How is your summer going? We were away on vacation and last week, two days after we got home, we moved into a rental house while we renovate for the next 6 months. It had been ten years since we have moved and I had forgotten how much work there is. GAH! I’m still recovering. My son Jackson and I were saying that moving should be required for everyone every decade as it really makes you evaluate what the heck you own and are living with, you know? Moving requires you to acknowledge and touch just about every darn item you possess and even those squirreled away in a closet or garage. It’s a big wake-up call. I thought I had been good about purging in the past few years, but clearly not at all. My family especially got on me about the amount of pillows and books I own. I love my books, but yes we will be cleaning out more before moving back. The days before the move we took 3 huge loads to donation. It made me really feel guilty about how much ‘stuff’ we acquired. We all vowed to have less.
The house in its true state in the process of packing.. Mr. Cat none too happy.
Empty and sad looking! I loved these built-ins, but they prevented me from using that space in any other way. This- our largest room, was also seldom used as it was blocked by the fireplace wall and not easy to walk into.
The narrow front room below was also the entry point to the house and our tv/family room. We squeezed into here once a couch and chair were in and never really all fit for a movie or game night.
I have shared before about the reno plan, but its actually been an almost 2 year process, where we intended to just do the kitchen, then realized how much we could actually improve the flow of the house. We figured while we were at it, why not do it and also make the whole living space work better? That also grew to include the master bedroom, which will be enlarged by taking over a fourth bedroom that is seldom used.
Most exciting its that we are removing a large center wall that held two odd fireplaces and two chimneys that divided the house up into narrow spaces and made the main living area tight. Doing that gave us room to expand the entry out a bit, make it have a real presence and also push the narrow front room out and add a French door and long windows to let in more light. By the narrow French door there will be a tiny patio and a spot for sitting. I think it will give the house more curb appeal and so will making it stucco in a light or off white color and adding dark accents with iron lanterns and dark steel-looking windows. (The real ones weigh about 600 pounds a window and require the home to be shored up to just support them!)
We also decided to move the kitchen to the center of the house which would make it easier to access our backyard and pool also open up the living room wall with a folding door so we can see the pool and yard better and make it more open for entertaining. Right now if we had a BBQ we had to take food out through the pool bathroom (!) or the squeeze around the dining room chairs which made it awkward.
When it’s all said and done we are adding a few feet to the front room and raising the ceiling in the entry and popping up the ceilings to accommodate the same height roof we have now. One thing I have really wanted is more light! Since our home was built in 1965, it’s pretty dark, save for the overhead kitchen windows. That is hopefully being achieved by many skylights in halls and baths the entry, adding more windows and raising the height of them.
The fireplace, which many people remove in updates, is something we really love, and will be moved to the back of the house flanked by two window seats. It will be the far view when you walk in the front. We have a gas insert we added a few years ago and I love waking up on a cold California morning and switching that thing on with a flip of a finger. In California, thanks to air quality regulations, you can no longer install a wood burning fireplace in new homes. I would never go back to the wood burning kind. These new inserts are amazing and leave the home warm for hours after it is switched off.
It has been a long process refining the final design, but I could not have done it without my designer Deborah Hurley, who I met by chance at a a home she did for the Los Gatos Historic Homes Tour. One thing I told Debbie was that I loved my home, I just wanted it to function better. I love my street and my yard, I just wanted to update the house and make it the best version of itself. Debbie got that. She would go home brainstorm and then and back with 3 versions or more for areas that needed fixing. She has listened, refined, come up with many ideas for our quirky home. I most appreciated that she really thought hard about how the house was used and how it could better work for all four of us and she got my aesthetic. She found our architect Tony, who has refined the plan and Mike our builder. If it wasn’t for Debbie, I would still be just thinking about this. It’s such a process and you need to always be moving forward- choosing materials, ceiling heights, window shapes and types, flooring, plumbing, the kitchen! So much it really is overwhelming and a few times I asked myself, why are we doing this again???
I get why one wouldn’t and yet I have always dreamed of doing my own home, my way. I have 10 years of home books, magazines, binders and tear sheets so I really know what I love and what I want in a house. I love a mix of California modern and English Modern Country- if that makes any sense. My biggest inspirations have been my grandparents modern 1960’s home with it’s clean lines, expansive windows, no moulding and fossilized rock walls. I am also in love with English Country kitchens and the open feeling of the shelving, pottery and use of raw woods and clean white walls. I hope to juxtapose the two into my own unique California look that isn’t trendy, if that’s possible!?
So, it actually is happening, now, finally after years of thinking, planning and waiting! I am in a cute rental I got lucky to get. It is on a leafy street and is lovely. The top photo is of the yard. It is parklike with big hedges. I love the big trees here. We are all getting spoiled by the space as the boys each have a bedroom and bath and they have another bedroom we turned into an office/music room. I put all the desks in there and Jackson can code there this summer for his start-up job, and Griffin can have his cello lessons and practice in there. The master bedroom is ginormous to me, as we had a very small one and has a sweet desk set-up where I am typing this very blog and looking over the large shady yard where birds are hopping along the grass.
The desk/music room I set up for the guys in our rental house.
I’ll do another post about what I put in this house. I had to put about 1/3 of our stuff in the garage and donate a ton. The closet in the master is very well planned here and we needed no furniture in the room as it has all we need, drawers, etc. I left my old chest and armoire in the garage! it’s very open and freeing with no extra furniture in the bedroom. In fact I am going to write about the closet design in another post as I have been helping people with their closet organization and clothes purging. I am thrilled to have a proper closet finally, not have my things in 5 random places, you know? Just being in this rental makes me realize that light, well planned closets and built-ins and storage are such a necessity and a nice size bath is pretty great too.
I would love to hear any other tips about home remodeling or having gone through this? I hope you don’t mind if I share the whole process here as I thought it might be helpful to others.
Hobbes looking resigned to his new digs.
I also have a blog post coming up on Southern France, which I just visited and loved and took more home inspiration from. Hope you all are enjoying summer!
Below are some of my saved photos I am using for inspiration with the house design…
Some of what I love here are the tall windows, wide plank floors and beams.
Open shelving will be in part of the kitchen.
The mix of wood with natural stone is beautiful here.
This layout will be somewhat similar to my main room with the dining now incorporated into the main living. Again the mix of wood and white, without fussy moulding is a look I love.
This duck egg blue is pretty with wood. I love the simple cabinetry.
I like the windows and mix of stucco and simple roof.
A pretty master bedroom. The floors and doors are lovely.