It took me 32 years to finally visit the desert. Turns out it’s only 3 hours from my home in LA and I can’t seem to get enough of it. Heart eyes emoji for days! Here are some of my recent pics from Palm Canyon and Joshua Tree.
I don’t watch a lot of TV — probably only about an hour per week. I recently signed up for HBO Now just so I could watch Lemonade, and I’m slowly making my way through the 6th season of Girls, but that’s about it.
However, when I travel for work and stay in a hotel, I binge watch HGTV like a crazy person. It doesn’t help that these days, networks are all about playing 4-8 episodes of the same show in a row, so I find myself up until 2am watching re-runs of Fixer Upper until I’m dazed and bleary-eyed. I can’t help it. I LOVE a good before-and-after. The more tragic the better.
When I bought my house, my cottage bathroom looked more or less like a dilapidated prison cell. The “walls” were made of flimsy water damaged panels, the floor was rotted through, and the window was corroded. Most infuriatingly, the toilet was oriented the wrong way, so when I sat on it my knees would bump the sink pipes. What crazy person thought that this was a good idea?!
Somehow I managed to tolerate (and use!) this mess of a bathroom for an entire year. There were times when tried to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. “Maybe I’ll keep this little sink…maybe the tile around the tub can be refreshed without replacing it…maybe I don’t mind the fact that I can prop my feet up on the tub when I’m on the toilet.” But then one day I was just like, “I hate everything. Everything out, out, out!” So I dragged all of my bedroom furniture into my living room and just camped out there for the next 2 weeks while chaos ensued.
First thing first… demolition. I got rid of everything but the tub. I hired a guy to help me with the demo, plumbing, and electrical. I never would have been able to handle a renovation like this myself.
The bathroom is tiny (only 5 feet wide) so I wanted to keep it as open and airy as possible. I initially envisioned a bold black and white tile floor like this. I even bought the tile a year in advance and hoarded it in my shed in anticipation for the big reno. When it finally came time to put the new floor down, I had second thoughts. I was concerned that the high contrast would be too jarring. I kind of wanted the flooring to flow form the bedroom into the bathroom. The floor in my cottage is laminate which is not recommended for wet areas, so I scoured a few local tile shops to see if I could find a porcelain tile to match. I got pretty lucky. The 2nd place I checked was called Tile Depot and despite its ho-hum name, it was actually tile heaven. Beautiful showroom, nice sales people, good prices.
My new found tile helped me solidify my vision for the space. My handyman I worked 8-10 hours/day for 2 weeks on this tiny bathroom. Not gonna lie, it was hard!
After the new sub floor went in, we put in new drywall. The room was feeling a little plain, so I did what any Fixer Upper viewer would do — I installed shiplap (or rather, fake shiplap made of luan strips.) I realize shiplap is kind of trendy right now, but I DO live in a cottage, so it felt like the appropriate thing to do. I’m so glad I painted the slats first, because even though the gaps are only as thick as a nickel, you can definitely see them at eye level.
By the time the ship lap was done, I was feeling pretty confident and decided to tackle the tile floor myself. You’d think that a small 5′ x 5′ floor would be no sweat to tile, but let me tell ya…tiling a small bathroom is HARD. There was barely any room to move in there which made every step of the process so frustrating. I was also using a ton of mortar so that my porcelain tile would be perfectly level with the laminate floor in the adjacent room. Apparently mortar is SUPER heavy and really tiring to mix even with a drill and mixing attachment. Who knew?!
The tiling never really got easier. It was frustrating till the bitter end. I was definitely relieved when I made it around the toilet hole, though.
How many cuts does it take to cut a circle in the shape of a toilet flange out of tile? Only about 35. Unless your first tile snaps, then you’d need 70. :(
Grouted and sealed! Honestly the floor was a huge pain and while I was doing it, I kept saying that I wouldn’t tile a floor myself again.
My favorite project to do in any renovation is trim/moulding. It’s always a good sign when you’re ready to put the trim on. That basically means you’re almost done!
Just when I thought I was ready to put on the last piece of trim, I realized that because my overall floor is a little slanted (and always has been) my simple baseboard looked super crooked. I wound up having to buy a larger piece of lumber and cutting it at an angle to compensate for the slant. Ugh.
This was also my first attempt at installing subway tile in a real interior (as opposed to on a set.) The subway tiles are small and light enough that they’re relatively easy to install. I just did all the math first, then tiled in sections starting from the bottom. The best part about subway tile is that you don’t have to use any spacers. They are designed to have a 1/16″ gap between each tile. I would definitely consider doing subway tile again by myself in the future, because it’s on a wall as opposed to the floor.
So the bathroom is done now! I’ve lived with it for a couple months now, and I couldn’t be happier. This is my first time having my very own brand new bathroom, and it makes me feel kind of fancy, even though it’s not a fancy bathroom at all.
sink and vanity: IKEA YDDINGEN/LILLANGEN
sink faucet: Amazon Derengge
mirror: IKEA GRUNDTAL
small metal shelf: Container Store Simple Ledge Shelf
toilet: Home Depot American Standard
wall hanging: Heather Levine Ceramics
shower/tub hardware: Amazon Kingston Brass
subway tile: Home Depot Rittenhouse
floor tile: Tile Depot Rosemead
In high school we had this competition called “Spirit Hall” where a bunch of kids from each grade would pick a theme, rally as many students as possible in their grade, and decorate a long hallway to fit that theme. My junior year was the inaugural year of the competition and we chose an “Under the Sea” theme — we lit the hall with blue lights, wrote all the juniors’ names on hand-cut paper fish, and made jellyfish out of iridescent cellophane strips. My senior year, we called our hall “Zoom In,” and we made everything gigantic as if you were walking through the set of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids — giant grass, giant ants, giant sneaker laying in the giant yard, etc. My class won both years.
What did I learn from this experience? I learned that a) I love crafting b) I am competitive at team crafting and c) I especially love larger-than-life competitive team crafting.
pin it!Fast forward 12 years and I’m sitting at my desk at the Halloween Baking Championship and my boss comes to me and says that he is putting together a team for a fun holiday show — 2 guys from HGTV partner up with 2 guys from Food Network, and they will compete in building/decorating life-sized gingerbread houses!!! !!! !!! As most of you know, I’ve worked on quite a few Food Network shows, and I also happen to be obsessed with HGTV, so this was pretty much my dream job. I know I say that about a lot of jobs, but for real this time. Giant miniature houses…yay!
They recruited Ron Ben-Israel and Jonathan Scott to go head-to-head against Duff Goldman and Drew Scott. I art directed Ron Ben-Israel’s show Sweet Genius, and that guy’s cakes are B-A-N-A-N-A-S. They are so incredibly delicate and detailed in person. He’s basically cake decorating royalty. Duff is the host of Kids Baking Championship, which I also art direct, and he has an entire dessert empire and an army of talented young bakers that help him bring his crazy cakes to life. And I’m sure you all know and love the Property Brothers – Drew and Jonathan Scott.
Oh, and did I mentioned that these houses had to be completed in a mere 36 hours?!
pin it!We built the entire set at the Westside Pavilion mall in Los Angeles. The idea was to build the gingerbread houses inside this huge empty retail space so we could eventually invite mall patrons inside to vote for their favorite house.
pin it!Only problem was that the retail space looked like this on the inside. It was completely raw — no doors, no walls, no lights. We only have a few days to make the space TV-ready so I called up my best and brightest and we started designing and building a winter wonderland.
pin it!We built windows and doors, glittered countless snowflakes, and brought in 12 ovens and an entire workshop full of tools sponsored by Sears.
pin it!Our amazing carpenter (affectionately known as Magic Michael) took my design for the entrance and brought it to life. He built those doors from scratch!
pin it!After the set was clean, colorful, and ready for camera, the 2 teams came in and started designing their dream gingerbread houses. The Red Team (Jonathan and Ron), wanted to make a chalet-style lodge, and the Green Team (Drew and Duff), opted for a curvy, Dutch cottage.
pin it!Both teams were given 3 “elves” to help them build and decorate. Shoutout to my art team — Michael, Emmett, Amber and Elizabeth. You guys look adorable in your mini-aprons :)
pin it!The first walls of the Red Team house go up.
pin it!Chaos at 3am.
pin it!Jonathan works on planters for the chalet while Drew assembles a picket fence for the cottage.
pin it!After the houses were framed and skinned with wood, we began “gluing” our gingerbread tiles on with royal icing. We ordered over 10,000 bricks of gingerbread, but even that wasn’t enough! Thankfully we had 12 ovens to bake even more.
It may not look like that much candy from here, but trust me, we had hundreds of lbs of candy for the guys to choose from. By the time we were done with the houses, I vowed never to eat candy again. That only lasted about a day.
pin it!Candy brainstorming for the Dutch door on the cottage.
It looks like fun and games, but these houses were a TON of work and we were all actually sleep-deprived and delirious by the end of it.
pin it!Duff had his team make this insanely perfect reindeer out of fondant as an final touch to his cottage.
pin it!By the time we completed both houses, mall patrons started lining up to meet the cast and to see the finished houses.
pin it!Behold! The Green Team’s cottage complete with a marshmallow chimney, chocolate chip covered Dutch door, and a fondant covered reindeer.
pin it!The Red Team’s chalet!
pin it!The stained glass window was made out of colored sugar that we melted and poured into the frame!
pin it!We let the mall patrons in, and each person grabbed a gingerbread man to cast their vote for their favorite house.
pin it!In the end, the Green Team cottage with the reindeer head won. The losers had to don Santa and Elf costumes and walk around the mall.
pin it!Even though this was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever worked on, we had a blast and I can’t wait till next year so we can do it again!
Massive thanks to Erin, Michael, Emmett, Rick, George, Aubrey, Nick, Giles, Amber, Elizabeth, Renata, and Lynsey. A thousand hugs for Morgan, Beryl, Dave, Alex, Amy, and co. And high 5’s to Hillary, Whitt, Steve, Larry, and Dustin. XXOO
I can get down with Halloween. I love the idea of it, but I usually procrastinate or don’t really have anywhere cool to go, so I opt out more often than not. What did you do for Halloween? I hope you wore a sparkling polyester unitard and stuffed your face with candy because I sat at Houston International Airport for 4 hours waiting for my connecting flight to Jackson, Mississippi. (High five to this airport for providing FREE unlimited internet!!) The good news is that it gave me ample time to archive photos. I think this is the first time I’ve ever posted pics from a show RIGHT after it aired as opposed to 1-3 years later. Hooray!
I art directed my first cooking show, Sweet Genius 2, about 5 years ago. I remember loving it and telling my colleagues that I wanted to work on more cooking shows. I love custom making anything and everything, so there is something about the hand-crafted nature of cooking and baking that complements my design/build/arts-and-crafts approach to art direction. I worked on a lil’ Food Network special called the Holiday Baking Championship last year, and I had no idea that it would blow up into an entire franchise of baking shows including the Kids, Halloween, and Spring Baking Championships.
The shell of this set was designed by Shaffner & Stewart and my amazing art department KILLED it this year with the set dressing and custom builds. We had so much fun making all things smoky, slimy, and spooky.
My set decorator Andrea and I spent an absurd amount of time scooting things around on these shelves.
My favorite vampire.
For the most part, I design and hand-draw the signage on all of our shows. I’ve gone back to using pen and paper when designing and I find that it’s so much more fun and freeing than designing everything on the computer.
My awesome assistant Ryanne outlining letters in white paint pen.
This “fire” is actually 3 light bulbs, and a mini fan blowing around small triangular pieces of white lining. TV magic!
My carpenter Michael is basically like a human 3D printer. He can literally make anything. I drew this sketch of a gothic table, and 1 day later, he texts me this picture below. Like… no big deal… just banged out a custom judges desk in 8 hours. Ugh. Show off. ;)
A big part of my job is figuring out how to visually convey ideas that the producers have for challenges. For this challenge, we needed a tree with 2 kinds of apples, the red ones would have secret ingredients written inside. The green ones would have creepy adjectives — and the bakers had to combine the two words and make something delicious and scary out of it. As you can see, not every display is an instant success. It takes A LOT of collaborative brainstorming to get a galvanized bucket and a tree branch to a point where it’s TV ready.
A dollhouse that we “hauntified.”
Again, Michael being crazy and amazing. I asked him to build a fireplace surround. Whatever he wanted…surprise me! And he took a pile of MDF and made it into this in a couple days.
That’s it for now, but the passing of Halloween means that everyone is going to be playing Christmas music by tomorrow. It also means that the Holiday Baking Championship is returning and my art department dressed the hell out of that set too, so come back soon for more pics!
In the 90s, most kitchens looked more or less the same — medium brown cabinets with brownish Formica or granite countertops. Sometime in the late 90s, the “great room” became a must-have for modern families and people were knocking down walls left and right to integrate kitchens with living space. The popularity of the great room lead to the rapid proliferation of the statement kitchen. Nowadays if you do any kind of kitchen image search, the variety of styles and materials that people are using in their kitchens is mind bogging and inspiring.
Kitchens are my favorite room in the house to design. I’ve always been obsessed with space planning and maximizing efficiency, so I was excited to overhaul the dumpy kitchen in my cottage. When most people think “cottage,” they imagine a space that is kind of rustic, warm, and maybe a little shabby-chic. As a design experiment, I veered away from a traditional cottage look and went for a more Scandinavian look, using really clean lines and stark color contrast.
I bookmarked a few images that tugged at my heart strings — all really bright and clean with a heavy dose of black and white. My kitchen is small and doesn’t get a ton of direct sunlight so the logical decision would have been to do white cabinets, but I had a hard time getting excited about an all white kitchen. I knew I was going to use Ikea cabinets and all of their white doors were either too plain, too traditional, or too glossy. I hemmed and hawed about it for months and by the time I was finally ready to pull the trigger on cabinets, they came out with a new dark black-brown cabinet door called Tingsryd that has a subtle dark gray wood grain that ran horizontally. I was seduced by the idea of the high contrast, but I didn’t want to make the kitchen too heavy, so my solution was to do ONLY lower cabinets, concealing all of my food storage and appliances below the countertop.
This was my dumpy kitchen before. (It was a lot grosser in real life.) There was about 15 years worth of cooking grease and spider web build up. I planned on leaving the plumbing and gas lines in the same place.
One of my biggest issues with this space was the windows. It drove me nuts that they all had different mullions—4 paned, 6 paned, and 9 paned windows all along one wall! It took a bit of sleuthing, but I figured out that the 4 paned window originally belonged in the back of the cottage in the bedroom, the 6 paned window originally belonged in the dining room of the main house but was removed to accommodate a window a/c, and the 9 paned window was just some random one-off that didn’t match anything on my property.
I demolished the kitchen myself. Whoever installed the previous kitchen used about 1000 screws and nails to fasten the cabinets to each other and the walls. It was not an easy feat, but eventually I managed to rip all of the cabinets out. I threw away the weird triangular cabinets that fit in the angled part of the bay window. I kept the cabinets that were still in tact and moved them to my shed to use as storage.
I pulled out the window in the center because it drove me nuts that there were 3 asymmetrical windows. I planned on covering that gaping hole with drywall and wood siding on the outside. I also ran laminate flooring across the entire room before bringing in any kitchen components.
My amazing friend Michael helped me install the kitchen. There were some complex/funky angles in this project and he made my narrow rectangular cabinet in to 90-degree trepezoid cabinets like the one you see on the left!
I splurged on quartz countertops. I’m a messy artist at heart, and I knew that I would need a relatively indestructible countertop to stand up to my abuse. You can’t really tell in this pic, but the quartz is warm white with tiny speckles in it. I love it.
I wanted SO badly to have a matching under cabinet fridge and freezer, but because of the space constraints, that just wasn’t possible. It doesn’t really bother me, though because both of these are concealed behind doors.
pin it!This is more or less what the kitchen looks like today. Ain’t it pretty? My pulls are black, so you can barely see them. I need to put a door over the microwave, but it’s a weird size, so it needs to be customized. Hopefully I’ll have time to do that soon. Now I’m trying to decide on a backsplash material. I love this tile that I saw at home depot because it looks A LOT like my floor. But is it too plain? I’m also auditioning other crazy patterns and materials. More on that in the next post!