Category Archives: House Remodel

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

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.