Be our guest, be our guest…

…you know, Beauty and the Beast is probably my least favorite in the Disney princess franchise.

My favorite?  The Jungle Book (in the original).  I know it’s not right to anthropomorphize animals. And, don’t get me started on the geographic misrepresentation of fauna.  But man, who doesn’t like a scatting orangutan?

Anyway .  . .this post is a joint effort.

Currently, Via Corona doesn’t look much different than she did a couple of weeks ago.  We’re at what TD calls the John Cazale Stage of the renovation – it’s the necessary stuff that no one notices because it isn’t super sexy – you know, plumbing, electrical, and the like.

TD here.  For the uninitiated, John Cazale appeared in five films in six years, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.  The Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter.  Cazale wasn’t the star of any of those films, but he did a ton of heavy lifting in each.  Can you imagine Michael Corleone without Fredo?  Of course, you can’t.  (Except Shannon can because she’s never seen the Godfather. There’s something wrong with her.)  So, here we sit with new copper plumbing, LED can fittings and a freshly hot mopped shower.  Fredo stuff.  RIP John Cazale.

Lacking anything cool and new to show you,  we’ve got plans.  Literally.  Starting with the guest bath.

At the top of the stairs just off the linen closets, the original layout of the guest bathroom was pretty unfortunate.  Like a limo with a hot tub: long, narrow and inefficient.


It also hid some of the most hideous wallpaper in history, which is saying something in the storied history of wallpaper.  Actually, last week we found new wallpaper in the ceiling of the powder room–that stuff is currently in a sudden-death shoot-out with this for most hideous wall covering.

Nothing says “I’m an exhibitionist” like having a window in the middle of your bathroom.  Come to think of it–all three of of Via Corona’s bathrooms are like this.  We played with the idea of doing something about it but ultimately did not want to compromise the symmetrical look of the windows from the exterior. Luckily the upslope of the hillside and the occasional visitor with poor timing are the only potential witnesses to TD’s morning gun show.

With that pleasant visual dancing around in your noggin, let’s explore the guest bath as it used to be.

The tub-shower combo was tucked into a dark corner behind the door.

While long and technically spacious, the vanity area was not very efficient.  It was also 29 inches high.  No joke, TD could bang his knee on the countertop.  To borrow from the great Steven Wright, perhaps the old owners posed for trophies.

And  I know they call it a throne and it is generally integral to the successful functioning of a bathroom, but having the toilet front and center wasn’t much fun to look at.  Of course having it sit in the middle of what used to be the kitchen isn’t a much better place (we’re assuming this is just an ornamental stopover on its way to the dumpster).

Changing the size of the bathroom was not an option.  So, we rearranged everything (except that window).  We added a door to the guest bedroom to make the bath an en-suite.  This not only created another form of entry but added a little privacy to the commode area.

Neither TD or I really cared about having a bathtub but we knew we needed to keep one in the house for resale value.  And the one currently sitting in our front yard doesn’t count.  Also, TD likes to quote former 49ers running back Roger Craig who once told him, “you can’t make the club in the tub.”  If I heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.  I’m not kidding.  He says it all the time. I still have no what it means.

Alas, life is about compromise and in this case we gave up vanity space.

As for the look, we’re keeping things pretty neutral and clean with a couple of interesting touches.  The flooring is a warm grey chevron limestone tile.  I originally wanted to use dark charcoal fan-tiles but when the estimate for the hand-made pretties came in at $10 per tile…PER TILE…I changed my tune.

To play off the warm grey and to offset the more masculine fixtures (TD: Which is a misnomer because no man ever has cared about the look of a fixture. TMH: It’s a description not an assignment of interest.), we’ll go with an almost-there shade of pink for the walls.  The color is Benjamin Moore Opal…yeah, I know…you read the May issue of House Beautiful too.  I also think the pink will make a nice contrast to the bright white glazed subway tiles in the shower/tub.  We’re going with a white shaker vanity with a marble countertop and clear lucite hardware.  The fixtures are all in stainless steel.  Oh, and I am very anti-towel rack.  You won’t find a single one in Via Corona.  It’s all about the hooks baby, and this guest bath will have a couple of cool ones topped with sliced agate.

While designed as the guest bath, this lovely space will be mine (TMH) for everyday use.  TD and I have very different schedules and there are plenty of bathrooms to go around with just the two of us in the house so–why share?  TD gets the master bath.  The master bath has an eight-foot shower.  Just remember that when he complains in a future post about how my inability to share got him kicked out of the walk-in closet..


Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona


Not just for 4th of July

This is a “holy cow I can’t believe I’ve never shared this recipe” post.

Fourth of July Salad is my mom’s recipe.  And it is festive–crisp romaine, bacon, blue cheese with artichoke hearts and hearts of palm (which I think give it a kind of 70s cocktail party vibe).  It’s perfect for a summer cookout.  And, because none of its ingredients are seasonally dependent, this salad is pretty perfect for any celebration–or any excuse for a celebration.  Over the years my mom has served it at most major holidays and birthdays.

I have no idea where it came from–and I could ask–but why mess with the mystique?

I’m kind of a bacon purist and not a huge fan of it “in things.”  This salad is the exception.  There are so many other delicious ingredients in this salad that I bet a healthier substitution of turkey bacon would work just fine.

The dressing is super simple: apple cider vinegar for acid, brown mustard for kick, a little sugar, salt and vinegar and grapeseed oil (or your choice of vegetable oil) for emulsification.

I love hearts of palm.  I also love artichoke hearts.  For this recipe I like to use only the heart-meat.  I don’t like the way the edible marinated “leaves” squeak against my teeth.

Perfect with the grilled meat of your choice and a glass or two of rose.

And maybe some fireworks.  Or Easter eggs…or Thanksgiving turkey…

Fourth of July Salad

As written, this salad is made for a crowd.  You could easily half everything but the dressing to serve 2-4 as a main dish plus protein.  Don’t bother halving the dressing–if you don’t use it on this salad, you’ll want to use it on another.  Or as a marinade.

For the dressing


  • Shallot, diced
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 t spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 C grapeseed (or other vegetable oil)


  1. In food processor or blender, blend shallot and vinegar.  Add mustard, sugar, salt and pepper.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add oil.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the  fridge until use.

For the salad


  • 2 bunches of romaine
  • 1 7.5 ounce can of hearts of pal,
  • 1 8.5 ounce can of artichokes, packed in water
  • 4 ounces of bleu cheese
  • 1.2 lb cooked and crumbled bacon


  1. Cook your bacon.  Try not to eat it all before it goes in the salad.
  2. Wash, dry and cut romaine.
  3. If it’s in the fridge, pull dressing out to come to room temp.
  4. Crumble bleu cheese
  5. Slice hearts of palm
  6. If your artichokes come whole, quarter
  7. Add all ingredients to a large bowl
  8. Add and toss dressing just before serving.


Appetite for destruction – Part Deux

“Do you know where you are?  You’re in the master bathroom, baby!  You’re (probably) gonna diiieeeee!!”

-W. Axl Rose 

TD back again, check it to wreck it let’s begin . . . 

Today I have the enviable task of showing you the “progress” on the upstairs – recently home to abandoned underwear, 7-foot ceilings in the hallway and shop lights in one of the bedrooms.  Someday soonish (betting on December) this area will also be home to the World HQ for my thriving little business, Caught Looking, Inc. and a walk-in closet that I will not be allowed to use.

Remember that scene in Lean on Me when Paterson, New Jersey’s East Side High fell into disrepair before your very eyes only to later be redeemed by Principal Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) using unconventional methods that showed he really did care?  If not (don’t worry, Shannon has no idea what I’m talking about either), the following short film will probably make little sense to you but watch it anyway.

Warning:  If you don’t like Guns N Roses (or you happen to be my Dad*) you might want to kill the volume.  Rest assured it will not ruin your appreciation of the “art”.

*Just kidding, Dad.  Love you!  But, seriously, turn the music off.

Via Corona Upstairs

(Disclaimers:  1.)  Now you can see why I hire some of the best editors in the world to do my bidding.  2.)  Sorry for the abrupt edit on the ending, but if you thought I was going to do a full-length video you’ve greatly misjudged how much effort I’m putting into these posts).

Today we’re also introducing a new segment:  The TMH Mail Bag!

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.57.24 PMOn the heels of our treasured items raking in exactly zero million dollars at auction comes this article from the hoity-toity New York Times, sent in by eager reader Sarita D. from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

TL;dr – Sometimes people leave stuff and it’s worth something more than the steaming pile of jack squat we were left with.  Here’s the money quote from Gerard “Captain Obvious” Splendore . . .

“It seems to me that sellers always leave something, and buyers are usually appalled,” said Gerard Splendore, an associate broker in the Brooklyn Heights office of Halstead Property. “They don’t see it as a windfall. They don’t want somebody else’s stuff.”

Thanks, Sarita!  Keep the info coming.

Finally, our parody of The Who’s My Generation inspired songsmith James P. C. from Scotch Plains, New Jersey to pen this little ditty to the tune of The Who’s 1978 hit, Who Are You?  Please enjoy and keep The Who parodies coming as well.  No one has yet covered I Can See For Miles, Baba O’Riley or Eminence Front – which is one of my top 10 favorite songs of all-time.

What’d we do?
Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!
What’d we do?
Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!

What’d we do?
Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!What’d we do?Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!

I woke in our Redondo beachouse,
The Pacific knew our name
It said “You must go sleep at Via Corona tonight”
“You bought it, must be insane”

I staggered back to that f*cking dump
And tripped on a broken stair
I remember it needed new plumbing & electric
And a million other repairs

Well, what’d  do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
I really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
Tell me, what’d we do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
‘Cause we really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)

I took the 5 back out of town
Arrived at my condemned house
Felt a little like crying, man
Our dream home dream was doused

I walked in and banged my head,
Why are these ceilings so fucking low?,
Put my foot through this broken floor,
This whole house has got to go
Well, what’d  do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
We really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
Tell me, what’d we do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
‘Cause we really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
What’d we do?
Ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa …
Well, what’d  do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
We really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
Tell me, what the f*ck did we do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
‘Cause we really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)

Thanks, James.  It’s only rock n’ roll, but I like it.  Great to hear from readers in New Jersey.  Hopefully Mr. Richard Feder from Fort Lee will drop us a line sometime.  For the 7 of you that get that joke, please explain it to everyone else, or just click HERE.

That’s it for me.  Next week we’ll be back to the usual fare.  TMH explaining how to make a time machine out of a DeLorean and/or an edible concoction with quinoa (pronounced QUEEN-oh) and lentils (Hint:  liberal use of frosting).  
Leaving you with an architectural drawing of the house in case you want to storm the compound with Seal Team Six.
Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.49.26 PM
In case you’re still baffled by the Lean on Me reference.  Click HERE.
Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona

Appetite for destruction: Downstairs edition


Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.

Pablo Picasso

If what my friend Pablo said is true, Via Corona is on its way to being the next Dora Maar au Chat.  Except…you know…with all the parts in the right places.

It felt like it took forever for the “actual work” to start on Via Corona.  There were architectural plans to be drawn up and preliminary engineering stuff to be done (and we are still working on secondary and tertiary plans).  But finally, about a month after we hired our builder and and nearly an eon after we closed on the house (at least six weeks), demo was a go.

Today I bring you Via Corona “during”–the downstairs addition.  I’ve included what the original spaces looked like as reference.  I’ll let you be the judge on whether Via Corona in her state of current undress is an improvement over her original state.

Here we have the 6’8″ entryway ceiling.

Minus the floor tile.

We didn’t do much of the demo ourselves but TD and I did take on that ceiling.  Destroying it was deeply and viscerally satisfying.

Ceiling removed and support beams gone.  It’s an old house and eight feet of ceiling is all we could hope for–but man, it makes a huge difference.

Remember our lady of the wall?

She’s now our lady of the wall no more.

Downstairs powder room in her brown and pink prime.

Tile and fixtures: history.

And so is most of the wall and flooring.  We knew from the inspections that Via Corona had a termite problem.  Now that most of the house has been demoed, we know that much of the wood-eating party was in this bathroom.

This part of the house is so disgusting and scary that we’re afraid to go in it for fear of falling through the floor.  We just stand in the doorway and gawk.

Kitchen before.  We felt a little bad about this one.  The cabinets were custom and we could have easily lived with the whole setup for some time.  But blood was already in the water so…

So. Much. Tile.

Cabinets: gone.

Flooring: gone.  All that remains is the soffit and that comes down as well.  To gain a little space we’re going to borrow from the powder room on the left wall.

Yep.  Toilet in the middle of the kitchen…Via Corona working on chanelling her inner Picasso.

Now you see the dining room.

Now you see the subfloor.

You’ve seen this shot before.  Let’s just say that we have yet to walk around in this house with bare feet.

The mantel was actually the first thing TD and I destroyed.  The scale of the mantel was far too large for the room–and would have been even after the addition to the left.

“End of life” carpet removed.  You know it’s saying something when janky plywood subfloor is categorized as “an improvement.”

Prom stairs before.  The carpet was so old that it disintegrated as we pulled it up.

TD and I spent a surprisingly therapeutic afternoon pulling out nails and staples after discovering hardwood under the carpet.    Unfortunately the wood we’re using for flooring isn’t a close enough match to save what is on there.

We gave ourselves an A for effort as consolation.

Not satisfied with making the foyer regular ceiling height, we also decided to take the upstairs hallway 21st century standards.

We are still waiting for the permits for the downstairs addition and new deck…another day another post.

On Thursday, TD will put on his docent’s badge to give you a tour of the upstairs.  Bet you can’t guess which one of us produces film in real life.

Episode 7: Appetite for destruction, part deux

For all Via Corona posts (so far): Via Corona

Zhushing the rectangle


This week’s post is all TMH.  

There is no way to sugarcoat the following truth.  When it comes to the design approach on this project, there has never been nor will there ever be any pretense of style-ocracy.  I am the style-tator.   I make the style-cisions.  Luckily, TD trusts my judgement.  And when I say trust I mean doesn’t really care.  The formula works for us both.

A few years ago I started throwing pictures of architecture, interiors and design elements I liked onto a Pinterest board.  I reasoned that if I collected enough information about the things that “spoke” to me, I could figure out my style.  I mean our style.

I was also hoping it would help to divorce me from the “pick something someone else would like” rule I used for the mini-renovation on our last house. Hundreds of saved photos combined with several years worth of subscriptions to House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Dwell and Sunset and some clear patterns emerged (yes, dear former colleagues…and I know you know who you are…I can hear you saying ‘and now let’s put on our nerd hats’).

First the good news: my design-centered grounded theory approach worked (still wearing that nerd hat just to be obnoxious).  A clear aesthetic emerged.

Now the bad news for my ego: that aesthetic is not very original.

I’m calling it California-Scandanavian-pinch-of-eclectic-grown-up-comfortable. You can call it “the most popular pins on Pinterest.”  You know the look: light walls, white kitchen, mostly neutral furnishings with maybe a rattan accent chair or faded kilim rug to send the message that you’ve been places (IKEA) and know things (mostly from Instagram).  I love this look.  So does everyone else.

Source: Amber Lewis Designs

I have long been a stalker…I mean fan…of Amber Lewis of Amber Lewis Designs. Her approach is contemporary but laid back, super rich on texture without being overwhelming and so, so Californian.  I even thought for half a second that we might be able  to hire her firm for Via Corona.  But, budget limitations and some kind friends convinced me that I could do the design work myself  (well, and I couldn’t even work up the courage to send her an email inquiry).  A fool’s errand indeed.

Source: House Beautiful  also, One Kings Lane

Some houses  are a tabula rasa while others tell you what they need.  Part of the draw to Via Corona was that from the minute we stepped in the living room, her message was clear: view, location and light. We’ve talked about the view ad nauseum.  In terms of location, the house is about a mile from the beach.  The house gets a great ocean breeze and is subject to the early morning (and late afternoon) marine layer.  As for light? It’s beautiful in nearly every room in the house.  Light was something we really struggled with on the first floor of our old house so this was something we took note of during the house search.  And there you have it:  our golden triangle–view, location, light.

Source: Camille Styles

Focusing on this triumvirate  has made many of the design decisions easy (except for the part where the Stark antelope carpet I’d been coveting just didn’t make sense in this space). So has the fact that once the addition is complete there will be very few walls in the common space and lots of windows and french doors.  The idea is to keep visual distraction to a minimum while creating a super comfortable and functional place to hang out.

Source: My Domaine also, Amber Interiors

We’re also picking and choosing our luxuries and bargains.  TD’s television and sound system for the entire house were purchased before we even met Via Corona (in his defense it was purchased for the ugly but mean girl house).  I’ve chosen wide-plank oil finished hardwood for the floors and crazy (for me) Italian porcelain countertops in the kitchen.

Source: Tessa Neustdat

On the flip side, we’re going pre-fab and semi custom for the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, lots of my favorite white subway tile where tile is needed and carpet in the bedrooms.  We’re also doing the closet and pantry/laundry shelving installations ourselves (I know this is peanuts to all you seasoned DIYers out there but it’s a big deal for us).

We’re also keeping to the golden triangle when it comes to furniture.  Because of the way we are opening up the downstairs, the result will be a kind of L-shaped great room.  Dining will blend to living will blend to sitting will blend to kitchen.  After trying many configurations via pen and graph paper it became clear that a sectional was the way to go.

At first I was very disappointed.  Sectionals are SO suburban.  At least that’s what I thought.  Luckily they’ve come a long way from my early 80s memories of  rust-colored plush monstrosities complete with cup holders and dueling recliners.  With the sectional and our existing dining room table serving as the anchors, the rest of the furniture will be collected over time.  You can bet that at some point, this chair, or more realistically, a version that I can afford, will call Via Corona home.


Source: Design within Reach

While we joke about the exterior as “rectangle,” the house ever so subtlely suggests colonial and cape cod styles.  In keeping with many of the houses in the area, we’re planning to stay simple with a clean white exterior from top to bottom and black accents via the shutters and doors.  And some crown stuff.  There will be some crown stuff…like a weather vane or maybe a door knocker.  You know, classy.

Source: Charm Design

Hardscaping and landscaping will come next year after we’ve lived in the house for a few months.

No detail too small, we did not forget about the feline contingent of our domestic unit.  TD has made an aggressive lobby for a cat tree or two.  This suggestion has been repeatedly denied.  Style-tatorship has its perks.  However each cat will get a brand new groovy litter box.  Gracie has already called dibs on the orange version.


Source: Modko

I hope the cat in the picture is included.

If you follow-along on Instagram (@TMHostess) you’ve caught a glimpse of the destruction brought down on Via Corona in the last few weeks.   She’s gutted my friends. So, next week we have a double post of “during” pictures.  Tuesday we cover the downstairs while Thursday is up.

Episode 6: Appetite for destruction: Downstairs edition

See all Via Corona posts (to date) here: Via Corona