As we move from project to project in our home, we have been focusing primarily on the spaces that are most exposed to guests. A while ago, we completed the guest room, and now we have just put the finishing touches on the guest bathroom. This was quite a large project, considering how small the room actually is, and our first concepts for it date back to before we even closed escrow.
As you can see in these images, this bathroom was quite hideous when we bought the house. The only thing that we considered keeping was the bathtub, but ultimately we replaced it because it wasn’t in great condition.
We knew that we wanted colored tile halfway up the wall, similar to the bathroom in our old apartment. After visiting several tile stores in Los Angeles County, we ended up going with this lotus flower accent tile that we had seen before we even had the keys to the house. We went with a dark green bullnose cap and a sage green subway tile that’s reminiscent of our kitchen cabinets, giving the bathroom a sense of cohesion with the rest of the house.
For the floor tile, I have always loved the look of small marble hexagons, and how well they juxtapose with subway tile. Removing the vanity and replacing it with a pedestal gave us much more floor space to make the room feel less cramped.
In order to have some storage space, we designed this cabinet that spans the length of the wall, and had it custom built by Martin Cabinet Designs. The layout of the cabinet allows for a decorative mirror to hang in the center, and I especially love the rounded corner shelves that give us space to put up decorative bathroom items.
When it came time to pick out the shower door, we went with a frameless textured glass that would allow more light into the shower than a framed one.
Porcelain cross handles in the shower are another element inspired by our apartment bathroom.
After all of the construction and cabinet installation was done, it was time to pick out the accessories. We selected items that would not only provide the needed functionality, but would also make sense visually for the space. The bathtub caddy has become a favorite for relaxing in the whirlpool tub with a book and glass of wine.
Though I have no idea what this bathroom possibly looked like in 1931 when our home was built, I certainly feel that we have done the space justice with our recent changes.
One of the main elements of our new living room is the fireplace and built-in housing for the television. This multi-faceted project took a long time to complete, and ended up including some DIY work on our parts that we weren’t initially planning for.
The original fireplace was very bare, and lacked presence. The brick face was broken in a few spots, and the remnants of carpeting were stuck to the bottom edge. Overall it was unappealing and needed a change.
We knew that we wanted to be able to cover up our television when it was not in use, as well as house all of our electronic devices inside of a media cabinet. Once we determined the color of the tile and how the doors would open, we started designing the entire piece. James created this concept art, and we worked with Martin Cabinet Designs to figure out the specifics of mounting the television and running the cables. They then had the difficult task of building the cabinetry over the existing broken fireplace.
The level of detail they added was exactly what we were looking for, and it came out perfectly in both design and function. It instantly became a part of the room, enabling us to easily forget that it ever wasn’t there at all.
With the carpentry done, we thought that we would be hiring contractors to tile over the brick, but because it was such a small job, we decided to do the tiling ourselves.
This was our first time ever using mortar, but it was easy enough to apply to the brick. First we had to smooth out the surface, which was especially difficult around the pieces of carpet that were stuck to the bottom.
For the tile itself we went with 3 inch square tiles from Fireclay Tile in Kelp, which has a lovely variety in shading, and a subtle shattered look. We used 1/4 inch spacers, which gave us plenty of leeway if our tile placement wasn’t entirely even.
Having to use a wet saw was one of my biggest hesitations, as they can certainly be intimidating, and proper safety precautions are very important. Once I got the hang of it, it cut very cleanly and made the whole project go smoothly.
After setting all of the tiles and allowing the mortar to dry it was time for the grout. We picked a white grout to let the green of the tile really stand out.
We were relieved to get a clean edge around the bottom, and the bullnose tiles around the rim of the hearth give it a softer look in comparison to the sharp brick edge that was there before.
Once it was all dry and finished, we placed a new fireplace screen that better matched the iron detailing in our living and dining rooms, and added a couple of plants to the hearth. Another home design project successfully checked off our list.
The final part of our kitchen remodel was finishing up the attached laundry room. When conceiving of the layout, size was the biggest consideration. This is a very narrow space that was certainly not built with the size of 21st century appliances in mind, so the very first decision we made was to stack the washer and dryer, instead of having them side by side. We knew we wanted to de-emphasize how far the washer and dryer extended out, and wanted to have a visual divider from room to room, so we put a curtain in the doorframe to create a soft separation from the breakfast nook.
We were able to make the most out of this small space by having a custom cabinet built by Martin Cabinet Designs, who also built our kitchen cabinets and breakfast nook. We gave them details on how we wanted it to look, and they created it to fit the space and our needs perfectly.
Our kitties, Titan and Atlas, have their own private doorway to enter their litter box, and the bottom of the cabinet rolls out for easy cleaning.
On the opposite wall from the washer and dryer, there was just enough room to put up some hooks that I use to hang a few small purses and scarves.
A couple of small shelves on the wall complete the room by giving us a little extra space for storing items. It may be tiny, but our new laundry room fits all of our needs, and the kitties seem to be pleased with it too. It just goes to show that you don’t need to knock down walls in order to make a space more functional.
After a full year of planning and saving, we have finally completed the first major remodel in our home: the kitchen. As soon as we bought our house, I knew that the kitchen had to be one of the first major projects. Not only do I spend a lot of time in the space, but the previous kitchen looked unappealing and was hardly even functional. The changes we made compliment the texture palette of the house, provide functionality and organization, and give the space the charm that it was begging for.
As you can see from this before and after, we mostly kept the layout of the kitchen the same. However, there are some major differences in the sizing and features of cabinets and appliances. The previous cabinet doors were very small and poorly spaced, making it almost impossible to store anything larger than a medium sized pot. Most of the drawers were either broken or didn’t open, the faucet was turned to one side and refused to budge, the vent did not function, and the teeny oven couldn’t even fit a standard cookie sheet. These were all very frustrating issues for someone who cooks as much as I do. We had our custom cabinets built by Martin Cabinet Designs, who were able to construct everything just as we envisioned.
Even before we bought our house, I had a general idea of how I wanted the kitchen to look. Once we had the measurements, James created this concept art to help us figure out exactly how it would all come together. Though some changes were made to the final version, the feeling you get when you see something you designed come to life is nothing short of exhilarating.
The biggest change to the layout was opting for open shelves above the stovetop, instead of cabinets like it had before. This change has been so impactful not only visually, but also functionally. I absolutely love that the tile goes all the way up to the ceiling, and now I can display more items while keeping common pantry items organized and within reach.
The small oven was one of my biggest complaints, so after a lot of consideration I decided to go big and add not one, but two standard size ovens. I have always loved the look and flexibility double ovens provide, and I’m already so glad I went in that direction.
Going with butcher block countertops was one of the very first decisions that we made. We picked out this beautiful acacia wood that has a wonderful variety in color. It’s perfect for the the galley layout of our kitchen, and adds so much warmth and country charm.
One of my favorite features of the kitchen is the wall mount faucet. The butcher block counter top dictated that the faucet not be mounted to the counter, so it created the opportunity for it to come out of the tile instead. For the farmhouse sink, James insisted that the apron absolutely had to be fluted to breakup the large white front, and I couldn’t agree more.
Aside from the kitchen galley, this remodel also included the breakfast nook corner. The same team that made our cabinets made this built-in bench with a top that lifts for extra storage.
Here’s a look at the corner before the remodel.
We kept the original built-in corner cabinet which we always liked, and just gave it a fresh coat of paint to match the new cabinets.
There are a few items in our new kitchen from our trip to Guatemala that we previously had on display in our old apartment. Not only do they work well with our terra cotta floor tile, but they provide a sense of continuity with our first home together.
We felt that it was very important to incorporate a variety of patterns with these pillows to liven up the breakfast nook.
We also added several new plants throughout the space, which are a simple way of adding life to any room. I made these macramé hanging planters using twine to fill in some of the space above the bench without feeling too heavy.
I am so pleased with how the entire remodel came out, and relieved to have such a large project completed. I have already been busy using the new space, and look forward to many delicious meals that will be cooked in our lovely new kitchen.
When we started to look for dining room furniture for our home, I knew that I would want round back chairs. I have always loved the style, and the soft curves would be fitting for the look of our living room. We searched high and low for an affordable option that would match our color scheme, but finding the perfect ones seemed impossible. A couple of months ago, we found the correct style for sale, but when we received the chairs they were no where near the color of our table, so I decided to re-stain and re-upholster them myself.
The process was long and complicated, but this was the best way to guarantee that we would have the style of chair we envisioned. Here you can see the original chair, which was very gray covered in a rough gray fabric.
We took off the original gray fabric, and removed the old finish. After prepping the wood for staining (I read a lot on the nuances of how to properly remove old stain, sand, and condition wood), I applied a gel based stain that would closely match the color of our dinning room table.
Once the process of re-staining and finishing the wood on the chairs was complete, it was time to re-upholster. We looked at several fabric swatches, and decided on this light champagne color to create a soft, neutral space.
The last part of the process was to make piping for the bottom and back of each chair. Thankfully, I have plenty of experience with a sewing machine, so this was the easiest part of the project.
I made the piping on the bottom a bit thicker than the one on top as it seemed more fitting for the proportions. The piping not only hides the staples put in to hold the fabric, it also makes the chairs look complete and elegant.
This has been one of the most difficult projects I’ve taken on, but absolutely worth all of the effort. I love how the chairs look in our space, and can’t wait to finish the rest of the dinning room changes, which we will reveal here as soon as they are ready.
I recently reached three years of living in our apartment. I had been living in Los Angeles for less than a year, was drastically overpaying for a tiny studio apartment, and was ready to move to a bigger space. I started to search in various neighborhoods with a loose idea of what I was looking for. I knew that I wanted a one bedroom, since I was sick of feeling like I was living in a kitchen, hardwood floors (I hate carpeting), and a walkable neighborhood. After just a few weeks of searching, I came across our current home and fell in love with it. It was in a great area, high ceilings, tiled bathroom, arched doorways, wooden ceiling beams, and even a patio! It was also a huge plus that it was actually only $100 more than the studio I was paying for. I moved in with what little furniture I owned, primarily the cheapest pieces I could find at IKEA from when I first started out in Los Angeles, and worked with what little I had. A year later, James moved in with me, and together we have progressively made it more and more into a home.
The first pieces of furniture that I bought out of necessity when I moved in were couches and a coffee table. I had to buy the cheapest (and ugliest) ones that I could find at IKEA, but I covered the couches in red bed sheets to at least give them some color. A few months later, I found this red and gold patterned fabric in the fashion district, for an incredibly low price. I got a few yards, hemmed the edges, and replaced the sheets with the fabric pieces, giving the living room a bit more design and presence.
Shortly after James moved in (about a year of us sitting on the uncomfortable white sofas), we were finally able to afford some real furniture, so we got our current couches and coffee table. We also found an end table at a tag sale to use as our bar. We now tend to keep at least four coffee table books on the table, have added new frames to our walls, and a small carpet imported from India to tie the room together.
Of course, there are the necessary evils of 21st century appliances. I would rather not have a large television using up the space on the mantel, but for practical purposes, this is the only place that it can go. I envision one day having built in bookshelves that have a neat space for the TV. Tagging along with the TV are the cable box, modem, and a huge jumble of cables that go with it. The computer is something else that I would not want in this room if we had the choice. We have not addressed our black computer table either, which we intend to paint at one point, or the out of place chair, which will some day be replaced by a proper leather office chair. There will always be improvements and projects to do in the future.
I had a large IKEA bookshelf from my old studio apartment that used to serve as the “wall” between my bed and the kitchen. We eventually got rid of that in favor of a smaller bookcase that someone who was moving out of the building was going to throw away. At least that gave us the opportunity to start filling in the wall space with some frames.
Finally, after a lot of searching for the ideal bookcase, we came across this lovely one at an antiques flea market. James and I were living together at that point, and this not only suited our need for more shelf space, but also our aesthetic tastes.
The kitchen table area, although small, has had the most colorful amount of change. Initially the area had to start with another plain black table, three chairs (the sale meant only three were left when I found them), and a small microwave table next to the refrigerator to organize some appliances.
Over time we replaced the microwave cart with this antique wooden hutch, and the black particle board table with a wooden tile top table. These colorful pieces have become some of my favorite in the entire apartment.
I really had nothing to work with in the bedroom when I moved in, so unfortunately it had to look like a college dorm for a while.
Now, the bedroom has this tall queen sized bed (which I admit took some time to adjust to), James’ dresser, and end tables. It’s a bit of a tight fit, as there is no other room to put the coat rack or shoe rack, but we’re making it work.
We are constantly looking for ways to continue improving our home, visiting flea markets, adding new artwork to our walls, or simply switching out decor based on the season. We’re not sure how long we’ll be in this apartment, but until we have a house someday, we are perfectly content calling this our home.