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Foundational Elements

Orcondo Update

Hey guys, It’s Emily, real quick. In case you are new to the blog and are wondering ‘who the hell is this dude Orlando, ‘ here’s a recap of our relationship: Orlando was my assistant/sidekick on Secrets From a Stylist (RIP) and then became an associate designer that worked with me on design projects for close to 4 wonderful years, where we became very close (like sleep in the same bed while traveling, close). He used to write posts on the blog but then HE LEFT ME to become the West Coast Creative Director of Homepolish, a design startup that’s a huge game changer, making design more accessible, streamlined, and enjoyable to clients all over the USA. Anyway, onto his post!

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Dear Emily’s Readers,

Things have been getting MEGA exciting over at Orcondo. For a while this renovation of the condo I’m moving into with my boyfriend was super boring. Basically, for months and months there weren’t walls and every time I went to check in on things it would basically look the same. It’s not that my contractor wasn’t working like crazy, but the mid-construction part of renovation is SOOOOOO dull. It’s like “hey Contractor what’s happening this week?” and he’s all “well, we moved the electrical for the internet router into the closet and put speaker wire throughout the walls and installed the rough-ins for the showers and bath.” WHAT EVEN IS A ROUGH-IN??? Also, WHO CARES! Literally, so what. This part of a renovation is slow for a lot of reasons, but inspections are a big one. Basically, the contractor has to wait for all sorts of sign-offs before he can close up the walls, and that leads to lots of time waiting around for stuff not to be ugly. I’m not complaining though, this is literally the most exciting project I’ve ever done in my life.

Now, before I get onto updates about what’s going on at the condo, I wanted to share some pretty pictures with you. Essentially, the look I’m going for in the condo is very minimal, modern, bright and clean. The building that houses Orcondo is a 1984 construction, so there’s a lot of 80s architectural details to work with. The condo has a ton of windows and natural light, so I want to keep it light and airy, with a few bold accents. I was VERY inspired by the work of DISC Interiors on the Sunset Magazine Idea House last year. I love that project because it has so much character and a tremendous amount of presence,  which isn’t easy for a new construction.

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Now that I’ve shown you some dreamy pictures, here’s what ugly ol’ Orcondo looks like right now:

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Okay, so first into the kitchen. It’s one of the rooms where the most excitement has occurred. When we started, we had very low ceilings and the whole space was closed off and extremely claustrophobic and terrible. I’m not going to get overly dramatic, but that kitchen was literally the worst place in the world and just thinking about it makes me want to scream,  tear off my face, and throw it into a well. Then have it sewn back on so I can scream some more.

We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to open up the space as much as we wanted, but Octavio, our insanely awesome contractor, figured it out and we were able to make the kitchen much more open to both the dining room and the living room. We also raised the ceiling in there more than 12″ by getting rid of the stupid dropped ceilings in there, that were low for no reason, other than to make you feel like you were being suffocated to death every time you went in the kitchen. We lost some storage space when we knocked out the pantry to make the kitchen more open, but we gained it back by adding height to the cabinetry, which goes all the way to the ceiling.

Shameless plug: If you live in the LA area and are thinking of doing any renovations, I highly recommend our contractor Octavio. His company Sustainable Building Concepts only takes on one client at a time and it means he’s super present on site and very detail oriented. Anyway, he’s gonna be busy with us forever now because we’re basically just making up new projects for him so he works with us in perpetuity, but I wanted to give him a shout out because he’s awesome and smart and professional and we love him.

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If these photos look heavenly and etherial, it’s because there’s dust all over the place right now as the walls are being sanded. That dust LOVES getting into your lungs and making you cough like you’re dying. It’s hilarious.

The insides of the cabinets arrived recently and I literally lost my mind. Basically, as soon as they got there I ran into the kitchen and started pretending to cook like a 4 year old playing with a toy kitchen. I’m super excited about the kitchen because it’s going to be fully integrated everything. So people will come over and be like “oh hey what’s in that closet?” and then they’ll open it and be like “OH MY GOD IT’S A REFRIGERATOR!” and everyone’s lives will be changed forever and we’ll all smile and hug and realize how close we are to one another and how really, at the end of the day, we’re all one big happy family. The flooring in there is going to be wood like the rest of the condo, and the finishes are going to be white lacquer. Basically, I’m never going to prepare any food that’s not white ever again for fear of getting stains everywhere. Spaghetti? NO MA’AM! NO THANK YOU!

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Clearly, the most exciting aspect of the kitchen is going to be the INSANELY LOVELY Fireclay Tiles we’re putting in there. Fireclay is a great little company based in California that specializes in tiles that are recyclable and sustainably produced. We are doing their Chaine Homme pattern in White Gloss. I’ve pretty much decided I want all the foundational elements of the condo to be neutral. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, if we ever wanted to move and sell the condo, it’s better for resale to have something neutral. Second, I love colorful objects and art, so I want foundational elements that don’t compete too hard with my collection of garbagetreasures. The thing I love about this tile is that it allows us to do something distinctive while keeping the color palette super minimal.

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The other main material in the kitchen is the countertop. This was actually one of the more difficult decisions we made. We REALLY wanted to do marble everywhere. It’s so pretty and classic and having a natural material really brings warmth and earthiness to your home. And marble is actually not crazy expensive even though it looks really high end. It really seems like the perfect countertop material.

BUT!!!

Literally everyone I talked to about it said they thought it was beautiful but a total pain in the ass. All the research I did on it said the same thing: “I love my marble countertops but they’re incredibly sensitive and need constant care and if you put a lemon down without a plate you’ve ruined them forever.” We looked into the faux alternatives but they all looked fake and plasticky or weren’t very durable. I didn’t want to have a countertop where I’d have a panic attack every time someone put down a glass of wine so we decided Caesarstone was a better idea. I’m actually really into the clean, simple look of their white countertops so I’m happy I’ll be able to have simple counters I can pour marinara sauce all over without worrying they’ll be ruined forever.

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Unlike the harrowing experience of finding a countertop that met our stringent needs and wasn’t totally disgusting, choosing a wood floor was relatively easy. The apartment was previously a combination of too many different flooring types: ugly 80s tile in the bathrooms, gross 00s tile in the kitchen, super glossy parquet flooring from the 80s, and industrial carpet that made me want to jump onto a sword. I actually wanted to do wood flooring all over the place but we opted to do it everywhere except the bathrooms and laundry room. This way we can splish and splash to our hearts delight without worrying the floor is going to rot and we’re going to fall into the downstairs neighbor’s living room while he’s watching “Steel Magnolias, ” ugly crying, and eating the biggest bowl of popcorn on earth. We ended up finding a great light-but-not-too-light, warm-but-not-too-warm option from a local store called Contempo Flooring.

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Flooring brings me back to the lovely project by DISC Interiors I’m obsessed with. My flooring will be a little darker than these, but I love how the natural wood brings in a little bit of an organic element and warms up the color palette. I have a big design crush on these guys and love their work, like,  too much.

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Speaking of color palette we chose our paint colors recently and you’re totally NOT going to be shocked by what we chose:

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Master bedroom: Ralph Lauren Iron Blue, Guest Bedroom: Glidden Skater’s Pond, Everywhere Else: Glidden White on White.

I wanted to keep this pretty simple. The condo wants to be white and bright, so I’m just doing what it’s asking me to do. The white color we chose is a little warmer than I’d typically go, but I want the space to feel cozy and inviting, not cold and institutional. We actually got the idea to go warm from looking at the wall color during the skim coating process, which uses a beautiful ivory colored plaster to smooth out the walls. The one stark contrast to the bright and happy color palette is the moody, romantic blue I chose for the master bedroom. I did this because it’s the darkest room in the condo and because I love a little drama. Part of me thinks I might regret it but it’s my opinion you have to be a little adventurous with paint or life is just really not worth living.

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HARK! Now I’m going to impart some information on you that literally blew my mind and I am ashamed I didn’t know before. How I’ve been a designer all these years without knowing this is a huge mystery. Anyway, I told my contractor that I was going to swatch paint colors on the wall and his response was “IF YOU PUT PAINT ON MY WALLS I’LL KILL YOU.” Instead, he had me buy these adhesive backed sheets and paint on those. It’s literally just like painting swatches on the wall except way more fun because it involves stickers. AND WHO DOESN’T LIKE STICKERS, AM I RIGHT LADIEZ???

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I’ve noticed a change in myself recently and it kind of disturbs and terrifies me. I used to faint in disgust every time I saw any color that was in the beige/khaki family. But now, I’m finding myself attracted to these sandy colors. I tested a few out on the walls and I ended up not liking them (too muddy), but I am bringing in a wheat colored bed from AllModern, so the color will definitely be present. Anyway, long story short I think I’m getting into beige and I hate myself for it. But you have to accept yourself for who you are, so I’m just going with it. OKAY GUYS?

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The built-in for the dining room arrived and it is rocking my world SO HARD. Edouard (my hunky French boyfriend whose warm, enchanting laugh is like a summer day) wanted a place to put all his books, so we added some shelving in here. I’m also hoping to display my hoard of pottery from Ben Medansky and Lyn Middleton in there. The added benefit of this built-in is the storage below, which is where I’m hoping to store the giant collection of table linens and fancy dishes I don’t own yet. I made a pretty dumb mistake in placing the junction boxes for the two hanging pendants that are going above the dining table, so those have to be moved and the whole ceiling has to be be resurfaced, which is way annoying and boring, but I want the Tom Dixon pendants I’m putting over the table to be IN THE EXACT RIGHT SPOT.

I’m getting a lot of mixed reactions to the spiral staircase, which I totally understand because they’re a very specific taste. But I don’t care what the haters say, I am obsessed with them and think they’re so cute and practical. We are painting this one matte black and having solid wood stairs made that will be ebonized. I want the whole thing to have much more of a unified sculptural look.

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A lot of this project has been about simplifying and freeing the condo from unnecessary details that add visual noise, thus making life seem chaotic and overwhelming. The first way we did this is by having the whole place skim-coated. That just means a group of guys comes and coats the walls with layers and layers and layers of “mud” and then sands them until they’re perfect. It’s way harder than it sounds, but it looks a thousand times better without the gross 80s texture that was in there before, and totally changes the character of the condo.

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Another thing we did was change the guest bedroom/bathroom situation. Basically, before it was a bedroom with a bathroom at the end of a long hallway that had two doors (one inside the bedroom, one on the outside in the hall). I am not a fan of bathrooms with two doors because it always feels like a scary clown is going to pop out of one of the doors and chew on my fingers while I’m going to the bathroom. It just doesn’t feel private or safe to me for some reason. Also, having that long dark hallway in the guest bedroom just created a dark cavern in there and removed space from the common areas of the condo. So we moved the door to the end of the hall and the room feels much cozier now. We also moved the door to the closet so we could have two long white walls in the hall where we can hang art (there’s strangely not a lot of room for art in this place, with all the windows and other architectural detail).

It’s my belief that simple is usually the best. Designers (interior and otherwise) tend to over complicate things. Like how many times have you looked at a lamp and been like “wow, that would have been so much better if they didn’t add those little crystals to it” or “why did they ruin that awesome linen bedspread with that obnoxious pattern and those tassels everywhere?” I’m constantly seeking simplicity in furnishings, so in designing the foundation of Orcondo I decided to keep it pretty simple.

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The master bath is getting pretty sexy. Octavio was able to knock down a huge wall in the middle of the room that used to separate the bathroom from a walk in closet. The closet was always really claustrophobic,  awful, and life-ruining and we’re actually getting just as much space by adding built-ins around the room, so we’re not losing storage here, just gaining a more open, luxurious master bath. Built-in is still in progress, we’ll be adding a closet door and a dresser. We nixed the bathtub in here. Mainly because we rarely used it and climbing into a bathtub every day to shower is annoying. We used large Fireclay Tiles (6″x12″) for the walls and 2″x3″ tiles for the floor.

Oh, and don’t worry, we put a bathtub in the guest bathroom so if you come over and want to take a bath, even though it would probably use up the last 16 tablespoons of water left in this California drought, be my guest!

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There was a little bit of a debate between me and my contractor about the tile. His tile installers wanted to do it subway style and I wanted to do a parquet pattern. I don’t know why, but I’m super obsessed with this pattern lately. It just reminds me of weaving and wheat and textiles I guess, which make me happy. Also, it’s a classic pattern that you don’t see very often. So I feel like it’s not gonna look super dated in ten years, but it’s still interesting to look at.

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Fireclay Tiles are all handmade and hand-fired, so when you look at them up close you can tell they’re all one of a kind. I worried that I was wasting an opportunity to add something unique by not using one of their more distinctive glaze colors, but the hand-glazed white finishes are so pretty I stopped regretting that the second I saw them.

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Edouard and I are kind of fighting over the guest bathroom. But in a good way. We both love it so much we can’t decide which one of us will have the exclusive right to use it. We used 3″x12″ White Wash Fireclay Tiles in here. It looks a little busy now but once we’ve grouted it white, it will be a little calmer. I’m still not happy about that dumb “pony wall” we had to keep there because of a stupid ugly pipe, but the room is way more open than it was before, now that we’ve knocked down that big ol’ wall that used to be there. We’ll be tiling the pony wall as well and an added benefit of having it is that it creates a barrier between the toilet and the bath so it doesn’t feel like the toilet is, like, INSIDE the bathtub when you’re laying in there, worrying a clown might come out of the drain and try to flush you down the toilet.

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While we banished marble from our kitchen, we decided to bring it in as floor tile in the bathrooms and laundry room, where hopefully there will be fewer friends drinking glasses of red wine. Although parties at my house can get pretty crazy so you never know, folks! We sourced a pretty affordable option from Home Depot that looks very nice in person and makes me feel richer than I really am. I’m glad that even though my dreams of having marble kitchen countertops were destroyed by the premonition that my alcoholic friends would ruin them, we still get to have some marble somewhere.

The next steps are actually the most exciting ones and they include choosing window treatments, furniture, and art. Obviez that’s where my true passion lies so I’m anxious to get to those. But Octavio and his team have been working super fast so maybe I’ll get to be playing with sofas and forcing Edouard to rearrange furniture over and over sooner than I think. Hoping that Orcondo will be ready for move-in by September 1. KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED GUYS!

Love,
Orlando

*Interiors Photography by D. Gilbert Courtesy DISC Interiors

Want more Orcondo? Check out the whole process from the start: Orcondo’s New Place | Let There Be Light | Rug Life | Modern Windows | Furniture & Accessories 

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  1. orlando, i think you and your condo are wonderful. but i have to say the living room at the sunset idea house flipped me right out. it is furnished and conformed to make sure no one ever sits down in there for any reason. chairs too far apart, not comfortable for chatting or reading. no focussed or apparently ambient light, a truly badly designed room.

  2. I can’t wait to see it all finished! Love this series 🙂

  3. Omg who doesn’t like spiral staircases??! Clearly, people who have never slid down the banister on a spiral staircase. I think the staircase is gorgeous, I think the whole thing is going to be amazing, that tile makes me want to buy a house just so I can have someplace to use it (except I would NEVER be able to pick a color!) and I can’t wait to see the finished space!

  4. Omg Emily, you must buy a super creepy clown painting as a house warming gift for Orlando!!

  5. Orlando! I share your love for spiral staircases. We have one in our 1980s condo and it is the one thing everyone exclaims over when they walk in. They are the best!

    And I am going to tell you something crazy: if you are concerned about noise from people walking up and down the staircase (like us when our downstairs neighbor complained), paint that sucker all over with “Quiet Coat” paint. This is a crazy paint that absorbs vibration. I was convinced it was an urban myth, but I did about 6 coats and it stopped the staircase from sounding like a drum when we went up and down. (Then I painted a beautiful bright white over that and the staircase is beautiful, if I do say so myself. Also, after doing a total of like 8 coats of paint, I hope I never have to paint a spiral staircase again.)

    I’m not affiliated with whoever made Quiet Coat paint; just wanted to pass that tip along since I could not figure out how to solve the noise problem until we tried that.

    1. This sounds incredible. Anyone know if this would work in a restaurant application? I have clients that would love a simple way to reduce noise without investing a ka-jillion bucks in sound dampening systems.

      1. Tracy, I don’t know if it would work for a restaurant, but here’s the paint we used: http://www.quietrock.com/quietcoat

        It was definitely more expensive than a gallon of regular paint, but not as expensive as a big sound dampening system.

        One note: it might just be that the gallon I used was a few years old, but the wet paint dried so quickly that it was impossible to get a smooth painted surface. I sanded down the areas I wanted to be smooth, but the downside is that less paint thickness = less noise reduction. I’m not sure if using a sprayer would solve that problem. Best of luck!

  6. I absolutely love how this is progressing. The idea of choosing such neutral foundations – but with subtle texture + interest – is so attractive. Personally, I wish more people thought about this for resale (flippers, rehabbers) + rentals. I’m evangelizing here in the Midwest! So easy to add color, etc through art and some soulful vintage goodness…my personal fave! 🙂

    Can’t wait to see how all the details come together. Sending good juju for a 9/1 move in!

  7. I NEED to know more about the wood floors. Because I’m stuck trying to find just the right oak floor without it going all 80’s yellow oak floor on me. Your’s look great (I’m sure you hear that a lot about yourself)- Do you know the brand or is it private labeled? THANK YOU!!!

    1. Stores are kinda cagey about sharing the manufacturers of their wood, but the name that’s written on the label is “Carusel (668) 668” and it’s from Contempo Floors in LA. Their number is 310 837 8110. If you call them they should be able to help you find the flooring. It’s really beautiful and the perfect combo of light and dark and not too orangey like a lot of wood floors…

  8. I am literally wondering if you could use the word literally any more? But the house is looking good and I completely sympathise with having to re-center ceiling lights, so so annoying and expensive but no way around it.

  9. I love all of your material choices and how they relate to the architecture and the so cal location. I especially LOVE the tile and your configurations. I can see the inspiration from the Sunset house. I just viewed their virtual tour and the baseboards are working for me. Unembellished, thin profile, and painted the same color as the walls but in a gloss finish – the variation in light reflection makes them look like they’re almost receding, in the video at least. An idea to plagiarize: the marble first step on their staircase, calling to the marble used elsewhere in the home, wish I had stairs!

  10. Looks great! Can you tell us where you got your hardware from in the kitchen?

  11. Hi Orlando, I’m also in the process of selecting materials and design for my remodel and was so inspired by your progress! Quick question – where did you find that fabulous brass hardware in the first shot? I’ve been looking for that smooth/brushed/satin brass hardware and faucets and can only find the shiny 80s stuff. Nooo! Save me! Gracias

    1. Hi! It’s from Schoolhouse Electric! Check it out! http://Www.schoolhouseelectric.com

  12. I think Orcondo is coming along so beautifully! I see how you and Emily are such good friends, you’re both very funny. I was cracking up the whole time. Can’t wait for more updates!

  13. Orlando, love, love, love this! Thanks so much for the fireclay tile source. I just started looking for fireclay tiles in pretty, muted colors and you just saved me a TON of time. So thanks.

  14. Looking good! But, now I have a total complex about the “gross” 80’s texture in my house. Didn’t you describe it as “orange peel”? That’ what I have – in what I thought was my dream house. Now I just see “gross 80’s” everywhere. My husband will never understand this and when I finally bring it up, you will definitely be downgraded to “other man” status – I.E., he may want to fight you. I can’t imagine the expense and topsy-turvy-reno mess that would come of changing the whole house. I need the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind now – where can I get all memory of these posts erased?

  15. What a masterpiece you’re creating! Can’t wait to see end result. Love everything you’re doing.

  16. I want to make out with that kitchen tile. It’s so amazing.

  17. Orlando, I love this! Thank you for sharing. Although, I am worried about this new beige affair. There is so much pink in at least 90% of the beige home goods out there. I’m sure you know this since you are a pro and I’m just a wannabe. I felt compelled to say it anyway…

  18. Orlando – you are hilarious. I literally LOL’d at least five times during this post. I share the irrational fear of clowns.

  19. Firstly, thanks a lot for the future nightmares including clowns. I hadn’t thought of those scenarios myself so now I’m perfectly paranoid.

    Secondly, does Emily hate you now that you’ve beat her to it using the H tile in the kitchen that she was considering for the guest bathroom? 😉

    Can’t wait to see Orcondo finished.

  20. L.O.V.E. Et bonjour à Edouard de la part d’une compatriote. Take care !

  21. Day-um! First time I’ve ever felt sexy staring at kitchen tiles.

  22. “We’ll be tiling the pony wall as well and an added benefit of having it is that it creates a barrier between the toilet and the bath so it doesn’t feel like the toilet is, like, INSIDE the bathtub when you’re laying in there, worrying a clown might come out of the drain and try to flush you down the toilet.” This is the best thing I’ve read all month, and I just finished the new Kate Atkinson novel.

  23. Snooze.

  24. Hi There, Would you pretty please advise which program you use to do your gorgeous renderings? I’d be ever-so-grateful!

  25. “I want foundational elements that don’t compete too hard with my collection of garbagetreasures.” Best sentence I have read…period. Garbagetreasures is my new favorite word.

  26. I literally just painted my bedroom in iron blue! But am now struggling with bedding and what rug to lay over the floor boards. I literally CANNOT WAIT to see what you do. Love from New Zealand

  27. I love the direction of Orcando! I wanted marble countertops too until like you I did the research. You will not be disappointed with Quartz. It’s nearly indestructible. My Quartz countertops are about 4 years old and they still look brand new. So I made the same design decision as you and put marble on my bathrooms floors. A couple things to keep in mind. Marble can be slippery. That’s why we did smaller honed tiles to create more grip. Water just like everything else can pretty much stain marble so make sure to use a mat when stepping out of the shower. Lastly, because we chose marble we also chose a lighter grout so it looked seamless and not busy. Lighter grout will show more dirt over time obviously so you will need to deep clean the grout a couple times a year probably. Good luck with the rest of the construction! Looking forward to more updates!

  28. Just came across your blog and I’m so glad I did! Love how you write! You’re so funny you literally made me laugh out loud many times! (Thank you!)

  29. nice documentation when you build your room, i love the step by step details

  30. Man, I wish you could come and update my entire house. Your work is gorgeous…it makes me look at my pitiful DIY efforts and want to cry.

  31. I’m wondering if anyone knows where the two armless chairs in the second inspiration photo are from? They are set in the room with the pile of cushions next to the coffee table. They are exactly what I’ve been looking for, but I can’t track down the source. I even went to the link (DISC Interiors on the Sunset Magazine Idea House) mentioned, but no luck. Any help would be appreciated!