REMODELING OUR L.A. HOUSE – JANUARY 2023
This blog was going to be a chapter in Our Hollywood Tales book, but we decided not to include it. I’m happy to share it with you now.
We were in our Laurel Canyon house in the hills of Los Angeles for several years, and it kept appreciating. We liked our home and weren’t planning to move; we had built up equity in the house, so we decided to do two major renovations, one downstairs and the second upstairs. We planned to brighten up the place and upgrade it. It was the late eighties, and a friend recommended an interior designer she knew.
Our designer devised plans to replace our old metal casement windows with new wood ones with an oval-shaped top window with three panes of glass. Light-colored oak wood floors would replace old dark brown shag carpeting. The company we hired to install the wood floor had worked on the White House floors.
We wanted to remove the wall between the kitchen and living room. Our contractor couldn’t say for sure that it was a load-bearing wall. When he accidentally cut the electrical line from our thermostat to our heater, we didn’t trust him enough to remove that wall. Instead, we continued the décor of the oval-shaped windows and cut an arch-shaped opening in the wall. We also added a fireplace in the living room. We had our popcorn ceiling scraped and replaced with new smooth plaster.
One morning, I came downstairs, and Cliff, who was scraping our popcorn ceiling, asked me, “So, Bob, where are you with God?”
I politely answered, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t had my coffee.” And we left it at that.
They gutted the kitchen and installed new light-colored oak cabinets. The old kitchen window was replaced with a garden window that added an extra foot of space to the narrow kitchen. We added cabinets to the laundry room next to the kitchen to serve as our pantry. On the opposite wall, over the washer and dryer, we added more cabinets for additional storage. Our stove and wall oven were replaced with a new high-end Gaggenau stovetop and a wall oven.
The stairs had that shag carpeting plus a wrought iron railing. In its place, they built a wall with a beautiful light oak cap on top and wood steps like the wood on the floor. I installed the banister, and our friend Eric Grufman helped me put new baseboards around the living room.
The project, like most remodels, could have gone better. Amir, the man who installed the cabinets, was Israeli, and he was an excellent craftsman. He noticed that our contractor, instead of putting a straight pipe for our new fireplace chimney, had an unnecessary bend. The contractor’s brother saw it and told him it wouldn't vent properly, and they straightened it. He reframed our front door to make it smaller and replaced it with a new oak door with three little windows at the top. Before the new door went in, Anita came home from work one evening, and the contractor put a sheet of plywood over the opening where the door used to be. When he saw Anita, he laughed and said, “You don’t have a door tonight.” He left, leaving Anita distraught. We had to use the sliding door upstairs in the back of the house. With that and several other blunders, we fired him and hired Amir to complete the project.
That was a problem too. Amir had an obnoxious partner. We went to Palm Springs for a week while they worked on the kitchen. When we returned from the desert, we were supposed to have a finished kitchen. Instead, we came back and found little progress had been made. The city’s building inspector had been there that week and wouldn’t approve the new garden window in the kitchen because they cut the vent pipe for the sink, and it had to be rerouted. Amir rerouted the vent pipe, and the inspector eventually approved it.
That was just before Thanksgiving. Our friends Steve and Jennifer Evans were coming to spend Thanksgiving with us. But we needed a kitchen. Amir’s partner told me that the electrician put the electrical outlet for the new oven in the wrong place and that it would cost us two hundred dollars to move it. I was already annoyed with the lack of progress and blew my top. Amir told us not to worry and fired the partner over the incident because he had done something like that once before. The partner had clashed with another customer who was a police captain in Burbank. Whether he ended their relationship or not, nevertheless, the partner never came back.
For Thanksgiving dinner, the Evans came from Reno. The place was unsuitable for guests, and Thanksgiving dinner was out of the question. We only had a subfloor, gaps around the new windows, and a partially completed kitchen. Not one in which you could cook a Thanksgiving dinner, so we went out for dinner. First, to RJ’s (The Rib Joint) in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, it was too crowded. We walked around the neighborhood and found a little restaurant in a small boutique hotel, and we had a lovely turkey dinner, except for Steve, who ate a cheeseburger.
Little by little, they completed the project sometime after the New Year, and we were pleased with the results. We also bought new living room and dining room furniture. That was fun. We went to a furniture warehouse with our designer. All the living room furniture on display was covered in beige to avoid confusing customers when selecting pieces. We could pick the type of legs we wanted on the dining room table, and we also decided on a distressed finish for the top. Same with the couch; we picked the type of legs, arms, and backs we wanted. We also purchased two interestingly designed, modern-looking living room chairs. At Robinson’s Department store in Beverly Hills, we found a leather recliner that we liked.
We needed fabric to cover the couch. Our designer called to tell us about a fabric warehouse in downtown L.A. that was going out of business. We went there on a Saturday. Movers were dismantling shelves and packing bolts of material onto a truck. We were just a little ahead of the shelf dismantling. We liked a green fabric and purchased a bolt at a reasonable price.
On the living room walls, we installed white ceramic sconce lights. Over our dining room table and in the kitchen, we added track lighting.
Later, we recalled the difficulties but enjoyed our new living, dining area, and fireplace.
We must have been crazy because we were ready to remodel the upstairs a few years later. That meant gutting and renovating the old bathroom, replacing old orange carpeting with wood floors, and moving our bedroom from the front room to the back room adjacent to our outdoor patio. We replaced the patio sliding door with light oak French doors. We also replaced the louvered metal window near the top of the stairs with a window similar to the windows downstairs. We put in a new ceiling light at the top of the stairs, and where our bedroom had been, they installed custom-made cabinetry and a built-in desk.
The front room with the new built-in desk looked out over the canyon and became a TV room and office/guest room. There was also a built-in entertainment center with cabinets underneath, and on another wall, they built another large storage cabinet. We had plenty of storage, a workspace, and a nice room for entertainment and work. The cabinets were custom-made by an excellent company. The guys who built them also installed them and worked on the upstairs renovation. We bought a dark green leather convertible couch for the room.
In the tiny bathroom, we replaced the low ceiling with a peaked, higher light-colored wood ceiling that gave the room a larger feel. We removed the old cabinet and sink. They framed the corner next to the door and put a new pedestal sink and a medicine cabinet above it. The wall next to the tub was opened for a large window that went from the top of the tub to a foot below the ceiling. It had frosted glass, and you cranked it out. We got a new and large Jacuzzi tub. The toilet was replaced with a more efficient one. They put dark green marble tiles on the walls and floor and replaced the old lighting with contemporary sconces.
Our friend John Kelly had been out of work, and we hired him to paint the bathroom. He did a beautiful job of faux painting sprinkled with gold flecks. When it was finished, Anita and I celebrated with champagne and sushi in our new tub.
We loved what we had done to the house. We also realized why they kept asking us, during the planning process, “Are you going to live here during the remodel?” In retrospect, I don’t think that was a good idea. But we lived through the remodeling projects, and we were still together.
Unfortunately, we decided to sell the house and move to Colorado several years later. The home had appreciated well beyond our original purchase price by that time. It had been a good investment and a great place to live for over twenty years. We were sad to leave it but excited about moving to our new home in Crested Butte.