Not only do we put in a lot of hard work and spend long hours on our apartment remodels, we also put in a ton of thought and a bunch of love. Built in 1951, this gorgeous mid-century modern building in Los Angeles is home to 16 one-bedroom suites that each get a makeover upon vacancy.
In our last completed remodel, it was also our first suite to get a complete overhaul with an all new kitchen and bathroom – both of which we had never taken on before. This Harlow floor plan suite had been occupied for more than 10 years and had been lived in hard. There were four (!) different types of flooring in this one bedroom apartment: old, matted carpet in the living room and bedroom, retro parquet wood flooring in the dining room, original lime green ceramic tile in the bath, and thick, dark Spanish tile in the kitchen. The white paint on the walls had seen better days and there was custom shelving drilled high along the walls from the previous tenant. It needed a ton of love to get back into decent shape.
Back in the ’50’s, carpet was considered a luxurious upgrade to an apartment building, but nowadays hardwood floors are way more desirable and much easier to take care of over the long term. So when we set out to design what our remodeled apartments would include, we made sure to nix the carpet and opt for real maple hardwood floors – no laminate over here, SuiteHearts. We also wanted to preserve some of that Old Hollywood-era charm while still making sure that the interiors of our suites were updated and functional. We’ll show you how we achieved both.
the living room
The great thing about this floor plan is that it had good bones with a large living area and big windows, two walk-in closets, original crown moulding, and a built-in book shelf. We didn’t feel that it needed major improving, aside from installing those espresso-colored hardwood floors throughout and adding window blinds.
Of course, paint is a must and has an immediate impact to any space, so we opted for a subtle hue and chose Behr’s “Chocolate Froth” for the walls and “Ultra Pure White” for all of the doors and trim. We like to keep things uniform throughout all of our suites so this is the standard color we’ve been using for a while now with great feedback from our residents. We’ve found that it is a nice neutral background that creates a good contrast from the white trim and allows enough color to make the space feel warm and inviting without being polarizing to different decor and color schemes.
We also made some simple changes that had high impact like replacing the doors on the two closets from dated louvered doors to more vintage-inspired and polished 2-panel rounded pre-hung ones. One of these walk-in closets housed the suite’s water heater which was an odd location, so we took the opportunity before the hardwood floors were installed to relocate it to the closet directly outside the kitchen’s back entrance. That left both walk-in closets open to a ton of storage possibilities. (Shoe closet, anyone?)
To preserve the 1950’s character, we kept the gorgeous original crown moulding that runs along the living and dining room ceiling. While we were torn with keeping the original wood detail of the built-in bookshelf, we chose to update it instead with glass shelving to keep the space open and airy. Opting for glass also means not having to paint the shelving after each vacancy and adds a nice focal point.
the dining room
While the space was pretty simple before, we made some small updates like reinstalling the chair rail that had been removed throughout the years and adding decorative moulding below to better define the space and separate it from the living room. The moulding also added a luxurious touch to this room that’s reminiscent of the 1950’s era it is from. Simply swapping out the dated ceiling fan for a shiny new lighting fixture sealed the deal for this divine dining room.
We opted to take the plunge and remodel the entire kitchen out of necessity. We found that throughout the years (prior to us taking over management of the building), some of the previous residents had decided to take matters into their own hands and customize the space to fit their personal needs. While this is fine if you own the place or get permission from your Landlord ahead of time, this wasn’t the case for us and the owner of our building was left to fix all of the damage that previous tenants had done over time.
Thick, dark tile was installed on top of the old linoleum floor in the kitchen creating an uneven transition from the parquet covered dining room. The cabinet doors in the kitchen had been removed and thrown away (we’re still not sure what the tenant was thinking on this one), a resident cut the bottom of one of the cabinets to be able to squeeze a portable dishwasher on top of the counters, and previous to this last tenant, a dog was allowed to scratch and gnaw at the bottom of the kitchen cabinets which were unable to be fixed without having to rebuild the entire cabinet. They were too damaged to be salvageable, so we knew we had to start over.
With the kitchen being totally overhauled, we took the opportunity to redesign the layout and started with moving the sink from the corner (where a lot of counter and cabinet space was wasted) to moving it underneath the window. This allowed for more usable counter space while still being able to look out of the window while doing dishes.
In the previous layout, the refrigerator and stove were directly across from each other which could cause some traffic congestion if both appliances needed to be accessed at the same time. So we opted to move the fridge as far over as we could to allow for more space. We also tucked a tall pantry next to it as well for additional food storage – something that the previous kitchen never had.
After researching a few different suppliers and options, and traveling to a ton of different stores to see them in person, we chose to go with Ikea’s new Sektion cabinets because of their affordability, durability, and longevity. What really sold us is that if something happens to one of the cabinet drawers or doors down the road, we can easily swing by Ikea and pick up a replacement. Each cabinet was built and installed by us by hand (there’s extra love in those cabinets we can attest) and includes soft-close hinges and drawers. Every inch was maximized and there’s even a shallow hidden drawer inside the top drawer of each of those bottom cabinets.
We opted for white Shaker-style cabinets and light colored quartz counter tops to keep the kitchen feeling light and bright. To add some subtle color, we went with a green glass back splash to bring in a bit of a modern feel and tiled the entire space behind the stove as a focal point.
There really wasn’t much decorative detail in the bedroom to add or improve on. Simple updates to the paint, blinds, and ceiling fan were standard. Where we achieved some high impact in this room, was when we updated the closet doors.
The original closet configuration included wooden closet doors that were tired and didn’t slide well. The storage space up above was deep, but not really easily accessible or practical. So we started over and installed floor-to-ceiling mirrored closet doors that completely transformed the space. They immediately opened up the room and made it even brighter. Inside, we added a closet organizer with shelving to maximize the space and also updated the linen closet cleverly hidden behind the bedroom door with the same Ikea cabinets that we used in the kitchen. Storage galore!
While redoing the entire bathroom was not on the original remodel plan, as the project evolved, it quickly became clear that if we were going to put this much effort into one suite, why not go all the way? We had always planned on updating the bathroom, just not to this extent. Bye bye groovy lime green tile, hello stunning Carrera marble! Go big or go home, right?
While we loved the original tub, it just wasn’t big enough for those Calgone moments, so we opted to go with a stand-up shower configuration instead. In this small space we splurged a little bit and went with white-and-gray Carrera marble for the shower with a silver band and shower nook accent. We chose a frameless and trackless sliding shower door to keep the bathroom feeling as open as possible and make cleaning a breeze. The floor is gray ceramic and the bathroom is accented with brushed nickel hardware – from the toilet paper holder to the towel bar and textured mirror.
The space between the vanity cabinet and shower was tight so we had to get creative and repurpose a piece of furniture from one of our favorite affordable hidden gems, Nadeau Furniture on La Brea. We customized this piece to fit the plumbing and added an above cabinet sink to complete the overall look.
It was a lot of work but also a ton of fun shopping for and putting together every piece that went into this suite. The owner of our building loved it so much that they opted to remodel the next two suites coming up just like this one. Deep breath, we’re off to Ikea again…
What was your favorite part of this remodel? Let us know in the comments below.