Before & After: A Warm Welcome

Last week, we had our first house guests, one of my closest friends from college and her nine year old daughter.  While most of the boxes have been unpacked, the actual items are still in search where they are going to live in the house.  But, I didn’t want them to be greeted by chaos, I wanted them to receive a warm welcome.  So I made it a priority to get our entry organized so that it would set the right tone for their stay.

While I would love to have a grand foyer, that is not the space we have to work with.   The big focal point is the West Elm Rustic Storage Console. I measured the space while we were still in construction and was happy it would fit.  I wanted something with storage because we all need to have a place to stash stuff when we walk in, but I didn’t want something too obvious or traditional.  I love that the drawers on this piece are almost invisible and I love the slightly industrial, yet rustic feel.

Of course I needed to add something vintage to the space and my antique French mirror fit the bill.  I’ve had this mirror since I was a kid.  It’s the mirror that saw me put barrettes in my hair and the same mirror that later saw me discover my first gray hair.  I am super attached to this mirror and always look to find a place for it in every home I’ve lived in. The fact that the painted plaster has weathered along with me only adds to my attachment. But ultimately the mirror’s scale isn’t big, so I hung it off center and added a couple of art pieces to balance it out.  The smaller cut paper piece, is by Anna Bondoc, a talented friend in Los Angeles who does incredible things with paper and an Xacto knife.  The other is a painted canvas by Veerakeat, a local San Francisco artist.  The painting has an interesting story.  Ten years ago, when my mother was getting ready to leave San Francisco, my mother found some of my old school paintings.  I suggested that instead of throwing away the canvases, she give them to Veerakeat and he could use them for his work by painting over them. At the time he was working down the street from where my mother lived, in a studio adjacent to his aunt’s Thai restaurant. I had spied his studio once while having dinner out and loved his renderings of the city.  As a thank you for the canvases we gave him, he gaves us this painting, painted on one of my old canvases.  Really a case of, what goes around comes around.

I needed to add some softness to the space, so I included my French market basket and a potted fern.  The basket actually has purpose too; I’m using it to store about a half dozen umbrellas.  That way we always know where to find an umbrella if we are headed out the door and the weather doesn’t appear clement.

For the light fixture, I chose a handcrafted semi-flush fixture made from vintage pieces.  Originally I had wanted a pendant, something that made more of a statement, but  then I realized I only had 8 inches to work with in order for the front door to clear without problems.

Lastly, I also needed a place to hang coats, since the nearby coat closet is actually going to be used as a broom/vacuum closet.  I choose the Bjarnum hooks from Ikea.  I could have chosen any number of hooks, but I chose these because they fold up and become almost invisible when not in use.  Genius!

So, that’s it for now.  Hope you like this little space.

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Construction: Pool Demo

Much of this last week our backyard was taken over by heavy equipment, for our controversial pool removal.  I say controversial not because what we are doing is unusual, but because when I mentioned to people we planned to remove the pool, we definitely got mixed reactions.  Some thought it made perfect sense, while others thought it sad.


So, before we get into the pool demo, let me remind you of what our pool once looked like:

If you saw it in person, you’d know it was a decent size pool.  The demo guys estimate it to be a 22,000 gallon pool, but I don’t think 22,000 gallons means much to most people.  But let me tell you, it’s big.

Step One was to drain the water out.  It got pumped straight out into the sewer line.  I didn’t take any pics of that part, sorry.

Step Two was to demo the pool and the concrete surround.  They had to make several large holes at the bottom of the pool so that water would drain out when it rains.

Step Three, the rubble was then smushed (not a technical word) into the deep end of the pool and covered with a membrane.  Not sure what purpose the membrane serves.

Step Four, they brought in truckloads of dirt to fill in the hole and help to level it out.  The dirt got compacted every 6 inches. Check out the pic below, it’s as though the pool never existed.  The big mound of dirt in the middle is top soil they brought in so that we can put in sod next week.

Et voila.  Four days later, no pool. If we’d known we were gonna demo the pool, we would have done it before all the house demo.  It would have avoided the construction crew from having to cover it up and us paying to have it cleaned all these months… You live and learn. But next week we’ll have grass and plenty of it for the kids to run through the sprinklers.   I say we’ll have grass, landscaping on the other hand, will likely take a while.  We a) have no $ left, b) I have a black thumb and c) we still have to deal with the arbor/pergola/pool cabana that was there.  When they got rid of the concrete surround, the structure’s footing was weakened, we now have to figure out how to shore it up on the cheap.

In the meanwhile, I’m dreaming of grass and summer days spent like this:

image via

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Before & After: Big Boy’s Room Reveal

Hello Again!  Apologies for having been MIA for so long.  Moving hell doesn’t begin to describe what we’ve just been through.  That said, we are SOOOO HAPPY to be in our new home. We moved before construction was fully finished.   So for about a week or so, we were living in absolute chaos, while construction was still going on.  While things are starting to find their place, knowing that my computer didn’t get set up yesterday, is a good indicator of the current state of affairs at our house.  To top it all off, our little Monkey had a fever of 104 for much of last week, so I stayed by his side the whole time, which of course foiled my plans to get the house organized.

So let me start by saying that much of the house still has piles of stuff that look like this:


But, when it comes to moving, the best thing you can do is create spaces where you can rest. I think this is especially true for kids, since moving and change can be very disruptive to them.  My first order of business was getting the boys’ rooms in order and while much of the house still doesn’t have any window coverings (including the master bedroom, which you can imagine makes getting dressed very “interesting”), my boys’ rooms are looking civilized. Big Boy’s room is essentially done, though I still have to make him a headboard.  In the meanwhile, check out his room.

So this was his room looked like when we bought the house:


This is his room now:

You may recall I pulled together some inspiration pics for red, white and blue rooms. I tried to walk a fine line, without going patriotic or nautical, but still keeping it graphic.  The whole concept for the room really started with the Union Jack rug I scored on Joss and Main. It sat in storage during the construction, waiting to be revealed.  The dresser and bed are from IKEA and are from his old room, but I gave him new beddings to bring things together. For the record, his bed is the Odda bed with trundle, but for some reason that design comes with huge head and side board, which we hacked off years ago. So, I guess his bed is a semi-Ikea hack, it will be a full Ikea Hack when I add a nice headboard.

I contemplated using the wide rugby stripes, in either the bedding or the curtains, but ultimately felt the bold stripes would compete too much with the rug. For good measure, I did add a custom monogramed chevron pillow from West Elm. For curtains, I opted for mostly white window panels with a touch of navy, to keep the room light.

While I love IKEA, I think the room really comes together because of the little vintage details. Remember the desk, one of my first vintage finds?  Here  I’ve paired it with a reproduction Emeco aluminum chair we’ve owned for over 10 years, that I originally bought for $99 for two.  I’m planning to swap out the chair for something more comfortable, once I find a suitable replacement.  I want Big Boy to be comfortable as he sits at his desk to do his homework, as he has years of homework ahead of him.

Other vintage finds include the movie theater marquee letter “J” and the cool original fishing tackle box.  The red warehouse pendant was a score from One Kings Lane.

Of course no room is complete without artwork on the walls. Remember my $1 vintage photograph and ad finds?  Don’t they look more impressive now that they are framed?  I also love the vintage stop sign, mostly I like it because it’s so faded.  If the sign had been in newer condition it would scream out in the room, but its faded glory allows it to sit comfortably with the rest of the room. I found the sign at a salvage/junk yard.

In case you are wondering, the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore Cement Gray.  In fact, half of the house is painted in Cement Gray.  I found it to be a really wonderful, true gray, no red, blue, green, or yellow undertones.

So, what do you think?  Pretty cool big boy room, or what?  Wish I’d had a room this cool when I was his age!  Here are a couple more pics for your viewing pleasure.


Preeti - Love this post! Love how you’ve incorporated the old vintage stuff with the new. You may have a new career after your renovation is done Isadora 🙂

rachel - oh my gosh. I LOVE what you did in this room! I also am in the midst of trying to implement a red, white, blue color palette in my 2 boys shared room. I also DON’T want a “themey” feel to it. You did a great job. Do you feel that the bed has held up well?
You indeed are VERY talented.

radmin - When you are done with your room. Post a pick to my FB page. Would love to see the results from my readers.

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Construction: Down the Drain

As the inside of our house edges its way to the finish line, we have started to “survey our land” to figure out what we want to do on the outside.  The biggest thing we have to contend with outside is The Pool and what to do with it.  It’s a pretty large pool too.

When we bought the house the pool looked like this, beckoning you for a swim:

Now it looks like this:

Not much difference except the water is a bit murkier from debris making its way into the water.  That said we’ve had the pool diligently cleaned all throughout the construction. After years of living in Los Angeles and wishing we had a pool, we thought it ironic that we moved to the Bay Area and bought a house with a pool.  Mind you, we were not looking for a pool.  So, our intention was always to keep the pool and one day make it look more like this:

image via

Well, the cost of fixing up the pool surround quickly snowballs into something truly astronomical.  So we did a lot of soul searching, evaluating whether it was worth keeping the pool or getting rid of it, especially since the weather in the Bay Area is much cooler than in Southern California.  We were of two minds about what to do, but after consulting with our fabulous realtor, she said that the house would gain in value without a pool*. So, if we spent money on the pool, the money would literally be going down the drain because it would adversely affect the value of the house?! Huh?  After hearing that bit of information making the decision to get rid of the pool was easy.

Sayonara pool.  Looking forward to learning how to plant a vegetable garden instead.

image via

* N.B.: the added value of a pool depends on the community you live in.  Our realtor’s recommendation was specific to us and our community.

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