Friday, August 4, 2017

Oprah, Intuition, Hanging tight to Undying Dreams (or, "a detailed outline of home renovation / checklist")

I was probably 13 years old - and painfully impressed by talk show hosts at the time - when I first heard Oprah unleash a lecture about the power of intuition. It was the first time my interest was peaked by such an idea. The suggestion of an inner voice guiding us towards a more fruitful happiness and overall truer "fulfillment" in life. Or maybe just the first time someone urged me to HEAR it. "It" being what she describes as "more a feeling than a voice—a whispery sensation that pulsates just beneath the surface of your being. All animals have it. We're the only creatures that deny and ignore it."

I agree. I did then, and I do now. In fact the older I get the more tethered I am to the notion of intuition over logic and practicality in life in general. In just about every aspect of our existence really. I write a lot about making decisions based solely on that of my gut feeling, when it comes to parenting, jobs, friendships, you name it. I've even admitted a time or two that I've felt I possess an especially innate sense of "feeling" almost like a sixth sense in that I can usually gage people and their motives in situations around me, without words or actions apparent, but intuitively, based on the readings the core of my inner compass radiate. Whenever I stray too far from that voice I end up hurt or disappointed. Emotionally bruised by let downs that could have been easily avoided had I just listened to that higher sensation "pulsating" inside me. 

This house situation is no different. Thought to be honest,  part of me hesitated to suggest such a dramatic take on a regular life happening. People buy new houses all the time right? But even that - doubting what is an innate interest in a certain topic for this blog for instance, is exactly what I try to avoid. I do my best to trust that if it means something to me, it will to someone else too. Most of the time, I hope anyway, it serves me best. Like I've said a hundred times before, whenever I start dissecting my writing or debating my subject matter I loose interest and pull away. Whereas when I stick simply with what I like, the whole blogging schick remains an enjoyable side gig. 

Anyway, back to the house. Because it was another instance where I had to trust (with a leap of faith of course) that moving would get us to a "better place" or at least what felt more right for us at this point in time which is exactly what happened. But not without an open embrace of plight and struggle. After months of worrying about money and other mundane mishaps, we ended up in a neighborhood we never imagined we could afford, in a town we dreamt about since our early days as a couple. A fact we are still in awe of every time we walk into the living room to see that faded slice of ocean from the corner window (Which Mike still reminds me of every change he gets, every time he spots a surfer catch a wave or a boat sail into the harbor. With binoculars no one is quite sure how we even acquired. But I digress...) Or head down the street at dusk for a bonfire with the boys. Or spend the bulk of an afternoon on the sand where we are always happiest as a family anyway. Everything we pined for that felt like a dream too big or distant to want or or cling to. But that's the thing. We need to remember sometimes to not let it be.

My point being of course not to boast about this particular outcome, but share that it all came about mostly because I trusted the voice inside me that told me one morning a little over a year ago when I decided it was time to up and move - in spite of my tendency to hold tight to what is familiar, inside a comfortable house, inside a lovely neighborhood with a top notch school district, that the risk was worth it even when an array of obstacles arose in the midst of the whole ordeal. In other words I forced myself to trust things would work out in the end. Which I suppose has become the basis of my life philosophy by now. A nod to the basic Buddhist notion that says we are what we create, better off embracing points of uncertainty, disappointment and overall impermanence. But that's fodder for another post.

Bottom line was the home hunt wasn't pleasant for us in the least, escrow was in every single way "trying," our credit wasn't what we thought it was, home prices kept rising, all of our disorganized faults came to light, and it felt at any point, with any one additional factor stacked against us, we could lose it all and wind up blowing it for the whole family. At least this was the pressing worries rattling my brain when I let it. But instead of stressing every step of the way I tried to tap into the peace I felt lingering inside of me - an inner calm telling me to hang in there, and here we are almost a month later in this little dream scenario. Renovating an early 1960's ranch style house with just enough square footage to seem "respectable" (*by modern standards for a family this size anyway) A fixer upper with good bones and endless potential given our shared ability to marry imagination with skill and turn mediocre spaces into something special because determination picks up where budgets run dry. With a lot that forsakes a traditional backyard for a big long patio that offers just enough of a design challenge to still seem "fun." Not to mention a cool breeze and weather that is nearly 25 degrees cooler than what we were accustomed to after all my years living inland, where summer months came attached to boiling temps and power outages unrolled regularly as a result.  

People tell you you'll end up where you're meant to be and for the most part I choose to believe it. But there were a few other factors that played out as well that I only think it's fair to mention in telling the story of how we ended up here. Because obviously isn't ALL luck and good patience. The short story goes like this:

The guy selling this place tried for a solid year to get market value for this house - a rental that he bought years prior from his daughter once she and her husband got caught up in an ugly divorce. But refused an agent so it sat there cooling on the housing market with real estate agents neglecting it due to no revenue there to lure them in. Frustrated, he eventually started slicing the listing price. When we saw it we fell in love - tracked down the owner and learned it had gone into escrow earlier that day. By now we were use to this kind of disappointment but the fact that we were a few hours too late - after it had been sitting there for a year - felt especially stinging. Per polite protocol, he promised we would be next in line should something fall out. Which it did. Two weeks later when these new impending owners discovered there was issues that could hinder them building the second story mansion renovation they had in mind when they made the offer. From there we realized this small window of opportunity, moved fast and locked it in - dismissing any repairs on the seller's end. Buying "as is" after seeing the repairs needed were things we could manage ourselves, but at a selling price much lower price than he wanted. But this time, money and desperation can be great motivators on our end, so we scored it for a pretty decent under market deal. But with limited funds to finish it. Which means it will take longer than we'd like and require more patience than we'd hoped but the location motivates us to take it slow and enjoy the process it entails. Something tells me we'll be here for a good long while. And if that's the case, past experience indicates that the extent of home projects we will delve into might never cease. Luckily I think we're both ok with that.   

And finally, a long list of all the things we have planned / need to rebuild, redesign, construct or repair (Basically the entire house) And with this renovation sucking up most of our spare time, I hope you enjoy watching it unfold in real time via blog form. With plenty of DIY projects using the most cost efficient means of basic redesign. All intended to maximize storage and square footage. 
The long list being:

- new exterior siding for the entire house (we're debating the style of which right now because we don't agree - he leans more towards a sea shack chic vibe, I like more modern) 

- Ugly concrete painted patio resurfaced with natural rock (I wanted wood deck and he refuses due to upkeep) leaving one section open for grass, overgrown with succulents to line a rock pathway leading to a pretty out door shower (built of beach rocks we've already started collecting from local surf spots) 

- NEW FLOORING (I've never been so desperate for a product sponsor in my life) If only I had the time and gull to know where I even begin. . .

- An entire kitchen revamp that will eliminate all granite countertops, half of the existing upper cupboards, add refaced doors and wood planks in ceiling niche above sink, include a new narrow island, open shelving, some kind of designated coffee station, a hanging pot rack, and new lighting. 

- Tear out all interior molding & baseboards because they are hideous. 

- reconstruct boy room 1 to include a built in sleeping bunk nook where closet formally resides. To allow floorspace in the room to be as open as possible with sunk in closet cut into drywall. Plus the addition of two antique portholes in each bunk to offer a fun widow option facing the patio hillside view. 

- Built in window bench seating in boy room 1, 2 and master to serve as additional storage & eliminate the need for multiple dressers. 

- Plaster overcoat of Fireplace with new adobe tile footing & simple wood mantle

- Eliminate second closet in master room to allow room for a clawfoot tub added to second bathroom. 

- Neutral plaster overcoating of bathroom walls with tile option still undecided.

- Simple plaster & wood bathroom consoles with open shelving for towels and baskets

- Move existing wall of closet out a few feet to allow bathroom expansion + built in bookshelves cut in space above desk in master bedroom. 

- Wood caps to replace the iron railing currently standing, with wire instead of metal to open up patio view. 

- Living room window facing backyard replaced with french doors to allow access to the patio 

- Crappy old windows taken out, patched and altogether eliminated in master room to be replaced with vintage wood framed versions that open out.  Scoured on Craigslist

- A 13 ft floating octagon shaped tree house (tri level) in the brush surrounding patio to allow view of the harbor. *which Mike admitted he moved to top of the list more for him than the kids.

- Modest fireplace attached to the backside of the house with surrounding custom concrete seating. 

- A small bar with a single grill top (mainly for tacos)

- A ping pong table on patio (this one is high on my list)

- A wood platform for a succulent garden at the base of the stair case leading to what is currently dead space on the ridge of our slope 

- Wood planked hot tub in left hand corner of the patio (also to be scored on Craigslist)

- Extra storage built into the back of the house during siding construction to store surf boards, wetsuits, beach gear, skateboards, pads & helmets. 

- (Way down the line) - a small roof top deck for enjoying cocktails at sunset*

So there you have it. Five years worth of projects and a whole lot of creative means to get it done. With that little voice here reminding me daily to not let myself be too overwhelmed, to take it slow, enjoy the journey, and trust in my own choices. When it comes to everything from kitchen hardware to major life uprooting.  


  1. Wow, this seems like an amazing undertaking! I have to say I agree with your partner on the exterior: some Western redcedar shakes that start out a lovely golden brown and then weather to that beautiful silvery grey is my FAVOURITE type of siding.

    1. I love the weathered look of those silvery gray wood shingles too. I just don't know about the overall cost and upkeep. And then it seems I'd have to lean much more towards a beach cottage decor instead of sleeker ranch style??

      Or maybe not?

  2. I always look forward to seeing the house updates on your Instagram story! I am sure it's going to be the most magical place. Now I'm off to scour the Internet for a wood planked hot tub. Not sure how practical it is for Arizona but a girl can dream!

    1. Yes! They are everywhere, for dirt cheap. People are practically giving away spas (and pianos :D) all day long online.

  3. Ooooooooh this all looks so exciting! I'm so very happy for you and your family to have scored that location. I mean, by the beach, you can't beat that, but that you've had it in your heart for awhile is everything. It's good to see dreams come to fruition. Two tips I'd like to offer on space: 1) I've noticed on your list what looks like the removal of two closets. Deeply consider replacing the equivalence of that storage space elsewhere. Perhaps the coolest wall of a garage and seal it up nicely as if it were in the house. The one thing we thought we could deal with was lack of room by room storage. But let me tell you, I don't believe I'm a hoarder by any means, & I've been 'purging' for about six months, and I've still got plastic storage bins in the corner of my bedroom! (Granted, I am keeping some baby supply in case we go for a third). But all their craft stuff, my interest stuff, my husbands interest stuff, all that used to go into some type of space in the personal closets. When you don't have that it's been surprisingly difficult to keep things together or find a real place for it out of sight. 2) Floor to ceiling built-in bookcases. We have an inordinate amount of books for this day and age, but luckily records and record player fit there, thus eliminating that side piece it usually sat atop. Fold down desks could work for you... anything really that would normally require furniture that you no longer want to sacrifice your floor space for. We've had to be clear about the designation of space elsewhere. And really, it's worked for us for everyone to feel as though they've got a stake in the community space. Best of luck! You'll figure out what works for you. Can't wait to see it all unfold. xoxo

    1. I love all your suggestions - especially the fold away desk tops. I could use a few in a couple different spaces. And I agree with replacing removed storage. That's where we are trying to be creative and keep floorspace as open as possible, which is why so many built ins are planned. And there will be added storage in nearly everything we're building. Bench seating especially. I still need to eliminate lots of clothing and consider putting my "winter clothes" (If we have such a thing here in socal) away during summer months and vise versa to keep my hanging wardrobe light but I"m working on that.

      As for the floor to ceiling bookshelves - that's a MUST. I've actually been working to pin down a version for our front room for Mike to build. I feel like it's the heart of a home so it'll be a fun one to work on. Now if only I could decide on what exactly it should look like...?

      Anyway, thank you as always for the well considered tips. I always appreciate your point on view on these things.


    2. I am curious to see what kind of floor-to-ceiling shelving you create... it is so traditional a concept that I almost strayed from mentioning for the very reason I was wondering how you would modernize it. But it was too life-savingly obvious to stray from.

      Something else I thought of! We've done a longer and thinner dining table. When I thought about it, on the regular the center of the table was so sparsely used during family dining, because we make our plates in the kitchen and found we could cut space there. I hunted forever and scored a vintage german Biergarten table. Essentially, it has these dimensions, and looks like this The bottom had holes in the corners to bolt to the floor, the length is pretty ideal, but perhaps another board would make it better width-wise so your dinnerware is not bumping into the person opposite you. Generally we have small dishes. We've opted to use only one bench, put two chairs on the end and three between. The kids love the bench. This might even be something to utilize outside on that patio. ;)

  4. This is so exciting to me, I really nerd out over these types of processes. When I first started following you I thought you were a beach dwelling family, it's all come together!

    1. Really? It was a long time common misconception - people assumed we lived by the beach because we were there so often. I guess what photos didn't tell was the hour long commute to get there and back :)

    2. Well I think I worked it out when you posted something along the lines of Mike waking at 3am to secure a spot at your favourite beach on a holiday. The beach - like a bikini - is a state of mind, I guess you seemed as though you belonged there.
      How do I get Ina to be my life coach? I'm taking a screen shot of her suggestions x

  5. Yesss! I know your not usually and DIY/home decor blogger, but it would be so great if you shared everything you could here, including a floor plan. Also FYI, I just got back from a quick weekend in Rosarito Baja and I was amazed at how many tile, wood, and outdoor furniture places there were for building supplies. You seem like the type who could come home with a van full of terracotta tiles and a hand carved front door. Plus the taco shops and surf spot at K-38 was awesome!

    1. I'll work on that, Sara. I'm trying to document each new stage of renovation and be better about the building details, design and dimension too.

      Also funny you mention Rosarito - Mike's been trying to convince me we need to go there to score all of those things. Especially the tile. So you may have helped convince me of it :D

  6. Intuition is something that has guided people for a very long time. It is the old addage of 'going with your gut feeling'. The same thing can be said when it comes to buying a home. There is a certain look or feel to a home that could force a person to not buy a home. Then their intiution kicks in and they contemplate other things and then they make a decision to buy. It happens in all facets of life.

    Franklin Stewart @ Muller Exteriors