Carthay Square Los Angeles 1936 Spanish Deco Tiled Bathroom
Home, Los Angeles Living

In Which We Attempt a Los Angeles Home Remodel While Pregnant (Gulp!)

Surely I must be one of those people who’s not happy unless she’s in constant motion, whether that means traveling (three countries per 10-day vacation is about our speed), or keeping busy at home.

The latest piece of evidence: On Tuesday, which is the day I hit 19 weeks pregnant (or exactly halfway on the twins full-term scale), we’ll move out of our house as we begin demo for a two-month remodel. To recap: a home remodel while pregnant. One that requires moving out. And moving in with parents and in-laws. For six weeks. Gulp.

In short, here’s why.

New homeowners

Thrilled new first-time homeowners just about 20 months ago — how could we move just yet?

We love our house in pretty much every way: its deco 1930s Spanish flair (which to me is the quintessential L.A. residential look that melts me), its special curb appeal (sure, it’s the smallest lot on the block in the back, but it has the widest frontage by far!), the secret tropical garden-like landscaping (more palm trees than fingers to count), the centrality of the location yet total intimacy and neighborliness of the tree-lined block — I could go on. But the one thing our house is not: large.

We have two bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths — with two babies on the way. When we found out I was expecting two, we sprung into action, investigating all available home-overhaul options. My sister the architect drew up plans for an extensive expansion, which would have added a new master suite and about 500 square feet. I targeted a couple of nearby and equally historic neighborhoods (for instance Hancock Park) with excellent public schools, and scoured open houses (newsflash: L.A.’s not exactly on sale right now). And at the same time we pursued bids for a scaled-down remodel plan that could serve as a stop-gap measure for the next couple or few years (five max) until we wait for the right market and make an unemotional move without time pressure. (And perhaps in the meanwhile, the guy building the multi-million-dollar mansion directly across the street from us will sell, which will be another boon for our property value — as much as all the neighbors resent his modern eye sore.)

In the end, the last option was the right one for us. We’ve only been in this house for less than two years, and we’re just too in love with it to say goodbye just yet. Plus (knock on every piece of wood available), we bought a short sale at what seems like rock bottom, and we know we have huge room to improve without over-investing in our very-hot-right-now neighborhood. And in addition, we can put in some custom upgrades just right for our fam.

Los Angeles 1936 Spanish Deco Tiled Bathroom

Bless your heart, original 1936 bathroom. It’s time to move on.

So here’s the plan:

First, we’ll be demo-ing and completely remodeling our existing full bathroom. (Yes, if you’re keeping count, that’s our only full bathroom, and the reason why we have to move out during construction.) It has the original purple deco tiling in the same vein as all these deco-period homes in the area. (And famously, when we first came to look at this house from the outside and I spied that bathroom through the window, I thought it was so auspicious — as purple is hubby’s company color — and one of so many reasons it was house-love at first sight.) But it also has old plumbing and — well, old everything. We’ll be remodeling in a black-and-white tiled style in keeping with the vintage aesthetic, but with all modern comforts. And, I hope, with a kind of a vintage lover’s wow factor.

Second, we’ll be converting our garage into a fully finished addition we can use as a cozy home office space, with French doors leading out into the garden, and a new tiled patio in front of our new, ahem, casita (formerly known as the garage, also known as pitifully unorganized storage) for entertaining.

After researching the hell out of officially permitting a garage conversion, we came to the conclusion that it basically just wasn’t possible for reasons I won’t bore you with, dear readers (but anyone who’s ever tried to get a building permit in Los Angeles will understand). So we intend to do it in such a way that could easily be converted back and made passable for an inspector (as a very fancy place to park a car).

At first, I was opposed to a garage conversion idea, which I considered would have questionable ROI potential — but later it struck me as an absolutely perfect custom feature for a working mom whose office is in the house. This way, I can be just far enough from kids and a caregiver (15 feet away, behind two closed doors) to reasonably expect to do quality work as a writer and editor (without moving into Starbucks), but close enough to be fully available and accessible too.

Los Angeles Spanish-Style Dining Room

Our cute little dining room, emphasis on the “little.” If we demo a seemingly purposeless wall, we would make room for our dining table’s second leaf and two more chairs, which currently live in the garage.

Beyond that, we’re hoping to demo a wall in our small dining room to expand the room’s size and functionality, and we’re planning to move our junior-size washer/dryer combo out of the kitchen into a back room so accommodate full-size new machines — a necessity for two newborns, I’d think. We’ll also finish that back room — a 1970s addition to the house that always looked sort of tacked-on to me — with tons of hanging closet space and shelving as a combo dressing room and laundry room, with new hardwood flooring and a mirror reflecting the garden.

So! All of that is why I’ll be taking my two cats and their accoutrements, my small collection of mostly jersey maternity clothes, and my best attempt at good humor and relaxed temper to my parents’ and in-laws’ houses over the next many weeks. Let’s call it an adventure, shall we? (Please?)

Wish us luck!


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