A little over a year ago (yes, I’m so far behind with my posts that I’ll never catch up) my friend Suzanne asked me to help design a few marketing materials. She had recently completed all the steps necessary to be a Licensed Acupuncturist and wanted some business and post cards. My previous projects had always been wedding and shower related, so this was my first opportunity to work on something more professional.
I wanted her materials to be unique, but simple.
I also made Suzanne some letterhead, but forgot to take photographs. Instead, I’ll include an image that I took of my previous “studio” setup. My printer has a tendency to curl the cardstock as it prints, so I use a few architecture books to flatten my projects. I always work with mug of tea.
You might remember the custom kitchen remodel that El Jefe and I began a few months ago; the home’s previous owner was a house flipper who had installed a brand-new kitchen that the new owner (“Client K”) didn’t like. Rather than let the almost-new cabinets and appliances go to waste, Client K generously gave them to El Jefe for our townhouse remodel.
When renovations began, we headed over to Client K’s house to go “shopping” for what we needed. The garage was packed full of items that were going to go one of two places: our townhouse, or the landfill. Given an infinite budget, the cabinets would not have been my first choice, but they were free, and that made them significantly more attractive. We felt like kids in a candy store.
We demolished almost everything in sight, including the vanity in our master bedroom, and the soffit above it. If you look through that gaping hole, you see into an empty cavernous space, which is the gap between the kitchen ceiling and the high sloped roof.
When we realized that the volume above the kitchen was unused dead space, El Jefe and I quickly decided to raise the kitchen ceiling, thereby taking advantage of the unused volume between the ceiling and the roof. Demolishing and re-framing the kitchen ceiling was not in our original scope of work, but we all agreed that raising the ceiling would improve the balance of the main living space, so during the second phase of the kitchen demo, we removed the drywall and the framing.
In addition to demolishing the kitchen and bathrooms, we had our ceilings scraped. I’d like to say that we did it ourselves, but we didn’t. I laugh at the people on Pinterest who try to claim that scraping popcorn off a ceiling is easy; It is not. It is back-breaking work. In this photo, two of El Jefe’s guys had already scraped off the popcorn, and applied joint compound to the seams in the drywall.
After scraping, El Jefe’s guys applied a thin layer of taping and topping joint compound to the entire ceiling, then sanded the the surface until it was perfectly smooth. After the first coat of topping compound, our master bedroom looked infinitely better, and the only difference was the ceiling texture. The smoothed ceiling reflects light in a way that popcorn never will.
I’ll end with a preview of our kitchen. We re-framed the ceiling high enough to expose the joist that runs across the entire length of our living space; I love the continuity. The space feels nicely balanced, and more open than I could have ever imagined.
I haven’t posted in several months, though I’ve been meaning to for quite a while. In April, Mr. Craftitect and I bought our first home! We immediately began major renovations, and had to work under a super strict timeline to make sure we could complete the work before moving in.
One month after we purchased the townhouse, my mom was diagnosed with metastatic gallbladder cancer, and was hospitalized for eleven days. Between the townhouse, and mom’s extremely sudden (and serious) diagnosis, there hasn’t been much leftover time for Craftitect updates. I won’t be posting about mom’s health, but if you’d like to follow her story, I have a separate blog where I chronicle her struggle with cancer, www.mamasook.com.
I find it difficult to feel creative, when at the end of each day, I am emotionally exhausted from all of the sudden changes that have developed over the past three months. Recently, mom’s condition has stabilized enough that I can begin to think about things other than renovations or cancer. I constantly try to remind myself that life does indeed go on, even when your lifelong best friend has an illness that they will most likely never recover from.
I know that my mom does not want me to give up the things that I love the most, so I am determined to resume blogging about my crafts and architectural adventures, beginning with the biggest and most important project of all: our new townhouse! This post will focus on the before photos, which were taken before the townhouse had power (hence, the poor lighting).
The dining room is just to the left of the front door. I love the vaulted ceiling and the natural light, but can’t help but to notice the popcorn ceilings, laminate flooring, and dirty walls. As my mother-in-law would constantly remind us during this first trip to the townhouse, “it has great bones”.
The kitchen is next to the dining room; the ceiling is low, the light fixture is fluorescent, the appliances have been stripped, and the row of cabinets above the sink completely interrupt the open-ness of the open concept living space (especially when your husband is six foot five inches tall).
This is the back of our living room (next to our front door). If you squint your eyes and notice the vaulted ceiling, and the natural light, you can tell that the space has promise. Sometimes, it’s difficult to look beyond the the popcorn ceilings, laminate flooring, and grimy walls.
The cabinets above the sink/bar area (on the left) make the kitchen feel very separate, though I think the intention was to have an open concept living space. The bar countertop is made of painted plywood, and the entire upstairs area is covered in carpet.
Even the garage ceiling is completely covered in popcorn. The previous tenant attached a lot of temporary shelving brackets to the walls; in some cases the brackets are screwed into a stud, but in most, they are simply glued to the drywall.
The other side of the garage features a wall of cabinets, and an empty space where the washer and dryer should be. This half of the garage is carpeted (you read that correctly) and reeks of oil and dog. The previous tenant was generous enough to leave us a piece of “art” to help jazz up the space.
Next week, I’ll post photos from the first phase of renovations!
I realize most of you have been sitting on the edge of your seats, yearning for a new blog post The Craftitect, only to find yourselves disappointed each day. I’ve completed a few crafts recently, but for the past few weeks I have been consumed with work, so that’s what I’ll be writing about today, instead.
Mr. Craftitect’s dad (who I will refer to as “El Jefe” from here on out) is an accomplished General Contractor whose work focuses on high-end residential remodels. In January he asked for my help with a few projects, and we have been collaborating ever since.
The first project we started to work on together is a complete exterior overhaul of a beach house located in a very exclusive area of Malibu. The exterior is a plain stucco box that does not do its location or its interior justice. I can’t divulge too much about the house, but here is a photo of the incredible view from the living room:
I met with the client a few times to work out the details of my design. Once we had settled on a design, I had to scour the internet for the perfect building material. The client wanted a mixture of rich chocolate brown wood grain and light gray pre-cast cement panels.
However, finding beach-appropriate building materials proved to be extremely difficult – the product’s look had to match the client’s desired aesthetic, and the product’s performance specifications and installation requirements had to meet El Jefe’s strict guidelines. After weeks of research I stumbled across this incredibly beautiful high-performance product from Nichiha, a company based in Japan. El Jefe ordered some samples and we were both amazed at the density of the product.
The client loves the look and has approved my material choice – which means the next step is to order enough material for installation. I am SO FREAKING EXCITED for this project and cannot wait until material installation begins. I think seeing my realized design will be intensely rewarding. (I apologize for how dusty the samples are in these photos – welcome to life on a construction site.)
A few weeks ago El Jefe asked for help with another project – one with a much tighter timeline. The client wanted to completely remodel the kitchen, dining nook, family room, master bedroom, and master bathroom, all before their baby’s due date, less than ten weeks away! Here’s a photo of El Jefe in what used to be the breakfast nook, but will become the kitchen:
When El Jefe’s crew ripped into the wall that separates the family and dining rooms, they found a little structural surprise – joists running perpendicular to what was shown on the “as-builts” (which supposedly show how things are, as they were built … duh). But El Jefe is a masterful problem-solver and we modified the design for the entertainment center built-in to make room for extra structure that we didn’t originally know to account for.
Once the interior remodel is in the construction phase, I’ll be able to relax a little, and spend more time crafting, and blogging. I am excited to post photos of both homes after the work is complete!!
I have a large bedroom dresser that is in desperate need of a makeover, but I have been avoiding going through with the makeover for quite a while. Every time I think about beginning the project, I get nervous and back out, because my father-in-law made the dresser for Mr. Craftitect’s childhood bedroom!
This past weekend I decided to complete a “practice” makeover on an Ikea stool that Mr. Craftitect and I have had for almost four years. The stool is solid unfinished beech wood and lives in our kitchen; it obviously sees a lot of use and has absorbed its fair share of spills.
I went to Home Depot for some materials and stumbled across a miniature can of “solid color” weather proofing wood stain from Behr, which seemed perfect for this project. When I realized that I could get the entire project done in one step (stain) instead of anticipated three steps (prime, paint, seal), I was sold. I chose Boot Hill Grey, paid $3.68 for my mini can, and was on my way.
Here’s the stool after a good sanding, and one thin coat of wood stain, which I applied with the paintbrush. You can still see the beech wood through the stain; the effect was kind of weathered and vintage-y, which was pretty, but not the aesthetic that I was looking for.
I applied another thin coat of stain, and then let the stool cure for two days. It dried to a perfectly matte solid gray. The solid wood stool isn’t sticky or tacky; it can get stepped on and spilled on and wiped down with no issue, thanks to the weatherproofing in the wood stain.
After this small success, I’ve decided that my practice round is over. I’m ready to move on to the big leagues!