31 May 2010

creation and destruction

Update: You can see the final result of this project here.

Ikea creates, and we destroy. (Though not always in that order.)

That means -- you guessed it! -- that our second (and final) bathroom renovation is under way!

Creation first. Our master bath design employs a boxy, modern Ikea vanity, mainly because no one else affordably creates a double sink that fits in a mere 39 inches, and because those ingenious Ikea engineers have figured out a way to run the sink drains horizontal, so that you can still get full use of the drawers right under the sink. It's pretty amazing.

Soon the master math will go from this...

To this

Renovating our guest bath -- which we viewed as the practice project and took many lessons from -- took a full eight weeks. That was due in large part to inexperience, lack of time/planning and not having all of the materials on hand when we started. (And, oh yeah, taking about six ski trips while it was all happening.)

But, with this bathroom, I am determined to get it done in three weeks or less. So that meant first buying all of the materials we would need. We have had the toilet and floor tiles loitering around the house for months, along with the sink faucets and wall hardware. But we still needed the biggest piece of furniture, and so a trip to Ikea was in order.

Ikea Burbank, identical to every other Ikea on the planet

The secret to getting in and out of Ikea efficiently (other than going during the day on a week day if at all possible), is learning the location of the store's "shortcuts." Otherwise you get stuck in that long, endless maze.

See that smaller arrow on the left? 

Also, it's critical that one stop and get a $.50 hot dog or $1 cinnamon roll on every trip

Thank goodness for flat packs. Everything fit in my little Civic.

Vanity, sink, wall cabinet, mirrors

With everything home, it was time for a little destruction. (Cue the 80s hair metal.)

Hello mirror

Goodbye mirror

Awwww, how nice! The old owners were so sweet to leave us some fun wallpaper hidden behind the mirror!
And even more behind the toilet. What sweeties.

Goodbye, toilet

The vanity refused to budge, so we had to break it into pieces and carry it out (which, actually, made the carrying easier, and meant that it all took up a lot less space in the dumpster, which no doubt made the condo president happy).

Mark doing very manly things

The same vinyl slats as in the first bathroom, but this time Mark was a pro at pulling them up quickly

So much wall damage left behind, even with us being soooo careful... blame the 70s materials and nearly 40 years of aging

The bathroom post-demo

Next steps: a lot of wall repair, sanding, priming and painting. Then we lay the floor, get the new vanity and toilet in, and apply the finishing touches. Piece of cake in three weeks, right? (Oh, wait, did I mention we both work full time?)

30 May 2010

high style in bland silicon valley

Last week during my travel whirlwind, I spoke at a conference called "Connectivity Week," that was focused on the smart grid and other new ways to think about electricity. (I am not an energy insider by any means, but was there to talk about communications, about which I am theoretically an "expert.")

Anyway, enough about work. The only reason this bears mentioning at all is that the Santa Clara Hyatt, where I stayed, had a few fabulous details crammed into my tiny room. If you have not been to the Silicon Valley before (the southwestern quadrant of the San Francisco Bay Area, spanning roughly from Palo Alto to San Jose, with towns like Mountainview, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale in between), let me describe it for you. It is one giant, bland office park in the 'burbs, but with some tall office buildings and the occasional gorgeous bay view. It's always hard to believe that the S.V. is so close to San Francisco since they are so very different. (There are even some, GASP!, Republicans in S.V.!)

So needless to say, I was quite surprised to stumble into my hotel room after midnight (stumble from road weariness, not intoxication) and find an authentic, vintage Eames lounge chair and ottoman in my room.

Then there was this decidedly un-hotel style lamp and that great (I can't believe I'm about to say this) wallpaper

These sliding doors are no doubt an effort to camouflage the teensiness of the room, but what a great combo of form and function, and with matching blonde wood and modern hardware to boot

29 May 2010

saved by the dwell

I have had a week straight out of Up in the Air... LA to DC, DC to Dallas, Dallas to San Francisco, San Francisco to San Jose, San Jose to LA. But unlike George Clooney's character in the movie, I actually really like being home, and I only aspire to fly one million miles in my lifetime, not ten. (Another 15 years or so should do it.)

See, I even flew American, instead of my usual United

With this much time in airports and on planes, I have done LOTS of reading this week... half of Pride and Prejudice (which I only started because it was free on Amazon's Kindle store, but am now actually loving), about a third of The Blind Side, and a month's worth of Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Bon Appetit, Traditional Home, Living Etc., Ideal Home, and a few others. As much as I love interior design and decorating magazines, by the time I was done with all of these, I was ready for something different. Ready to kill for something different, practically!

I do not usually read Dwell, much as I love the modern styles they feature. I think it's mainly because we are condo dwellers, and so all of those gorgeous exteriors and amazing architecture they feature just make me painfully jealous... that and they only feature high-end stuff. Even House Beautiful slums it from time to time. (Plus, I think they are generally light on content overall, which is a little inexcusable for $5.99.)

But like I was saying, I was DYING for a break from the usual. So what a great time to happen upon Dwell's amazing new "100 Houses We Love" special edition. (Well worth it at $9.99, since you can keep this on a coffee table for years.)

In flipping through and picking my favorites, I noticed a definite theme. Can you see it too? (The big reveal at the end.)

My favorite houses from the issue

With only one exception, all of my favorites are those with near-seamless integration with the outdoors. Either huge floor-to-ceiling windows, or big trees close to the house, or great outdoor living spaces. They say those in glass houses should not throw stones, but with all of this great architecture, the people in these glass houses can at least reach right out the window and grab stones... whether they throw them or not is their own call.

28 May 2010

mini project: closet re-arrange

I have the spring cleaning bug right now, but due to a busy work and travel schedule and the impending master bath renovation, we have not been keen to spend a lot of time cleaning when a whole bunch of dust is about to get kicked up. But I still needed to get my organization jones on, and decided to take on my part of our walk-in closet.

Straightforward project: move the Elfa drawers that serve as my dresser from the back of the closet to the side, move the shoe rack and rearrange the clothes accordingly.

Before... see that great popcorn ceiling? It's practical AND stylish! And gotta love the dusty rose shower curtain bar cover that's lining the rods.

After... still popcorn, still pink rods, but a better arrangement overall and more streamlined hangers

Of course, the closet still needs a LOT of work. It could definitely use a coat of paint and a new light fixture, and a new organization system wouldn't be out of the question.

Maybe a new set-up for my purses?

At least this little re-arrange did allow me to clear out a whole 20 inches of shelf space for Mark. I'm so generous. (I mean, ALL of that rod space below the shelf is his... how could he possibly complain??)

27 May 2010

love letter: the pet staff

Dear Pet Staff,

Before we met you, our darling pups would always have to suffer through boarding at the vet whenever we would go away... which, unfortunately for them, is kinda all the time. But you've changed everything.

Your hour-long visits are less than half the price of one day of boarding, and you let the girls stay in their own home, which they soooo appreciate. You change their litter pads without complaint, you give them so much love, and you always write us the sweetest notes. 

You make it a snap to schedule appointments, and you've never flaked once. And you clearly love dogs. What pros. You rock.


26 May 2010


NOTE: Updated with more info on the trucks shown (see below)

I recently posted on tracking down my first gourmet food truck here in LA, after months of trying (albeit halfheartedly). Well when it rains, it pours. Mass sighting. Food trucks operated by some of the city's hippest young chefs are dishing up comfort food aplenty, while giving the blogosphere and Chowhounds of the world lots to buzz about. Hitting the food truck jackpot feels like discovering some great flea market find or amazing online reseller that no one else has discovered yet. Of course, it's nothing like that, but still... this is making me wish I could work in mid-Wilshire instead... so many choices every day!

Pic 1: Flying Pig (French-Asian fusion), Kassava (Jamaican), Canter's (Jewish Deli -- its bricks-and-mortar version is an LA institution), Ethiopian (truck name unknown)

Pic 2: Dogtown Dogs (gourmet hot dogs), Green Truck (organic)

Pic 3: India Jones (Indian), Ko Manna (Korean BBQ), Bool (Korean BBQ tacos)

This great blog has a TON of info about virtually all of the LA food trucks. I would like to have that job. And virtually all of these trucks have Twitter feeds too.

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