As you may know, we are mid-renovation over here and it’s insanely exciting. It’s moving way faster than I ever dreamt. We are shooting to be done by Dec 1st so we can move in and be there for the holidays. That is a 3 month full home renovation, folks. If you have ever renovated your home and you think “THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!!” You are not wrong. And yet we are doing it.
Of course we are happier than anyone to speed up the process and start living in our little Los Feliz Dream House. But, nobody in the history of renovations has made so many permanent decisions at the speed in which we have. And so far, you guys, there are no regrets. If you think we are making choices really fast and just yelling out “yes” and “no” and ordering things willy-nilly you are wrong. We have three people (including myself), full speed on the project, and I myself have spent no less than 17 hours choosing sconces, pendants, flush-mounts …. SEVENTEEN. And that’s just the lighting. That doesn’t include the cabinets, layout, moldings, lighting placement, flooring, flooring color, interior paint, exterior paint, location of toilets, vanities, showers, height of sconces and mirrors, direction of tile … And we have barely started on furniture, decor and window treatments. There is a reason people hire designers and not just because you want the design help, no, you want help with the endless minutia. So much GD minutia.
For those of you who are still reading – think about this: the other day we spent 3 hours choosing baseboard, crown and paneling for our house. And I don’t mean 3 hours total – I mean that we researched the best place to go, talked to our contractor about square footage, installation, etc, and then drove to two places in the valley before we found the right store. Once inside we spent three hours. The reason it took so long wasn’t because we were indecisive with styles, NAY, but because every room had its own problems (pop your ambien … fall asleep for this one). In the living room the risers, windows and shelving allowed for the moulding to be either 3″ or 6″ or 5″ with a certain bevel, but you have to add in the height of the new flooring which changed everything. Guess what? We finally figured it out. YAY. But the transition into the dining and entry make those three options totally impossible?!??!? Upstairs in the bedrooms, after so much research, we realized that we only really had one height and profile option because of the decorative framing of the door. And in the bathrooms we had to order a specific profile to fit perfectly and not awkwardly with the tub. None of this information you walk into the molding store with … but it’s all stuff you have to problem solve as you are there.
THREE + HOURS. CHOOSING BORING MOLDING. IN THE VALLEY. WITH NO FOOD IN OUR FOOD HOLES.
THAT is why you hire a designer.
Thank god for Ginny and Mel. Because molding is only 1 of the 1578 permanent decisions we’ve had to make the last month. Historically I’ve been a fast decision maker and when it comes to decor I’ll take advice from my closest, but I don’t really rely too much on others. But this project has been different because when you have to make that many decisions so fast, you just need other brains in the game to weigh in so you don’t make as many mistakes. So thank you, guys. You have helped so much, you have been so integral. I would have collapsed without you.
I’ll blog about every category of decision … starting with the biggest today…. the LAYOUT OF THE ENTIRE HOUSE.
Here is the house when we first bought it:
First things first – the house is beautiful and old and stylistically I LOVE it. It’s full of happiness, light, quirk, beautiful architecture and humble finishes. It’s not fancy, but neither are we. It’s totally perfect and “US” and I can’t WAIT ’til we move it.
But it had some serious functional issues. So we’ll walk you through the first floor and chat about the major changes.
First the Entry:
There are obvious changes like changing out the light and removing the strangely cheap scrollwork. We might even take out that telephone niche so we can put a piece of furniture there and we already removed the cut-out on the stairs so we could hang a piece of art.
I have a general rule with updating older homes that if I wouldn’t like it in a new home, I’m allowed to think about changing it in an original one. For instance the decorative pieces on the beams in the living room are something that I probably wouldn’t like in a new english tudor, but I’m leaving them because I like them enough and it gives character. That big red X shows that we are opening up the entire downstairs and making everything just so much better (as you’ll see below).
We are now to this point and it’s so insanely exciting:
It feels so open and lovely and happy.
I know it’s hard to picture, but the door to the powder room (which you previously had to go through the utility room to get to) is now on the right and then the family/play room is on the far right. Then straight ahead is the kitchen and in between there is a utility room that is way more functional that will have a pocket door.
The only bathroom on the first floor was this tiny little powder room above. We are renovating the whole thing and since we are putting in a new bathroom upstairs, we took out the awkward (clearly added on) shower. We are shoving the whole thing down to make room for a larger, more square and functional utility room.
That is the view from the kitchen. It means that our kids can play and run and quietly do their activities (HA) while I cook (HA) all while feeling like we are together.
But seriously, we are trying every day to not be the helicopter parents that our culture has trained us to be, and we really want our kids to feel independent yet loved. So our parenting method is to keep the line of site clear enough so we know that everyone is safe (especially when they are so young), without having to be next to them every second. Our current house doesn’t really allow for this so I’m so excited that this house is open to the family/living/dining and kitchen.
The playroom is now going to be open to the kitchen, like I said.
Into the kitchen/dining area – the real problem.
You can’t even tell how tiny and closed off it was. We couldn’t expand out so we had to think about ways to reconfigure everything.
On the other side of the kitchen was the dining room – which still might be the dining room but might also be just a general family/hang out room since we have the island to eat at and the dining area right outside. We are deciding later as we just aren’t sure how we are going to use the space. If it were just Brian and I we would put the TV in here and have this be a cozy night time family/tv room, but since we have kids we know how important family dinner is and we don’t want a TV to be so optional for them all the time. At the same time there really isn’t an ideal tv area in the living room and we don’t want to not use the living room, once again. It’s a conundrum that you will hear much about the next couple months and one that Brian and I go back and forth every. single. night.
But back to the plan.
There were of course issues with just taking out that wall because it was load bearing. So our architect, who also happens to be an engineer, had to figure out how to add support. A bonus was that the entire floor was not properly supported underneath so they had to add footings in the basement/guest suite. Anything is doable, it’s just how much do you want to pay and how long do you want to wait. We knew that in order to maximize this house and live here the easiest (and most beautifully) we would need to make the kitchen bigger and better, so we did what we had to do and ripped down that wall. The architect/engineer fees to draw up plans, pull permits, do revisions, take measurements, etc was around $15k.
It’s a massive renovation and its not cheap (more on that later as its all still up in the air) but its a good price for great work. And so far, Mega-builders (who is not giving a discount to be mentioned, but knows that I will review them publicly) has done an AMAZING JOB. I literally couldn’t be more impressed. The only thing that is holding us up is us. We are late with materials and finishes, but they are absolutely killing it in quality and speed. We have passed every inspection so quickly, its insane.
Back to the kitchen.
I know it’s all super confusing if you haven’t been in the space (check out Insta-story for a big fun tour). But what might be super helpful is an overhead of the plan before and after.
You can see that the living room is big and great, but then the kitchen/entry/utility/powder room area is so crowded and smooshed together.
So here is the plan:
We, again, remove the wall between the kitchen and dining room and instead add an island. Then we break open the “utility room” and give some of its space to the kitchen and open up more for a proper laundry room.
Look how much more open and clean this is:
If you are a true fan of home-porn nothing is more fun than watching it in action:
Maybe that is too fast. Here are the major changes:
Here is how its now being laid out. I knew it was all happening but I had no idea how much fun and how much better it was all going to be.
My contractor insisted on everyone wearing gold hard-hats and I happily complied (truth: I bought this at a vintage store in the valley for $40 years ago, hoarding it for its perfect debut).
We had a demo party first, where everyone came to tag the walls that were going and so that all our friends could see the before’s, including Orlando.
The next day the real demo began and it went FAST.
The floors came up, the walls came down.
The beams and supports were installed. All in 2 weeks. CRAZY.
Once the temporary supports were removed we roughed out the island – aka the most awkward shaped island in the world. It’s a long story and one that I will tell in detail.
It’s starting to look up! All the plumbing, electrical and foundational work was done quickly.
It’s so open, its crazy. Whenever Brian and I visit (which is every day or every other day) we just say to each other this is going to be such a better house and life. I know that this house can’t solve all of our problems, but I really think it’s going to be so great for our family.
The wood flooring was removed. Quick point! It was in super bad shape and was cheaply installed. Just because it”s original doesn’t mean its high quality. It was 2″ oak which is rather generic and while I wanted to keep anything that I loved that was original – these floors didn’t fall in that category.
Then the real work started. As most of you might know we made some final (but VERY HARD) trim paint decisions recently so they started work on those.
The stripped beams look awesome and once we stain them they’ll be beautiful. We saw the herringbone floor go in yesterday and it’s ridiculously stunning.
All in all there are some hiccups, sure, but no major problems that are going to set us back weeks or months.
I guess a good conversation to start today is how much do you remove of original character and architecture? We are preserving the original plaster on the walls, the shelving, the windows and doors (although some we have to replace because after 100 years they are just falling apart), and updating all the fixtures to be more modern but still classic. But we are taking down walls and that tiny adorable non-functioning kitchen will no longer exist. I will say one thing on record right now: when buying an older/vintage home you should NEVER, EVER, EVER try to make it a contemporary style. Update it, modernize it, but don’t force a crop-top onto Meryl Streep.
Most of you know that, but in case one of you is about to buy a castle in Ireland and put in glass mosaic tile as the backsplash, PLEASE DO NOT. You can modernize kitchens, update the appliances (perhaps using this line, eh?), and certainly work with the trends, but love the house for the era and architecture that it is and don’t try and make it something that its not.
I know that the last owners of the house might be reading this and understandably confused and upset, so I’ll just say: Please know that despite looking like we are tearing this house apart we are keeping in mind its original intent and respecting its charm and architecture at all points. I know you loved this house for 12 years, but I promise we will love it even more and for longer.
Do you guys think we are respecting it??? You might have to wait for the design plan to decide but if you have ever demo’d out original flooring or walls please weigh-in …