Tag Archives: remodel

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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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!



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…!



Refinishing Floors: Not Glamorous But High Impact.

floors1

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.
windows20windows6

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!?):
windows12

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:
windows17

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



Stop and Smell the Rosemary

Rosemary5

Bobby and I have been through a couple of remodels together. And with each one, we’ve hit that proverbial wall. The disruption of our routine and upheaval of our space slowly weighs down on our psyche until one day, we just can’t take it anymore.
We’ve had to learn the art of staying present in the process and taking note of the simple joys of each day. For us, it’s become an extension of the practice of gratitude…being cognitively thankful for the things that otherwise would pass us right by in the course of the day. This helps us to stay calm, centered and focused in the midst of our little chaotic world.

These moments usually involve our two dogs, partly because we are those people who have our dogs with us at all times (if possible), and partly because they are hysterical and make us laugh every day. Since they were puppies, these two have launched themselves into plants, flowers and hedges…with their favorite being rosemary bushes. They’ve spent countless mornings teasing and taunting each other in the middle of patches of the fragrant herb, only to then carry the rejuvenating aroma straight into the house.
This happens to be one of my most favorite moments in a day. A great and simple joy.
Rosemary1 Rosemary2 Rosemary3 Rosemary4 Lyle-RosemaryHere’s to us all finding our own rosemary moments!!



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

Studio-Paint

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.