And other remodeling adventures…
Ali here, folks!
We are on the tail end of our second remodel. The first, a mountain cabin by Donner Lake (that we still, 3 years later, have a punch list of about 100 items on, but that you can rent HERE on airbnb if you need a mountain getaway) and the second, a Southern California ranch house, originally built in 1959 and nestled into the coastal suburb of Point Loma (of which we intended on “updating” not completely remodeling).
As elitist as all this sounds, the only way we are even able to buy a home in either of those places is by picking a ‘fixer upper’ and then ‘fixing it up’ ourselves, cutting the cost in half. Or should I say, himself. My husband is the ethereal workhorse of it all and, let me tell you, he is the most handy guy I know. He can pretty much do anything. Plumbing, electrical, tile, woodwork, knocking down walls and putting them back up; you name it, he can do it and do it well. And has been doing it consistently for the past 3 years. Quite honestly, (and maybe best said in a whisper) we are both just so ready to be done with it all.
As good as he is in the construction side of a remodel, he is equally lacking in the design side. Not that he can’t do it, but he just doesn’t really care about style or vibe or uniqueness. He likes to pick something that is clean and nice and good looking (and in stock), install it and move on to the next thing.
That’s where I come in. I care about sticking to the bones of the original, preserving the historic, staying true to an era and keeping things inline with the original intention of the house or the surroundings it finds itself in. As reluctant as I was on this second remodel to really dig into all the design elements, I cared about only one thing, preserving the mid-century vibe. Unfortunately, what may have been notable 1950’s elements to keep, such as wallpaper or tile, had already been removed in a remodel years before we moved in and the remaining mid-century touches were in such disrepair that they were beyond saving. I kept what I could, hardware from drawers and cabinets, the original front door and doorknobs, an entire wall of wood paneling, shuttered doors and the brass fireplace casing accompanying the whitewashed brick fireplace. I resigned to refresh, update and renew by mixing the contemporary with the vintage and filling the house with as much of a nod to the 50’s as our pocketbook could accommodate, whether through actual construction touches, or simply in decor.
1950 and early 60’s modern was full of rich walnut, brass, symmetrical and geometric design. Being that I am already a fan of this era, I already had quite a few furniture and decor pieces wrangled from craigslist, garage sales or my local San Diego dealer, Alfonso, of Nok Nok Living (more about him in next paragraph) to move straight in. The rest of it I filled with artwork created by friends (cactus print from Reno High School classmate + Reno native Matthew Lew of Silver State 98) or myself (desert photograph and black and white portrait painting) and little odds and ends from The Nest (blue ceramic pot and bird) or other local boutiques.
One of my all time favorite design elements was our master bathroom. After much debate on how to restructure by tearing down walls, closets and moving toilets we decided on a design that was functional and beautiful. I scoured the internet for mid-century furniture dealers and ended up in the storage unit of a local San Diego dealer (from whom I have now bought 4 pieces of furniture and who I also now call friend…amazing things happen when you choose to buy local from a small business owner, hint, hint) talking about all things old and interesting, his new baby and figuring out how to refurbish my newly acquired piece of history and make it into my bathroom vanity. I definitely put a bit of elbow grease on this one, refinishing the top and cutting out a square notch of shelves on either side to make room for sink pipes, oiling the drawers and removing a built in utensil tray, but it was totally worth it. We added a bit of elegant 50’s flair with hexagon tile and brass finishes. All in all, it is the perfect mix match of mid-century modern and contemporary and well worth the attention we put into the details.
Remodeling can be daunting, draining and will pull on every last thread that is holding you (and your significant relationships) together. Whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring contractors, remodels almost always take way longer and cost way more money than originally planned. But, they don’t necessarily have to. We chose to splurge on certain structural elements, like a new roof and new plumbing, but also chose to be thoughtful and unique about other elements. I’m not ok with knock-off versions. There are plenty of ways to pull off a vintage hack using things from IKEA or even break your bank by buying brand new ‘vintage looking’ pieces from high end decor stores. But for me, the value isn’t just in the look of the item. It’s in the quality of the piece, the history of what you are preserving and putting into your home. I hold out sometimes, having plenty of bare walls and corners until I find the perfect thing I’m looking for…and it’s almost always something that is old, getting new life in a new way.
Needless to say, The Nest is The. Perfect. Spot. to find the old to turn into the new. From light fixtures and vintage hardware to incredible mid-century goods like this credenza with matching dresser. It is literally floor to ceiling full things to use for your next remodel or Spring redecorating project. I know it doesn’t really feel like Spring yet, but, I promise it is coming and freshening up with unique goods is in your near future! Heading into a bathroom remodel? This credenza would be a perfect dual vanity! Click the pic to take you directly to this item in our online store!