Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Before & After

To many of us, the before and after concept of anything that we deal with on daily basis, along with the process of how it was done, is somehow intriguing. I had a chance to work on a project that I wanted to share with you to give you an idea on how little transforming your home could cost, as long as you put the work into it yourself of course. 

Let's keep a couple of things in mind, like you, I'm employed, and this is not my full-time Job. It's something I did on the side. Also, I'm not trained in this department, I don't know the names of fabrics, the shades of colors, or the materials professionally used in "home makeover"s. What I do know, is that I can use my imagination and a trick or two in visual effects to make things work and look beautiful and fresh. 

The place is a cookie cutter condo that is built in 1981 in a charming tudor style building in North Hollywood/Valley Village area. The very first thing that comes to anyone's attention is how the little 1037 sq ft space being divided and distributed within the unit.

The minute you walk into the condo, you cannot help but notice how small the living room is and how much better it could have been divided if more space was taken away from the dinning area behind it, which is separated with a wall and the laundry appliances behind that wall. So the main project is to bring the living room into life by making it look bigger, brighter, and work with the settings it has that cannot be altered such as entrance, stairs, fireplace, window … etc.

Before I continue here, I'd like to say that the unit has so much storage in it, so a thought of breaking down the wall and moving the laundry upstairs so that the space would be one continuing big space throughout the dinning area was not completely out of question. Especially when there's the perfect spot/closet between the two bedrooms upstairs that has just the right size for stackable appliances. 

The two obstacles that stood in the way were the limited time I was given (3 days) and the limited budget. Moving the laundry upstairs was immediately out of question, so what do I do to make the small living room look big? Light, almost white fresh paint and light colored furniture would do. But a big mirror is the first trick. I went to a small business around the corner of Laurel Cyn and Magnolia called "Square Deal" and bargained a custom made mirror from $ 700 to $ 310 as long as I paid him cash. White frame that goes well with the shutters was a must too.

So the wall that I wanted demolished is now covered with a wall size mirror, where would I put the TV? The previous owner had the TV on that wall and didn't utilize the fireplace to its full warm potential, especially on those cold nights in winter time (and we have those in southern California like … seven a year). Here's a picture before and after.


The TV was placed on top of the fireplace and the electrician flaked on me three days in row. I guess a small project was not worth his time. I visited my favorite store which you're going to read its name over and over in this blog, home depot that is, and I purchased a flat white cord extension that I extended from the electric plug, up to the TV itself going through the side of the fireplace that faces the wall and placed an ikea little red vase in front of it so it's not visible. That part went down in cost from $ 200 plus parts to $ 8.99 plus tax. As for the signal, I purchased from Costco.com a wireless transmitter for only $ 185, the result was, not only that saved the cost of drilling the wall behind the TV, but also it saved so much space since the Tivo, DVD, internet router AND the transmitter, were out of sight on the top shelf in the coat closet, while the DVDs were neatly organized below them.

The the next project was to change the old fashioned brick fireplace into something more modern and contemporary that would go with the two beautiful red and white Tillary sofas from West Elm in Santa Monica where I was able to buy two for almost the price of one by just being so nice to the extremely helpful manager of that store who also shipped them at no additional cost to the unit. To make the change to the fire place was not as simple as going to home depot and buying expensive marble tiles. Remember, this is a do-it-yourself-project with a very limited budget, so how about buying black and white paint and making different shades from them? That, along with buying the gas log (Which were surprisingly expensive upon doing a research online) did it. I finally managed to take off the cap of the gas pipe that was there for over 15 years according to the two previous owners who never used the fireplace as a source of heat, and I connected the gas log myself that I bought from ACE in Sherman Oaks at a special price by saying the word "I'll pay cash" that added a nice touch to the already discounted price, and there it is before and after.

The dinning area was another must do project. As charming as it looks in the picture, I had to think of a way to fit the electric piano into it without making it look out of place. So back to the same trick, making everything white, which goes well with the kitchen cabinets next it. After an extensive research on what is the right table and the chairs that go well with it, CB2 with their original simple elegant looking natural wood/white table, and Ikea chairs were the right choice, the matched so well as if they came together. 

Home depot's special $50 small cabinet that fits perfectly under the window with the see-through white window treatment created a nice ambience to the dinning room. The piano fit perfectly and three brown framed mirrors were repainted in black before they were hung on top of it. Then as two final touches were; the chandelier was replaced with a modern small metal and black ceiling fan, along with a light colored poster from allposters.com was placed on the backside of the kitchen cabinet that separates the kitchen and the dinning room. As for the lights, that's another effect that adds a lot of warmth to the room that I'll talk about later.

The guest 1/2 bathroom was next, and because of my love of colors, and the fact that I couldn't put colors due to the small spaces, I went the other extreme and painted it a very dark color while accented it with mostly white pieces to show contrast. Here are some pictures. 

Going upstairs, there was a tiny little project that you would think wouldn't make such a difference, but keeping the theme modern, it was a must. After sanding the wood part of the stair railing, I got rid of the brown and beige color to make it one solid shiny black color topping the white railing while I painted the wall next to it a very light blue. 

Going downstairs, three long mirrors from Ikea were placed perfectly next to each other, again, to create an illusion that the place looks big.

You can also see two light colored original paintings placed on the blue wall facing a purple also original painting that was placed between the bathroom and office doors. 

The office had to be utilized as a guest room too. The office was the smallest room in the unit and it was painted pink since the previous owner used it as a bedroom for her newly born baby girl. Naturally I painted it off-white and selected a see-through glass office from Pottery Barn so it wouldn't look cluttered with furniture. Also an all glass bookcase was placed next to the office for the same reason. Now we're left with a couch that can be a daybed as well. A day bed that gets opened up was not an option, again, the space. So I was left with a twin bed option that can be converted to a couch looking piece of furniture and that at the same time matches the Stainless steel furniture in the office. After looking online for the frame, I made a comparison and was able to find the very same frame for a good $ 50 less than everywhere else through walmart.com with free shipping if I picked it up myself. Done, done, and done. ($ 119.00 and $ 100 for a brand new mattress).

The master bedroom, now that's a lot of work. After painting the walls a very light green (hard to notice), the new resident insisted on not having any framed picture over his head lest an earthquake takes place and the frame falls and kills him.  

As for the big empty wall over the bed, the new resident was a hardcore fan of a singer/songwriter called Tony Rabbat, I had to purchase a big poster and just pin it to the wall so in case of an earthquake, no shattered glass fall on him. I had a choice of buying the print from Fedex in colors for $ 186.00 or black and white for $ 7.00. The choice was clear and the hardcore fan has to settle with less colors.

The window treatment was all feminine flourish design including the long pillow that makes a prefect reading seat by the window. Due to the budget, blinds were purchased from Walmart and fabric paint from Michaels. The top window treatment was not replaced with anything except paint. The rolling blinds were thrown away and the pillow fabric was painted black to cover the flowers as much as possible. The blind white color worked nicely with the freshly painted window frames transforming their look from classic brown to striking shiny black modern look.

As a rule, do not rely on ceiling lights. After replacing many light fixtures to the energy saving lights, the ceiling in both the living room and the kitchen were planted with regular lights and replacing them with dimmable energy saving lights would have cost a fortune, so adding light fixtures here did both accent the place and provided a softer side light that created a coziness to the place at night. Here are some pictures.

There you have it, the simple make over is …..  over, without exceeding the budget. I hope you like the little project of "before and after". But I hope the new owner loves it so that he hires me again in the future