Category Archives: Spaces

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.



Rewiring Our Creativity

studiorewire3Earlier this year, we decided that it was time for a major overhaul in Bobby’s recording space, CatBeach Studio. He was running into issues with software upgrades and hardware compatibility, not to mention the wiring throughout the studio needed some love and care. Bobby spent months researching gear and thinking through the right workflow for this particular space and his recording and producing needs.

The first piece of gear that Bobby decided on was the Neve 5060 Centerpiece Desktop Mixer. It’s analog, class-A circuitry definitely ups the quality of the monitoring signal path in the studio and gives great flexibility for summing audio in the analog realm. Just running the source tracks through the tried and true Neve transformers makes everything sound bigger and better. The board has a nice transport control for Pro Tools and also, can we all just note how ridiculously cool it’s design is!? 5060-straight-tall-1024x722To work alongside the Neve, Bobby bought two Avid Artist Mixes, basically providing hands on control with Pro Tools. For many producers and mixers, including Bobby, it’s important to have a nice tactile surface for fader and pan controls, without using a standard mouse. We decided to install two of these, which work together to give 16 physical faders that can be banked, allowing access to the maximum number of PT channels that each session requires.

artistmix_stackedAfter picking out the main pieces, we decided that we wanted to have a custom desk built that would accommodate the modules while giving them a built-in look. We found this incredible millwork artisan, Brandon at Monkwood Studio. He was game to come up with a solution to fit these pieces in to a custom walnut desk. I dropped by his shop in Fullerton, CA to get a sneak peak and saw the beautiful maple slab that he formed into the main desk unit. He showed me his plans for the custom pieces and how they would fit onto the main desk. And…check out his shark-shaped tool wall. studiorewire9studiorewire8studiorewire7Brandon delivered the desk with two rackgear units that each have 6 rack spaces. Lot’s of room and flexibility to determine the best workflow, right at Bobby’s fingertips. studiorewire6After playing around with configuration options, here’s what we put in each rackgear unit on top of the desk: 1) For recording guitars, the signal flow includes: BAE 512A mic pre’s and Chandler TG2 mic pre’s;  2) For recording vocals, the signal flow includes: Vintech X73 mic pre into the vintage UREI 1176 (in wall rack), into an Inward Connections Brute limiter. Also, notice how the two Artist Mixes and the Neve console can easily be removed from the desktop if needed. Thanks Brandon! studiorewire4As we were determining workflow, we pulled up the flooring and pulled out all of the old wiring. We installed new patch bays and cable runs which allows for greater future flexibility and better overall work flow.  It’s amazing how much wiring we ran under the floor to accommodate new gear, and even just to reposition gear in the room.studiorewire5And finally, we made new cable runs from the racks on the desk to the new patch bays in the wall racks. The rack in the picture above features the Apogee Symphony – another new addition. This rack also features a mix of vintage units: Gates Sta-Level, old Telefunken EQ’s and pre’s, and an old Blackface 1176, with modern units: Manley Elop and Massive Passive,  and an Empirical Labs Distressor.studiorewire10studio2 studio3At the end of this project, we sat back and marveled at the craftsmanship and beauty of the studio and recognized that the creativity of other artisans could breed creativity in us, if we let it. Rather than shying away from the change, or staying stuck in our own workflow and systems, we chose to embrace, and even encouraged, a new way.
So, all of the work that went into creating each piece of gear and fitting it perfectly together, is now all working to breathe new life into Bobby’s songwriting, guitar-playing and producing. This guy is inspired with new sounds and stretched to investigate new ideas. We can’t wait to start sharing the sounds and songs coming out of the fresh and sparkly CatBeach Studio!

Check out more details on the CatBeach Studio Project.



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 Power Of Fresh Paint

Studio-BeforeWe set plans in motion at the beginning of this year to upgrade Bobby’s recording space, CatBeach Studio.

After months of research, we purchased the new rig, new components, new wiring, and a few specialty items (details to come in a later post!). We spent weeks rendering the specifics of the workflow and how it would best be accomplished through the wall rack spaces and through potential new desk rack spaces.

After looking at a multitude of new studio desks, we decided to commission a local millworker to build a custom desk for the new rig.  And with the commission, came a wait time of a few months…to be expected for the custom order. So, there we were with all of the new gear and it’s wiring, sitting in the garage, just…waiting.

Anyone who knows me, knows that once I’ve instigated a project, I have a hard time waiting. I like to see progress. I like the movement and experience of the gradual change that comes with each step.  So, I decided to switch around the project schedule a bit, to grant me some much needed project satisfaction. I attacked the final interior design decisions, which definitely gave us the feeling of being in an entirely new space.

Check out the Before + During + Afters here:
Here is the CatBeach Studio control room before pic. As our loving studio-rat/bass-monkey/taste-maker, Jonathan Ahrens said, ‘something about the studio brought us all right back to the set of ‘Friends’, circa 1996.’ CatBeach-Studio-Before

Can’t you just picture Ross and Rachel now…?

Ok, so I addressed the couch first. The little 80’s heart-shaped love seat was actually ridiculously comfortable…so it was hard to say goodbye, but well, it was time…oh, and those arms – they took up half of the room! We replaced it with a 6′ leather sofa from RH…perfect for the space…this picture is a luxurious 8′, but you get the idea:
Sorensen Couch

The next major thing to address was the wall color in the control room and hallways. The walls were various shades of happy yellows and greens.  It was time to change the mood. I wanted to go with something more dramatic, that would bring out the beautiful wood grain in the wall racks and in the new desk. We deliberated over 3 potential shades:Studio paint Color

In the end, we went with the one in the middle – Benjamin Moore’s Baby Seal Black.
And then, the final detail for this step in the project, was to update the white registers on the wall. We decided on some hefty mission-style chrome registers from Signature Hardware. I forgot to order them in brushed stainless, which led to this little Saturday morning project:Studio-Register

We installed the registers in their newly painted walls…and that was all I needed to feel the rush of satisfaction and a sense that this Studio Remod was moving forward. Here’s a sneak peak of the studio to this point:
Studio-Couch

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Our friend, Daena Jay, loves it and is soaking it all in while writing the next big hit. Yeow! DaenaJay StudioStay tuned for more updates on the CatBeach Studio Remod.



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

Hedge4

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.