Ariel’s whirling rainbow dream… after the remodel

Posted by  | Photography by JayLee Photography
Photo on the left by Jenny Jimenez, photo on the right by JayLee Photography
Photo on the left by Jenny Jimenez, photo on the right by JayLee Photography

Last fall, I wrote about how I was remodeling our family’s one-bedroom condo to better accommodate my three-person family. Well, six months later, I am here to report back with our-post remodel home tour… it’s six months later because the 6-8 week remodel turned into four months of my family drifting around and couch surfing. We just moved back in the last week of February. Do you guys want to see how it turned out?

Oh wait, first I should say that while I know remodels are prone to drama, ours was a doozy. The whole thing climaxed in November when a structural engineer who’d told our designers six months prior that we could remove a wall, claimed he’d never approved it. Apparently there’d been a huge miscommunication, and the result was the engineer storming out of an emergency 10-person meeting.

Thankfully our contractors went way WAY above and beyond (shout-out to our contractors/now-friends-for-life Model/Remodel. WE LOVE YOU GUYS) and we were able to get the situation resolved… at the cost of our budget increasing by almost a third and doubling our construction time. For four months, my family and I lived out of suitcases, drifting between house-sitting, couch surfing, and mooching off extended family. And then I had emergency surgery and was in the hospital. And yes, it was a challenging winter.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, every day that I’m A) able to sleep in my own bed B) not in the hospital now feels like an amazing gift, so hooray for perspective and gratitude.

Wait, so what was this remodel doing?

The summary of the remodel is that we ripped out a wall and flipped our living/sleeping spaces. Our stairwell became a mezzanine dining area. Our bedroom and closet became a living room. Our dining room became our son’s room, and our living room became our bedroom. Let’s do the photographic tour. Mad props to longtime Offbeat Bride vendor, Josh from JayLee Photography who took time away from shooting punk shows and punk weddings to come take pictures of my condo.

Entry & stairwell

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Our house is townhome style, so you enter on the first floor, and then immediately come up the stairs. We used to have this very bland beige carpet, and after housesitting at a friend’s house with dramatic blue stair carpeting, we decided to go dramatic and blue, too.

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The stair landing has this HUUUUUGE window that used to just light the stairwell. Since we ripped out the wall and made the stairwell part of our living space, this window is now part of the heart of our home… and immediately became a place for my son’s seashell collection.

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We have proven ourselves to be TERRIBLE at picking paint colors, so we asked our old dear friend Sarah from SLK Design Studio to just tell us what to do. (Those of you who’ve read the Offbeat Bride book: this is Upper Location Manager Sarah!) Sarah is an interior designer in Los Angeles who works with very fancy people, and that bitch knows her colors. She suggested Farrow & Ball colors, which we then reproduced at Home Depot.

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Part of Sarah’s recommendation was that this blue wall become a Salon Wall which is a fancy way of saying “put all your weird mismatched art on one wall where you can see how discordant your taste is!”

I’m not sure if I’m happy with how it turned out — we’ll see if it stays.

Dining & Living

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Ok, so here’s our new dining area built out over what used to be the top of our stairs. Here’s how this area used to look, although it’s hard to capture because… uh, there was a wall there.

In fact, this photo is maybe a more accurate before shot… where our table is now used to be the top of stairs and a wall and my desk. It’s weird, right?

PS: My mother-in-law made that table and it is amazing.
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Ok, now we’re looking at our living room, which used to be our bedroom. You can also see how… with all the art on the salon wall, our other walls are essentially bare. We lived pretty light before and purged like crazy before the remodel, but living out of suitcases for four months made the entire family realize just how little we needed to get by, so we purged even more when we moved back in. Our house is sparse right now, and I kinda like it.

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Our media machine is that same touchscreen HP computer mounted on the wall that I wrote about three years ago. The big excitement here is that as part of the remodel, I had our contractors install the power outlet right behind where the computer is mounted, so there is no cord hanging down! FUCK YES. I love how this remodel is huge (walls moving! ceilings rebuilt! stairs rotated!) and yet it’s a fucking outlet placement that gives me a boner.

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Sassafras may be 12 now, but she adapted quickly to the new digs. She especially loves the carpet in our bedroom.

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Speaking of… Oh look! That is our bedroom door! Shall we go in? (Yes, this is me inviting you into my bedroom. I hope you wore your nice panties…)

Master bedroom

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The bookshelf that my phenomenal woodworking mother-in-law made us for our living room is now our headboard. And yes, this means that my son is going to have a tragic story some day where he’s like “I am an orphan because my parents were buried by books in the Great Quake of ’22”

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And yes, that is a white noise machine 16″ from my pillow. The only challenge with our post-remodel situation is that our bed is now directly above our very sweet, very kind neighbor’s television, which is on almost 24 hours a day. I’m a super light sleeper, so I do my best to take responsibility for my own sound-sensitivities.

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HEY WAIT A MINUTE WHERE ARE THE CLOSET DOORS. Miraculously, my mother-in-law offered to make us shoji doors. This is beyond exciting, but will take some time, so for now our bed stares into my closet. On the right there is the special area designed for my desk… but now I don’t work from home any more so it feels sorta unneeded. Although I mean I DO need a place to put my ponies.

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There’s Dre’s closet, which is also waiting for its door. His mom is making a barn door-style shoji. We had to get creative with his closet, due to structural engineering issues. It goes far back to the right, but the door couldn’t be any wider than that.

The structural issues also meant we have this weird shelf built into the entry way of our bedroom, which I have commandeered as my Fancy Shoe Closet.

Tavi’s bedroom

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walkinrelatedThis is the whole reason this remodel needed to happen. My son loved his former walk-in-closet/bedroom, but 5 years old is probably a good time to stop sleeping in your parent’s closet. Not only does a young man eventually want a little more space, but a young man’s parents eventually want a little more privacy.

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His room is still very small, but the loft bed helps make the most of the space.

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When I told Sarah (our friend who helped us with our paint colors) about Tavi’s decision, she said “That is a bold choice,” and recommended the flattest, mattest black we could find.

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The same structural engineering issues that resulted in an odd closet in the master bedroom and my weird shoe shelves also meant that instead of my son having a big wide closet, he ended up with a narrow closet, and built-in deep toy shelves. It’s slightly weird, but works really well, actually.

What about the rest of our house?

Our remodel did not touch our hallway, kitchen, or bathroom so those are completely unchanged. Well, other than some paint on the wall in the bathroom to test the new color we’ll be painting it eventually when we can think about painting again.

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Ariel remodel tour on Offbeat Home (kitchen 1)

Ariel remodel tour on Offbeat Home (kitchen 2)

Ariel remodel tour on Offbeat Home (kitchen)

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…of course we still haven’t finished painting the bathroom or kitchen. Maybe next weekend…

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Ariel remodel tour on Offbeat Home (bathroom door)

One of the things I love about this remodel is that you can now see from end to end of our home. From the bathroom, you can look out down the hall all the way through the living room to the north wall. My son likes to run sprints from one end of the house to the other (sorry, neighbors), and there’s just much more of a sense of space.

Our home is still relatively small (we have about 850 square feet of usable space, not counting the stairs), but this remodel worked some sweet magic on making the most of the space we’ve got. Our goal was to shift our space so that our family of three (plus dog) could comfortably fit here… theoretically forever. In fact, during the worst, most challenging parts of our remodel, I may have shouted “I AM GOING TO DIE IN THAT HOME, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.”

Hopefully it won’t be by getting buried in my own books during an earthquake, but whatever: as long as I’m sleeping in my own bed, and not in the hospital, it’s a happy day.

Comments on Ariel’s whirling rainbow dream… after the remodel

  1. yeah, iΒ΄m sorry, weΒ΄re gonna have to move in with you. and by “we” i mean the whole lot of the empire-readers. probably some staff too, huh?

  2. Wow! I’m actually pretty inspired to purge some stuff. We’ve been in the same sizable house for a few years now, so things have accumulated. Your space looks so nice, colorful, and filled with just enough things. Speaking of colors, you were totally right to insist on lighter-colored walls. In college I lived in a room that the previous occupant had painted a dark-medium green, and though it was a huge room, it felt depressing and small, especially through the super-short winter days. I love the constellations too!

    I also have the same Ikea lamp with the white flowers on it, and do the dresser-in-the-closet thing. Seeing other people’s houses and how they’re organized is so fun!

    • I’m convinced that purging possessions is the key to domestic sanity. Keeping a tidy house is really easy when there’s not that much stuff in it.

      What’s most remarkable to me here is that we already lived somewhat minimally — I attend clothing swaps seasonally, ditch my kid’s old toys probably too frequently, force my husband to say farewell to music production equipment from 1999. I’ve written before about how obsessed I am with giving stuff away.

      And yet STILL, after 7 years of living in the space, stuff had accumulated to the degree that even after two huge waves of purges (one on pack-up and one on move in), I just now feel like we’re at a more manageable level of crap.

      This weekend we were over at my mom’s property, where she lives on 10 acres with a bazillion little sheds and structures all over it. Of course many of these structures get used for storage, and she’d recently found a stash of stuff she hadn’t looked at in 7 years that she finally purged… a tennis racket from the early ’70s, a broken sewing kit from the ’80s, and picnic basket that hadn’t been used since I was in high school in the early ’90s!

      My new theory that as much time as you spend each week bringing stuff INTO your house (and yes, that includes grocery shopping), you should also spend getting stuff OUT of your house — clean the fridge for 20 minutes, purge a shelf you haven’t looked at for a year, unpack the box at the back of the closet.

      American culture is of course really good at giving you a jolt of good feelings when you buy things… but I think it’s up to each of us to recognize the jolt of good feelings that you can get when you GET RID OF STUFF. Gift the really good stuff to your friends and feel generous! Donate the usable stuff to nonprofits and feel helpful! Trash the useless stuff and feel freeeee!

      • I especially feel the desire to purge after travel. “I lived for two weeks out of a backpack and was perfectly content and basically had everything I needed; why do I have all this crap in my home?” I’m particularly ruthless with tchotchkes. If it’s something that can hang on a wall as art out of the way not needing dusting, fantastic; but if it sits on a dresser it may get tossed.

        • Funny that you mention travel! My boyfriend and I share the master bedroom in our big multi-person house, and whenever I come back from traveling it feels huge. Like, too much. I don’t think I can go all the way to a tiny house, but I’ll be happy to switch to something smaller and downsize some possessions when we move.

        • I love tchotchkes and grandma-ish trinkets that collect dust like mad (miniature china bouquet in a miniature china bowl, anyone?). My personal rule is that ALL dust-collectors must go inside a fairly well sealed display cabinet. It gives a volume limit, it concentrates like items together (which makes them more striking), and limits the amount of cleaning required.

          Plus, having to open the doors somehow keeps people from invariably picking up delicate things and dropping them and chipping the flower petals off… I’m not bitter.

      • Ooh, stealing your new theory. It’s like one-in-one-out, but BETTER. For a while I used to browse online shopping when I was bored, but at least half that time would have been more satisfyingly spent going through what’s already in my closet.

        • Yeah, bonus points for taking pictures and writing funny stories about the stuff you get rid of. That’s part of how I feel good about it…

      • We’ve always tried to live a minimalist lifestyle, but it’s so easy for things to build up. I’m currently getting rid of everything in preparation to move countries, and it feels soooo good. I can bring whatever fits into 3 checked bags, and even that is starting to feel “luxurious”!

  3. That art wall is everything. The organization totally makes the disparate art work together.
    I feel like you now have a bigass window/glass door everywhere where you might settle down. Behind the couch, by the dining table, in your bedrooms, right by your desk… amaaaaazing!

    • The only weird part about the headboard shelves is that my pillow sometimes slides off the bed into the shelf… I’m trying to stack taller books in that part of the shelf to keep me from sliding off the front of the mattress in my sleep.

      • As a fellow earthquake-country person, I, too, live in fear of bookshelves and even framed art hanging above beds. I know your bookshelves were hand-built by a relative and you wouldn’t want to change them, but I’ve seen retrofits where people attach strong straps/webbing across shelves or even build high wooden “curbs” across the bottom of each shelf so that minor earthquakes wouldn’t dislodge things. Obviously books need to be accessible and loose, but there’s also a product called museum putty that you can attach to the bottom of ceramic art pieces or similar items that will also keep them put.

        Not trying to hate on your BEAUTIFUL remodel AT ALL! But if you are worried about that bookshelf, there are options.

        • Amusingly, I’m not worried about it at all — but I knew someone would comment on it, so I wanted to head them off at the pass. πŸ˜‰

      • I wonder if there’s something you could do to sort of block that part of the bookshelf and make it more headboard-y. Like a tall strong basket or a custom drawer, so it could function as a storage spot for whatever you need at hand whilst in bed and also provide the necessary resistance for your pillow.

      • I have no sense of actual space in your room so this may not be remotely feasible or desired, but could you put your bed under the window? Perpendicular to how it is situated now, avoiding the avalanche of books, neighbor’s tv, and pillow sliding?

  4. Don’t mind me; just sitting here completely enraptured and starry-eyed. I’ve been so excited to hear how this turns out, and it looks great! Much more logical use of the space, and I think the salon art wall is my favorite thing ever. πŸ™‚

  5. I did a little fist pump when I saw your apology format on the fridge. I’m a teacher, and feel like I’m always modelling how to apologize, as many students think a simple “sorry” thrown at someone will suffice in terms of apology.

    The rest of the house looks rad, btw. And I’m in agreement about purging stuff-we’re in the middle of a spring clean today, and I really feel so much better about my space and life know that three bags are going to the thrift store, one to the consignment store, and some more for kijiji.

  6. Even though you’ve posted the odd video here and there on the Empire, I still am surprised whenever I hear your voice. There’s such a disconnect between the way I read it when I’m on the site and the way it sounds. I tend to do that with my voice, too… I always assume voices are higher than they actually are.

    I’ve been excited to see the final remodel and it looks great! It seems like every couple of months we are re-arranging our apartment and purging stuff, but there’s always so much to go through no matter how much we get rid of. It’s a constant process.

  7. I love Sassy in the videos and pictures! And how you say hi in each mirror, I do that, too, when taking videos. Was the first segment of the second video blurry because Tavi asked you if you could make the video blurry at the end of the first video?

  8. Hooray for astronomically accurate star maps! Our daughter’s room has one that glows in the dark, which we made with the Night Sky Star Stencil (which you can get from Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland, OR) – but – we didn’t check the stencil against the star map before painting, and the ‘This Side Up’ marks were on the wrong side of the paper. So we have some sort of alternate mirror-universe alien starscape.


    I have a newfound love of dark ceilings. In our new house, we did every single ceiling in every single room a super dark matte charcoal grey and the effect is incredible. It feels so warm and cozy!

  10. I love looking at how other families live in a small space. We just measured our house last night in at 505 square feet main floor and just over 200 in our basement. We have 2 bedrooms, 2 kids and 2 cats. I love space saving ideas and am so jealous of the closets. Our house is from the 40’s so we only have tiny ones and not even a front closet for coats or shoes. Keep posts like this a comin’.

  11. I totally feel your husband’s need to have all of the pictures on the wall plumb & level.
    Back here in Massachusetts, a lot of older homes (1930’s and older) have “built-ins”. It’s essentially little spaces like yours that have the shelves permanently built into the house. They made the little nooks on purpose! It gives the home great character πŸ™‚

  12. I love love love your home! I’ve been waiting to see the finished remodel, and it was totally worth the wait. I’ve got a small home too (about 1000 sf) and you’re inspiring me. Well done! Also, we have the same shower curtain! πŸ˜‰

    • The purple couch was a Craigslist find seven years ago, from a guy who’d had it in his entry room, where no one ever sat on it. My favorite quote from him, when I asked why he was getting rid of it? “I guess I’m just done with my purple phase.”

      It was basically new when we bought it (who sits in an entry room? No one.), and we have spent the last seven years abusing it. It’s now splitting at the seams, totally stained, faded across the top, etc etc… but still does the trick.

      It’s actually a very odd shape (the corner section isn’t 90degrees, which is very strange) but it’s super comfy. πŸ™‚

  13. Ariel, it is lovely! Sorry for all the extra stress you had, but the result looks amazing. The before pics are lovely too, but I really like the remodel, especially the openness and light. I’m a huge fan of salon walls, too – we have one that is all photos.

    We are moving out for four months during my sabbatical, and hitting the road (and skies), living mostly out of the car but for six weeks out of a suitcase. After your experience: Any tips on keeping life lean for four months? (No kids, so that is easier at least ).

    • I think the biggest thing for me was priorities — it was more important to me not to have to lug too much stuff around than it was to look like I wasn’t wearing the same outfit every day (which I basically was). It was more important for me to always know where absolutely everything was, than it was to have absolutely everything with me. When you travel light, you don’t spend much time playing the “where’s my…” game, because you have so little to keep track of. Keeping track of stuff is a big mental overhead for me, so it was an issue of prioritizing my sanity over prioritizing vanity.

  14. Your place looks absolutely lovely!!! I, too, was waiting for the reveal.I love the light and the art wall and the dining area. I have a crush on that rainbow striped dress in your closet without having seen it completely.
    I have the same flower pillows from ikea – and we, too, have a tiny dog cuddling with them! She is four pounds and is called “Phoebe Buffay”.

    What made you skip the second sofa that was facing the other one in favor of the TV? I totally get how you get a boner because of the hidden outlet, but that can’t be the only reason? Did your lifestyle change so you tend to watch more TV/netflix/dvd than before? Just curious, because I tend to notice the different styles of furniture placement in people’s houses, especially where you typically sit down with friends/guests/family. It does influence the communication style, I think. Did you notice any changes with that?

    Finally something OT: I had a teratoma removed last year on my ovary which was the size of a grapefruit. I now have a scar from my bellybutton to my pubic bone because it was too large to be removed otherwise. So I feel you concerning recovery – I hope you’re feeling as good as new!

    • Just saw that you wore that rainbow striped dress to your birthday, and it looked as fabulous as I thought it would!!!! Also: (belated) Congratulations! You seem to have had an awesome party.

      (Oh dear God, I sound like a stalker. I’m not, just a fangirl (whatever the difference is)) πŸ˜›

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