After beginning reno on their new home (Part 1), L.A. transplants Alison and Kevin encounter problem after problem. Setbacks often have a less than obvious silver lining, however, and, after trading in their IKEA for some serious style, the couple was able to customize their home and stumble upon a business opportunity.
Coming home from their full-time jobs, nights were spent ripping out rank carpeting, washing down walls and painting the 1961 ranch. “One of the first things we did was tear the living room wall down,” Eustice recounts. “And we pulled up the carpeting, hoping to find hardwood.” No such luck. “Everyone does that, finds great floors underneath, right?” interjects Walker. But there was hardwood in only one room, so new flooring was on the list. A year after they moved in, the couple tackled the kitchen, a hodgepodge of choppy spaces, worn out surfaces and homeowner dis-improvements. Walls were moved, the electrical panel redone and the old back door closed off, resulting in a modern space open to the dining and living rooms.
They chose elements like the tile, counters and appliances, designed the island bookshelves and cubbies, and kept the sink and dishwasher in the old locations. A contractor and local cabinetmaker took care of the hands-on aspects, and new sliding
glass doors now bring in more light. Enthusiastic collectors of midcentury furniture and smalls (more about that in a sec), weighing authenticity, function and dollars was a challenge on this project.
“That was really hard, actually,” Walker says. “I’m not sure if we would do everything the same now.” “I know we wouldn’t,” her husband retorts. “A lot of problems we ran up against were because of our budget. Our pendant lights are from Rejuvenation, so they’re high-end replicas,” explains Walker. “We like them, but now we’d source original Scandinavian lights. There aren’t a lot of entry-level, good-looking midcentury products out there. “Instead of putting Formica countertops in and getting vintage metal cabinets, we tried to make things as clean and modern as possible and then add midcentury touches. There are so many different types of modern; ours is clean Scandinavian rather than Sputnik or Googie.” “I like our penny rounds backsplash,” Eustice adds, “but practically speaking, I might have made a different choice: white penny rounds with white grout are difficult to keep clean.”
Prior to the move, the couple jettisoned their graduate-school IKEA pieces, which were at the end of their shelf life. “We needed furniture and it was our first chance to figure out what our collector’s style was,” says Walker. “You kind of have a clean palette: you don’t have your parents around, we didn’t have a lot of friends, it was What do we like? What do we want? So we started going on Craigslist and to estate sales to furnish the house.” They were both drawn to the Scandinavian designers and collectibles we see decorating the house today. Friends would come by to see what was new and started requesting help finding similar things for their own homes.
Read more in Part 3 about how the couple’s moderate budget ended up helping them start their own business!