Art at Last!


When I last left y’all, I was still in search of the perfect piece of art for my kitchen nook, but hadn’t found the one that made me feel all the feelings.  I didn’t want to finish off the space that I had worked so hard on by just throwing something up on the wall that did not speak life into the depths of my being -IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK? I wasn’t sure if I wanted a modern black and white abstract piece or something that felt like it had more history. When the upholsterer came over to measure for the kitchen nook, he told me my style was transitional. I thought about telling him his voice was annoying and his breath smelled like the backside of a hyena, but I refrained. I’ve always hated the term “transitional.” It feels like it’s the embodiment of someone who’s afraid of commitment, someone who’s neither here nor there, someone who listens to muzak on purpose. I think what he meant to say (or what I meant for him to say) was “eclectic”… a mix of styles. My friend Rebecca described my space as “elevated 70’s” which made me want to tell her that her voice sounded like baby angels singing and her breath smelled like chocolate cake (that’s pretty much the highest compliment I can give a person). I have a lot of nods to the grooviest era happening in here, with Boho/Moroccan influences, especially in my soon-to-be-revealed living room. I also have a large dose of Hollywood Regency style with a black, white, and brass theme running throughout the house. All that to say, I could have gone a lot of directions with the art for this space. Just as an aside, if you’re thinking that your personal style is “whatever piece of furniture my parents were getting rid of with an influence of whatever was hanging out on the side of the road with a ‘Free’ sign” I feel you, and I think some of the most creative spaces can result from using things that have some history, some soul, and don’t cost a lot.

I had seen one piece of art that kept tugging at my heart. I decided to call one of my people. One of my favorite things about dipping my toe into interior design are the beautiful, creative, talented artists I’ve gotten to meet along the way. In fact, one of my hopes for this blog is to be able to introduce you to some of these people and their work. LA is a big, overwhelming town, so there’s something so satisfying about knowing the people all over this city to call when you’re looking for something specific. They will either have it, create it, or point you in the right direction.  There are plant people, furniture people, art people, hardware people and people all in between. I met Corban a few years back when we worked on a short film together. Since then, she started an awesome business called The Here Company in which she does some jaw-dropping house staging around LA. She is dripping with creative talent herself, and also knows tons of artists and designers around our fair city. I had seen my painting (okay-it wasn’t mine yet) in one of her friend and fellow stager/designer’s instagram pics, so naturally I called her to see if she could work some magic for me.

“Do you think he’d sell it to me?” I ventured. Lucky for me, Corban’s friend had just stepped away from his 9-5 gig to start buying and selling his stellar finds full time. Corban told me she’d take care of it…like some sort of Godfather of design. Not really, but it seems more dramatic that way.

When I arrived at Jason’s house to pick up the art, I freaked out a little. Corban had sent me a picture from there before of a beautiful burl table he had that I might be interested in, and I knew he had some gooooood goods. She warned me that every corner of his place was like a designofile’s dream. That night, he was in the process of cleaning out and photographing all of the insanely cool stuff that he had collected throughout the years and had been sitting in storage. There were funky sculptures, old rugs, vintage paintings and strange artifacts…and I considered stealing them all, but some stuff was heavy and I would need his help to get it in my get-away car, which might have made things awkward. I did find out that Jason came by his love of design honestly, like me, from his mom. Among her creative endeavors was a jewelry business named Just Bead It,  which sounded a lot like my mom’s hair bow business Bow-dacious. This gave me hope that he might give me the “Child-of-a-mom-with-a-punny-business-name” deal.

My beautiful painting was sitting among the other treasures. It was a landscape with rich, dark colors, frayed edges, and no frame. It tells a story, of those 3 tiny figures in the canoe on an adventure beneath that goliath of a mountain, but also of the mantels it must have graced and people who must have loved it throughout the years. It’s the perfect juxtaposition to my clean, brass light and is large enough to fill the space. So I took it home…along with another abstract painting to try, a Xoacan bell, and a… whale pelvis. You heard me. Whale. Pelvis.

When I hung the art up, it felt like the piece that was always supposed to be there. I’m glad I waited. If you want to see and buy some of Jason’s stuff, you can find him on Instagram @americangarage. You can check out my friend Corban’s beautiful work here or on Instagram @theherecompany. Tell them I sent you.fullsizerender


Kitchen Reveal!

I promised a reveal, and a reveal I have…finally! I dug up some previously unseen before photos that will give you a much better perspective on the changes we made.

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And After!




Where to begin? The first day we moved in, even though the kitchen was still very much in process, I was in disbelief and overwhelmed with gratefulness. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that I would get to wake up to this kitchen. Though the floor tiles I landed on were more understated than my original inspiration, I think they work, and also compliment the mix of cabinets without overpowering them. I loved the continuity from the den to the kitchen of the white brick backsplash , and I felt like it gave the kitchen a sense of history.

I think two of the decisions that were the easiest to make, also had the biggest impact. Removing the tray ceiling to give the room a little more height and knocking out the small, awkward wall between the kitchen and eat-in area opened up the space in a big way. Deciding how to orient the rest of the kitchen was not so cut and dried.

I envisioned a few different stations in the kitchen. I was hoping for a bar-height counter where the kids could sit and talk to me as I baked my grandmother’s from scratch 6 layer carrot cake umm…heated up Trader Joe’s chicken nuggets.  I thought a breakfast nook would be the most efficient use of the eating space, since it wasn’t large and a sliding glass door took up most of the back wall. I also wanted a place for our computer. We didn’t have plans for an office anywhere else in the house, and I knew, especially with homeschooling, we would be spending most of our time in the kitchen. My long-suffering husband and I spent an…ahem…”spirited” night working on the kitchen plan. There were a few points where I thought I might have to send my dreams of a bar off to Never-Never Land. But we kept playing with the plan, measuring, and walking the space, and we finally landed on this configuration. It was a beautiful moment. My bar would be small, but it would be mighty, and would also be the perfect place to set a golden loaf of prop bread.


I really love our little breakfast nook. It’s just the right size for the four of us to have intimate family dinners over dinner-y type food. Everyone has perfect manners while peaceful classical music drifts through the background. The kids use their utensils and always gobble up all the green things I put on their plates, then beg me for seconds followed by, “as long as you don’t make me partake in dessert, Mother Dearest!” There is no gagging, crying and negotiating, and everyone cleans up after themselves when dinner is over. Apparently, these are the kinds of things that happen when you just get a breakfast nook. If only I had known all along.

I’m a big fan of this light fixture from West Elm. I wanted a fun, modern pop of light over the table. I’m still a little disappointed with the black electrical cord that hangs down from the top and am concocting a way to remedy it.


This little bell holds a special place in my heart. It was my companion for many hours of imaginary play as a child at my grandma’s house. It seemed grown up and magical all at once. A few years ago when we were home visiting, my “Gaga” nonchalantly bequeathed it to my youngest child.  After almost hyperventilating,  I promptly told him I would “keep it safe” for him.  He didn’t love the idea, but I’m bigger than he is, so obviously, I won. The copper cup was a birthday gift from a dear friend.


The big blank space above the breakfast nook created some serious internal conflict in me. I have been looking for that perfect piece of art that will tie the room together. I assumed it would appear to me right before I had the kitchen photographed. Last year, when I was down to the wire finishing  up my husband’s office, I found 3 or 4 pieces of art at vintage/second hand stores in one day.  Apparently, those stores never recovered from my haul. I went back and they had nothing. I searched Craigslist. I looked at all my favorite sources online. But I had waited too late. And now whatever I ordered wouldn’t get here in time. I contacted super-talented artist friends to see if they had anything that would work for the space. I went on an “art walk” and showed official seeming people pictures of my blank wall. I begged artsy strangers for help. I made a lot of friends but came home art-less. I found pieces I loved for other spots in the house, and did land on a few pieces that could work for the nook. I came very close to buying something to keep from having a space with nothing. But then I realized that that was dumb. Was I really going to spend money on art that wasn’t the one, just so it could be photographed for my own blog? That would be like marrying a guy who was nice enough, just so you could have someone to take to your high school reunion.  (I realize that’s a little hyperbolic, but you get the point.) When I finally decided that I would wait, I felt so relieved. So here is my blank wall, that will stay blank until I find the one. And then, I’ll take another picture of it, and it might be with my iPhone, and that will be okay too.








I chose white quartz counters. I wasn’t sure if I’d miss the Carrera marble that we put in a previous fixer-upper, but I wanted to try something new. I kept the counter at the desk area high, so that I could sit or stand at the computer. We also installed a wine fridge, because, well, wine.

I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on that stool and staring at that computer, which is actually the computer I’m staring at right now, which means I might be caught in some kind of time vortex.




The previous door opening from the hall into the kitchen was very narrow and gave the room a closed-off feeling. I knew adding an arch would not only open up the room, but would increase the drama as well. (I’m always a fan of drama when it comes in the form of inanimate objects.)


I chose 10 1/2 inch brass pulls for the larger drawers, and 5 inch pulls for the smaller ones. Whenever it was possible, I picked drawers over cabinets, since they give you a much better view of all the things you’ve stuffed inside of them.




EDITED_Home_30This fruit bowl was a souvenir from a family trip a few years ago to Costa Rica, but let’s be real, I don’t buy whole artichokes on the regular.

Thanks so much for letting me share my kitchen rehab with y’all!  I’m sure it will continue to evolve, and hopefully, that piece of art will make itself known sooner rather than later.

I’m looking forward to posting more of the projects I’ve got going on around here, and anyone else’s projects I can get my hands on, too!  Also, I’d love to introduce you to some of the beautiful shop owners and artists of all kinds I’ve met on my design adventures around LA.

Many thanks to the ridiculously talented Bethany Mollenkof for photographing my kitchen…and puppy, too!



Laxarby cabinets and Ringhult high gloss white cabinets – Ikea /  NXR Stove, GE Refrigerator,and Bosch dishwasher – Warehouse Discount Center / Potfiller and Sink Faucet – Amazon / Bar Handles in 5″ and 10 1/2″  and Cone knobs  – My Knobs / Alto Sconce – Cedar & Moss / Mobile Chandelier – West Elm / Reverb Bar Stools , Low Vase Planter, and Pinpoint Hurricane– CB2 / Era Armchairs– Design Within Reach /  Rug – Nouri Rugs / Kennedy Clock -Schoolhouse Electric / Copper Colander , White Marble Lazy Susan, Wood Slice Tray, and Tagine – World Market / Threshold Cake StandNate Berkus Stapler, and Hobnail Planter– Target / Triangle Cheese Board – Chris Earl  via The Here Company /  Black and White Serving Bowls and Chopping Boards – Ikea / Utility Scissors and Copper Timer – Anthropologie / Kinley Creamer and Sugar Bowl – Crate and Barrel / Copper Salt and Pepper Mills and Black Planter – Home Goods








Good as Gold


black lacquer 5This kitchen by Black Lacquer Design is making me re-think my choice of black cabinets, but we’ve got that gilding in common, though my choice was more muted. Image Source 

I’ve heard it said that cabinet pulls are like jewelry for your kitchen. And I like jewelry. When I started looking at kitchen jewelry, I kept running into gold and brass beauties as I browsed Pinterest. Many people can’t get past their negative associations with the brass and gold of the past to even consider thinking about putting the cuties in their current space. But the new gold or brass feels much more modern (and much less Donald Trump) than what we found in the kitchens and baths of yesteryear. Think 1989, the T-Swift album, not 1989, your middle school picture. There are matte and brushed options, and the lines are considerably cleaner.  But if after considering your options, the gilded hardware still gives you the heebie jeebies, you should absolutely not use it. The Universal First rule of Design is to only use what you love. And I was head over heals for those gold/brass tones.

Thankfully, gold handles don’t necessitate gold everything else. Just because you choose gold or brass handles doesn’t mean you have to choose a gold faucet or a gold microwave (do those even exist? If they don’t, they should.) I decided on 2 different lengths of gold square t-bar pulls for my lowers, and tiny cone knobs for my uppers. I love mixes, and a mix of handles not only keeps things interesting, but can help you to save a little money too. If you’ve fallen in love with handles that are a little more than you wanted to pay, you can use them strategically and fill in the rest with a coordinating but less expensive option. Usually, there is some sort of natural delineation in your cabinet configuration that can help you make the decision. Divide by uppers and lowers or drawers and cabinets. Go Wild.

Brittany MakesI just *might* have the same faucet/sink combo as Brittany. Image Source

I ordered my handles, and apparently, a lot of other people did too. It would be a long while before I could get my hands on those handles. If you need to order hardware, do so as soon as you know you need it. For some reason, hardware manufacturers like to create demand for their handles by only crafting enough for the people who have fake Pinterest kitchens. The rest of us normal people have to wait forever, and by the time we get them, the Pinterest people have moved on to handle-less cabinets. I spent the first month in our new kitchen with classic, yet modern blue painter’s tape for handles. This makeshift hardware works by attaching the tape to the inside of the drawer so a little folded tail hangs out over the top and acts as a handle. Half of the time, that tail gets stuck inside, and there is no handle. When that happens, you start by grabbing the lip on the bottom of the bottom drawer and pull each drawer out, all the way up until you get to the drawer you want to open. By then, you’ve forgotten what you needed in the first place, and you don’t care if you have handles or not.

Stick around! I’m hoping to be able to reveal my kitchen sometime in the next 2 weeks…unless, of course, I chicken out.

wood counterThe gold in this kitchen (featured in an Apartment Therapy article on gold) is gorgeous, but I can’t get over that live-edge counter. Image Source




How to Choose All the Cabinets

Blair Harris Kitchen Is it a bad idea to show you such beautiful kitchens before revealing mine? Probably. Image Source

While I decided against using the black and white floor tiles (for now) I knew for sure that I still wanted a very black and white kitchen. Black cabinets on the bottom and light on top are often referred to as a tuxedo kitchen. This color scheme is ideal if you want the drama of dark cabinets, without the heaviness. The black bottoms keep the space grounded, while the light uppers keep it open and airy.

I also decided I wanted to mix cabinet styles. That may elicit a cringe from my friendly readers (the three who aren’t blood related). I’m not sure exactly what drove me to that decision besides Pinterest and a fear of commitment. I do think it’s a kind of amazing illustration of my personality. As I’ve firmly established, choosing is not a thing that comes easy for me. I’m naturally an optimist, and I often believe that there will always be something better. It’s a good thing my husband wasn’t lacking in the self-confidence department when he wooed me. At some point early on in our engagement, I was very honest about how scared I was to be making such a big decision (we were babies, by the way). He remained completely unshaken and responded with, “If you don’t marry me, who the hell are you gonna marry?” Clearly, he was the one for me.

Dana-Miller-House-Tweaking-Kitchen-Remodelista-10-733x1100Ikea, for the win, in this kitchen by House Tweaking. Image Source

Unfortunately, cabinets don’t speak quite as clearly as young, overly confidant fiancés. I vacillated between having the cabinets custom made and going the Ikea route. Ikea cabinets are basically magic. All it takes to be under their spell is to walk into an Ikea. Granted, it might take you 3 years to find the kitchen department, but once you do, you’re toast (that was a kitchen joke.) Ikea kitchens are Nordic fairy lands where spices stay organized, cabinets flaunt their spacious quarters, and trash doesn’t stink. You really do believe that you will instantaneously become a hip, yet organized Swedish model/chef if you simply get your hands on one of those Fyorjofferståtinkis. (Did I make that up? Maybe you should learn Swedish and find out.) Since Ikea cabinets are affordable, easily acquired, and get rave reviews from users, I decided to put my money on them.

In the end, I chose black shaker cabinets for the bottom and modern, high-gloss, white uppers. I also added some custom open shelving in walnut, and a custom walnut island. A few years ago, if you would have told me I’d be putting shiny, modern, white cabinets in my kitchen I probably would have told you to stop cussing. Before moving to the West Coast, I was not a fan of modern anything (except medical practices). But the more I saw those clean, unfussy lines, the more they grew on me. I took a chance on not choosing just one style of cabinet and prayed that all these disparate choices would play nicely together.

Robe kitchenHere’s another kitchen, because it’s just so cool. Image Source

Choosing a Backsplash


Williamsburg kitchenNot my kitchen, but isn’t she a beauty? Image Source

A backsplash is one of those things that you can live your whole life without having and be perfectly okay. I’m pretty sure that if you look for backsplash on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it would fall just below Netflix and sit a few rungs above fur pillows. In our previous rental, my “backsplash” consisted of 4 inches of laminate with a pinky beige paint in a FLAT FINISH on the wall above it. And as Ana, one of the trainers at my gym would say, “But did you die?”

Backsplashes probably didn’t even exist until people had time to stop worrying about their crops freezing or their family members catching the plague from the fleas who lived on their house rats. Before there were backsplashes people just had…walls. Then a sneaky tile maker named Howard realized he could make a mint if he convinced people that they shouldn’t just tile their floors; they should keep going ALL THE WAY UP THE WALL. We should actually be grateful to Howard for beating the rug guy, Harry, to it, because cleaning bacon grease off of a Persian rug or (worse!) shag carpet on the wall behind the stove would be super gross.

Jenny Wolf kitchenStill not my kitchen, but maybe it should be. Image Source

Thankfully, choosing my backsplash did not create the level of internal conflict in me that choosing my floor did. In fact, I felt as though my backsplash decision was clear, and for this, I rejoiced. The white brick in the den and master bedroom was one of the characteristics of the house that made me fall in love with it. In a house that seemed very confused about who it was, the painted brick gave it a sense of history. It felt old, yet clean and fresh. The kitchen shared the white brick wall with the den, but the kitchen side was tile. Knowing that I wanted to incorporate a few modern design elements in my kitchen, I felt like using the brick as a backsplash would keep the space grounded. Although a painted brick backsplash isn’t quite as easy to clean as tile, it sure beats cleaning a shag rug.

IMG_7640Actually, this IS my (mid-renovation) kitchen. Stick with me on this photo thing. I know these pics are depressing, but I included the other pictures of beautiful kitchens so that your eyes would have something pretty, well-photographed, and finished to enjoy. 

Also, because it’s the best, you should read this post from Victoria Elizabeth Barnes about kitchen madness. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.


How To Make the Right Decision (or not)



Demo on my kitchen had begun, and the clock was ticking. I had to make a decision about these darn tiles, and it it had to be the right one, because everybody knows that interior design is a TEST.  There are right and wrong answers. If you make the wrong decision, people will secretly take pictures of your house and pin them on their Pinterest board entitled “Design Fails” and you will get famous for failing so hard.  I did not want that to happen. So I did a lot of research, which is obviously the best way to do interior design.

I’m only joking…ish. I think one of the reasons redesigning a kitchen is rough for those who are decision averse is that the decisions being made are not small, inexpensive decisions. This is not like buying that pillow on the clearance aisle at Target that you may not like a year from now (or when you get home from the store). And it’s definitely not like picking a nail color at the salon  (which, as my friends can attest, takes me an embarrassingly long time). I’m talking about choosing floors that I actually have to pay people to INSTALL in my house, with like, tools and grout and stuff.

I spent a lot of time looking at tiles here , here, and  here. And occasionally, I had the fortune of stumbling upon one of these gems in person. IMG_7349

I had to choose from the in-stock tiles on these websites, and while I really did love so many of them, I had little nagging doubts about every design. One felt too trendy. Another felt too ornate. The scale on another just didn’t seem right. If time is not a factor in your kitchen reno, you can actually custom design your tiles. This was not the case for me, though. I couldn’t allow my procrastination about this decision to hold up the whole renovation. I was starting to have flashbacks from my high school junior year Research Biology science project…and we all know how that turned out.  At one point, I thought I was nearing a decision, but when I put the tiles in the price estimator, I got a sinking feeling. Was the price doable? Yes. But did I have that “know that you know” for the price? I couldn’t say that I did.

After many hours spent with the black and white encaustic beauties, I bailed. I decided to go with good old white porcelain hexagon tiles. While part of me felt as though I was missing an opportunity for something funky and fresh, another part of me felt relieved.

While decisions can be challenging for me, I’m a huge fan of taking risks in design, as is evidenced by my very orange, very large, velvet living room sectional. But sometimes a particular risk just doesn’t sit right, and you don’t really know why. Maybe it wasn’t the tile that I was so drawn to in Jessica Helgerson’s kitchen, maybe it was that high contrast black and white overall color scheme, the open shelving, and the swaths of wood to warm it up. But I know what you’re thinking, “Can she  get the same dramatic feel without that gorgeous statement tile?”  These are the kinds of deep, soul-searching questions we will fearlessly face here together my friends. Be brave.

Also, I still have some bathrooms to renovate, so you know, those tiles and I just might have a future together.


Floors Come First

After purchasing the house and finding my design inspiration, I was over the moon to get to completely demo the kitchen and make it my own. But where does one begin when she is (almost) starting from scratch with a room? A piece of advice that I truly believe in is to begin at the bottom. You may have a piece of furniture that you’re working around, or an idea that you absolutely have to incorporate, but I honestly believe in an ideal situation, you start with the floors…literally, “from the ground up.”

When we moved into our house one of the first things I noticed was the hardwoods. Like any person with eyes, I love hardwoods. They are so versatile. They are at home in lofts and farmhouses, massive villas and tiny apartments. Though many will disagree, I love hardwoods in a kitchen (water damage, I scoff at you! ) If we were going to rip out the floor in our kitchen, hardwoods would be the obvious choice for a replacement, right?! But to employ my 7-year-old’s current favorite phrase, here’s the thing: I didn’t like these hardwoods. This is clearly on the list of first-world problems, maybe even akin to that time Kanye said, “Fur pillows are actually hard to sleep on.” Now that I’ve acknowledged that, I’ll move on.

The house was full of these beautiful, newish engineered hardwoods that I did not love and would not have chosen if I had my druthers (someone from the south, please speak up and tell me what “druthers” are. I have no idea and yet insist on ignorantly using this phrase.) I had a choice to make. I could put more of a thing I did not love in just because I am a person who thinks you should put hardwoods in the kitchen, or I could break my own design rule and go a completely different route. The magical thing was that in breaking one of my own rules I was actually obeying the ancient design law that supercedes all other design laws. It is the following: “When you have the choice, choose the things you love.”

One of my favorite things about Jessica Helgerson’s kitchen design was those beautiful black and white encaustic tiles she used. I decided that for my kitchen, the floor would be black and white. Funky black and white tiles were popping up everywhere, so I figured finding the ones I loved wouldn’t be too daunting. Here are just a few of the photos that guided my search… Which is your favorite?

fez kitchen

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black and white backsplash

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black and white bath

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Finding Your Inspiration

After sealing the deal on our new digs, we had about 6 weeks to our move-in date, which is plenty of time to completely renovate a kitchen…if you want to develop an eye tick, sink into a depression, and allow small animals to nest in your hair. Okay, the animals didn’t actually nest in my hair. It was more like a sleepover. I was incredibly fortunate to have an amazing contractor that I was introduced to by a designer I worked with on another project. Pablo was certain that he could get the kitchen to a livable point by our move-in day. That meant that all I had to do was to come up with a reasonable plan for the new kitchen. Easy! I could just go to Pinterest, find a kitchen I liked, and say to him “Can you please make it look like this? And can you please put that wall thingy beside the cabinet doohickie?” The end.

In all seriousness, Pinterest is an amazing resource. Yes, it can give us incredibly unrealistic standards for just about anything, but when you feel overwhelmed with all of the possible options, it’s a great place to begin to figure out the identity and feel you want your space to have. I find that when I know the general direction I’m heading, it makes the decision making process much easier. A few pictures of rooms you love give you an anchor point when you feel like you’ve lost your way in a sea of possibilities. Your room is not going to be a carbon copy of that pin from your favorite blogger or pinner…and that’s a good thing. Your space, budget, and personality are not their’s, and that’s what makes the design process so much fun. Pick a few things that made you fall in love with that room, and incorporate those elements.  I decided I would let my Spanish roof lead the way. Although my house would never be a true Spanish villa, I knew I could incorporate nods to la casa buried somewhere under that vertical siding.

This kitchen by Jessica Helgerson inspired and yes, haunted me throughout the design process. It had a Spanish feel without the overly ornate elements that can keep a Spanish space from feeling young and fresh. The black, white, and brass color scheme with the splashes of wood for warmth made my heart skip a beat. While I knew I wanted to go in a more modern direction, there were so many things about this kitchen that kept drawing me back in (maybe it’s that incredible loaf of carbohydrates sitting on that gorgeous table, turned island.) I had my jumping off point. Now there were only 563,721 more decisions to go.



Loving Your Space Whether You Love it or Not

Strong negative feelings make me rejoice. I should rephrase that. Strong negative feelings about design elements that I have some control over, make me rejoice. After renting for 5 years, I learned to not focus on negative feelings about things that I could not change. If you’re renting or it’s not currently in the budget to renovate, look for the best in your current abode. Maybe you hate those windows, but they look out onto the backyard where your kids’ sandbox is. Maybe your kitchen is cramped, but you really love the color you painted the walls. I’m a firm believer in doing what you can where you are. Put lipstick on that pig, baby, and don’t apologize for it. Our homes are our homes because of the people who live in them, not because of the light fixtures or the furniture. Any small change to make your space more welcoming, comfortable, and beautiful to you will have profound effects in your happiness at home. Don’t waste time focusing on what you can’t change.

My kitchen was not horrible by any standards, but I was stoked to be able to, for the first time, demo the whole thing and start from the ground up. Even with a complete renovation, there were plenty of restrictions that would limit us. Mama always says that constraints are a good thing. They not only force you to be creative, they narrow your options, which is incredibly helpful for someone like me who feels compelled to analyze EVERY POSSIBLE OPTION.

The kitchen was divided into 2 parts. The actual kitchen was very small, with an oddly placed wall (where the fridge stood) dividing it from the eat-in area. The ceiling in the kitchen proper was a low tray ceiling that made the whole room feel as if it might close in on you at any moment. The kitchen door opening from the hall felt small (not shown here), and there were 2 pass-throughs going from the kitchen to the den. This is the part where I feel like I need to apologize to someone somewhere for ripping apart this perfectly functional and fine kitchen, but then I have to remind myself that this is sort-of, kind-of, almost a design blog. I also tell myself that if I apologize to you every time I do something that is not the essence of practicality, we might as well pack this puppy up, strap on our velcro orthopedics, and go sit on a log (cause logs are totally practical.) Thanks for working through that with me.



This is the best pic I could find of the kitchen looking in from the breakfast/dine-in area,  pre-renovation.

How Do You Know If This House Is The One?

Buying a home anywhere is scary. Buying a home in Los Angeles is like The Shining, but with earthquakes. Figuring out which area of LA you’re going to settle in is the first hurdle, and let me tell you, it’s a doozy. People are committed to their little slice of LA, and each section truly does have its own personality. Do you love the beach and also love reminding those around you that where you live is the better than where they live? You should move to the West side. Are you too cool to shower? You should move to Silverlake.  Do you like to pretend that a giant is cooking you in his oven? You should move to the valley. We do shower, the beach is too far from my husband’s studio, and giants are just so…big. Despite all this, we found a few areas that would work, and began the search for our home.

You know those HGTV makeover shows where the host brings the potential homeowners into a house that they’re going to completely remodel anyway, but they can’t decide how they feel about a house because of the ugly wallpaper in the dining room?! I am sorry, but I want to physically harm those people. YOU’RE GOING TO SLEDGEHAMMER THAT WHOLE WALL ANYWAY!!  There is actually something so wonderful and comforting about loathing elements of a home when you know you can actually change those elements.  Does the house have good bones? Do you like the location? How’s the yard?

One of the first houses we looked at had piles of dog poop in the back yard. I’m not talking about a week’s worth of poop (that your kids conveniently forget to see/smell/pick up every time they go outside.)  I’m talking about a level of poop that makes you question whether the owners should be guests on “My Strange Addiction.” So we did what most normal people would do in that situation, which was to PUT AN OFFER ON THAT BABY. Our offer was under asking, because piles of animal excrement usually go along with other, less-than-ideal characteristics and it was promptly rejected (poop fumes are bad for the brain.)  I firmly believe that perfectly normal people turn into lunatics when they have to buy or sell their house. Thankfully, our realtor was also one of my besties who kept us from getting bit by the crazy bug in the process and helped us move on. Having a realtor who will keep you sane is key. I have a girlfriend realtor on the West Coast and a brother-in-law realtor on the East Coast, so if I decide to buy a house pretty much anywhere in the country, I’m covered. I highly recommend talking someone you love into getting their real estate license before you buy a home…or I guess you can use Yelp.

When we first toured the house that would become ours, I wasn’t so sure. I like to know what I’m walking into, and from the outside, this house felt a little bit like the casseroles I encountered all my life at church pot lucks, but without the ritz crackers and cheese that let you know whatever is underneath is going to be good (and also contain cream of chicken soup.) My casserole house was a bit of a mystery to me. The Spanish roof, brick foundation, vertical siding, trapezoid front window, and tri-level structure made me wish I could go back to 1975 and have a one-on-one with the architect. But we loved the location, flow, view, and the white brick interior walls. We felt like we could see our family making a home in this mildly confused casa, so we decided to take the plunge and get the house some therapy, later.