Brass Tacks

A big trend for the last few years is the infusion of brass and gold accents back into home decor. We all remember the early days of shiny brass (likely in the houses we grew up in) and the influx of chrome and silver accents to make spaces look more modern. But now everywhere we turn great designers are using brass and gold accents in wonderful ways. (This seems to coincide with the lack of popularity of gold jewelry as well…and now it’s making a comeback too!)

20121016-214344.jpgKelly Wearstler

20121016-214848.jpgEmily Henderson has a self-professed love for brass.

20121016-215304.jpgLove this kitchen and hood.

In designing client spaces as well as my new home, I’m trying to balance the inclusion of lovely brass fixtures and accents while also ensuring that the space stays classic in the future. It’s a very delicate balance but I’ve decided not to use brass on any of the common everyday items/hardware and bring the brass in the lighting and other wow fixtures. So the door handles and hinges will be chrome but I’m hoping the handles on the kitchen cabinets will be brass. The reason I’m making this distinction is (arbitrary :)) partially due to replacement costs and personal tastes. It’ll be easy, cheap, and maybe even rewarding for someone to come in and make the kitchen look different with new cabinet knobs. On the other hand, door knobs/levers are boring, cost 10-15 times more than a kitchen cabinet handle, and will likely be the last thing that gets changed in the house.

I’m excited about the mix of metals and how they will interact in the house. I was able to do a little of this in the last bedroom I designed.

20121016-220441.jpgBedroom with brass lighting, dressed knobs, and curtain rod.

As the house comes together, I’ll reassess and determine if I need more of one metal to make the look work.

Are you experimenting with bringing in different metals in your home? Wearing more gold that silver or platinum?

Renovation Realities: Budget Schmudget

In the next tale of renovation realities, I thought it would be nice to discuss budget realities and how they truly affect the grand plans I had for the house.  As most dreamers, we started out with a fairly unrealistic budget that was slowly increased to account for the changes we wanted to make.  However, even after increasing the budget considerably (about 60%), we realized that we still weren’t going to get everything we wanted and we would be required to do some serious DIY (laying the hardwood floors, painting, etc.). The issue with this “realization” is that there are many things in this renovation that need to be done now and then there are things that make sense to do it the proper way now while we are in the midst of the ugly part of the renovation.  So there is only so much we can take out of the budget to make it work for us while doing a good job in getting the house ready for us to live.

Case in point: The house after 3 weeks of renovation and over $30K in costs:

If it’s not obvious, the house looks the f$#*ing same!  Yes, the house has a new HVAC system, new insulation, new windows, etc. and feels much better and has passed building codes but it’s still ugly.  And I’ve already spent a shit ton of money!  That’s crazy talk!

All that being said, I try to keep reminding myself that this is not our “forever” house and we don’t need to spend a ton of money to make changes that won’t truly impact the feel of the house.  It’s hard to remember this when I’m planning and dreaming but when I sit down to look at the budget I somehow don’t have a problem remembering :).  Here are some of the changes that we’ve made to the plan now that the budget has gone haywire:

  • We will no longer be taking down the wall between the kitchen and the family room.  It was going to costs almost $10K when all was said and done and it just didn’t add that much to the house.  We have a large wall opening between the two spaces and I’m not the biggest fan of a completely open kitchen anyway (I hate looking at the dirty dishes during a dinner party).  So I’ve reorganized the kitchen and can now focus on making the kitchen more functional and pretty.  (I’ll share updated plans soon.)
  • We’re not going to tear down all the walls in the master bedroom suite.  After doing the math, we would lose about 2′ in the bedroom just to gain a separate bathtub, shower, and toilet room.  While those things are important to me, due to configuration issues with the windows, etc., I didn’t love the floorplan and wasn’t terribly excited about the new bathroom.  So instead of spending another $5-7K to create just the shell of this bathroom that I wasn’t terribly excited about, I think it makes sense to keep the current floorplan and create an awesome shower (spending more on tile and other fancy features).  I’ll lose the bathtub but I could take a bath in the guest bathroom and call it a day (I’ve taken maybe 2 baths in the last 6 years :)).
  • The popcorn ceilings throughout the house are not actually popcorn and can’t be removed simply (or for the price initially quoted).  Lucky for me the ceilings are plaster and require several skim coats to make it smooth.  It’s going to take at least 2 weeks, cost twice and much, and totally mess up my schedule/budget.  The ceilings are something I’m unwilling to live with so we’ll be doing this no matter what.

On the bright side, today is the first day of real construction and things will start looking pretty.   I’ll snap some progress pics along the way.

P.S. Would love to hear from readers if they are enjoying these renovation realities posts.  Of course I think they are interesting but what the hell do I know :).

Obsess Much: Professional Packers and Movers

I’m in the middle of packing up our house for the move at the end of the month and I’m obsessing right now about professional packers and movers.  We’ve had the service in the past and it is amazing – they pack everything in your house, drive it to where it needs to be, and if you’re lucky (and pay for it) they will unpack a few boxes when you arrive at your new location.  Unfortunately, we can’t justify the expense in the middle of an overbudget renovation but a girl can dream.

Renovation Realities: Trust Your Gut

So let’s get this week started with a post about some of the renovation realities that I’ve experienced over the last few weeks (and the reason I’ve been away from blogging).

I don’t think I ever explained exactly what I decided to do on the contractor front.  Up until two days before work was scheduled to begin, I intended to go with a general contractor and company to do the bulk of the work in the house.  Due to budget constraints (which will be a completely separate post), I had made some concessions on things that wouldn’t get done during this initial renovation but decided that it would be nice to have someone else deal with the bulk of the behind the wall issues – the electrical, plumbing, insulation, HVAC, etc.  The price was much more than I expected but I decided to go along with it.

This was my decision until I received the final contract and scope of project from the company.  As you work with contractors, you meet several times (over the phone or in person) to discuss the scope of the project.  Obviously, the changes you discuss during these meetings usually results in several modifications to the project scope, the contract price, and timeline.  With my contractor, I would guess that I met with them over 20 hours in 4-5 days to finally decide the scope of the project, final price, etc.  So when the final contract and project scope was sent to me, I expected it to reflect the countless hours (not really countless since I just guessed at the number of hours 🙂 ) of discussion and the final number that we decided on the day before.  But instead, I received a completely new contract price with many estimates/costs now increased due to problems with calculating square footage or other miscellaneous issues on their end.  (I’m not going to even get into the lack of personal accountability among contractors – as if there mistake is your fault and they shouldn’t have to cover it.  This industry is bananas!)

The difference in contract price was not a huge amount – maybe another $2K in a $65K renovation – but it was the principle of the situation along with my gut feeling that caused it to be a much bigger deal.  This was the 3rd or 4th time that these “small” changes occurred without any explanation (in advance) for the changes.  This coupled with the unexplained delays and lack of communication left me with little confidence in working with this company.  (In full disclosure, this company was owned by a family friend and we wanted to support him and minority businesses in general.  If it had been any other company, I would have thanked them for their interest in the project but fired them after the first delay in getting us an estimate.)  Although we were on the eve of demolition and construction, I decided that we would need to delay and I would need to find another contractor to do the work.  That night as I talked with the hubby, we decided that I needed to trust my gut.  My gut was telling me that I would be unhappy with the process and stressed beyond belief if I used this contractor.

Unfortunately for me, this contractor was one of a handful of contractors authorized by the state to perform work under the California Energy Upgrade program which provides homeowners with up to $8000 in rebates for energy efficiency updates to the house.  So I needed to continue to use them for the energy upgrade projects.  Therefore, I split the project into different phases whereby this contractor is in the house finishing up the new HVAC system and other energy upgrade portions with the hope that the inspector will be there later this week to close out the program.  After they finish, the new contractor that I’m working with will take over and get the rest of the house (the pretty stuff) completed (with hopefully a lot less drama).

I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that I was correct to go with my gut as even this short 2-week energy upgrade project with the contractor has given me so much grief.  But I’m trying to be positive and look on the bright side that it will be done relatively soon and they will be out of my hair forever.

Wish me luck that I won’t curse anybody out in the next 4 days.  Every day when I head to the job site (my house), I try to tell myself to stay calm but I usually fail miserably.

P.S. These contractor tales are happening because I’m in a new city and have to find new contractors.  In SF, I had a list of contractors that I worked with and loved.  I hope that going through this process will help me identify a new crop of contractors that I love and can use on client projects in LA.  

Seeking Motivation/Inspiration

Do you ever have times where you’re slammed with things to do (work, home, etc.) and feeling super unmotivated or inspired?  Well I’m in one of those “funks.”  I have a ton of stuff to do for the renovation (which is actually moving along!!) and some new client work but have been unable to get motivated to really get on top of these things.

So I decided to try to get a little creative and sketched the exterior of the new house.  Here she is in all her glory:

And here she is as a quick sketch:

Spending a little time sketching was actually fun and I realize I haven’t been doing much of anything creative away from the computer.  I took this sketch and came up with three rough ideas of a color scheme for the house exterior:

Idea 1 – White house with colorful door and black garage door to match the new windows.

Idea 2 – Light blue/gray house with colorful door. Garage to remain white. New black aluminum windows.

Idea 3 – Dark gray exterior with a colorful door and the garage remains white.

I’m partial to the 3rd option but think the dark gray in the drawing is too dark.  I’m thinking more of a medium gray with a hint of blue.  The yellow is a little acid/neon but those were the markers that I had to work with :).  The hubby thinks we should have a black door but I think he’s been overruled.  What do you think?  I have time to make this decision (which makes me taking time to do this even more ridiculous) but would love some input.

I’m off to run errands and buy exterior and fire rated doors.  Good times!

The Ugly Truth: Wallpaper Removal Blows

I’m spending my Friday morning with a home inspector. Since there is nothing for me to do during this 1+ hour inspection, I decided to try to remove the wallpaper in the guest room.

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Not sure if you can tell but it’s textured wallpaper that has been painted. It was going to cost me between $500-1000 to have it removed or re-drywalled so I figured I’d go buy $25 worth of materials and give it a whirl.

15 minutes in:

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All hopes that it would peel off in full sheets are dashed. Still not sure what type of wallpaper it is.

30 minutes in:

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It’s coming off and definitely not one of the worst things I’ve ever done. I’ll keep pushing through until the inspector finishes and see how far I’ve come.

This much left to go:

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Wish me luck! Happy Friday!!

Obsess Much: Customized Walk-in Closet

One of the new additions to our master bedroom suite is a decent size walk-in closet. I’ve been designing the space and trying to decide if we want to go with custom closets or use a version of off the rack storage solutions from The Container Store or Ikea. I will admit to being absolutely naive to the cost of custom cabinetry for the closet but even the regular store stuff adds up to thousands of dollars for a walk-in closet! (My naiveté is actually ridiculous as there is no reason for custom cabinets to costs any less simply because I’m putting them in the closet and not the kitchen or family room…duh.). So let’s ignore the cost and let’s just look at some gorgeous closets that I’m obsessed with.

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Loving the organization:

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Happy Thoughts: Scenes from my weekend

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. I had a relaxing and productive weekend all wrapped in one.

On the new home front, I received a sample door for my kitchen cabinets:

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I don’t think I like the “San Francisco” style and will likely go with a simple Shaker style but the construction on the door was great. I’ll likely order later this week (or early next week whenever demo is done and I can confirm the measurements).

The hubby and I also spent a few hours demolishing the cabinets in the garage.

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It wasn’t a major change but was needed to get other parts moving. I’m very excited about what is coming next.

Lastly, we spent Sunday evening with good friends from San Fran enjoying delicious fried chicken from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant (being served at Bouchon Beverly Hills).

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It was simply delicious along with the steak frites, mussels, and salmon tartare. (Sorry for the bad picture…we had devoured half of it before I remembered to take a picture.) We had a great time catching up and are always happy when friends come in town.

I love weekends like this where you are able to get things done but also relax with afternoon naps and enjoying time with friends and family. Well the weekend is over and I’m off to spend the day screaming at contractors because work on the house starts today!!!!

Here’s to a great week!

Custom Tie Storage

I thought it would be a good way to end the week with an easy DIY project (which never seems to be the case!). My hubby has to wear a suit (and tie) every day for work. Accordingly, our closets were overrun with ties and traditional hanging tie storage didn’t seem to make much sense.  So here’s what I came up with:

I didn’t take many pictures of the process the first time I did this project but I recreated the same drawer in our new apartment.  It’s a much smaller drawer so not as perfect but at least we have pics!

I started out by using these custom drawer dividers.

3 Inch High Kit-White Polystyrene Drawer Dividers

These were extremely easy to use but not terribly cheap.  I think I spent $60 on 3 of these packages.  However, I only needed two packages to complete both projects so I guess that isn’t too bad.

Anyway, the drawer dividers come with these sticky strips that allow you to create as many connections as you need.

You take these boards, score them and break apart to create the dividers that attach to each of the connectors.

So here’s the process:

1. Measure the width of the object (e.g. tie) and decide how wide the space between each row needs to be.  For the purpose of my project, I determined that 4″ would be the perfect size and would allow me to maximize the tiny drawer space.

2. Then you apply the connector strips on each side of the drawer.

3. Insert the divider in the connector strip to  make sure that your measurements were correct.

4. Then apply the connector strips spaced out thru the drawer.

5. Insert all the dividers.

6. Voila! Roll your ties, sort (sorta) by color, and you now have great tie storage.

This project was fairly simple and took less than an hour to complete.  But the best part is that my hubby actually uses it and rolls his ties back up at the end of the day.  No more ties on the back of chairs, the end of the bed, etc.  It’s the little things in life.

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Renovation Crazy: Master Bedroom Suite Plans

Things finally seem to be moving in terms of starting the renovation and I’ve actually received some decent news lately.  (How sad is it that my decent news is that there isn’t asbestos in my entire ceiling:)).  Anyway, let’s ride this wave of decent news and talk about  the new plans for the master bedroom.  Here is how the master bedroom and bathroom looks now:

It might be helpful to look at the original floorplan:

And here is the new floorplan:

So we’re tearing down all the walls in the bathroom and closet.  Then we will steal about 8 inches from the bedroom portion to create a 4-piece bathroom and a true walk-in closet.  The hubby really wanted a water closet so we’ve carved out some space for it (there will actually be a pocket door there).

We worked on several different iterations on this design to try to maximize the small space while still providing a true master suite with a separate shower and tub.  The costs to create this new space is significantly more than I expected but I believe that you should focus on making the rooms that you spend the most time in work the way you want.  Also, kitchens and bathrooms sell houses, so blowing our budget in this room should reap good rewards down the line.

Unfortunately, I’m all over the map with the actual design elements of the room so I won’t have anything to share for a while.  I was obsessed with having an all-marble bathroom with gorgeous herringbone tile in the shower.  Similar to this:

But I’m rethinking that plan because I’m concerned that it will be too “white” and boring.  I think those rooms are gorgeous but I live for color and just wonder if I’ll get tired of it quickly.  So I’m back at square one with design.  I’ll be sure to add updates as I figure it out.