone, PhD and Psychology Today. The good doctor says that impatience is “triggered under certain circumstances, which motivates specific kinds of decisive action.” That’s a good thing-right!? He also finds that impatience can motivate us to switch our goals, and can benefit us if we see that a project is going nowhere or is stuck, and we accept it, move on and start working on something else.

I found myself in this very circumstance earlier this year, when our outdoor landscape project was at an indefinite standstill.  Once we had decided to remove the infamous hedge, we hired an architect and ended up broadening the scope of the project to an entirely new patio, a garage-to-studio conversion, a new garage, new driveway and the landscape. The project was now stuck in the city’s plan check and neighborhood review, and I was beginning to lose my mind in all of the minutia and snail’s pace.  Bobby would hear me mumbling to myself on more than one or nine occasions: “All I freaking wanted was to get rid of that stupid hedge.”

I was at the end of my patience rope, and I marched out to the living room to declare to Bobby that we had to move on. I assured him that I would continue pushing our outside project down the line with the city, but that I was going to start a full kitchen remodel immediately. Within the week, we had a bid from our contractor and thus began our new project.

And 5 months later, here we are…DEMO days! impatience2 impatience3impatience5impatience6impatience7impatience8impatience9impatience10impatience11impatience12More to come on the planning and design. Stay tuned!
For more on this house remodel, check out:
Why Demo A Perfectly Good Kitchen
The Hedge



Why Demo A Perfectly Good Kitchen?

Kitchen-before-3For those of you following along, you’ll remember that whole story about the hedge. I’m going to come back to that in future posts, but today, I’m jumping ahead about 9 months and bringing us into the present.
We are in the middle of a kitchen – living room remodel. When we began the project, we interviewed a number of contractors and their various trades, and we would consistently get confused stares when they walked into our house.

‘You’re planning to demo this kitchen???  Why would you do that??’

Check out our kitchen and living room before pics and you may be asking yourself the same questions…Island-Before

Kitchen-Before-2Living-BeforeLiving-Room-BeforeI have to admit, this caused us to stop in our tracks and question our plans and motives. What exactly were we chasing? Was this a ridiculous waste of money? Were we trying to keep up with some imaginary family out there who seemingly had everything we always wanted?

We took time to sort through these questions which helped us to narrow down our goals and set a design direction that would prove to be key to the whole process.

First, we realized that our desire was to create a space that reflected ‘us’. While researching styles and finishes, we found that we could easily end up with the same exact kitchen…just a slightly updated version of it. Don’t get me wrong, along with you, I love a beautiful set of shaker cabinets, coupled with a marble countertop…but I’ve always had the desire to be slightly different than prevailing trends. So we got really excited when we freed ourselves up to fight for whimsical and unique finishes, complemented with modern, clean lines and honest textures and surfaces.

Second, we identified some major design and functionality issues that needed correction, the biggest of which was in the open floor plan. The kitchen overall and the spaces between counters were actually too wide, leaving a lot of open, unusable floor space, and creating a very inefficient work triangle. And the living room, though nice-sized was slightly too small…it was a little bit too big for what it was and a little bit too small for something more. We decided to rearrange the kitchen layout while also taking some space from it and adding it to the living room.
The next major issue was that cabinets lined every single wall in the kitchen and living room.  We didn’t have any wall space. Not a single wall. That may not seem like a big deal, but that means we would have to subscribe to the cabinets being our only sense of creativity or personality f.o.r.e.v.e.r. …No chance of changing things up with a new piece of art or interesting found objects.  The minute we began talking about removing the cabinets, I felt like I could breathe easier…it was like I could see the whole space becoming lighter. The cabinets, along with the hedge…goners!
And the last thing to be addressed were our double doors leading down and out to the patio. Patio-Steps-beforeI’m not sure how to describe the doors and the steps they led out to, other than to say that they were ill-conceived. One designer looked us right in the eye and declared that the whole step-door situation was ‘disturbing‘.  At first I was sort of offended, but then I understood…there was something about the layout that made the whole patio uninviting. We’ve had many dinner parties with the double doors wide open, but our guests remained inside each and every time. It was as if the steps held some sort of imaginary barrier keeping people locked away from the scary outdoors.  So, we decided to make a wider opening to the patio…and to raise the entire patio about 2-1/2 feet to meet the raised foundation level of the house – so eventually, it will be a true indoor-outdoor space…and now we’re talking a whole second stage to our project…and that’s a whole other story….I hope you join me for all of the fun and somewhat daunting tidbits!



The Hedge.

Hedge64 years ago, Bobby and I bought a ranch style home on the west side of Los Angeles. The lot has a sweeping view looking over the Port of Los Angeles, down the coast to Orange County, and all the way across to Downtown LA, Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign – with the San Gabriel mountains making their appearance on clear days.

This view is so stunning, it almost didn’t matter what the inside of the house looked like, but thankfully, it was basically a stunner as well. Though not necessarily our style, the house had an open floor plan with traditional built-in cabinets throughout, accompanied by red brick ‘backsplashes’ and wood beams on the ceilings to contribute to a ranchy-cabin feel.
We decided that we would move in without making any changes, and let the house ‘speak to us’ over time. And wow, it’s had a lot to say! But the very first thing it said to me was ‘Get rid of the hedge…like, immediately!’
Now, our hedge was of the perfectly normal oleander variety…and by normal,  I mean a very pedestrian, sort of 1970’s hedge…one that you would find lining the side of every single freeway in Southern California. Well, that hedge, occupied the bottom portion of our 180° view. So every time I looked out any window of our house, I peered over the top of it…like in the picture above…

Or this:Hedge2

Ok. I get it.
Who cares about the hedge when you have such a killer view, right!? And it provides a perfectly sweet backdrop for visiting peacocks.
But, once you stepped down to ground level, the 5-foot hedge completely consumed the view. And if you looked closely, you’d notice that half of the hedge was in fact, a big bush of tall dead branches…an apparent victim of a bacterium carried by an insect that is assaulting oleander plants across the southland. Really, the hedge was just a big ugly dead wall:Hedge3

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And if those weren’t reasons enough to cause my griping, oleander happens to be poisonous to both humans and dogs…the same two species occupying this property.
So, though I did not have a plan in place, one thing was clear to me…the hedge had to go! And go it did…eventually.

And there begins the tale of the Hartry Shack Reno…I hope you’ll follow along as I share project details and updates, pitfalls and insights.