Kitchen Surface: Neolith Calcutta Luxe // Goodman lights with brass interior // Brass knobs //
Kitchen renovations are becoming our specialty. I love giving life to tired kitchens and putting our design stamp on
it. It is a creative expression just like fashion and cooking. Here is a link to our previous kitchen renovation at the
A-Frame and California houses. We are now onto our 4th kitchen makeover (first was in Chicago before blog) and
each time we learn more. One thing that makes our kitchen renovations special is that we do practice frugality.
Uhhh. That sounds boring, but it’s actually an avenue for more creativity.
- The quality of being economical with money or food; thriftiness.
Here’s what I mean. This relates to fashion as well. Everything has a life cycle. A good stylist/designer accepts the
challenge of extending the life of that item as long as possible. That is why you see me style clothes so many
different ways. I want to get the longest life out of the piece as I can. The same is true for our kitchen remodels.
For example, in California we chose to resurface the cabinets vs. gutting the kitchen. This allowed us to keep the
design integrity of the mid-century house while saving cabinets boxes from the landfill.
Our current home was built in 2005 and everything is still in great condition. Again, we hate to throw away
something that has a lot of life in it. However, there are aspects to our kitchen I don’t like. Thus, the design
challenge. Make it work! I love that this kitchen has open space, plenty of storage and functions well. I don’t like
having the bar height island. I don’t like two islands. I don’t like the scale of the range hood. Here is our design
strategy to solve these issues while trying to conserve as much of our existing kitchen as possible. I hope this helps
with your future remodels and any decision making you have.
As I stated, our kitchen has two islands. We don’t like it. It’s like ring around the rosy. Removing the second island
will also help make our great room look more spacious. I’m planning to add a big farm table where the island used
to be and make the existing eating area a reading nook. We will be painting all the walls and trim white to
brighten the space as well. With the second island gone, we have two focal points in the kitchen and therefore we
come to our primary design decision. A kitchen design should only have one iconic feature. Do we want the hood
to be the focal point or the island? This helps drive our design decisions. I appreciate a beautiful island and
therefore prefer the island to be the icon of the kitchen. To make the island stand out we need to boost the drama
by having waterfall sides. Make sure to request a miter cut when doing a waterfall. You do not want a butt joint.
Also, choose a material that is seamless. If you have veins, be able to book match the veins as they continue over
the counter edge. Find a really good fabricator.
Keep in mind. Cost. Commodity. Sustainability. Natural marble is expensive. If you choose to use it, use it wisely.
There are also brand-new countertop materials on the market that look like marble but have the durability of
To bring the massive scale of our range hood down, we decided to paint it white to match the cabinets. We will be raising the bottom of the upper cabinets to align with the moldings of the hood. Therefore, we still have storage
we need and the hood and cabinets will appear as a unit rather than the church alter.
Reid has completed a sketch-up model to visualize the renovations as we’ve made decisions. Producing a
computer model really does help you know what design decisions to make. I recommend using Sketch-up if you
are able. Or hire Reid to help….. I’ve created a collage showing our material pallet and some accessory pieces that
will make this kitchen happy again.
Learn more about Neolith here
What kind of wallpaper did you use?
We ordered the pre-pasted.
What wallpaper do you recommend for an apartment?
Good question! Peel and stick is a great option for renters.
On a scale of 1-10, how hard was it to install?
A 7! It took a lot of attention to detail, but not impossible! Read ALL the directions and be patient.
Would you do it again?
Yes, 100%, I’d like to do our powder room next.
Where did you order from?
@anewall I got the floral pre-pasted wallpaper. I think if you’re renting, opt for peel & stick.
12.16.19 We closed on our beloved arrowhead home.
When we moved from Chicago to LA, we anticipated giving up the opportunity for homeownership. We knew it would be crazy out here, so we decided to rent until we really knew the area. While renting, we were longing to sink our teeth into a house. We looked for houses all over, made offers, waited and prayed. The doors kept closing.
Out of frustration, we decided to rethink homeownership. There are many benefits to renting, but wow, we really wanted to sink our teeth into a house. That’s when we made a unique decision. We decided to buy a cabin in the mountains with the potential to rent it out. Reid was once told, “rent where you live and rent what you own.” As Reid obsessively searched the real estate listings in Lake Arrowhead, he finally came across some doable options. Our A-Frame was a diamond in the rough and we knew it had SO much potential. We leaped on it and didn’t turn back. After 6 months of design and countless trips up and down the mountain, the place looked pretty special and we loved it.
How did we find the A-Frame?
Reid kept his eye on the real estate listings for Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead. I think he looked at every house listed for a month straight. We knew how much we were willing to spend and we did our research and looked at Airbnb listings to find daily rates and how often they booked. That way we knew if we rented the A-Frame for a minimum of 10 nights a month we would cover our cost. It’s all about timing and seeing potential in what seems unlikely – don’t be afraid to jump on something you don’t exactly want.
What did you learn from renting it out?
Renting the A-Frame on Airbnb was a great experience and helped offset our remodel expenses. Our guests were super polite and we received great comments. Although, of course, there was one funny thing that happened in our year of short-term renting. Our oven knob kept braking. We have no idea why, but we went through four knobs in two months! Reid finally made a video of how to turn the oven on and would text it to the guest when they arrived. That seemed to do the trick.
The grand finale of our rental was the 24” snowstorm over Thanksgiving of 2019. Our guests lost power for the entire day, ran out of firewood and their phones died. Needless to say, they loved their snowed-in experience and their kids thought we “staged” the snow. A great ending to a year of hosting guests.
What does it take to be an Airbnb Superhost?
Touch base with the renters, but don’t act like you are babysitting them.
Make your guests feel welcome
Comfy beds (thanks Lull Mattress! We got so many compliments on our comfy mattresses)
Why did you sell?
The decision to sell was easy for me but hard for Reid. While I loved going up to the mountains as an escape from the LA grind, I still found the trip exhausting. Packing the family up for a couple nights was a lot of work. The kids also started soccer and our free weekends became not so free. We found it more difficult to spend time up there. I decided I would rather invest in our primary home. I wanted a house we could live in, design and make a home. Reid, on the other hand, was a little more emotionally attached. This was his vision and a great experience for him to see his drawings come to life. He loved the quiet of the mountains and the architecture of the A-Frame. But in the end, we both agreed that we would rather have a permanent home of our own. Thus, we decided to list the A-Frame on the MLS with Christine Williams who was referred to me by a friend.
With the sale of Arrowhead, we were able to have a down payment for our new house and super thankful. While we are sad to see it go, we are overjoyed for the lasting memories we made there.
Today, I’m sharing something a little different than fashion, the BEFORE and design plans for our A-Frame Cabin. A lot of you requested to see more so here it is as promised! We were there last weekend, and we were more than ever itching to get this cabin in working order! I’m already planning our long weekends there with slow pancake breakfasts, day hikes, and evening fire with s’mores. Read on!
The A-Frame is historically known as one of the most economical structures to build, which is why the shape has become popular for country retreats. We’ve been eyeing the quaint but dramatic structures for a year now. The one we ended up purchasing had everything on our list, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, loft and floor to ceiling glass.
The day we went under contract Reid and I started visioning the vibe we wanted for the space. Other than the updated bathrooms, the interior really hasn’t been touched since 1969. While we love to keep the design true to its’ history, that means different things to different people. To Reid, this means keeping the authentic dark wood paneling and knotty pine ceiling. I on the other hand, see white on white on white on white …. Reid says the painted white stone fireplace would look like a marsh mellow. Once my hair guy said not to paint the stone, then I agreed with Reid. As the design unfolds, you’ll notice how we compromise. Our intent is to design a space that brings LA glam to LA (Lake Arrowhead) retreat. The design will provide vertical wall space for artwork, move the kitchen into the sanctuary space of the living room and create amenities that will bring the families together. If I could, I would wallpaper the walls in that overly chunky thick, knitted blanket that is everywhere on Instagram these days.
Stay engaged as we pour out our design process, kick into demolition and refresh this tired A-Frame back to its A GAME. Read more about our purchase here. What do you think?
Marriage is all about compromise right? I’d like to say its a rare occasion when Reid and I differ on design and design materials, but it happens. Just recently picking out flooring for the A Frame, we differed, I wanted white barn flooring, he a blonde natural color. You can also see illustrated above, my picks, and his picks and thankfully – the middle ground! Phew. Which are your faves? As promised, I will be sharing more of our top picks and design plans of the 1970’s A Frame we are renovating, get excited! Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter (on my blog’s homepage) read more about it here and stay tuned!
All the best!