Five years ago I bought a fixer house in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.  At the time, the area was still a bit rough around the edges, but I'd fallen in LOVE with it.  I was won over by the cultural diversity (a colorful mix of immigrants, artists, musicians, progressives, and indie types), the walkability factor (something notoriously absent in many parts of LA), the independent spirit (tons of little mom & pop shops, for example, and amazing coffee but nary a Starbucks to be found), and the sense of community (those who found their way to Silver Lake tended to love our little pocket of the city as much as I did.)  
By 2012 the secret was out and Silver Lake actually topped the Forbes list of "America's Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods."  But in 2007, when first I moved there as a renter, it was definitely still "up-and-coming." That said, home prices in LA are just incredibly high compared with the rest of the country.  I drool over real estate listings in cities where architecturally lovely and spacious homes sell for well under half a mil, knowing that in LA the most modest starter homes begin there if you're lucky
So it definitely took some vision to see the potential in this ultimate "fixer" house when I found it.  You'll probably think I'm crazy upon seeing these photos!!  The house was covered in bars and chain link fencing, grubby tile floors covered the original wood, a cheapo plywood apartment addition was stuck onto the back of the house, and the back yard had been used as a parking lot for years.  The house was bank-owned and had been sitting empty for a long time ... I guess no one else saw the potential I saw (and you can't exactly blame them :)


Honestly, I could go on and on and on ... but I think you get the picture :)
HOWEVER ... beyond all the obvious problems, I knew this little house had some very major things going for it!  Believe it or not, it satisfied most of the necessities on my check list.
* Solidly built.  It had definitely received some ugly updates over the decades (popcorn ceilings, tile over the original wood floors, cheesy ceiling fans and lighting, etc.) But it was sturdy and well-built.
* Fairly large, flat lot with a sizable yard (that had been essentially paved over and used for parking, but I knew I could bring it back to life.)
* Freestanding detached garage (which I planned to eventually convert into my design studio.)
* Long driveway beside the house for off-street parking of multiple cars (a must in LA.)
* Desirable (if up-and-coming) neighborhood.
* And last but not least, attainable. (i.e. under half a million.  Just.  Seriously!  I told you LA real estate is overpriced!)
Once it was ours, we launched operation "shoestring budget remodel" to get the house ready for move-in.  We didn't hire a contractor since, as an architect and interior designer, we felt comfortable enough designing and overseeing the project ourselves and just hiring laborers and tradesmen to do the work piecemeal.  This was obviously also the cheapest way to go.  Not, I repeat not, the least stressful ... but definitely the cheapest.  
The first thing we did was demolish the "addition" that had been shoddily slapped onto the back of the house.  
Here it is before ...
And during ... (the pile of rubble lies where the addition once stood, right on top of the original back patio)
And this is the rear view of the house after we demolished the addition and added french doors off the dining room and the master bedroom.  Both sets of french doors were Craigslist finds (along with almost all of our appliances.  Again, not the easiest or most direct route to re-doing one's home, but certainly the cheapest if you're willing to do the footwork!)
(I spent literally weeks with a pick-axe digging out layer upon layer of brick to get down to actual dirt in the back yard once again!)

On the inside, first thing we did was demo out the nasty tile floors, and cry with relief when we discovered that the original wood floors were still in really great shape beneath it all.  I knew the wood was likely to be there, I just didn't know if it would be salvageable or not.  It was a big cost savings having to just refinish the wood floors rather than replace them!
We also tore into a couple of walls, adding wide archways to open up the dark, cramped spaces, help the floor plan flow, and share light from room to room.

 This made a huge and immediate difference, as did the salvaged french doors. 

The bathroom and the kitchen were gutted down to the studs and completely re-done.  There was just no avoiding this.

Of course we scraped the popcorn texture off the ceilings, smoothed the orange peel texture from the walls, and replaced all the bad ceiling fans and light fixtures.  
Last but not least, we replaced all of the windows in the house as well as all of the interior doors.  We didn't source used Craigslist windows because it's important to keep the window style uniform throughout the house.  But here's a rather brilliant cost-saving tip that I do use all the time:  call up some of your local door and window stores and ask what they have for sale in their "boneyard."  This is the clearance section where they sell brand new, often top-of-the-line doors and windows at deeply discounted prices.  Items that may have been either returned by customers, or were mis-ordered in the wrong size, or are leftovers from large projects.  We saved thousands by doing this, and we still wound up with all brand new, energy-efficient, solid wood windows.
That wraps up the least glamorous portion of my house tour!  I'll be back this week and next with a full reveal of each room, including all my remodeling and decorating secrets and sources, so stay tuned!  
In the meantime, here are a handful of outtakes from the article about my home featured on Domaine Home.  You can see the full write-up and photos here if you absolutely can't wait for the rest of my personal tour!

Links for the rest of the home tour:
  kitchen // living room // bath // nursery // 

And catch this house featrued on Domaine Home too!



Tabassum S said...

The final result is just beautiful, Rosa! I can't wait to see the next installment in this series. And congratulations on your Domaine feature!

Laura Lynn said...

I love every room!

Lisa Jordan said...

I love your style! So glad I found your blog as your designs inspire me. Will you be posting your paint and cabinet colors? I would really like to know the color of the kitchen cabinets. Thanks for sharing Rosa!

Rosa said...

Thank you for all your positive responses! I'm so excited to get to share my own home project with you at last.

Yes Lisa, I posted this follow-up with the kitchen cabinet colors, and I'll try to share all the wall colors in my upcoming posts as well!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was really cool to see your before and after! Especially impressive to see the final result, never having seen it what it was, wow! Amazing!

Vanessa Roth said...

What a phenomenal transformation! The before & after is beyond belief. Clearly it was such a passion project for you Rosa!

Val Elizondo said...

This really does look amazing. Great job Rosa.

All About the Pipes

Devin Newton said...

Your vision as an interior designer worked nicely for your fixer-upper. It’s a lot of work, but the results are stunning! Congrats for a job well done, Rosa! Have a good day!

Devin Newton @ Indy Market Homes

Anonymous said...

You are brave...happy renovating and happy nesting!


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