24 February 2010

Gold Coast - La Jolla Diamond in the Rough

As many of my readers know, I recently relocated to San Diego, California. I thought I'd take the opportunity this week to introduce you to one of the region's best neighborhoods for a new Gold Coast feature. La Jolla fittingly translates from Spanish as The Jewel. And it truly is!

This neighborhood of rugged bluffs overlooks the sparkling Pacific. Luxury boutiques and fashionable restaurants dot its charming byways. White sails and whitecaps punctuate the blue waves below. Torrey Pines' fabled greens unfurl nearby.

Homes in this enclave cost millions of dollars, with added digits for ocean views. Many of the older, simpler residences were torn down years ago to make way for Mediterranean and modernist behemoths. Here are a couple of examples of the McMansions that replaced them in this Gold Coast neighborhood...

This 11,000 SF modern sells for $25M

This 5600 SF Mediterranean costs $6.7M and change

The Property

So why, you may wonder, did I choose a humble 1,656 square foot ranch that many would consider a tear-down as my La Jolla Gold Coast pick?

Quite simply, because I consider it to be a mid-century diamond in the rough begging to be tastefully updated. This home reminds me of many that we saw on a 1973 family trip along the California coast. This, of course, was before the huge real estate boom that exploded a few years later.

According to the property's listing agent, Linda Marrone, this listing (MLS #090053723) is part of the Scripps Estates neighborhood that the then-young University of California San Diego made available to its faculty on very advantageous terms. Nearby UCSD is now on most top college ranking lists. Not surprising, the K-12 schools in the area are also top-rated.

This particular California modern ranch was built circa 1961 and is showing its age. Marrone also told me that it's had a tenant for a while. You can see the lack of upkeep in the tattered lawn. A new owner could -- if HOA and local permits allow -- create a comfortable outdoor kitchen, pool and even possibly a pool house connected to the main house and detached garage in that large open space. These more contemporary improvements would fit right in and take advantage of the climate that inspired the indoor-outdoor lifestyle of this architectural movement.

This home is also eligible for a second story, which would maximize the rooftop's ocean view. Only eight of the 42 Scripps Estates homes are eligible, according to Marrone. I would add a master suite on that floor, with a spa bath, office/library, sitting room and private balcony. I would also update the kitchen to take advantage of new storage and appliance capabilities, and to bring more of the spectacular outdoor sunlight into the space. Chances are, there are also terrific energy and water savings to be gained in such a project.

With the outdoor kitchen, pool, pool house, kitchen remodel and a new second story, this home could potentially double in value, don't you think? It would certainly double in living potential, don't you think?

Details, Details

Here is the listing description: California Modern Ranch style home, circa 1961, is being offered for sale for the first time since it was designed & built by its original owner/architect. Designed with organic simplicity, the redwood single-level home features an open floor plan with stained concrete flooring & ample windows that bring the outdoors in. Located on a cul-de-sac in Scripps Estates, the 16,000 SF lot is one of only 8 in the 42 lot subdivision that allows a 2nd story, per By Laws

Year Built: 1961
Approx. 1656 SF
3 Bedrooms
2 Total Baths
1 Fireplace
Detached 2-Car Garage plus 3 additional open spots

The Pricetag


La Jolla Bonus

Here are some ready resources for visiting La Jolla:

Fodors - La Jolla Travel Guide
Design Sponge - San Diego Design Guide
La Jolla Historical Society
La Jolla Mom Blog

17 February 2010

MOLTEN GOLD - Handy Dandy

Brizo's new Dish Towel Hook won't revolutionize the faucet industry. You can't even really call it a game changer. What put it into the MOLTEN GOLD category of hot new products for me is its charming practicality. It takes a popular wall accessory and gives it a much-needed new purpose. OK, so maybe it is kind of a game changer.

From what the brand bunch at Brizo told us in their New York Fashion Week presentation, one of their engineers came up with the towel hook idea. He was tired of seeing damp dish cloths hung over his cleverly-designed faucets and thought of a more attractive alternative. Thus, an innovation was born.

Shown here in Venetian Bronze with Baliza pull-out faucet and soap dispenser

I love the Sensible Style of this concept, and would specify one in a New York minute! It's pretty... And it's pretty practical. Those are my criteria for good design. The hook comes in four finishes and coordinates with Brizo's traditional Talo and Baliza faucets.

Here's the hook in chrome with the stately Talo faucet

Since those are both one hole installations, you can have a soap dispenser and towel hook and still keep your sink back looking uncluttered. If you're swapping out an older four-hole faucet that no longer works for you, you can plug the fourth hole with one of Brizo's coordinating Bud Vases. How cool is that? Floral inspiration meets kitchen utilitarian!

Brizo's coordinating Bud Vases, shown here in Brushed Bronze for Baliza, add charm to a faucet set

The Brizo Brand

Brizo is Acura to its parent company Delta Faucet's Honda. It is a premium brand sold through kitchen showrooms and higher-end plumbing supply houses, rather than stocked at your neighborhood big box store. Brizo sponsors Jason Wu, the young fashion designer who created Michelle Obama's Inauguration Ball gown.

Fluid beauty: Fall 2010 Collection gown by Jason Wu
from Woman's Wear Daily Fashion Week runway coverage

They do so because they believe that faucets, while employing the latest water-saving and ownership-enhancing technologies, should also be "fashion for your home." This is what inspired them to bring 19 design bloggers to New York last Friday for Fashion Week and Wu's runway show there. I was proud and grateful to be among them.


Since Brizo did fly us all to New York City, put us up in grand style, tote us around town in limos and generally treat us like design royalty, you deserve to know that there was an indirect financial benefit to me in reviewing their new products.

I can assure you, though, with all the integrity implied by not one but two J-school degrees, that I would not have written about this product if (a) I didn't believe in its worth to my readers and (b) wouldn't hesitate to specify one for myself or my clients.

The Facts

Warranty: Lifetime

Pricing: List Price $157.65

Website: Brizo.com

08 February 2010

Sensible Style - Fall in love with your kitchen again!

Have you fallen out of love with your kitchen over the years? Does it now seem cramped and dull? This edition of Sensible Style, right in time for Valentine's Day, can rekindle your passion for this hardest working space in your home. Doesn't yours deserve some new love?

What are your favorite Valentine's gifts? Candy? Flowers? Jewelry? A romantic dinner? An island getaway? Here are some swoon-worthy treats along those lines that your kitchen would surely welcome.

Cabinet jewelry

Dress up your cabinets with rich, elegant hardware for a completely new look. Just as the right bracelet and necklace can take a work suit from day into evening, the right knobs and pulls for your kitchen can take them from so-so to sensational. If your budget won't handle replacing all of your hardware, choose a single focal point piece - like an island or hutch - and just decorate it. To really set off its new jewelry, paint this piece a different color than the rest of your cabinets.

This sparkling hardware from Topex by Swarovski will add brilliance to even the most timeworn cabinets.

Eye candy

Several of my clients over the years have hesitated to change their tired, old kitchen tiles because they extended all the way through the first floor of their home, and they weren't ready for that level of change. For those folks, and for any of you who want to add some visual impact to your kitchen without a full scale flooring change, consider adding a tile rug to your kitchen. This can give your space an updated look without remodeling the entire space. There are two key considerations in making this work well: (1) You're going to need a skilled, experienced tile setter to handle the job. (2) You're going to have to coordinate the tile rug pattern, colors and scale to work with your existing space. I suggest bringing in a professional designer to help you pull this off.

Create a fresh, new kitchen floor with a coordinating tile rug like this one from Crossville.

Flower power

Fresh flowers bring softness and life to an overworked kitchen. They can add a touch of elegance or whimsy. They can also add a desired accent color. Best of all, they can make you smile whenever you walk into the room. If fresh flowers are too extravagant on a regular basis, find quality silks to create the look on a lasting basis. Something to keep in mind, as you imagine a vase of peonies or tulips on your island: Kitchens are very busy places. Choose a container for your florals that isn't easily broken if slammed by a wayward elbow or skillet.

I love the muted richness of pewter, shown here in a vase from Match, in a kitchen. It will compliment and soften your stainless appliances.

Romance enhancer

Remember those honeymoon moments on the Left Bank, or in the Piazza San Marco... You and your beloved savored endless cappuccinos at a sidewalk café, drinking in the romance of the encounter. You can enjoy those moments again in your very own kitchen with the creation of a coffee station. This could include a built-in coffee maker, an accessory drawer to hold your espresso service and adjacent cabinetry for your coffee, filters and the like. Built-ins usually entail professional planning and installation, but for those of you who live for the bean, this can quickly become your favorite new kitchen zone.

A coffee zone with a built-in coffee maker, like this one from Miele, can be a real value-adder to your kitchen.

Island staycation

An island for your kitchen won't carry you away to far-off fantasy lands, but it can carry essential daily or entertaining items that your current, already-crammed cabinets won't hold. It can also provide landing space for additional prep tasks, or even umbrella drinks! Choose one whose door style and finish will coordinate attractively with your current cabinets. It will become a new focal point for your kitchen, and can instantly update it without a major remodel. Be sure that there's at least 42 inches between this new island and your existing cabinets and appliances for it to be a welcome addition, not a space-hogging intrusion, to your kitchen.

An island can add valuable real estate to your kitchen. Some, like this Bedford model from Ballard Designs, can go with you if you move.

And here are some additional ways to fall in love with your kitchen on any of the 364 other days of the year!

A la cart

Some kitchens just don't have the room for a permanently-placed island. For those, a moveable cart could be a good option. The trick is finding the one that serves the purpose. Do you need more prep space? Choose one with an easy-maintenance countertop. Need more place to store unsightly stuff? Find a cart with closed door storage. Storing prettier stuff? There are numerous carts with open storage. Identify your needs and start searching online. Your heart's desired cart is probably out there.

This cart from KitchenCartStation.com is an entertainer's best friend with its wine rack and serving tray.

Curve appeal

Curves can add flair to a space, but can be an expensive component in a kitchen remodel. A curved-front cabinet, for instance, will cost far more than its traditional flat-front equivalent. Adding curves with your countertops instead will give you the sex appeal of the shape without adding much to the bottom line. One way to achieve this if you're not planning on replacing all of your tops is to add a small curve -- or radius, as they're called in the industry -- in a single focal point area. This can be on a hutch or island, for example. This one small detail can add immeasurably to the style of the space. Give it a try!

This hickory top with a subtle radius by Craft-Art gives added richness to a built-in.

Open door policy

My last house came with a cheap, builder-grade bifold pantry door that I absolutely detested. It clashed with my cherry cabinets and offered no storage or aesthetic benefits. If the builder had given me a wider door opening, I could -- and would have -- easily swapped it out for a more stylish alternative. Imagine what upgrading this prominent feature can do for your kitchen?

A pantry door can be a pretty portal, and coordinate stylishly with the rest of your kitchen elements. This one by Jeld-Wen features room-brightening glass.

Light up your life

My last house also came with recessed lights over the island. Yes, they added illumination to our heavily-used prep area, but they added no style whatsoever. Chances are, your builder put one or two of these over your island or bar, too. Consider swapping them out for a great-looking fixture instead. It's an easy change by a professional electrician that will add instant appeal to your kitchen.

These handsome pendants from Hubbardton Forge add coordinated style, as well as illumination, to this great-looking kitchen.

Water lust

Never underestimate the aesthetic power of a great faucet to upgrade your kitchen. Some of the newer models also combine enhanced functionality with their enviable style. Consider a hands-free model that lets you turn on the water even when your hands are full, or greasy, or even germy. A matching soap dispenser is a nice touch, too. There are no style points for plastic soap bottles on your counter -- not a one!

The Talo Faucet by Brizo adds Sensible Style to any kitchen. (Brizo is hosting me and my design blogging colleagues in New York City this week to learn more about their products.)

Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.

03 February 2010

Lighting 101 Guest Post - Powder Room Strategies

Powder room lighting has come a long way over the years. Gone - thank heavens - are the bare bulb light bars of yore. Today, the opportunities to create a wonderful, well-lit space are as endless as your imagination. Well, maybe not yours or mine, but definitely my guest author, lighting designer Vicky Lodge, Allied ASID, whose imagination overflows with brilliant lighting ideas. Vicky returns to GOLD NOTES after her terrific kitchen lighting post last year with these innovative strategies for lighting your powder room.

Small space, big impact

Powder rooms usually receive more traffic than any other bathroom in your home, and are used by visitors, as well as household members. This makes them a great place to show off your style.

Fortunately, since this room is usually small, you can do a lot without it costing you a fortune. In this small space, on a reasonably small budget, you can produce a "wow effect," with your lighting playing a best supporting actor role.

Lav lighting

The focal point in many powder rooms is the sink, which in bathroom lingo is called a lavatory. If yours has an interesting shape, is hand-painted, made of a unique material, (e.g., wood, hammered metal, semi-precious stone), or a vessel that sits above the countertop, then I recommend using a low voltage recessed ceiling can with a pin hole trim. The narrowed beam spread of the light will make the sink look almost like it's levitating, adding a soft but dramatic effect.

If the sink is a translucent material, perhaps onyx or glass, then I suggest lighting it from below to create an inner glow. For this application, I have often used indoor/outdoor rope light. It is flexible and the bulbs are encased in plastic, so they can be in contact with moisture.

If the sink is not a focal point, then the lighting adjacent to it can be. If the cabinet and the mirror above are small (36" or less in width), then an interesting way of making the lights the focal point is by installing colorful glass pendants from the ceiling in front of the mirror.

Ceiling-mounted pendants, rather than wall-mounted sconces on either side of the mirror, allows for a larger mirror, as well.

Added effects

An unexpected way of achieving a powder room's "wow effect" is by installing a mini chandelier, or a fixture that casts an interesting pattern on the walls or ceiling.

Another way to create drama in your powder room is by installing flexible lighting under the edge of the countertop or in the toe kick. Here you can use rope lighting or LED tape lights.

Powder rooms are also a great place to show off a favorite painting or art photo, as there's no shower moisture to damage it.

In this application, use a recessed spotlight or a wall-mounted picture light to emphasize the piece.

Last words from GOLD NOTES editor

Vicky shared with me one day that when she does her job well, no one notices. Powder rooms, as her expert tips and project photos above show, can be the dramatic exception to that rule, where brilliant lighting is not only noticeable, it's part of your winning space.

If you don't live in San Diego or Central Florida, where Vicky Lodge practices her lighting magic, do yourself a favor and find a professional equally skilled in your area. Because the second half of the quote above is... When lighting isn't well done, everyone notices.

Vicky's next guest post for GOLD NOTES, already in the works, will bring her expertise to master baths. Check back later for that one.

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