Mini-Makeover:  Kitchen Edition    ///

Mini-Makeover (1)

A little background first…

We bought our house in 2009.  It was a very good time to have purchased but our house was one that languished on the market.  No one wanted it.  I kept visiting it, sent it to clients but no one wanted it.  There were, admittedly, a lot of ugly features (horrible paint colors, vertical blinds from the 80’s, tired floors, bars on the windows) but, in my mind, that was all fixable.  In a last minute decision, we made an offer.  And it was ours!  Along with the circa 1940’s kitchen and crappy linoleum floors.  This is what it looked like when we closed escrow:

Kitchen Kitchen 2Pretty freaking awesome, right?  Since we didn’t have a ton of extra cash after closing on the house, a full kitchen remodel was not in our immediate budget.  We were forced to make small changes that would allow us to live comfortably until we saved up enough cash to do the bigger projects.  The many bigger projects!

Update #1 – The floor

I really, really, really couldn’t stand the crappy linoleum floor in the kitchen.  It was stained and faded and scratched.  It really pulled the whole kitchen down and had to go. Or, wait for it… be covered up.  This was, after all, going to be a quick fix, so make life easier and cover up the crappy floors!

I’ve always loved the look of marmoleum tiles… bright colors and endless pattern options, especially for a 1940’s kitchen.  Plus they are SUPER easy to install yourself. We decided to go big and picked a fun, bright color palette.  Linoleum City is a great resource for all flooring but their marmoleum flooring inventory is impressive.  We grabbed a number of samples and played around with color until we settled on a blue, yellow and grey pattern.  What makes the tiles a cinch to install is they are VERY easy to cut thereby allowing you to work around the edges and corners of your room.  Plus with YouTube videos as our guide, we were on our way!  It took us two evenings with three of us working together (thanks Mom!) to get it done and I love the result!  For roughly $400 we had transformed the look of our kitchen!  Big impact for relatively little cash and definitely worth the effort!


Update #2 – A dishwasher

You’ll notice in the pic above that suddenly we have a dishwasher!  Well, that actually happened in 2010.   A feature of an original 1940’s kitchen is the non-existent dishwasher.  We hand washed dishes for long enough and it was time to add one back into our lives.  The problem was that, in a 1940’s kitchen, the counter depth wasn’t going to accommodate a 2010 era dishwasher.  So, we stole an idea from another house and built a frame around the dishwasher thereby extending the cabinet.  We sacrificed two lower cabinets and called our contractor to complete the job for us.  Voila!  Hand washing no more!

Update #3 – Paint & new counters

A quick digression… we have MUCH bigger plans for this space.  There is a lost bathroom off the kitchen that is begging to be made into a master bath and we will need to move walls, exterior doors and windows to make that happen.  Since this was all a temporary fix until we could break ground on the bigger plan, I didn’t want to sink a ton of cash into the kitchen, to then rip it all out.

That said, by 2013, the tile counters were chipping and the heavy ceramic sink was dropping into the base cabinet below.  Something had to be done.  My good bud, Angela, introduced me to a stone shop out in El Monte where you can pick up pre-fab counter slabs of granite for $150 or marble & engineered quartz (think Caesarstone) for $200 each.  Plus they can refer “guys” that will cut and install them for, like, $150/slab.  I figured I would need two, maybe three slabs in total which would put me around $1,050 all in.  That seemed totally worth it!  But first… paint!

Since we weren’t replacing the cabinets, I decided a quick paint job was needed since the new counters would highlight the old, worn paint.  I tossed around the idea of choosing a bright color but ultimately settled on gray.  I grabbed six different sample paint colors from Dunn Edwards and tested them on the cabinets.  Let me stress how important it is to test your paint colors first!  Paint color is tricky and it usually comes out looking quite different than you expected, so grab yourself a few samples and paint large sections of whatever you’re tackling.  Also, painting cabinets is a very labor intensive job.  It’s a lot of surface space and pretty detail intensive, so we hired a super cheap team of painters who did the entire kitchen including the walls & ceiling for $850!  So worth it!  Here is a picture mid-paint job…

2013-09-13 16.52.42

It was now time to trek out to Mingguang Stone Inc, tucked in an industrial part of El Monte, and wander row upon row of crated countertops. Initially, I wanted marble counters since they feel so luxe and I’ve used them in other rehabs,  But after locating the carrera marble slabs, I didn’t dig the dark veining.  I canned the marble idea and had them point me toward the white engineered quartz.  Ding, ding!  Winner, winner!

2013-09-09 11.30.57

Fabulously, each slab comes with a 4 inch back-splash which makes replacing your counters very affordable.  Unfortunately my kitchen was a bit tricky since the sink faucet sits on the wall just below the window.  I needed to cover that whole section of wall and the window ledge and the included back-splash wasn’t going to do the trick.  I ended up buying an extra slab to be used as the back-splash, extending it all the way to the base of the upper cabinets.  I asked the guys at Mingguang Stone if they could refer me to someone who could do the install and they called over Pedro (I’m sorry I never got his last name).  We negotiated $650 for the delivery and installation which included the cuts for the sink and faucet.  *** NOTE…  Make sure you pick the precise slabs you want and inspect them before they are loaded onto a truck for delivery.  I didn’t do that and mine had a few blemishes and chips which I couldn’t do anything about by they time I noticed them.  Lesson learned.

The sink… I usually buy my sinks on OverStock because they carry reliable brands for a good price but this was a mini make-over that I was eventually going to tear out so even $400 felt like too much.  Fortunately, Mingguang Stone had that taken care of as well! They sold me a large single basin, square edged, under-mount, stainless steel sink (think modern) for $150!  Done and done!

2013-09-19 11.33.54

And there it is!  Mini make-over complete for just under $4,000!  Want more info?  Feel free to send me a message here.  

Happy Rehabbing!


Earlier this year, one of our clients purchased a two-on-a-lot in Highland Park with a HUGE yard.  Good thing she has an incredible green thumb because most of us wouldn’t have known what to do with all of that space.  I got to visit her this past week and she shared with me a resource where LA residents can get up to 7 free trees!!!  And who doesn’t love free stuff?  Especially when we are talking about shade giving, carbon reducing trees. I mean, FREE TREES!  

Free Trees

The organization is called City Plants and they are spreading the love throughout Los Angeles with a mission to “expand and maintain LA’s green canopy.”  In addition to providing trees to LA residents, they host free fruit tree events and provide free parkway trees (for that space between the sidewalk and road that neither you nor the city want to maintain).


Visit their website to apply for free shade or parkway trees and check out their upcoming dates for the free fruit tree events.  Plus you can peruse a list of the trees they offer and, I must say, it’s a more extensive list than I was expecting.  Yay, City Plants!!!

My Ikea Hack   //

Console_2A few years ago I stupidly sold a killer acrylic console table in a fit of re-decorating mania and I’ve regretted it ever since.  It jenga’d perfectly in the small space we’d carved out of our living room helping create the illusion of a proper entry.  And I can’t say enough about how important an entry space is for me.  It’s that place you dump everything and without a landing zone to organize it all, those accumulated piles drive me bonkers.  BONKERS, I tell you!

So I was on the hunt for a replacement.  I’d recently fallen for a minimal and modern console from Blu Dot (a store with many pieces I covet) called the Strut.  But, sadly, it was too big. I considered springing for a new acrylic console table from CB2 but couldn’t pull the trigger out of sheer principal.  Then I turned to Craigslist, spending countless late night hours trolling the listings in search of some perfectly sized vintage find.   No such luck.   I had to get creative.

Then one day I magically found myself at Ikea.  I swear I have no idea why I was there, but I was walking through the office section and noticed this little “laptop” table.  Slim, metal and the right size.  Like, PERFECTLY the right size.  Plus it had a simple glass top!  Score!  The blah-grey finish was totally changeable and with a price tag of $39.99, it was worth the effort.

My Ikea Hack

Since the blah-grey had to go, I ran through a few different color options first thinking yellow would be funky and bold and then maybe a teal-blue, but ultimately settled on white.  See, I’m a Gemini which means I change my mind, A LOT, and white so perfectly allows me to do that.  Over and over and over again.

So, how best to turn this puppy white?  Good old fashioned spray paint.  Powder coating was definitely my first option but proved to be way too expensive so off to Home Depot and back with two cans of Rust-Oleum.  I read a lot about needing to sand the surface and use a auto-grade spray paint but that sounded like a lot of work.  I settled for one-step ease and ended up using two cans of White Gloss with a built in primer.

Desk_mid paint

Almost complete!  The table comes with dark brown screw-on feet and dark brown felt surface guards for the glass top which just wouldn’t do.  Luckily, I found clear vinyl surface guards at Home Depot for the glass top and larger squarish guards for the feet of the table.

And, viola!   A modern, minimal console table for under $60!


The Ingredients:
Ikea VITTSJÖ Laptop Table
Rust-Oleum All Surface Paint & Primer in White Gloss
Vinyl Surface Guards – two sizes