Friday, August 23, 2013


Photo of the cottage we'll be staying in at Cabot Cove
The one we stayed in last year was booked when I last looked, so we were left with this ugly ducking. 
I'm kidding. Isn't she like, way-lovely? I'm so very excited. 

When the peanut was 8 months-old, we took a family vacation to Maine. Remember THIS? And THIS? Remember when I mentioned that le huz and I enjoyed the memories we made there so much that we got to talking about making a family tradition of our trips there? (Of course you don't remember. You have a life.) Well, whether you're a diehard stalker or not, fast forward to today, I'm packing the fam up and heading East! That's right... us Huangs mean what we say. Watch out, Maine. A weird Chinese family is headed your way.

"Little by little, one travels far." - J.R.R. Tolkien
The peanut likes to copy her daddy who's often on the road for work.
Here she is trying to steal a suitcase from the Disney store.
 Daddy doesn't have a Little Mermaid suitcase, Olive.

Looking forward to the lobster rolls, whoopie pies and wide-open greenery. And ooh, did I mention that we'll be swinging by Boston as well? Olive will get to hug her sweet cousin Paul. Aww.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Knock, Knock

Maltman's exterior is in dire need of a facelift. Once her guts are dealt with (foundation, plumbing, and what-have-you), I will be dealing with her curb appeal - or lackthereof. A coat of paint is always a quick and easy fix, and where better to make a strong impression than at the front door?

Farrow & Ball paints are pricey, but the depth of color their product provides is simply cray-cray. The color changes with the light. I certainly can't afford to coat the building in this stuff, but the front door? Perhaps.

Farrow & Ball "Down Pipe"

Farrow & Ball "Hague Blue"

Farrow & Ball "Light Blue"
Farrow & Ball "Chinese Blue"

Farrow & Ball "Polly Green"

This magnificent shade of green which I'm still trying to pinpoint is also quite lovely.
Benjamin Moore Kennebunkport Green? Wild guess.

And ooh, should I choose to get dramatic, there's always the dark side.

House: Farrow & Ball "Off Black Exterior Eggshell" 
Door: Farrow & Ball "Blue Ground Exterior Eggshell" 
Windows, Frames & Fence: Farrow & Ball "Wimborne White Exterior Eggshell"

And before I forget, The "BEFORE" shot.

Yes, I'm so ghetto I didn't even bother to remove the MLS stamp.

Rub a Dub Dub

The previous owner of Maltman (what I've named my duplex), was an artist. This explains her choice of a turquoise bath set. It's actually really nice. Very Peter Dunham. I like her mix of textures! Unfortunately, due to deferred maintenance (think water damage, mold, and rats) in the unit, it's time for a fresh start.



While the home was built in '67, it doesn't offer all that many character details to suggest that she was built then. As is the case with the kitchen, I'm thinking of going bright and airy - white with black and chrome detaililng. There isn't an abundance of natural light in most of the baths, so I'm going to have to work with color and reflective surfaces. 

While I love me some white subway tile, Carrara hex and porcelain pedestal sinks, I am fearful that Asta's baths will end up as boring as the baths I am forced to install in my flip jobs. That said, I've been searching for inspiration - just little things - that can elevate what would otherwise be a generic bathroom renovation. I know there's always staging, but I prefer that the room be able to stand on its own!

Classic but luxe hardware. This wide-set faucet is from the Harry Winston of bath fixtures, Waterworks. Mmm... Waterworks. Set against that soapstone counter, omigosh, I die. 
(By the way, that soapstone topped console retails a hefty $8000. 
Um, yeah. I wasn't kidding about the Harry Winston comment! 

 This wider-than-usual pedestal sink could work great in the master bath.
And that floor. By taking the time to plan out the border on the hex floor, this bath avoids becoming completely generic. And had that wall behind the mirror been painted something other than white? Lovely.

See what I mean? I bit of paint in a white bath never hurt anybody.
 Dark brown paired with brass - a mixture of metals, really - is so luxurious feeling. 

Classic finishes. Do they bore you? 
Not me. I know the cost of Ann Sacks and Heath tile (OUCH!) and have learned to be perfectly happy hanging in my classic finish zone.

 Black trim around the mirror and windows adds so much more interest to the room.
As decorator Jan Powers put it, "Every room needs a touch of black, just as it needs one antique piece."

 Loving the charcoal tub with hex. (Love that even the legs are charcoal!) 
But since Maltman's neither a Craftsman nor Cape-cod style home, 
I'll probably be passing on the siding. 

Subway tile is made fancy with black trim pieces. 
I also dig that striped floor. 
Very dramatic. 

 Love that the designer has tiled around the window. 
And that black paint along the window makes a world of difference.

 Charcoal, brass and white. 
SO GOOD. That hex and the solid piece of slate on top! 
This look is a definite contender for Maltman's baths.
Perfect mix of old and new.

A very pretty bathroom with gray stone tiling on the wall. 
This bathroom is more contemporary than I'd like, but that pedestal tub!
I loving that tub. Must install.

 A classic bathroom. 
This layout will work perfectly for the small baths in Maltman's lower unit.

Time for me to get working on the actual specs for these babies. Will share when done.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Skinny

Narrow kitchen to the left of the entryway.

"Maltman" - my newly-acquired, in-need-of-TLC duplex - was treated for termites last week, and is, at the moment, being cleared of weeds and unwanted tree roots wreaking her foundation. Sexy. But enough about 'em bugs and roots. You don't want to hear about that, the water damage, or the electrical wiring messes involved in a massive renovation. On to the good stuff. The renovation project dearest to all interior design lovin' hearts! As fancy pants chef Daniel Bolud pointed out, "Kitchens should be designed around what’s truly important—fun, food, and life.” Will keep this in mind as I tackle my 8.5 foot wide space.


The beautiful wood-paneled space I'm working with. 
She's approximately 8.5 feet wide and 14.5 feet long.

As is, the kitchen has two doors. I plan on sealing the un-pictured door that leads to the garage so that I can get in some additional counter space.  I also plan to shift the entryway into the kitchen - enlarging the door while I'm at it. More symmetry and more light! Layout plans? I'm going galley.

Look carefully. A bench near the window. That could be fab. 
The seating near the window would be a nice consolation prize - seeing that the kitchen will no longer have an island.

What? No island?!? Yeah. No island. As implied the mention of a galley kitchen, the space-hogging island you see in my BEFORE photos will be removed. For as much as I love such features, unless Maltman's future inhabitants are all Nicole-Richie slim, this 2' wide obstruction is a no-go. 

And storage at the end of a counter? What a lovely surprise. 

Color scheme. I'm having a hard time deciding between the ease of a so-fresh-and-so-clean white and the drama of a white and charcoal pairing. In my flips, I often went with a medium gray:

But Maltman doesn't get quite enough light to justify a large dose of gray, let alone charcoal. So I think I'm going white. White kitchens to the interior design world are the little black dresses of the fashion world. It's tough to go wrong with one, but it's also tough to avoid ending up with a generic room.

If I do go white, some Carrara will need to be incorporated. A warm slab can help the kitchen feel less stark and cold. But installing a high maintenance stone like Carrara as a countertop in a rental is just an awful idea. So perhaps Carrara subway tile on the walls will definitely be a consideration.

Sick of the usual rectangular subway tile? There's always the option of going square. And gosh, that brass just warms up the otherwise-stark space, doesn't it?

Tiling all the way up the wall (behind the open shelving) makes a huge difference, doesn't it?
The light warm wood used for these open shelves go so well with the white. 
And the choice of grout color can also make a big difference.

Oil-rubbed bronze hardware is lovely when paired with white. 
And a dark-counter is a very practical, yet elegant way to go.

Ooh. A wall of storage! When laying out Maltman's kitchen, I musn't forget a sizable pantry. Open shelves look nice and all - when styled but magazine editors - but us real-people need a place to hide our souvenir mugs and plastic baby utensils. Enter the pantry.

While I probably can't indulge myself and install two walls of charcoal cabinetry, this doesn't mean I'm giving up on a touch of charcoal and possibly brass. The pairing of charcoal and brass equals instant sophistication and richness, no?

Here's a dream kitchen by Jessica Helgerson. That Granada cement tile kills me. In a good way. Since Maltman's kitchen is so narrow, it may be tough to pull off a floor pattern of that scale. Not that I'm not considering it. How gorgeous is this look?

The white farm sink and traditional bridge faucet in chrome against a charcoal backdrop? Handsome!

Meeting with my contractor tomorrow and will be presenting my inspiration boards and layouts. Final boards to come.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yogurt Beards

Yogurt beards are all the rage in Silver Lake. Just keepin' it classy, people. As always...

Playing Hooky

In your very own nooky! 
The lower unit of my fixer has nook potential. See this?

With a touch of imagination, paint, millwork and upholstery, it can, quite possibly, become this:

 source unknown. plucked from pinterest.

Well, a variation on the same theme... Due to code, I'll need to keep the stair railing. I also can't install a window in the nook seeing that the lower unit of the duplex is located in the basement. But enough with the comments regarding feasibility. A version of this awesome nook is going to be installed in my project fo-sho. I'll install a source of light to make up for the lack of natural light, and ooh, while we're at it, a small shelf for books beneath the bed/bench would be lovely as well!

Renovations can get dull unless you make room in the budget for unique details like fun nooks. 
Follow up photos to come.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On the Side

Some artwork I can't afford to buy by one of my idols, Barry McGee

The purpose of this blog is to waste cyber space as well as physical space. To that end, I think I'm doing a pretty good job. I blabber on about babies and post borderline offensive doodles of boobies, but there's much more to what I've been up to than well, baby and boobs. I've got work-work, and while I haven't shared much about my side-projects here in the past, I think it's high-time I start.

Though my background is in finance and animation (a peculiar but lovely combo) I've always taken an interest in home renovation projects. "Taken an interest in" is to put it lightly. Upon graduating from film school (and newly-pregnant with Olive), I ran the home and apartment renovation arm of boutique real estate development firm, Local Construct. (Read more about what they do here.) During my year with the company, I oversaw the transformation of 10 homes and 4 eight-unit apartment buildings here in Los Angeles - staging the properties to sell/lease once they were completed. Not bad for a knocked-up lady, let alone any lady.

Once my little one was born, I tried to get back into the groove of work, but doing so made me sad. I'd drive to the office and secretly cry in the ladies room. Who knew I'd be one with so many feelings. I ended up accepting the fact that I couldn't have it all, and quit my job when my baby was 3 months-old.

Fast forward to today, Olive is now a full-blown, happy toddler, aged 20 months. She's much more manageable, and I'm finally able to take-on renovation projects again. With the help of a sitter - three days a week - I'm trying my best to make things happen.

My latest project is a 1960s duplex located in the desirable area of Silver Lake. I've decided to name her "Maltman." Here are some shots of the babe in all her fixer glory. We're talking roofing, plumbing, electrical, foundation and cosmetic fixes for two units. The upper unit offers 3 beds, 2 baths, and 1 powder room while the lower unit offers 2 beds and 2 baths.

Here's Maltman from the street.
Her curb appeal at the moment may be minimal, but that's going to change.

Entryway of the upper unit. It's got great light.

The spacious (hehehe) 8.5 foot-wide kitchen for the upper unit.

The brightly-lit (do you sense my sarcasm?) master bath complete with turquoise tub and bidet.

We're going bright and airy. Lots of white with touches of black and charcoal for contrast. Open, modern, relaxed with an industrial and vintage twist. Follow-up posts to come.

Little by Little One Travels Far

Untitled works of Olive Huang. 2013. Crayon. 
Abstract expressionist in the making. I love it.

For as long as I could remember, I've had but three big hopes and dreams. They are, and have always been, in no particular, as follows: (1) To have a dog, (2) To have a baby, and (3) To write and illustrate a children's book. I've got one and two of my seemingly feasible list ticked off, my number three has proven more difficult than I imagined. When inspired, I go nuts scribbling and jotting down everything that comes to mind. When done with my brain dump, I feel proud and accomplished. Days later, I revisit these same notes, and more often than not, I find problems with each and every idea I'd come up with. "It's not new. It's not fresh. I don't love it. Moving on." I've got a problem. I'm SEWIOUS. (If you have a moment, watch this.) I'm suffering from a crippling creative block. I'm in dire need of inspiration. And so, I turn to Olive.

All I have to do is listen to this toddler and I'll have an unlimited supply of fodder for children's books, right? Having her is like having a factory! Um, yeah, NO. The little nut isn't speaking yet - at least not in proper English - so I'm just going to have to remain patient. Everything has its own time. But it's coming... First words will soon become first sentences. And Mama's going to make the most of it all. 

Blog post title is a quote by J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, August 11, 2013

London, Baby!

Olive exploring The Thames. Or, quite possibly, just her toes.

The French are known for being reserved, but the folks who helped me board my London-bound Eurostar were anything but. Seeing that I was traveling alone with Olive, a huge suitcase that United Airlines tagged as HEAVY, and a diaper bag large enough to fit a second baby, the woman who checked me in assigned a buff long-haired porter to me. This kind gentleman led us to the front of the passport line as well as the boarding line and then handled my luggage until I settled into my seat on the train. I wasn't traveling First Class, but it sure felt like it. Eurostar, this is a shout-out!

All this said, I was feeling pretty darn good when we crossed into the UK. "William, Kate, George and Lupo, we've made it!" Ahh, to be able to communicate again... in English. What a luxury. And to be able to reunite with le huz after being apart for two days apart (he was working in Frankfurt, Germany), priceless.

As was the case for Paris, I'd brought along a book covering London. But I barely referenced my copy of London with Kids, for I had guide in my friend Angie whom I've known since we were 13. A yummy mummy to a gorgeous one year-old of her own, she knew exactly where to take me and Olive. But I was alone on my first day, and had to call the shots. I selfishly took the kid to Tate Modern because I like art. Munchkin's meltdowns often occur in museums because I restrict her from touching the works. So imagine how lucky I felt when our cab arrived at the Tate and the little one was asleep!

An installation by Dan Flavin at the Tate.
Olive would've touched this.

Anyhow, rather than providing the play-by-play of our time in the UK, here are my suggestions for those trying to survive-and-thrive with a tot under 2 years of age while in London. They worked for me, and hopefully they'll work for you.

1) Do bring/borrow a stroller. At this age, these little ones weigh a ton, and you really can't enjoy a pedestrian city like London without walking a bit. Buses in London run everywhere, all the time, and are more accommodating for strollers than the subway/tube. And cabs, though pricey, are spacious and stroller-ready. It rained a couple times while we were walking around, and as much of a pain as it was to have to navigate the sidewalks with a stroller, it was nice to see Olive fully-protected by the stroller's rain cover, tucked away in deep sleep. Babies are happier when they sleep!

2) Do take your kid to Hamley's. It's the FAO Schwarz of London, and Olive's mind was absolutely blown when she saw the display of Thomas the Tank Engine. There are a lot of display toys laying around for kids to play with, and it's best to allot the little ones with plenty of time to sample them all. Olive had little more than a Kindle to entertain herself with back at the hotel room, so I let her roam in the store for an hour!

Olive & Sam at Hamley's. Same height.

3) Do visit Victoria Park in Hackney. Sure, it's all the way out on the east end of London, but if you're got a kid and you actually like your kid, a trip here is well worth it. A 25 minute cab ride from Central London or a one-hour ride via public transport is all it takes. The children's play areas at Victoria Park are AMAZING. There's a paddling pool, fountain, duck pond, man-made rocks to climb, slides, baby swings, miniature houses on stilts, free clean public toilets... never take anything for granted! Olive loved this park. And the Pavilion Cafe located on the north end of the park serves fresh and tasty food at a reasonable price. Angie and I had lunch there with the babes. I wish Los Angeles had a place like this.

Munchkin with twig "crayons"

Nice house, Miles.

4) Do go for a traditional Sunday pub roast. On the weekends, pubs are surprisingly family friendly. Le huz and I met up with friends at The Water Poet in Spitalfields for a really great meal. Olive enjoyed the food as much as she enjoyed her company. That's a lot! 

The Littles giving me baby side-eye. 
No photos while we're eating, Ma.

5) Do drop by the Spitalfields City Farm. If you're already in the 'hood due to your pub roast, stroll on over to the park and farm nearby. It's free, safe and fun for kids. Le huz and Angie's huz took a quick nap in the park while we showed the kids chickens, donkeys, ponies, pigs and more...


Strange reaction to chicken.

6) Do make time for afternoon tea at least once during your stay. I don't actually recommend bringing the little ones, as there is way too much china to keep away from them. That said, Angie and I, thick-skinned mums, braved public-judgment and brought Olive and Miles along because we had no sitters and our desire for sweets was just that great. We splurged on Pret-a-Portea the Berkeley hotel, and it was an incredible experience. (We made a reservation.) I busted out the baby crack (iPhone streaming Elmo videos at minimal volume) to keep the munchkin quiet and wolfed down a delicate collection of cakes and fancies, inspired by the world's finest designers. Angie and I had been touring the parks of central London with the munchkins all morning, and afternoon tea was the perfect remedy.

Earning her right to afternoon tea, she runs sideways in Hyde Park.
They do things differently here.

The Littles in London
Olive & Miles in Green Park.

Dolce, Oscar, Prada, Balenciaga, McQueen, Blahnik and more. 
All made edible!

7) Do allow ample time for wandering. Good stuff turns up when you're not looking!

Olive exploring Piccadilly. 
Adopted by Uncles Luke & Jasper for the day.

Whole Foods in London has quite the sense of humor!

Russell Brand in Neal's Yard.

The flowers that inspire Liberty prints outside of Liberty London.

Dancing in the street with mommy's dear friend, Auntie Jenny.

London, you were fun. No doubt about it, we'll be back.

All smiles post-dim-sum, with her doting Uncle Chuan. 


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