Monday, September 20, 2010

Tackling the backyard - fire pit, and lovely plantings

Summer has been very busy.  Between various trips to escape the renovation...I mean enjoy each others company ;)  we've actually managed to make some progress.  Namely, we decided to really focus on the backyard and we broke it in at my big birthday on the 5th of September.

Think of the below photos as "in progress".  The entire lot is about 10,000 square feet and the backyard is pretty large and used to slope down.  We dug out the dirt, used railroad ties to create a separate patio area and used decomposed granite as a "topping".  And last but not least, we finally got to a point where we could call the fire pit "finished".  We are super excited also because our buddy, Jose, offered us a bunch of free dirt to help us level out the rest of the yard and then we're installing a sprinkler system and laying grass (Holla!!!). 

You'll also see my poor little vegetable garden that has struggled mightily this summer.  It's tough to keep produce alive when you're not home regularly to water and the bugs get into the leaves.  We do have some good tomatoes though and a sweet baby cantaloupe forming so fingers crossed :) 
I stripped the paint off this old door and painted it a snazzy green and accented with some potted plants (to the right).  Russ has been laboring on the cement slabs (we have 6 more to lay)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Maybe too much time has passed....nahhhh

Despite the millions (o.k., dozen or so) folks who kept asking us (i.e. "Ang") to update our blog, I feel that we reached a point somewhere in early July where updating the blog became a bit ridiculous.  With so much time passing from our last update in March, I felt overwhelmed and even began convincing myself that we hadn't really accomplished all that much.  In the era of HGTV, where immediate results seem to be the norm, I began thinking thoughts like, "the 'after' photos won't look nice enough".

Master Bath Before - well you can check out a previous post to see the bathroom down to the studs!
Finally a toilet installed - we chose a dual flush because it saves water.  Check out the fancy window too!

I wouldn't say "after" but getting closer - the paint color is on the wall "cobblestone" and you can see the fantastic tile work by Rusty!

Testing out the body close!

But, I began looking through our blog photos and many of our house photos since the spring and I'm convinced that we have indeed made respectable progress.  We don't have a 20 man team and expert designers working around the clock, but we are capable and able...when we find the time.  We are on a budget and everything takes a lot more time (and money) especially when it's just the two of us (or three, with our buddy Mark helping us out).  Not to mention, the "Mr." works at his real job for a minimum of 60+ hours/week!  No more excuses though, we are doing great and the house is coming along.

Making the opening from "nook" to kitchen larger to allow more light and easier flow.
Project complete!
We were fortunate to have Russ' sister, MacKenzie, and bro-in-law, come for a weekend and help prime and tile. 

Look at Justin with that tile saw!
After he installed backerboard, Russ used a lot of quick set/mortar to ensure the tiles were perfectly level - such an engineer.

I've become the designated "go to" girl which means I do a lot of the advance work, selecting paint colors, driving to remote locations to scout the best deal on counter tops, heck - I even got us into the finals for a new show on HGTV!  It would have been perfect to have  team of experts helping us out, but apparently, they "are no longer considering using us for their show".  BOOOOOO!
Maybe a little excessive on the grout but it turned out beautiful!

One wall of the kitchen.  We added the little desk area to the right and will put granite on it.  The big hole is for the double-oven.

Obviously, we need to replace the ugly window.  You like the subtle paint color above the stove?
Here you can see the beautiful window Russ and Mark installed and I think this image shows the widened opening from the kitchen to the back nook really well

Guest bedroom downstairs before paint


Russ leveling out the upstairs back unit (where we are currently living) in preparation for hardwood floors.
The hardwoods almost installed - full disclaimer - we ended up getting some guys from craigslist and they did an awesome job!

This was taken sometime in June - always a work in progress but we enjoy our weekends and seeing the fruits of our labor.

We used railroad ties to create a separate patio space and layered gravel with decomposed granite to give it a more finished look.  The table and chairs - another Craigslist find.  All I had to do was sand and clean and they're as good as new!

MAIN HOUSE (approx 2000 square feet - the downstairs - where we will eventually live)

Paint colors - We've selected various shades of grey throughout the entire house with the exception of the guest bedroom - that is a grey/green.  We hope to accent with turquoise, orange and possibly fuschia

Kitchen - Installed lower cabinets, cook-top stove (A Viking that we found on Criagslist of course), built small desk, installed 9 new can lights, installed new window, completed tile floor, painted ceiling
(Need to: finalize counter tops, install backsplash, get someone to build corner upper cabinet, find a new window for above sink, paint walls)

Master Bathroom - Finally figured out how to install the body sprays, hired someone to come and hot mop the basin to prep for tile (a water proofing for the basin of shower), completed built in above claw-foot bathtub, finalized plumbing, installed window above toilet, selected chandelier and other light fixtures, installed can lights,
(Need to: finalize counter tops, tile shower, install glass doors on shower, finish painting)

We are working hard on the downstairs and trying to focus on one room at a time.  Once the kitchen and bathroom are complete, we'll look at installing all new wood flooring and then we'll tackle the "nook", which will be our dining room, the office, laundry room, and the second bathroom.  There's more but that'll take a while.

As for the upstairs (two units), we moved to the back unit, which now has beautiful hard wood floors and finalized the front unit (see above flyer) so that we can hopefully rent it out.  You can see that we finished the bathroom with new tile surround, new vanity, light fixture, toilet and I refinished the tub and painted.  You might be able to get a glimpse of the new carpet too in the upper picture of the flyer, it's a pretty looped carpet that has a high end look but keeps it quiet for us downstairs :)

I best be getting back to my painting and Russ is working on the master bath shower.  To be continued (always).  xo

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Off the radar

Lo Siento mis amigos, it's been a LONG time and I apologize.  Lots has been happening in our neck of the woods namely foundation work, tiling and "life".  Also few weeks ago, Russ and I bit the bullet and purchased our cabinets for the kitchen and got a great deal.  We not only received cabinets for the house, we have cabinets for many other random locations throughout the house because we found them on Craigslist and the seller had a heap of them! 

Good for us because he also threw in 2200 square feet of trimboard, a jettted bathtub, a Kohler 5-shower spray shower set, 5 sets of gorgeous closet doors, glass for a custom shower, about 300 square feet of tile along with two single sink vanities and a double sink for our master bath!  I'd be lying though if I didn't say that it is wearing on my patience at the amount of time everything takes!  Russ and I both are working (yes, I am now doing random HR and accounting work for a bar!) and Russ works close to 60+ hours/week so it's slow but it's all about patience.

We don't have amoney truck rolling up any time soon so we are relegated to doing most everything by ourselves and ya know what, that's o.k.  We are maintaining a decent balance and are actually headed to Mexico in a couple of weeks to escape the house, jobs and just enjoy a margarita (or three). 

That's right, I sit in the cab waiting for Russell the Muscle to load the junk up...I'm not stupid...buff, but not stupid :)

Mr. Hot Stuff and his buddies loading the master bath vanity (without the countertop)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Demolition and the bathtub "before" my fantastic refninishing work!

Hooray, we have internet!  That means ya'll are gonna get a lot more updates from us!  I'm in a bit of a hurry but wanted to post some of the "before" photos as well as my bathtub "before" I refinish it.. 

The bathtub is already looking gorgeous but I need to wait until the temperature is at least 72 degrees (per the directions) because my first coat of paint went on a big goopy because it was closer to 55 degrees (ladies, sort of like an old nail polish and how it looks streaky and doesn't dry because it's too thick....that's what it looks like right now).  have no fear though, I'm gonna use some steel wool, sand it out a bit and then recoat it.  I can't stress enough though, the need for a mask and healthy ventilation...this stuf is TOXIC!

The "before" icky bathtub

The love of my life and super sexy construction worker/husband

Me looking not so sexy but this is what you get during a renovation!

Ah ha, the gorgeous claw-foot bathtub we hauled all the way from Santa Monica, with it hanging out of our trunk (on a Saturday night!)- - can't wait to soak my bones in this!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tackling the Bathrooms

My oh my, we have so much updating to catch up on.  I apologize for the long delay!  As you know, part of being a new resident is also trying to reinstall/move internet service to the new location.  Much to my dismay, AT&T scheduled two appointments over the past couple of weeks and when they finally showed up, the technician informed me that the wires weren't ready(?) so we are delayed until tomorrow in getting connected. Once we are "online" ya'll will be getting many more updates.

Over the past couple of weeks we've focused on the foundation and bathrooms.

We had the foundation in the master bathroom reinforced and so we can rest at ease that, if there is an earthquake, the master bath will likely be the safest place to be :)  Prieto Engineering did an awesome job and poured four massive pillars of cement into the ground while also sistering on reinforcement beams on every major piece of structural wood. 

Meanwhile, we've been focusing a majority of our time on the two bathrooms upstairs while also trying to secure fixtures for three of the bathrooms (we aren't even looking at the fourth bathroom right now).  In the upstairs bathroom in our unit, we tore out all of the tile in the shower and its surround, tore out the vanity and purchased a new toilet.  The tile floor is absolutely perfect and doesn't need replacing.  The metal tub is also worth re-using.  Not only is it incredibly heavy and would be a pain to carry down the stairs, there's no reason why we can't refinish it ourselves, which will save us cash and it's better for the environment!  I'm about 70% finished with refinishing the tub.  It's easy but takes about 4-5 hours minimum.  You can buy a refinishing package at Home Depot for about $20 and it gives you everything you need to get the job done.  I'd suggest that you purchase an additional bag of steel wool (the finest grain possible to avoid scratches) just to make sure you get all the goo and grime off of your old tub.  

We also found a great vanity at IKEA that should work well for storage and it was only $299 (plus the faucet) but every vanity that we've found is upwards of $600 and doesn't have a cool look or good storage...this is a great option and looks even better in-person.

In addition, we found a killer claw-foot bathtub for the master bath on Craigslist and hauled it in the back of our Volvo V50!  It was comical/dangerous but we weren't about to pay $75 for a truck when Russ is perfectly capable of risking his life while holding the tub in the back of the car while we drove 25 mph from Santa Monica to our house (approx 15 miles).  Will post a photo tomorrow, after we get internet...

In total, we have four bathrooms (two downstairs, two upstairs - - one in each unit).  We've been using the back unit bathroom because it's the only working toilet and shower but all of the plumbing is good throughout the house.  Now, we have to find vanities, fixtures, paint and tile for all of the units.  We are also on the hunt for a double-sink vanity for the master bathroom downstairs. 

I spent a majority of Sunday hunting for a good deal on tile in North Hollywood and man, it can be very overwhelming but I've gone a couple times before so I'm getting better at honing in on what we need.  Below are the list of tiles I've been hunting for.  Our style is classical modern - - not too modern but not too classical, make sense?

Master Bath Floor
Master Bathroom - Custom Shower Floor and shower walls
Shower surround in upstairs front unit (refinishing bathtub)
Kitchen backsplash and possibly kitchen floor and nook

Not a perfect photo but you can see that I've found some good options.  We'll liley use the long rectanglular tiles (cream, light grey, light brown) for the kitchen and the floor of the master bath but don't know which colors will be where (a steal of a deal at $1.95/sq ft)!  The big white rectangular tile (center) actually has a cool bevelled pattern on it that look looks like this >< and I think I'm loving this for the master shower surround ($5.75 sq ft).
I love this tile for the master shower floor.  It's grey with a nice non-slip grid and I love the mini glass subway tiles on the mesh but maybe for the kitchen backsplash? ($2.95/sq.ft )

Just look at the white tiles (I don't care for the horizontal multi-colored little tiles)  I'm thinking of using this for the shower surround in the upper front unit.  It reminds me of the smaller white subway tiles that you see everywhere but with a more updated look.  Also, remember the bigger the tile, the easier the install - - we've done the subway tiles before and it took FOREVER! ($5.50/sq. ft - a little pricey but maybe we can bargain with them?)

For the price, this may be a very good idea for the master bath shower surround?  It looks like lots of tiny tiles but hey are actually in tile that measure 24" x 8 " (I think)?

I think we'll keep the paint colors pretty simple and clean esp. for the bathrooms.  I chose a nice off-white for the upstairs back bathroom "ivory mist" and finished the painting for that yesterday.  Now, I just need to find a good product to try and clean off the green tiles that are currently there, regrout and install the vanity, a new window and we should be golden!  More to come....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let the demolition begin!

Our first order of business has been plumbing and foundation because, let's face it, everyone needs a toilet and no one wants their house to fall down (esp. in earthquake prone LA).  Here are some pics of what we thought would be a "little" demolition in the bathroom...

Russ and our very friendly helpers, Arturo and Pancho - - they rock!  This used to be two bathrooms (with walls) now, it's down to the studs...and foundation for that matter

Pile #1 (of like 20 truckloads) of some of the demolition

Friday, January 15, 2010

Part II - The Beginning of a Big Ol' Renovation - How We Got To Where We Are Today

We weren’t always so certain about our love for home renovations. In fact, it was quite accidental the way it all happened. We had been married about one year and made the decision to purchase our first home. To our surprise, we learned that we could make the monthly mortgage payments by renting it out and so we did!

Our first home (purchased in 2004)

We spent the next several months saving our money for another down payment and were able to purchase a little 700 square foot home in Madison Valley (Seattle, WA). Our intention was to fix it up and live in it for several years. But, with all things in life, nothing is certain.

Our first purchase and current rental property in Fremont (Seattle, WA)

One spring day we were walking our dog and saw a “for sale” sign being put up in front of major fixer with a ton of potential. We were like Pavlov’s salivating dogs! We knocked on the door, spoke to the agent and that same evening, we signed papers and became homeowners of a second home! If only buying a home were so easy in today’s economy, right? In hindsight, it was really a risky financial move for us to own both homes at the same time but we were young and optimistic (notice I didn’t say naive). Luckily, the real-estate market was still hot and we were able to sell the little house right before closing on the second home.

Our Renovated Home In Madrona (Seattle, WA)

The finished dining room: note the beautiful retro light fixture from Rejuvenation and we LOVED these site-finished Tiger Wood

The kitchen "before" (with the exception of the slide in oven/range and stainless side-by-side refrigerator

It's not a perfect picture but notice the bowling alley that we used for the countertop ($75 - we win!)

Again, we intended to stay for a few years and began extensive renovations. We landscaped, built a new deck, put up cedar shingles, installed new hardwood floors, skim coated and painted all of the walls, installed a new staircase, re-did two bathrooms, new kitchen/appliances, and re-plumbed the entire home. Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the “renovation” tunnel, we decided to move to Los Angeles! It may sound crazy but we weren't feeling challenged and were thirsting for adventure.  We were fortunate to be able to sell our house right as the "bubble" was about to burst and headed to sunny L.A.

After three home renovations, two major career changes and a bold move from Seattle, Washington to the heart of Los Angeles, California we find ourselves again knee deep in the biggest renovation to date and it feels great.  After 18 months of intense conversations, and five long months of aggressive haggling with everyone from the bank, lender, seller, contractors, and appraisers, we FINALLY purchased our new home!

I feel like I sound like a TV show when I say this but this new home is truly the biggest, craziest, most extreme renovation we have taken on to date! It is 3800+ square foot structure, with three units, a garage and a huge driveway all situated on a 10,000 square foot lot! Sounds cool, yes? It's in the heart of a major historic preservation overlay zone (HPOZ) in the center of Los Angeles. And, while we love the character and charm of this historic area, this also means that we will need to get all major exterior renovations/landscaping approved by the very strict HPOZ board (color of paint, plantings, windows, driveway, roofing materials, etc…) I like to think positively about this but they can be sticklers and I feel like they should be thrilled that we bought the biggest piece of poop in the neighborhood but we'll have to wait and see...

Here's our "baby"  She's a real just wait - - with a little sweat and love she's gonna look gorgeous!

To make it even more challenging, we are on a very tight budget. Our motto is, “the best for the cheapest!" We are excited to take you on this journey with us. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not always going to be fun, and it may make us go mad but we hope you’ll stick with us. We’ll learn together and hopefully we’ll show you a thing or two. We don’t claim to be experts. Just ordinary people who believe you can do a renovation for less than some of those shows on TV (I mean, what are those $100k kitchen renovations about?) The best way to save money is to act as your own contractor, which is exactly what we are doing (oh….and your own landscaper, tile-layer, skim coater, hard-wood floor installer, demolition expert, foundation repairperson etc…)

Enjoy our journey and we’d love to hear any tips/advice/suggestions you might have. We also like hearing about things you like too! Thanks for following.

~Sincerely – Russ and Ang

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Part I - The Beginning of a Big Ol' Renovation - About "Us"

I once read an excerpt from Real Simple Magazine about home renovations and how, to the home renovation lover, a house is never truly finished. And, when it is finally finished, then it is time to move on. This poem describes our lives and our approach to home renovations perfectly. 

Our Christmas Card Photo from 2008 - -during this time, we were living the life of renters, which was fun for a while but we were already itching to get our hands on a house.

Russ and I are a "real" couple in our early 30's who have big dreams and a very small budget.  We believe that every homeowner has the ability to add significant value to their home while simultaneously enhancing your marriage through home renovations.  Whether it be a simple project like changing out the hardware on your cabinets or a more complex project like installing your own floors - - there is something about working on your home together.  We think that home projects have the ability to draw you closer together as a couple while also creating a home that you love spending time in AND at the same time adding significant value to your most significant purchase of your life - - your home.

Russ and I love ourselves a good house project.  To be honest though, Russ really really really loves projects.  He could eat, breath and sleep everything and anything "house" related.  Frankly, he could live in a  a hovel if it was "his".  Russ is a very intuitive person with an incredible ability to find solutions to complex problems.  He pays attention to detail and takes his time making decisions, leaving no stone unturned.  These qualities may also explain why he has chose engineering, specifically project controls/cost scheduling as his career choice.  Russ works for an international global engineering firm in downtown LA.  When he's not working, or working on the house, he loves nothing more than a bike ride or painting.

Russ, building the forms for a modern cement pathway

I, on the other hand, love a good project as well but, I can't lie - - I love to partake in some of the luxuries life has to offer such as hot water and a working toilet.  Sometimes, (gasp) I actually like to take a weekend off and do absolutley nothing.   My love of "luxury" and zest for life (as well as my desire to share our lives with the world) may also explain why I chose "acting" as my career choice.  Actually, I am a struggling actor who is on the verge of success and who also likes photography and long walks with my husband and our little dog - Beba.

This is Beba - she's our assistant

We are very opposite from one another, which makes major projects that involve many decisions very interesting.  We have similar visions to what we want the end product to look like but very different ways of getting there.  Russ is an introvert, a thinker and is very slow to act; whereas, I am extroverted and act quickly.  Together, we make a great team.  For what one of us lacks, the other certainly makes up for it.

Me climbing Half-Dome at Yosemite National Park

On the other hand, we both get restless with monotony and feel useless when we don't have a hammer or paintbrush in hand.  I've come to the conslusion that we avoid certainty because it doesn't present enough challenges for our liking.  We revel in uncertainty (sometimes to my consternation) and we like that the "unknown" pushes us and helps us to grow stronger.  We especially like the "real" tangible changes that we can make to a structure. 

Our "pre-trip" before we made the big decision to move to Cali

With the growing DIY (do it yourself) population of people out there, we think many others feel this way too. In particular, we believe many homeowners/handy people are not interested in paying gazillions of dollars on renovations that we all know we can do (if given a little direction), at a fraction of the price that a fancy contractor may quote.

Some people train for marathons, some opt for competitive golf or tennis, but our challenge of choice is a home renovation. We love the possibilities that a “fixer” presents. Also, there is nothing quite as invigorating as a conversation about which type of faucet to use in the bathroom, the grain of wood to use on our floors, or the good deal one of us found on craigslist for a glass shower door or refrigerator. We love the hunt, we love Home Depot and we love the concept that we will reap what we sow!

When we aren't renovating we love hanging out with friends and enjoying good wine (and looking very "Hollywood" with our sunglasses)

We hope you enjoy this blog and we want to hear from you.  In our next post, I'll get ya'll updated on how we got to where we are today...owners of the most ambitious "project" to date.

~ Ang and Russ (and Beba too)