What you think is happening is happening. We bought a new house. And I’ve been dying to tell you. I always feel like I’m cheating on you when I don’t tell you, in real time, when huge things are happening, but when you are in escrow to get a house you REALLY, REALLY want, you get so nervous that something can ruin it. So you sit there for a month, crossing your fingers, closing your eyes, praying that just because you can’t find a w-2 from 2012 that things won’t fall through. But we got the keys on Monday, its officially ours, and we have to be done renovating by December 15th.
You have so many questions I know. I’m here to answer all of them.
It’s a 1926 English Tudor in Los Feliz. It has 4 bedrooms and 2 (kinda) bathrooms. It’s so charming and wonderful. I must tell you the story. It’s kinda like The Notebook, but for real estate.
I woke up on a sunday morning and got an alert from all my real estate apps that there was a new house listed in our range in one of our neighborhoods. I looked at it and immediately, IMMEDIATELY, told Brian it was OUR house. I text my best friend the listing and she called me immediately and said “SHUT YOUR MOUTH, I was thinking about that house this morning, my ex-boyfriend almost bought it 10 years ago for us. I was laying in bed thinking Why can’t Brian and Emily just find a cute old pretty house like that one.”
Crazy. And then we realized that our agent worked at the same company as the selling agent (Nourmand and Associates). It seemed meant to be.
So we went to look at it later that day. It was a hectic open house because good family homes in Los Feliz don’t come up very often and when they do they get swooped up by all cash offers. We loved, loved, loved it. We immediately asked the agent if we could do pre-inspections the next day (so we could take off the inspection contigency) as we knew it was going to be competitive. They said yes which basically means that if we didn’t get the house or if we didn’t want to put in an offer after all, that we would have lost the cost of the inspections ($1200). We took off the appraisal contingency, too, meaning that we felt confidant that it would appraise for the price we were offering (we did). We knew we were going to compete with all cash so we were trying to look as enticing as possible. We promised them the easiest escrow of their lives (which we wrote in a letter and maybe I gave them my book …) and we told them that we wouldn’t ask for credits despite it inspecting good, but not amazing (listen … it’s 100 years old).
That Friday, despite the cash offer, they accepted our offer and we were in escrow. Thank you so much, former owners of our dream house, for taking our loan offer over an all-cash. I know all-cash can be enticing so thank you for having the faith that we could pull it off.
Now we have a new house.
You have so many questions. Lets get into them
Didn’t you just buy a house? Did you always intend to flip it?
It’s been 2 1/2 years, 3 by the time we move out, since we bought our house and yes we always knew that we weren’t going to stay long term because of the lack of yard. We absolutely did not flip our house. And I’m not saying that in a defensive way, more that I love this house and I don’t want to disgrace it with that word. We thoughtfully designed, renovated, loved, updated with quality finishes and materials, and lived in (and have now outgrown) our home. We are selling it, but no, this a not a flip and there is nothing cheap about this house, its finishes or my love for it. She is a pretty lady, not a flip.
Had we been looking for a while?
We had been looking for 3-4 months but not too seriously – maybe since March. If/when a house popped up that checked a few of our boxes we would go look at it.
What were our boxes?
We had 7 ‘musts’ and we really wanted a house to check off at least 5 of them.
1. We were desperate for a backyard. We both grew up with tree/grass backyards and while you certainly don’t have to have one in order to have a good childhood, Brian and I both want our kids to be able to explore nature and feel independent in a safe space without us (read: if they are in a safe backyard we can relax a bit). The backyard is for them to play, but more for easing our lives and having our weekends be so much more relaxed. It hasn’t helped that our local park has been under construction the last 6 months. So we have to drive 15 – 20 minutes to a park every weekend, and through juggling 4 naps between both of them, potty training, etc it’s just made us even more exhausted. We have dreams of being able to just open the doors from the family room to the backyard and our kids having freedom to play with us, without us or with each other without having to carry them down 26 stairs and load them into a car every single time they needed to get out energy – which for a 2/12 year old boy is a lot.
2. We wanted an old house with lost of projects (no recent flips) but with good bones and lots of character. I didn’t want anything generic, instead something that had potential to be stunning but would give me the projects (content) to do myself.
3. We wanted to be able to walk to cafes/parks/activiites. Friends of ours that live in our new neighborhood say they go weekends without getting in their cars. We didn’t think we were going to be able to afford Los Feliz. It’s historically insanely expensive and we were looking really hard in Eagle Rock, thinking that Los Feliz wasn’t an option. But almost all of our best friends live here so I was so excited at the prospect that our kids can go to the same school. (By the way if you are wondering how we got this house, it’s because it needed so much work but was already expensive so no flippers/investors wanted it but very few families wanted to deal with updating it – so we were in the unique position of being willing to pay a little more knowing that it’s my job to fix it up).
4. We needed at least 1800 square feet or 3 bedrooms. Our current house is 1900 + the studio downstairs (it feels sooo much bigger than 1900). We were fine with that size, although bigger certainly would be better (more stuff! more content!). The new house is 2200 square feet although it strangely feels smaller, probably because its so much less open.
5. Good indoor/outdoor flow is a must. It’s Southern California for gods sake … see #1. Just having a backyard wasn’t our only dream, we wanted easy access to it so that we didn’t have to choose when to go outside, that it would always be an option for the kids with or without us. There are only a couple months here where we would need the doors shut (summer) so I had a dream of every morning just opening the doors and saying in my most Julie Andrews-a-la-sound-of-music-way ‘Go forth children, and play safely while I drink my coffee, snap and read huff po’.
6. I need good light or the ability to have good light. A dark house I can not have both for work and for my sanity. We are willing to put in windows, but some houses still don’t have good light even with lots of windows.
7. We really wanted to be in a good public school district. This could have been Eagle Rock. South Pasadena, Los Feliz or Silverlake but we really want to send our kids to public school as long as we can (in case you are interested in what that means, the Jr. High and High are good but a bit overcrowded so while I do want to make it a goal to help solve that problem and be a part of the change, I also can’t for sure promise myself or the world that we won’t make a different decision for my family in 10 years…)
That’s about it. I know that sounds like a lot of demands but it really wasn’t. Personally I wanted a really different style house than we had but was certainly open to midcentury if it checked off all of those boxes (I’m so excited that its a tudor). We mostly just wanted a happy house that could suit our insanely busy family. A house that with a yard and less stairs could make life less stressful, right???
What will we do with our current house?
Sell it. I want to renovate the new one before we move in because living in a construction zone with two tiny kids is a terrible idea, and our mortgage is way lower than renting would be. We’ll put it on the market in Mid-October, because we want to move in early December.
Are you selling all your furniture and starting over?
I really want to be a normal, not-insane person, I DO. Of course I’ll keep most of my art, most of my books and favorite things and some pieces of furniture, but yes, I will probably over the course of the next year, as I go towards the more classic style, sell some pieces and start fresh. There are some that we physically can’t move into the house – the sectional (there is no family room), our living room sofa (since we’ll only have one living/family room it needs to be more comfortable than that and more traditional in style), our dining table (wrong shape and we may not even have a dining room here) and a handful of other pieces. I’ll keep my leather chairs, the wood dresser, my nightstands, and most of charlie and Elliot’s furniture … actually wait, not charlie’s dresser or shelving … and he probably won’t sleep in a crib for much longer … — but I’ll be tweaking the design to be more traditional/classic over time. I’m dying to see if our bed can fit in our new bedroom because it is huge but I love it so much (reveal of our bedroom next week). The string art, for instance might not have a place (maybe Elliot’s room???) but the blimp and all my paintings will hopefully make it in (strangely little wall space and very little storage or shelving).
The point is – I’m bringing the pieces that I think can transition easily into a classic/modern/family/young/tudor style but not the pieces that can’t as easily or just don’t fit physically (like my sectional).
What are you renovating before you move in?
Watch the FBlive today at 2pm to find out but as you can imagine we want to do as much as we can afford now, so that we can avoid prolonging the process and living in a construction zone – but the short answer is refinishing/replacing the floor, renovating the kitchen (how? it’s so tiny? make bigger? get rid of dining room?)
Will you flip this one or stay in it for a long time?
We aren’t the kind of people that really make long term decisions but glue-gun to my head I’d say we’d stay here til the kids are 8 and 10 and then probably upgrade to a house where we all don’t have to share 1 bathroom.
Oh right. What are the drawbacks?
No house is perfect. One of the things we didn’t prioritize and decided to sacrifice was a ‘master bedroom suite’ or hell, even a dedicated ‘kids bathroom’. So yes, all four of us will be sharing a single bathroom upstairs. There is a powder room downstairs and a previous owner put in a shower mostly to probably be able to call it a “4 bedroom, 2 bath”, but it’s small and need some help. The bathroom situation isn’t awesome.
The other drawback – serious lack of closet space and storage. This one was harder to deal with as I like my stuff. I’m not a total clothes horse, but I’m a girl that likes fashion as much as other women. I’ve already gotten rid of almost 1/2 of my clothes (stay tuned to hear about what I did with them) and we are looking into where we can possibly add a walk-in closet but it’s not going to be big if at all. These old houses have teeny tiny closets, like 18” deep and only two of them that are 20” wide. It’s not going to work with modern life and how people live these days but there is definitely not an obvious place to put in a closet OR a bathroom, for that matter.
The other drawbacks to normal people would be that it needs a lot of work – there are only 2 outlets in each bedroom, the electrical needs to be updated, all the floors need to be refinished and potentially replaced, all the windows need to be stripped and painted, the kitchen needs to be gutted, the bathrooms need total renovation and the backyard/courtyard needs landscaping. There are some other boring things like we have to remediate a small wall downstairs that had mold due to drainage issues and then of course fix those drainage issues. And tent for termites. And fix the chimney …
It’s a Betty White – she ain’t young, but she’s awesome, beautiful, so full of youth and life. It just needs someone to bring it out and I am happily that person.
I know that I’m lucky that my job is to create content for you by designing my own house. I honestly don’t know how any of you accomplish any home projects. It’s so hard to pull together a house and took me 2 1/2 years with our last one and i’m a designer!!!
Oh. Are we sad to leave our old house? YES. Well, I was. When Brian first said that we should start looking for a yard I was almost a tiny bit heartbroken (even though I historically have always been the one to find the next project). I have worked so hard to make this house what it is, and I’m finally, FINALLY proud of it. We just finished the exterior!! Charlie and Elliot have only taken 4 baths in their new bathroom!!! But slowly I got excited and knew that we wouldn’t find a house that soon and that even if we found one we would probably have to renovate first. I even wrote this post, about how we were going to finish everything so that we didn’t have to do everything the second that we move for the new owners and instead to it for us now. Thank god I did that.
But this house, our old one in Glendale, is so full of happiness and love and such good memories. Every now and again I get grumpy about certain things but whenever we come home from a “Vacation” I would walk in and sigh with a oh thank god we are home, followed up with a I love this house so much. By the way I hereby announce that “vacation” will be in quotes until we are able to relax on one.
I’m so excited. i’ve been pinning and staring at photos all day every day. I’m excited for the design, the house but mostly the family life that its promising.
I love that all our bedrooms are upstairs together – it feels safe. I love that there is a playroom off the kitchen. I love that you can see the whole backyard from the living room, dining room and potentially even the kitchen. I love that there is a courtyard right off the dining room (which might just be turned into a large eat-in kitchen) for family dinners. I love that every room has great light. I love that the yard has huge mature trees to provide shade. I love that there is a guest suite in the basement that I can design for family to stay comfortably. I love that we can walk to both Los Feliz and Silverlake restaurants. And it’s a relatively flat walk whereas our house now is down a steep hill and back up. I love that it’s an English Tudor and that I get to experiment in a style that I never have before, and learn so much about it and about myself as a designer along the way.
You guys have told me (both in stats and in writing) over and over again that what you love are makeovers, specifically in my own house. I know i’m lucky. I won’t let you down. I’ll be transparent, give you lots of process, numbers and fully document my failures as well as successes. Brian’s video production company is busy and booked, but you know that we’ll be documenting everything.
So yes. It’s happening. The next chapter. A more english, classic chapter. Like Dickens meets Nora Ephron. One filled with a little more visual drama, but less family drama. More antiques, less midcentury. More classic, less trendy. But most importantly, more, more, more content for you and fun/love for me and my family.
I’ll break it down room by room with the rough plan, but if you want to see the full tour with my off-the-cuff thoughts and feelings watch our FBlive today at 2pm (it stays up forever, but when it’s live you can ask questions and we can answer – be sure to like my page).
It’s going to be amazing once its done. Hopefully we can get in by Christmas and host the holiday party of our dreams.
Thoughts? Feelings? Questions? Do you think we are insane people??? Can you believe that we have barely finished our house and are moving into an insane project house???????