Construction: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

As I mentioned before, I want to share with you the whole truth about our renovation. I wish there were good news this week, but when I think about it, it’s just been a bad week.

First off, the boys’ vanity arrived… in PIECES.  Unlike the other large, heavy items that have been shipped to me, this one arrived with the box leaning forward (already a bad sign) and once I opened the box to inspect the goods not only was the vanity not sitting straight, but the whole marble counter top was shattered.  Not just chipped, SHATTERED.

I don’t blame, they processed my order and sent it off to either their warehouse or the manufacturer and those people then shipped out my item in good faith.  However, the shipping company YRC was appalling.  The whole delivery for this item was suspect from the start.  First, they call me, leave me a message telling me I will need to assist in unloading. They leave another message the next day.  I ended up responding to them within 1 1/2 days after their first call.  When I finally do talk to them and schedule the delivery, they again reiterate someone needs to be there.  I call them to check status at 4:19pm last Friday (delivery was set for between 2-5pm) and they say that according to their records the delivery was made at 4:14pm.  Really?  Why didn’t anyone call so I could be there for the delivery, I always get called before a delivery.  The dispatcher has the audacity to say, “you’re saying UPS calls you.” I have been dealing with many deliveries in the last few weeks and ALL of them called when they were 30 minutes out.   What the ….? Freight delivery ain’t no UPS.  Plus they insisted someone be there.  So, I book it over to the house, one of the workers had kindly accepted the delivery, only to find the above mentioned shattered vanity.  After President’s Day, I followed up with  Again, stellar customer service. is sending out a replacement and apologized on behalf of the freight company.  YRC SUCKS.  Their customer service sucks.  BTW- did I mention that because I didn’t call back right away but took 1 1/2 days to get back to them, they started processing a return on the item which got the people at Build all confused.  Seriously bad service YRC.

Second bit of bad news, one of the walls on the lower level that showed water damage ended up needing more than just a patch up.  Because the wall is partially below ground (the house is built into a hill), we now have to add a ton of cement reinforcement because the walls should never touch the dirt.  Otherwise the water will seep into the wood, as was previously demonstrated.  When they broke out the stucco to start fixing, they found more damage.  Now, they are recommending we replace two huge stucco portions.  That is how the small patch pictured below became one huge nightmare.

Oh, and that’s not the end of it.  The lower level used to be one ginormous room of about 1000 sq ft.  The previous owner operated that space for decades as a dance studio, hence the open space.  When the city inspector came by, he was none too pleased and felt the space needed a bunch of reinforcement to be habitable.  Why was this not an issue before, when the SAME city licensed the space as a dance studio?    So, we’ve had to add a bunch of beams for $tructural $support.  Not a good week.

Here are some “Before” pictures of the lower level, for your viewing pleasure.  As you can see, a dance studio complete with mirrors and barres.

OK, I’ve vented now.  I feel better.  If you read through to the end, thank you for listening.

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DIY: Modern St. Patrick’s Day

I’m still not sure how a religious celebration in Ireland became the phenomenon of St Patrick’s Day and all the shenanigans that it involves.  Personally I’ve never been one for drinking beer, let alone green beer.  That said, my Big Boy loves it when we celebrate special days e.g. by wearing green and eating lots of green fruits and vegetables.  So, for his sake, I’m embracing St. Patrick’s Day.

I had a look around Michael’s and couldn’t find anything clean and modern that could serve as a class gift.  So, I figured I would DIY a modern St. Patrick’s Day class gift that would suit my preference for clean lines.

I found a baggie of gold chocolate coins in the  dollar section at Target.  I wasn’t sure how I’d use them, but for $1 a bag, I figured I had the start of something.

I then found round 3″ green gift tags also at Target.  They are part of the Spritz party collection and were on sale from $1.44 for a pack of 4, to just $1. Score!

I put the two together, placing the coins off-center using double sided tape. I then took out a ultra fine tip Sharpie pen and wrote out “Lucky”, et voilà!

Clean. Simple. Modern. Just the way I like it. Hope you like it too!

P.S. I figure you can probably achieve a similar look to the gift tag using construction paper or pretty scrapbooking paper and a large hole puncher.

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Interior Inspiration: The Heart of the Home

According to research, people spend an average of 3-4 years in the kitchen.  I think that number goes up for families like ours who really love to cook.  So if you’re going to spend the equivalent of a few years in your kitchen, it’s worth making it as close to your dream kitchen as you can afford.  Plus, kitchens and baths are the areas in a home “where you can tell if money has been well spent or not,” says architect Steve Straughan.  (quote from an article on, more here)  However, before sinking all our budget into a glamorous kitchen remodel, we are taking care basics and figuring out based on that, what’s realistic for the kitchen.

In the meanwhile, it doesn’t hurt to dream.  I like my kitchens to be inviting and clean, so I am drawn to white kitchens filled with natural light.

via Chelsea Edmonston 

via Cameron Kimber Design

via Better Homes and Garden

via Houzz


But I’m also partial to grey.  Grey happens to be my favorite neutral.

via Houzz

via HGTV

via Greige Design

via Greige Design


Looking at these images together, I start to notice a pattern in my preferences:

1) Even with the grey kitchens, I prefer a light palette.

2) I like my cabinets to have minimal detail.  A Shaker profile is my ideal.

3) Cool pendant light fixtures are a must.

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Vintage Finds: School Lockers

If you were on our Holiday card list, the picture above is familiar.  I used it as the image for this past year’s greeting card.

I’ve been wanting to show you a picture of these lockers for a while.  They are the first thing I bought for the house, before demo even started.  But for these last few months they’ve been buried under piles of debris in our garage/dumpster/storage, so I had no way to photograph them.  The workers cleared out some of the mess so I took a few shots with my phone.

I found the lockers at Ohmega Salvage, a Bay Area Salvage yard.  I was told they are from Berkeley High School.  I love that these lockers a) are yellow, and b) have such a fun history (with  requisite graffiti).  The fact that the lockers survived a few decades at a high school tells me they are sturdy enough to take a little beating from my boys.  While $300 is no bargain, I feel like I’m getting many cubic feet of storage for the price, and with kids you can never have too much storage.

To what extent do you think I should clean the lockers up?  Just scrub down? Remove all graffiti?  Repaint?

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Construction: Progress Report

Just wanted to check-in with a little progress report on the construction.  I don’t think it’s fair to just post a perfectly styled “After” picture without showing you what’s happening along the way.  It’s not fair to you and not fair to the process of what a remodel really is.

First off, I’m happy to report that the electrical is all done.  Probably could have been done a little faster, but in our case we have A LOT of cables.  We are running cables in the wall for everything you can think of.  From fire detectors, to TV cables, to network cables, every single wire that we can think of and more, (since our contractor has decided to add in other cables e.g. intercom, so that the cables are all there should we decide we want to add such a feature down the line), all are being buried in the wall.  The electricals have come a long way.  Notice in the before picture the not-quite-up-to-code outlets (read fire hazard) and the now neat and elegant cables.  Wires may not be exciting, but when done this well, I think they’re kinda sexy.

I also wanted to show you what a couple of rooms are looking like. Below you’ve got the sunroom.  Not quite an even before and progress shot, since I took the progress shot with my good camera and the other one with my trusty point and shoot.  The latter doesn’t quite have the same wide-angle lens option.  Anyway, back to the Progress, you can see all the new windows are in and properly sealed for weather.  The other thing you might notice is that we said Bye Bye to the unnecessary dropped ceiling.  The soaring ceiling plus wonderful natural light make this one of my favorite spaces in the house.

The pictures below are of the master bathroom.  Can you believe the before picture?  It doesn’t even begin the capture the awkwardness of what the space used to look like.  In the Progress shot you can see we’ve doubled the space of the master bathroom to allow for a double vanity, a separate shower and tub and WC.  We’ve replaced two small windows with one larger one to give us more wall space above our vanity.  You will note, all the plumbing rough-ins are in and electricals installed.  The picture doesn’t show a skylight that we are installing to bathe the corner furthest away from the window with more natural light.

Electrical – Done

Plumbing – 85% Done

A/C and Gas – 60% Done

We’re getting there.  Once everything that goes in the walls or under the floors is installed I know the reno is going to move quite fast.  Our contractor is already talking about wrapping things up. Can’t wait for the dry wall to go in, but I know we are still a couple of weeks away.

So, what do you think?  Not a small job!  What are your construction joys and pitfalls?  Would love to know.

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Anna - Why oh why did people do dropped ceilings? And in a sun room? It’s anathema to the whole idea of what a sunroom is supposed to be! How much time has the contractor been on the job? I feel like this work is going pretty fast. And I’m very admiring of your new wiring. Our electrical looked like yours in our New Jersey house. We had some scary cables going all across the ceiling of the basement.

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