Crazy Week Ahead

Happy Monday!

I’ll likely be MIA this week as I’m packing and moving into the unfinished house on Wednesday. I thought I had a good start on packing but with the trip to Chicago and Detroit, I’m super screwed with the amount that needs to be done before the movers arrive (or I’ll pay them to pack which makes no financial sense).

Anyway, I came back from my trip to find that my contractor had completed everything I asked and the house looks AH-mazing. I have a kitchen, pantry, powder room, and master bathroom with proper plumbing, electrical and a little bit of drywall! Inspections are tomorrow and then the pretty stuff comes in!

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I’m so happy about the progress! I’ll leave you with a pic of how Nala spent her weekend.

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Traveling Today and New Walls

I’m on the road traveling today but I had a very productive day yesterday with our inspections going well, the kitchen and new powder room demo’d and ready for framing, and the bedroom walls and ceilings are all finished.

The guys have a work plan for the next few days while I’m gone and I hope that everything gets done during my absence. We’re only 6 day away from move in. Yikes!

So my current dilemma is what to do about the walls. I planned on adding wallpaper to most rooms but now that the walls are as smooth as a baby’s bottom, I don’t want to touch them (plus I’m traumatized by my pathetic attempt to remove the last wallpaper). I’ll post some of the wallpaper ideas next week but look at these smooth walls. They make me so happy!!

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It’s the little things ;).

Design Files: Loungy Bathroom

I had the pleasure of working on a bathroom re-design for a church last month.  It was a relatively small space but the client wanted to work on changing the dimensions while also creating a nice relaxing environment.  The directive I received was to create a bathroom that was similar in feel to a Nordstrom’s bathroom.  These are the inspiration images the client provided:

The initial layout had two small bathrooms.  Before I came on to the project, the pastor and crew came up with this new layout.

I was to focus on the women’s bathroom so I made a few tweaks and came up with this floorplan instead:

Instead of having a door that led to two industrial looking stalls, we decided to remove a wall and create floor-to-ceiling dividers between the toilets.  This created a little more space in the entryway while also giving a more high-end look to the functional part of the space.  I then created a seating area across from the vanity to create a more “lounge feel” similar to the inspiration images.

For finishes, the budget was tight but we were able to find travertine tiles at a great deal.  We will use the travertine on the floors and up the walls with a decorative mosaic as a chair rail of sorts to break up some of the travertine.  Here is a rendering of the space:

The client didn’t love the turquoise color and we haven’t picked a sofa/loveseat yet but the construction work is finished and the tile is being installed.  I’ll post real pictures when it’s all done!

Have a great weekend!!

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.  

Maybe Next Week

Sorry I’ve been so MIA this week. As I stated on Wednesday, I’m lacking motivation and inspiration. But I’m also in the middle of packing, renovating the house, and fighting a stomach bug. So, to put it bluntly, I’m useless.

Here’s to hoping I’ll be better next week and actually have something interesting to say.

Have a great weekend!

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!

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!

Renovation Realities: Finding a Contractor

I think it would be “fun” to start a blog series entitled “Renovation Realities” where I talk about the really shitty parts of renovating my home.  The focus of the series would be on the things that no one discusses (or at least my basic internet research didn’t identify) so that it would be informative for anyone else planning to take the plunge.  Obviously, everything I say is based on my own experience and likely will be pure speculation and opinion but at least we can all be entertained by my heartache.

So my initial understanding was that to start my renovation, I should find a contractor.  (I’ve since discovered that the more appropriate course of action may have been to get my plans worked out and go to the permit department which would then allow the contractors to properly bid on my job…but that’s not important now.)  To find this contractor, I got recommendations from friends who recently completed similar projects as well as friends of friends who had thoughts.  In total, I’ve met with almost six different contractors over the last month.  FYI – this is NOT fun!  I’m not going to get into too many details of each contractor primarily because I still haven’t officially decided on who I’m going to use (and I don’t want them to read the blog and get upset that I called them an asshole :)).

But I will discuss some observations I’ve made after this process:

  • Deadlines appear to be fluid.  If a contractor tells you he will get you the proposal by Monday, don’t actually expect it on Monday….he probably meant sometime during the week that starts with Monday.  And your frustration that they have missed a deadline (without any warning) is completely overreacting.  (If a contractor doesn’t give you a specific date he will get you a proposal, you should assume it will come within 2-3 weeks.)
  • The construction business is very sexist.  It is blatantly obvious that they believe as a woman I don’t know much about construction and that they can say a lot of nonsense that won’t get challenged.  I’m not expert but I’m no pansy either…so step it up contractors as I will be challenging you!

  • The construction business is very “know-it-all.”  The funniest part about this is the contractors also think they know design.  There have been many times where I want to scream “STFU! I didn’t ask you the best way to organize the kitchen in the given floorplan!”  I’m all about a professional opinion to tell me if I can move a wall but I damn sure don’t need advice from someone about the design of the room once it’s finished.
  • Bid proposals are useless without detail, detail, detail!  You need to know the unit price, profit margins, material allowances, etc. before you can adequately compare the bids.  If the contractor doesn’t want to give you that much information, there is something probably shady about them or their method.

Another important point that most people don’t realize is that each homeowner has two options: (1) hire a general contractor (GC) or (2) be your own GC and hire out the work.  With option 1, the GC would be responsible for all aspects of the renovation including securing plans, permits, materials, etc..  For the most part, the homeowner picks the materials and finishes and approves plans but otherwise, the crappy work of dealing with the subcontractors, delivery of materials, inspections, etc. will be dealt with by the GC.  With option 2, at least in California, the homeowner has the option of being the GC and hiring out the work to subcontractors.  The homeowner would be responsible for getting permits and plans from the city, as well as coordinating schedules of the different contractors to make sure that things are going smoothly.  Obviously, option 2 is much more work but also can save you 15-20% of your budget.  (I think this is a conservative estimate for how much you save because usually all-inclusive GCs tend to steer you towards more expensive materials and finishes.)  However, option 1 is the better idea for a novice renovator and someone who didn’t want to have to deal with a ton of crap from different contractors on a daily basis.

As of right now, I’m leaning towards hiring a GC to deal with the bulk of the behind-the-wall problems (electricity, plumbing, HVAC, insulation) to ensure that I’m able to take advantage of rebate programs offered by California.  Once the bulk of the work is completed that makes the home comfortable, and we’ve moved in, I may switch to just hiring out the jobs that need to be done over the next few months.  This decision will greatly impact my budget but given the extent of our renovation, I feel more comfortable ensuring that one person/company is responsible for making the house function properly.  The pretty stuff can happen later.

Of course, it’s now been 3 weeks since we closed on the house and nothing has happened so take all of my advice with a grain of salt.  Hopefully someone will knock some wall down in the next few days!

Let me know what you think.  Do you think this will be an interesting blog series?  Would you like more detail? What do you want to know more about?  I’ll do the best I can to help.

TGIF: Live it Up and Drink It Down

I sat down this morning to write a post about renovation realities.  My intention was to explain some of the initial experiences I’ve had with the renovation (and really just bitch about things).  But it’s Friday!  It has not been the greatest week but a few good things have happened (new client, finalized some plans, made new friends) so I’m going to choose to focus on that as I head into the weekend.

My motto: “Life is too short, live it up and drink it down!”  Silhouette by  Carter Kustera.

I’m planning to be a homebody tomorrow and then head to the Long Beach Antique Market on Sunday.  Hope you have some fun plans!

I’ll be back next week to give you a run down of the renovation process thus far.  Feel free to check in on my random musings, etc. on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram (@joystreetdesign).