Gunga Galunga (Via Corona yard update)

After writing the final check to our builders in early 2018, we laid low with Via Corona for most the year.  It was nice to just hang out, let her settle (literally) and, you know, not hemhorrage money.

Our one major task for Via Corona in 2018 was to address the remaining strip of dirt that was our front and side yards.

Lest you have forgotten just how awful Via Corona’s yard began, allow me to refresh your memory.  Though there isn’t much to it, when we moved in, Via Corona’s yard was derelict.

Though we encountered its destitution every time we visited the house, we somehow completely forgot to include it in our renovation plans.

Which turned out to be okay since TD and I watched a ton of YouTube videos and learned how to do some yard stuff.

You can see the entire madcap adventure (montage included) in our Working Har Har Hard on the Yard Yard Yard post.

We gave ourselves some serious back pats for our landscaping accomplishments and have continued to do so while we’ve kept everything alive.

YouTube learning (actually, let’s be honest, TD and I) has its limits however and alas, a significant portion of the yard remained, shall we say, au natural.

A couple of things were keeping us from moving forward.  First, we needed an irrigation system and we needed to figure out if we could do it ourselves.  I’ll cut to the chase tout suite.  The answer was no.  Like, NO! With that out of the way we had a second obstacle: our neighbors.  We’ve got a leaning wall between the two properties.  They’ve got a leaning fence.  We wanted to pull down the wall and have a nice redwood fence built.  They had some “concerns.”  After several months and unsuccessful attempts at understanding their concerns in a way that would cost us less than $50,000, we gave up on that version of the plan.  We’ve got bigger, badder ideas for that wall down the road and have decided to play the neighbor long game.

Obstacles out of the way, we had the irrigation and sod installed in something like 48 hours. Almost over night we went from “dirt patch alley” to “pass me a beer, where’s the corn hole?”

Cool slider alert:

While we may have conceded (temporarily) on the long wall battle, we did win some view.  We’re quick learners and when it came to the short wall, we didn’t consult with anyone and had the nice professionals open things up a bit for us.

Another cool slider alert:

 

Via Corona has wrap-around grass.  All my life’s wishes I didn’t know I had have been fulfilled.

Final cool slide alert:

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished.  The sod had been down less than a week before the gophers moved in.  And then the skunks and raccoons started taking advantage of the worm-rich soil and regularly aerating the sod.

So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Want more Via Corona renovation stories?  Of course you do: Via Corona The Remodel

Addition final but not the final edition

Today we take on the living room addition!

If the saying “it’s not the size of the ship that counts, it’s the motion of the ocean” is true, then Via Corona’s addition is pretty much the plot to A Perfect Storm. Only, with a happier ending.

When we bought her, Via Corona’s downstairs space was limited, unfortunately distributed and to use a technical term, gross.

As a quick recap (you can tune into the saga here and here). The addition is a 200 square foot expansion of the downstairs living and dining spaces.  We started working with the architect in May of last year.  Plans went to the city in early June and the city had us chasing signatures in August.  Some other stuff happened and the plans were approved the last week of November 2016.  Construction on this component started shortly after and the first round was finished in March.  Then the floors weren’t level so they had to pull up a couple  hundred square feet of flooring, re-level the sub-floor and re-lay the hardwood, replace the baseboards and re-paint the effected walls.  For the purposes of this exercise, let’s put the finish date at July 1, 2017. That’s 14 months or 434 days for a couple hundred square feet.  Put a different way, each square foot took about 2 1/3 days or 65 hours to complete.  That’s a really long time for a space about the size of a dorm room.

Was it worth it you ask?  Let’s take a look at the before and afters, slider style. I apologize in advance, this is where a wide-angle lens and some photography skills would be helpful.  As you know, I have neither.

Here we have the view standing in the entryway looking toward the living room. For a point of reference, the original space ended right between the two headers to the left of the fireplace.

Now we’re standing in front of the fire place looking back at the entryway and kitchen.   For the record, the man standing in the kitchen is the sewer guy.  The before picture was taken the same day we got the keys.  I remember this because I was standing in the kitchen chatting with the rooter guy about our sewer lines and the previous owner just walked right in.  Luckily, that we know of, it didn’t happen again.

Standing in the kitchen looking toward the living and dining space.  The before was obviously taken mid-construction and the fridge is blocking the old living room but I think you get the picture.

I wish I’d had the forethought to take a series of photos in the same spot during construction.  I didn’t so you’ll have to put up with a “various angles” montage.  Remember, we actually lived in Via Corona for the entire addition of the addition.

So again, was it worth it?  I guess a good answer would be: why in the world didn’t they design the house this was in the first place?

In the early design for the addition, the architect insisted we install those cool bi-fold, or at the very least, telescoping doors you see in restaurants and fancy schmancy houses.  Neither option was anywhere close being in our budget.  And, even if pricing hadn’t been an issue, we learned bifolds and telescopers are basically impossible to add screens to (no one has told our indoor cats that they are indoor only so the little turds are always on the lookout for an escape route).  Anyway, we had proof early on that sliding french doors (with the accompanying, locking screen doors) were the way to go when a raccoon casually wandered onto the deck and hung out for a while.  Subsequent days and weeks saw visits from the rest of his family on various occasions.  Word must have spread because in addition to Ricky, we’ve had skunks, squirrels, lots of birds and even the occasional neighborhood cat.  Not having screens would have meant either converting Via Corona to an urban zoo or keeping the doors closed at all times.

Way back when, I talked about Via Corona’s design aesthetic.  In a nutshell we were going for comfortable and laid back.  Beyond that, I have a hard time coming up with a description of the final product that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole.  If you desire details, you can read more of my navel gazing here: Zhushing the rectangle.

We worked hard to use the furniture we already had both to keep costs down and so that everything didn’t look like it had been ordered from the spring 2017 Crate and Barrel catalog.  In my opinion, nothing dates a place like everything being from the same time period.  Then again, if you love early 80s pastel and ice blocks  or an avocado and mustard kitchen then you should go there with your bad self–there’s a reason they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, furniture.  The sectional, black chair and TV are new and the coffee table was a gift.  Everything else we already had.  Our dining room table was a wedding gift, the media console was custom made for our last house (and magically fit into the new one) and the piano has now lived in three different houses over the last 10 years (4 if you count the storage unit it lived in for the last 2 years).   We still need a few new pieces and a some, like the dining rooms chairs that didn’t quite survive their time in storage, will need to be replaced.  Luckily, we have years to find them.

My parents very kindly offered a piece of furniture for a housewarming gift and we collectively agreed on a live edge coffee table.  They worked with a craftsman in Montana to hand select the piece and refine the design.  The outcome is both unquestionably beautiful and surprisingly sturdy.

The Storsele chair from Ikea is a great example of when good design defies the laws of expense.  I’ve liked this chair for some time but wasn’t actively trying to find a space for it in Via Corona.  However, we kept striking out on what to put in the space at the end of the sectional.  Luckily the light bulb went on at some point and I made the connection.  The sheepskin is Gracie the cat’s version of a kitten blanket and she was initially annoyed that we moved it from the master bedroom (she likes to snuggle in and make biscuits).

These Alseda rattan meditation stools from Ikea have been in and out of stock for the last year or so.  Without question, they are the best deal out there on this type of thing (Etsy is a good source but expect the cost to double with shipping).  I’d pretty much given up on finding them when there they were, right next to the Storsele chairs in the Ikea warehouse.  The furniture gods were smiling down on me that day.  Buddy immediately claimed them as his own and spends hours perched on top of them while he gazes out the French doors hoping the raccoon will visit.

And, with that, we’re down to our last few Via Corona reveal posts.  For now.  We’ve got some details to share and then there are the bedrooms (we’re waiting until we have some of the art re-framed).  Otherwise, we’re in the show and tell home stretch.   There is still plenty to be done, however, the timeline going forward will be measured in years, not months.

Want more renovation shenanigans?  Go here: Via Corona

Living/Dining Sources

Paint Color: Dunn Edwards Droplets

Flooring: Provenza Old World Fossil Stone

Couch: Ethan Allen Arcata Sectional

Media Console: It's old and the place that made it for doesn't exist anymore. 

Rug: Pottery Barn discontinued, similar here and here  

Chair: Ikea Storsele

Coffee Table: My parents had it made in Montana.  Similar here and here

Pillows: from all over the place;  pillow1 and pillowmatic are two of the less usual suspects.

Rattan Poufs: Ikea Alseda

Dining Room Table: custom made many moons ago by Larry St John  This place is a total trip to visit if you are in the Long Beach/Carson area.

Dining Chairs: Ballard Designs Upholstered Couture Chair [if you are considering these, send me a note, I'd like to share my experience]

Bar Cart: discontinued but similar here, here  and here 

Flameless candles: when you have animals or small children, flameless candles are the shiz.  My love for flameless candles simultaneously knows no bounds and is really, pretty embarrassing.  In any case, you want the ones with remotes.  There are tons of options out there, these are some of my favorite: Flameless Candles

We’re working har, har, har, ha, ha, hard on the yard, yard, yard

 

Thank you Ke$ha.

If you follow along on Instagram (@tmhostess) you’ve been inundated by our very slow yard progress.  To hear us tell it, it’s as if TD and I are the first people who ever yarded.

This is because we’re not really yard people.  Though Via Corona sits on a nearly 8,000 square foot lot, one of the big draws of the property is that most of it is hillside.  If I were to guess, only about 3,000 of those 8,000 square feet are flat.  Take away the footprint of the house and garage, and we’re talking maybe a 1,000 square feet of yard able yard.  Of that, about 400 is on the far side of the garage and currently under the supervision of Stanley the giant carob tree.  We’re going to leave him and his fellow flora alone for a couple of years. Say hello to Stanley:

Take out the other side yard and we’re left with less than 400 square feet of front yard space.  [TD here.  I have cagily avoided lawn care in every sense of the word since I last mowed one during a lunar eclipse on August 17, 1989.  My father and brother are yard guys.  And so, while I’ve nodded knowingly through the years as they spun yarns about triumphantly overseeding or aggressively thatching, I secretly hoped I would forever be one of those cold and timid souls who knew neither overseedation or thatchery.  I almost made it.  At a minimum I now have a place to stand while I shake my fist at the clouds and say dumb things like, “I don’t know what could be going on in my life that I wouldn’t have time to stop at a pay phone!”  Note: I actually said this once because I am stupid.]

When we started this whole adventure, those 400 square feet were 400 too many. As the schematic shows, the space is long and narrow.  There is sort of a little courtyard space to the left and then what we’ve dubbed the bocce ball court to the right (positive thinking).   Like the rest of the Via Corona, this long strip of land did not start out with much in the way of personality.

It didn’t help that construction disturbed or destroyed virtually everything that had once taken root in Via Corona’s rock hard soil.  Case in point,  the decent-sized plumeria which you can see propped up in the left corner against the wall.  Without calling in Jim Rockford, we share an OJ-did-it level of certainty that the previous owner stole the plumeria before we had a chance to put it back in the ground.  There’s also the bougainvillea you see below.  Like Batman or David Hasselhoff’s career – it appears to be unkillable.

But wait, you say — there’s hope!  Despite the fact that the former owners went with an “Arizona desert” theme for the yard, there’s a sprinkler system.  Alas, while there are sprinklers, there is no system.  The levee is dry.  Please drive your Chevy elsewhere.  Good day, sir!

Did I mention that we didn’t budget for this space in the overall reno project?

And so this, my friends, this is what Via Corona’s front yard looked like upon completion of the exterior.

Charming, right?

Over the winter holidays TD and I patched (well, TD patched), primed and painted the wall.  It was super fun and definitely motivated us to get cracking on the yard.  Not.

In fact, I have NO shame in admitting that our plan was to basically ignore the elephant in the room until we had the energy and funds to have someone who knows what they are doing come in and address the issue.

But then my mom came to town.

She is a certified master gardener and although my parents live more than a thousand miles and four states away, I got the distinct feeling that our front yard was embarrassing her.  Not kidding, she was out in the front pulling weeds before she’d even unpacked.

When your spry but north of 70-year old mother says that you are going to weed and plant the yard.  That’s what you do.  Within a couple of days we’d pulled out all of the weeds from the long bed and made trips to all of the local nurseries.  [TD Here.  I had thumb surgery smack in the middle of this gardening adventure.  I’ve never been so happy to be temporarily physically disabled in my life!  My mother-in-law is truly a wonderful woman, but she has more energy naturally than I’d have if I received a blood transfusion from a 22-year old  while shotgunning a sixer of Four Loko.  She gets up every day at 5 am (as does her daughter), so when you’re visiting and you roll out of bed at 7 am  you feel like a complete slacker.  You just kicked off the covers and she’s already fed the birds, made breakfast, run an Ironman triathlon, punched a mountain lion in the face, etc. etc. etc.  That said, lovely woman.  I think she even likes me!  Now back to our story.]

After my parents left, TD and I spent the month following pulling out all of the Arizona rock (aka gravel), amending the soil and planting jasmine, roses bushes and Mexican feather grass.  The idea on the jasmine is that they’ll climb the wall and hide the leftover “rock” feature that pops up every eight feet or so.  In preparation for this, I created a wire trellis for each.  This meant I got to buy and use (remember, TD is indisposed at this point) a hammer drill.  Should you have a need for a hammer drill, give me a call.  I’d be happy to fulfill your hammer drill needs.

We originally planned to install decomposed granite (DG)  in the courtyard space, put the chairs back and call it a day.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), two things happened.  Our research revealed that installing DG close to the front door isn’t a great idea because it tracks into the house and can damage the flooring.  I was not about to have anything threaten those pretty floors we put down (except cat barf).

The second thing that happened is that we just couldn’t leave well enough alone. What started out as an attempt to make the front yard “presentable” turned into a little bit of an idea monster.  When your mission creeps, the only thing to do is get out the graph paper.

After watching many YouTube videos (I’m pretty sure this the 21st century version of saying “hold my  beer”), we decided that even with our limited DIY skills, we could hustle our way through a cement paver and grass patio.

And so, over the fourth of July weekend, armed with a bottle of sunscreen and hours of the Pandora Bruno Mars station, that is what we did:

Did you see that blue party bucket in the slides above?  That is what we used to haul the sand, gravel and dirt because neither one of us has a car big enough to bring home a wheel barrow.

It’s been about six weeks since TD cast his (grass) seed and things are looking very green.  We’ve added a couple of citrus trees (Eureka lemon and blood orange) to match our lime and olive trees [yes, we have a cocktail garden going] and we’ll eventually add climbing roses to either side of the wall at the entrance of the Yanni path.  [TD again.  Color me stunned that this project a.) actually came together and b.) didn’t cause an untimely divorce–especially considering geometry was involved.  I guess this is what being a yard guy is all about — capturing the feeling of landing a lunar module or jumping a Harley over 14 Greyhound busses just by laying 11 pavers and not permanently maiming yourself or terminally pissing your wife off in the in the process.  The contractors even asked who we hired to do the job.  To quote a former boss who once quoted the estimable R. Kelly in the most monotone voice imaginable, “I believe I can fly.”]

For the first time since we bought the house, the front actually looks inviting from the street.

A note about pottery.  It’s expensive.  If you live within diving distance of Los Angeles, I highly recommend Pottery Mfg. & Dist. Inc. The place is huge. While you could easily drain your retirement savings on outfitting your insides and outsides with drool-worthy vessels and acoutrements, they also have a ginormous section of second run and slightly “off” items.  We spent a couple of hours there one afternoon and probably spent half of what we would otherwise on our glossy black pots and bowls.

Speaking of training things up the wall (we weren’t?  well, now we are), everything we’ve planted in the long bed has gone a little crazy.

As of this writing, two of the three jasmine have summited the wall and the third isn’t far behind.

What once was our view from the front step (you haven’t lived until you’ve had a rusty bathtub in your front yard)…

is a little more respectable these days.

I’m hoping this means my mom has written us back into her will.

As is obvious, there is still much to be done.  Later this fall, once the temps have cooled a bit and our South-facing house spends more time in shadow, we’ll finish planting the beds in the courtyard space.  We also have plans to sod the bocce court (aka that giant strip of dirt still taking up most of the front yard) and lay the remaining six pavers. Of course this all assumes we’ll be able to keep everything alive.  We’re cool if you want to place bets on how that’ll turn out.

 

 

 

 

Come To My Window

TD here.

As our odyssey enters its 16th month, you’ve probably come to realize there were/are a number of original Via Corona design elements that just leave you scratching your head.  Today we review what was perhaps the head-scratchiest of all — the master bath.

As you can see from the photo below, the master bath had all the Via Corona design “features” you’ve come to love:

  • Old fashioned anteroom with make-up junction or whatever you call it. Check!
  • Undersized doorway that was both short and narrow.  You betcha!
  • 3-foot high bathroom vanity.  Bingo!

And technically, this was one of the updated features of the house.

Beyond the anteroom stood a phone booth-sized shower featuring water pressure best described as spittle-strength.  The photo below actually makes it look bigger than it was.   For reasons I can’t recall and you don’t care about, I did use the shower once.

Now I’m not the world’s most physical galoot, but every time I spun around something landed on my foot (Now you’re singing Lola in your head aren’t ya?  You’re welcome).   Shower head  . . . boom!  Shower caddy . . . boom!  Secondary hand shower nozzle thingy . . . boom!  Soap dish  . . . boom!  Suction cup activated shower assist railing . . . boom!  I fell to the floor.  I got down on my knees.  I could go on, but why?

True to form, the master bath also had the standard tile exoskeleton built to withstand a plutonium bomb detonation.  Look closely at the picture below.  There’s tile on the ceiling.

The real showstopper though was the strategically positioned window a mere inches away from the ol’ thunder box, giving new meaning to the terms street view and curb appeal. [SF actually, I think it’s the other way around.  I’m pretty sure the window has always been there and in remodeling, the former owners relocated the potty so that it had a view.].

As I recall, there were several discussions about the new-improved configuration of the room, most centering around what you could and couldn’t see from the window. In fact, there is a whole post on this: master bath plans. Beyond that there were precious few design imperatives.  I mean, we knew we wanted dual sinks in anticipation of some mythical time when we’ll brush our teeth standing side-by-side.  Presumably this occurs right before we head out to a magical unicorn rodeo or a soccer match. [SF: those double sinks are for resale only.  We’re never, ever, ever going to share a bathroom again. And another thing–there was plenty of design imperative–this is your bathroom, you were tasked with choosing the finishes.  So basically, the design imperative for this bathroom was all in your mouth.]

All I really wanted in the master was a cool shower, because a.) after years of showering in sarcophagus-like structures throughout the South Bay, I dreamt of spinning around like Mary Tyler Moore without knocking crap off the wall (in this scenario I’m MTM–go feminism.) and secondly, because it’s important to overthink a room you spend about 20 minutes in daily.  In the fullness of time, we (and by ‘we’ I mean Shannon) arrived at the design configuration below.

Now you’re probably looking at the size of the shower and thinking, really dude? Overcompensate much?  Yes, it’s gigantic.  Truly larger than it needs to be, but when the world gives you bathroom windows . . . well, you get to spin around like Mary Tyler Moore.  Just not in front of the window.  Don’t be gross. We leave that up to the one of the old guys who lives down the street.

Fun Fact:  There’s a bench in the shower for times when I spin around too quickly and get dizzy.

Behold!  A transformation! (Use the slider for extra enjoyment)

Fun Fact:  SF takes, edits and lays out the photos for the blog posts before I write stuff.  It’s kind of fun to guess what I’m supposed to say based on the particular photos she chooses.  Like everything else about our marriage, I wing it 100% of the time and assume I’m right 99.44% of the time.  So basically, the rest of this post is me Mad-Libbing the photos she put in here.

Oh, I guess there was one other thing I wanted, the basketweave tile on the floor. I have no idea why.  Speaking of, why are people on home improvement shows so enamored of the houses they grew up in?  “I grew up in a geodesic dome and so we’re looking for something just like it, so I can re-live my pre-teen years every day!”  I recall all the houses I grew up in very fondly, but I think it was because of the people inside of them and not the physical edifice itself.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Fun Fact:  If you want to get really good at remembering lists of things, visualize the items on the list being in various places in your home [SF: WTF?].

There’s also a sh*t ton of marble-like tile in the bathroom.  Shannon says it makes the room feel “cold” and “old ladyish” which is apparently just a misspelling of “badass”.

This is a photo of the orchid that has long since slipped this mortal coil.  Or maybe the shower knobs.  Unfortunately, you can’t turn on both the overhead shower and the handheld thingy at the same time.

Fun Fact: When trained professionals installed the hardiplank siding, two of the nails came through the tile on the insert where we now keep soap and shampoo and stuff.  They have since been removed, but it’s a shame stupidity isn’t also painful.

LOOK!  The aforementioned dual sinks.  The next owners will love these!

If you look down here you’ll see the tile outside of the shower is kind of a slate gray.  If you ever come to visit you won’t see this tile because it’s been replaced with an exact replica.  In the first go-’round the tile pictured here selectively lifted itself from the subfloor because it was installed by trained professionals using the industry-standard combination of chewing gum and Elmer’s Glue.

The mirror is a shape I like to call “modified round”.  The lights are kind of old school.  Something I’d guess you’d find in Niccolo Tesla’s lab.

Fun Fact:  The slope of the stairwell is covered up by the storage cabinet in the photo below which makes the countertop uncomfortably high.

The live edge shelves are a nice touch, too.  They say, “a woman with taste lives here and never uses this room.”   These shelves currently house baseball caps mostly because that’s where you keep headwear. In the john. On a live edge shelf.  (Shannon won’t let me display them on the dresser in the master bedroom where I think they belong).

Fun Fact:  I once had an Eric Dickerson poster on my bathroom wall  . . . when I was an adult.  I’m so fancy! [SF: I have to jump in here.  I kid you not, when we first started dating, he also had a 36″ framed poster of Tony Gwynn titled “Bat Man” directly across from the toilet.  It was situated so that when you (or more specifically, I) sat down, eye level was just about even with Tony’s personal bat and balls.]

So there you have it.  One master bath fit for a king.  And if you were a ghost like Patrick Swayze (past or present) this is the view you’d have if you were haunting the master bedroom.  Notice no one can see your reflection in the mirrors?  Balu the cat is not even paying attention to you and he loves everyone.  Some ghost you are. [SF–yes he is–he’s looking at you through the mirror.  Duh.]

Fun Fact:  The original design for the bathroom remodel had a pocket door which went overboard pretty quickly because it turns out you can buy a fully loaded Mercedes for what it costs to install just one pocket door.  Pocket doors are awesome though.  They make me feel like I’m the captain of a space ship. Which figures because they cost about the same. [SF:  because when I think of space travel, I definitely think of pocket doors.]

Master Bath Sources

Hand Shower: Grohe Power & Soul

Rain Shower: Grohe Euphoria Cosmopolitan

Shower Trim: Grohe Chrome Atrio

Vanity: Bosconi Contemporary Double Vanity

Faucets and TP holder: Delta Lahara

Mirror: Crate and Barrel Penarth Walnut Oval Wall Mirror

Live-edge Floating Shelves:NapaValleyHardwoods

Sconces: One Forty Three

Shower Bench: Like this: Teak Wood Oversized Shower Bench

Towels:Hotel Collection


Via Corona Exterior: You Need A Montage!

TD here.  When The Misanthropic Hostess herself told me I had the incredible honor of writing up Via Corona’s exterior, I really didn’t know what to say about an edifice that was both far from good and not good from far.

That’s when it came to me . . . we’re gonna need a montage!

Enjoy!

Shannon here…do you have any idea how long he’s been waiting to incorporate something from Rocky into a Via Corona post?  Dude just seriously dropped his mic and walked off stage.

Exterior Sources

Siding: Hardiplank Siding

Shutters: ArchitecturalDepot

Door: Superior Moulding

Mailbox: Pottery Barn

House Numbers: Atlas Signs and Plaques

Exterior Lights: Lamps Plus

Excellent Montage Music: Team America World Police Soundtrack

You say summer, I say corn!

Is it me or does that sound vaguely dirty?

The seed for this recipe was planted one Friday evening at the Fresh Choice Market in Lomita CA.  I drive by this newish grocery store on PCH every day on my way to work (and sometimes on my way home).  Unfortunately, it’s closed when I’m driving in and on the wrong side of the street to easily stop into on the way home.

So, it wasn’t until one early Friday evening that I finally had a chance to experience the Fresh Choice Market.  To quote Stefon, “this place has everything!”: panderia, Jerusalem bread shop, baklava station, insane carniceria, crazy exotic produce section, aisles and aisles of international ingredients that I’d previously only been able to order.  I wasn’t the only person with conchas on my mind that Friday–the place was packed with all kinds of people.  After slowly perusing the market, I somehow ended up with a cart full of interesting odds and ends I had no idea I needed.  Among them was a pouch of honey powder.  Per its name, honey powder is just dehydrated honey and can be used as a sugar substitute.  I’m always on the lookout for new things to put into French macarons so I grabbed a bag.

With the Via Corona renovation wrapping up, much of my free time is still spent on “house stuff” so macarons won’t be on the agenda until late summer.

But regular cookies I can do.  I love Christina Tosi’s corn cookie recipe and have been looking for excuses to play with it some more.  Honey powder was my in.  Honey, corn and jalapeno are great friends in a biscuit, corn bread or scone so why not a cookie?  I replaced some of the sugar with the honey powder and then  infused a diced jalapeno into the remaining sugar.  In addition to using the freeze-dried corn powder in the original recipe, I also threw in some whole freeze-dried kernels for additional texture. And there you go: you say summer, I say corn (honey, jalapeno cookies)!

So I have an admission to make about these cookies.  While I thought they were fun and tasty, when it came to offering them up to others, I completely chickened out.  I had a box ready to go in to work and couldn’t bring myself to bring it in.  The box sat on my counter for three days until I gave up and threw it out.

Jalapeno and Honey Corn Cookies

adapted from Christina Tosi, Milk Momofuko Milk Bar

Ingredients

Makes about 2 dozen smaller or 1 dozen large cookies

Note–I use the weight not volume measurements for this recipe.

  • 16 TBS, 2 sticks, 225g room temp butter
  • 3/4 C, 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 fresh jalepeno
  • 1/4 C honey powder (or 3/4 C granulated sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 C, 225 g flour
  • 1/4 C, 45 g corn flour
  • 2/3 C, 65 g freeze-dried corn powder (I found freeze dried corn on Amazon but later saw it at Bristol Farms and used the Vitamix to make the powder)
  • 3/4 tsp, 3 g baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp, 1.5 g baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp, 6 g kosher salt
  • 2/3 C freeze dried corn kernals

Directions

  1. Finely chop jalapeno (de-rib and de-seed), combine sugar and chopped jalapeno into an airtight container.  Shake to distribute and allow to mingle for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Cream together butter,  sugar and honey powder using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.
  4. Scrape-down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  5. Reduced the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, combining until the dough just comes together (no more than a minute).  Fold in the corn kernals by hand.
  6. For smaller cookies, use about a one ounce scoop (the original recipe calls for a 2  3/4 ounce scoop) and scoop dough out, placing on to a cookies sheet lined with parchment.  Leave a couple inches between each dough mound.
  7. Either pat, or use the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar to flatten-out the dough.  Wrap tightly and cool in fridge for a minimum of  an hour, but up to a week.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Arrange chilled dough on parchment-lined baking sheets (they’ll need more room between them then when you put them in the fridge).  Leave 2 inches in between each.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cookies will puff, crackles and spread.  Done cookies will be faintly browned on the edges but bright yellow in the middle.
  11. Cool completely on sheets before transferring to a plate, storage container or your mouth.

Reveal: Powder room

Before

While the foyer probably has a lock on “Most Improved” in the Via Corona superlatives, her powder room is a serious honorable mention (and is a ringer for best personality).  Recall that she started with pink and brown tile–with curtains to match–that ran all the way up the wall to be crowned by a coved ceiling in frothy white frosting.

The craftsmanship in this space was remarkable.  I mean look at it–the former owner laid ALL that tile by hand.  However, we quickly tired of the phone ringing and the voice on the other end telling us that 1985 was, like, oh my god, calling and wanted its loo back.

Little did we know that it was about to get much worse very quickly.

Termites and Southern California go together like peas and carrots.  And let me tell you, this bathroom was serving up a hungry man’s portion.  I think I told you how we were afraid to go in here for fear of falling through the floor.  And yet, we couldn’t stop checking on it to confirm and reconfirm how awful it was.

After

Beast: meet Beauty!

As I explained in the powder room plans post, we gave up about a foot in this space for a little bit more room in the kitchen.  We don’t miss it.  Also, out of sight but never out of mind, we also raised the roof in here.  1985 would be totally pleased.

Going with an exposed sink was a bit of a risk, but with a room that now measures roughly five by five feet, I wanted to leave as much open space as possible.  Besides, it’s a powder room.  Other than a spare roll of toilet paper or two, this space has no need for storage.

We frosted the generous but poorly placed window (it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the courtyard).  While there is potential for some evening shadow-puppet shenanigans, forgoing any window treatments also helped to keep the space open.

The light fixture, hook and TP holder all came from a shop called OneFortyThree.   The proprietor started the company after renovating his own house (and blogging about it).  OneFortyThree was a delightful find and I feel a sense of (completely unwarranted) renovation camaraderie with the owners.

Of all the baubles in this tiny space, finding the right mirror was the hardest.  While incredibly fashionable, that sweet hexagonal mirror that was originally in the powder room just didn’t fit right with the new vibe.  I ordered and returned three or four (and kept yet another one for a different space).  This one came from CB2 and we have two other iterations of it in other parts of the house including the guest bath.  (Note the photo bomber.)

In a move that some future homeowner will most likely describe in the same OMG so outdated way I described the pink and brown tile on the original, I decided to go with black fixtures.  This began when I fell in love with a gamine faucet from Ikea that was nimble and elegant.  Sadly, by the time I got around to ordering it, the faucet was no longer available.  At that point I had my heart set on powder-coat and found this one in our price range at Home Depot.

A digression if I may.  If this project were to have a catch-phrase, it would be: because that’s what we could afford.  The market is rich with gorgeous finishes and fixtures–from bathrooms to kitchens to lighting–most of which weren’t even close to being in our budget.  While Pinterest, Instagram, Google and the others offer a vast universe of design opportunity, they don’t account for price point.  Just about every finishing material in Via Corona was inspired by one thing but executed as something like it that was in our budget.  Welcome to the real world.

As you probably don’t recall, I’d originally planned encaustic cement tile for the powder.  I spent weeks looking for just the right pattern (that we could afford).  I put (paper) samples up on the wall in my office and asked for the opinion of anyone who entered.  It became a minor obsession.  But after all that searching, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I actually had the tiles in my cart, finger hovering above the order button and then I clicked away.

The design universe works in mysterious ways and the moment I gave in and admitted I didn’t have the cojones for bold tile, I chanced across this wallpaper design by Abigail Edwards.  It’s a subtle nod to our (hopefully) subtle beachy vibe for Via Corona.  It’s also a nod to Edward Gorey, a longtime favorite of mine.  Not wanting to go so far with the sea-theme as to actually make people seasick, we stuck with the pattern on one wall only.

There she is folks, though she be small, she be mighty. And, at least in my estimation, she has a great personality!    I purposely keep the door open so that I can take a glimpse every time I walk by.

And it’s true about what he said in the Entryway Reveal post:  TD isn’t allowed to use the sink in here.  For the record, I’m not either.  The wallpaper–though perfect for the spot aesthetically–is actual untreated paper.  While the occasional splash from hand washing is fine, everyday wear and tear would probably make quick work of this delicate covering.  It breaks my rule of not having anything in the house too precious to be used BUT I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing that does.

And now for the montage you’ve all been waiting for.

Go here for more Via Corona: Via Corona

Powder Room Sources

Wallpaper: Abigail Edwards Seascape in Winter

Vanity Console: Duravit

Sink: Duravit

Faucet: Vigo Satro

Mirror: CB2 Infinity Round Brass Wall Mirror

Vanity Lights: OneFortyThree

Towel Hook: OneFortyThree Woodblock Wall Hook

TP Hook: OneFortyThree Tissue Roll Holder

Basket: Target


Walk (in) this way: Entryway reveal

TD here.  If I were Santiago, the haggard Cuban Fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea, Via Corona’s entryway would be my giant marlin (only with a much happier, less Hemingwayesque ending).

It’s said you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  While this may be true in job interviews, dating or armed robbery, it thankfully does not apply to the reveal of Via Corona’s least appealing original feature — the entryway.

Walk this way . . .

Call it an entryway, a foyer, an anteroom or even a narthex, there was no doubt it was a problem.  A big one.  Or should I say a short one?  When we purchased Via Corona, the entryway ceiling stood a claustrophobia-inducing 6 feet 11 inches high.  Likely not a concern for the previous owner since he stood all of 5’3″, but when you’re 6’2″ it feels like the sky is falling.  If you don’t believe me, hold a personal-sized pizza box vertically over your head and imagine that’s where the ceiling is.  I’ll wait.

True fact:  No one is sure who is actually responsible for the “never get a second chance” line.  Some attribute the quote to Oscar Wilde.  Others trace its use to a Botany Suits ad from 1966 (the same year Via Corona was built).  The majority claim Will Rogers turned the phrase.  Rogers also reportedly said, “I never met a man I didn’t like” thus proving he never met the previous owner of the house.

The ceiling wasn’t the only problem with the foyer, just the most glaring.  Honorable mentions go to the “Liberace’s pool house” double front doors and the creepy staircase complete with “end of life” carpeting and railings nearly a foot lower than the modern code.

Then there was our lady with the urn.

Earning the title of Worst Original Feature in a place like Via Corona is a bit like being the Cleveland Browns starting QB, World’s Greatest Mime or the biggest hit by Nickelback.  You’re the best of a bad lot.  A distinction without a difference.  So even before we chiseled rocks off the side of the house or destroyed the mantel, I dreamed of bashing this atrocity to smithereens.

With all due respect to Heaven, Via Corona is the place where dreams come true.

I felt like the end result was about a 100% improvement as-is.  Fortunately Shannon assured me we could rebuild him.  Make him better than he was.  Better.  Stronger.  Faster.

The first move was to raise the ceiling to a normal height and install LED lights.   Here you can see how much difference a foot can make.  We couldn’t raise the ceiling in front of the powder/ stairs for structural reasons–but this was the height of the entire ceiling when we started out.  Sadly, doing this went a long way in destroying the haunted house vibe the previous owners had cultivated so spectacularly.  Everything is a compromise.

We also installed a single front door with operable, screened sidelights.  [SF here] Via Corona sits on a corner with the front door facing South. Due to this and some other weather and location related stuff we don’t understand, the breeze runs South-to-North.  By adding the sidelights we created an air flow straight through the house that should make up for the fact that we don’t have AC.  We hope.

We ran hardwood down the stairs and had iron railings made to bring everything up to code for this century.

The coat closet to the left is now a quite inviting home for our in-house wine storage (not to be confused with Garage Wine).  While we don’t have photographic evidence, the before looked like Jame Gumb’s basement in Silence of the Lambs.  Go ahead and look that up if you need to.

See that air vent at the end of the hall?  It was at ceiling height before.  After we raised the roof, it wasn’t.  So we had it moved-up at a cost equal to a year’s supply of foot long subs (this is where the builders get you–all the little bits and pieces here and there).  We also installed a wireless doorbell that plays 50 different songs — each  more annoying than the last!  I thought it would be funny to have “Memory” from Cats be our doorbell song.  It’s not.  Not even a little bit.

What of the space formerly ruled by Lady with Urn you ask?  In the fullness of time she’ll be replaced by a mirror.  Something about reflecting ambient light or words to that effect.  I honestly wasn’t paying attention but I’m sure it’ll be great.

Finally, at long last, the makeover montage. . . Flip or Flop-style (minus the high-profile divorce and tabloid headlines, of course).

Stay tuned.  In a couple of weeks we’ll reveal the smallest room in the house with the greatest number of fixtures I’m not allowed to use . . . the Powder Room!

Can’t wait, want more?  Go here: Via Corona

Sources

Rug: Rejuvination (they frequently have 20% off sales)

Door levers: Kwikset Halifax Square Lever

Interior Doors: Winslow Three Panel

Front Door: Plastpro Smooth Skin Craftsman





Reveal: The Champagne Room

 

And by Champagne Room, we all I know I mean the kitchen.

Before

Let’s go back to where we started with the kitchen.  It really wasn’t bad.  It even came with double ovens.  In the original plan, the kitchen was actually slated for phase two.  But, then we lost our minds and decided to throw the old range out with the bathtub (and the toilets) and just start from scratch.

By way of review, here were the main objectives of the kitchen renovation:

  • Pull the range off of the peninsula to free-up counter space
  • Maximize work space
  • Maximize storage
  • Keep double ovens
  • Replace appliances

As I mentioned in the plans post, we didn’t have a lot of freedom to enlarge the space.  Well, we could have but it would have meant losing one of those gorgeous picture windows.  That was not going to happen and so other than adding about five linear feet so that we could sink the fridge into the wall, we stuck with the 12 X 12 space.  Crappy iPhone shot but the amount of tile they pulled up was impressive!

Given that the house is now about 2200 square feet, the size of the kitchen is probably about right.

If you want to see a recap of the demo and rebuild up to cabinet install, go here: Via Corona kitchen progress.

Let us also revisit the Via Corona kitchen mood board (by the way, mood board is a seriously douchey term).  Whether kitchen, office or sartorial, I like my work space to be functionally efficient and uncluttered.  To keep things interesting, on the permanent fixtures I worked with lots of texture rather than color.  This is pretty much my M.O.: keep it neutral and rotate in the color with details that are easy to replace when I need something fresh (I know, now whose being douchey?)

After

From a different angle.  While we couldn’t expand the kitchen much, losing the dropped soffett made things a little less vertically challenging.

A note on the kitchen rug (you can barely see it in each of the pictures above).  Part of the reason I chose our hardwood floors was because their light color and oil finish mean they’re less apt to show dirt as well as wear and tear.  However, regular wear and tear and misanthropic hostess kitchen wear and tear mean two different things in our household (I am the messiest neat freak I’ve ever met).  In theory I love the trend of an antiqued Turkish wool rug in the kitchen.  In practice it would have been rugicide in Via Corona.  I did some research on the best rugs for kitchens and all roads seem to lead to cotton flat weave.  The reason is easy: you can throw it in the washing machine.  This one has already made the trip.  Twice.

All of the small appliances save the coffee and espresso machines are stored in the butler’s pantry/ laundry.  However, all of our every-day use tools–which includes no fewer than 12 sets of varying types beverage vessels (we are thirsty people) easily fit into the kitchen storage. Score!

In addition to limiting expansion opportunities, the windows also added constraints to the peninsula depth.  In my head, this was  going to be a 60 incher (so many jokes here).  Alas, the builders wouldn’t allow us to cantilever the counter top out over the window (even when I made liberal use of the term corbel).  In the end we ended up with about 32 inches.  Not too shabby but also a little more conservative than I wanted.  Don’t tell TD but I do have plans to deepen this baby down the road.  I’m confident that there is a duplicitous contractor out there who will do my deep counter dirty work.

I spent a lot of time designing the kitchen thinking that once we worked with the professionals they’d nicely explain that most of it couldn’t be done.  Turns out the only thing the builders wouldn’t go for was the deeper peninsula.  This means that the entire kitchen was custom designed by me.  Kind of cool.  Or a total disaster.

By moving the fridge from the West wall to the South, we were able to relocate the cooktop off the peninsula and install a serious bad ass hood.  Upon installation, we immediately put the ventilation system to the bacon test.  No trace when we cranked her up to high and let her rip.

Cook top close-up.

The food pantry was the one spot where we lost storage space.  Once the builders got into the wall, we lost about six inches of cabinet width going from an 18″ to a 12″ cabinet.  While small, pull-outs help us to fully maximize the space.  All baking ingredients are stored in the deep cabinets above the fridge.

The view looking out from the kitchen.  The actual view also includes the fireplace and the dining room to the right but once again, my limited photographic skills sell the space short.

More details?

I knew I wanted a semi-commercial faucet and giant, deep stainless sink.  Imagine my surprise when I went to order the faucet and the company wouldn’t ship it to California because of water regulations.  While I totally love the one we went with (source info below), it wasn’t until it was installed that I realized I might have gotten a little overzealous on height.  Let’s just say this faucet is always ready to party but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I built drawer and cabinet organization into the budget to help keep things tidy. Exhibit A: the spice drawer.  So, like when I go to cook something this happens:

I open the drawer and it (the drawer) says, “tell me what you want what you really really want.”

And then I say something like, “paprika!”

And there it is.  The paprika.  Right in front of me.

You’re still with me?    Exhibit B: the parchment paper, doilie  and measurement drawer.

Exhibit C: Commonly used baking dishes stored right under the ovens.  Cookie sheets live on the bakers rack stored in the garage and less-used pans and tins are stored in the cabinet above the ovens.  In our last house I had baking pans stored all over the house like some sort of culinary squirrel.  Now not only are they front and center but also much easier to access.

Every day dishes are stored in two large drawers in the peninsula which we use for casual dining.  Plates in one drawer.  Bowls in another.  These drawers are just to the right of the dishwasher making emptying a breeze.  I would know.

Okay, one more.  The knife drawer.  Just looking at the knife drawer makes me calm.

As we all know, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and so far Via Corona’s has been a delight.  But, what wouldn’t be when you have a sunrise view like this?

Want more house renovating shenanigans?  Go here: Via Corona

Kitchen Sources

Cooktop: Thermador 36" Masterpiece Series Gas Cooktop

Hood: Broad Elite EW58 Wall Mount Chimney Hood

Fridge: Frigidaire Professional French Door Counter-Depth Refrigerator

Dishwasher: KitchenAid

Ovens: Whirlpool 30" Double Electric Oven

Sink: Kraus KHU100-32 Stainless Steel 32" Single Basin

Faucet: Kraus KPF-1602 Chrome Commercial Style Pre-Rinse Kitchen Faucet with Pot Filler

Countertops:  Bianco Venato Extra in MaxFine

Drawer and cabinet pulls and knobs: Lewis Dolan Bar Series

Stools: West Elm