These are my ruminations on life, design, and the pursuit of happiness…

Our House is a very very very fine house (part 1)


The house when we bought it

So as I was walking upstairs the other night admiring the shadow of the trees next door casting their light on the ceiling in the stairwell, this thought ran through my head: I love this house, it’s like a dream come true.

Then it occurred to me how few people probably think that about their house. Especially after living in it for 15 years. So I thought this house I love, that we have put so much of our design energy and sweat equity into, deserves my first post.

HISTORY: My house was built in 1912. Turns out it was the first house on my street, and used to be  #175, until they filled in Belmont Shore in 1922 to develop houses, and changed all of the house numbers of the existing houses in the “Heights”. (I love to think what it was like back when it was built, and there was nothing around…) It was originally a one story house with a dinky kitchen, two dinky bedrooms, one bath, and one light socket. That’s right, one original light socket. It was in the dining room. In 1914 they went hog wild and added about 100 square feet to the back bedroom, creating what is known as a “Jack and Jill bedroom”. This is essentially two semi separate rooms, that you have to walk through the first to get to the second. (The first was only about 7’ x 10’, so it wasn’t a far walk.) To this new addition they also added a lovely “master closet” which was about 5 square feet, and had its own gable. Soon thereafter it became a rental, which it remained for about the next 60 years or so.  The original fireplace had fallen down in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. (bummer) Sometime in the 50’s (I think) they removed all of the built-ins. (bad) They never painted over the wood in the dining room though, or the beamed ceiling in the front room (good), but it was so discolored by years of nicotine and neglect that it appeared flat black. (not so good) Then, after the late 80’s early 90’s housing crash, the loan to the house was defaulted, and somehow it was being used as a halfway house. (bad including gross- see below) Thats when it came on the market as a “short sale” (meaning more is owed the bank on the house than the current market would bear) We were on the phone with our realtor when it hit the MLS, and we drove down right then (10:30 pm) to walk by it, and then we wrote an offer that night, sight unseen. (up to this point, we had been outbid on 4 other houses) The walk through was interesting. Because it was being used as a halfway house, there were 5 men living in it, and apparently none of them were inclined to pick their dirty underwear off the floor before people walked through their house. They also had draped sheets across rooms to divide the living areas. The woman living there before them had been a bit wallpaper crazy and papered every room. The tiny bathroom was navy with pink flowers. The kitchen was red cabbage roses on a black field. The kitchen floor was also interesting. Surfaced in white and black checkerboard, it then was painted dark green. Then the green was scuffed over, showing the black and white in places. Nice. Somehow, we saw through all of its faults, and just knew this was the house of our dreams. If nothing else, it called to our rescuing inclinations screaming, “Save me! Save me!”  This house really did need someone to love it.

Tiny Kitchen

Tiny Original Kitchen


Ugly Original Dining Room

Stay tuned to see how it truly became the house of our dreams.