if you’ve got it, haunt it: how we decorated the building for halloween this year

We’re just here for the boos! My pre-fiance, Brian, loves Halloween. No, like loves Halloween. So when he asked a few years ago if he could decorate the building, it started off innocent enough with a few tombstones. Then came the handmade coffin, then a smoke machine, then a spider the size of a small car. Each year he’s expanded on his, ahem, inventory – I mean display.

Well this year I was in for a surprise when a box the size of our mattress showed up in August. August! What crawled out of that box was none other than a 12 foot tall skeleton with light up eyes. Brian looked like a dwarf standing next to it! He tried to hide his mischievous smirk when he looked at his new toy and then to me to see if I would scold him for his frivolous (and secret) purchase.

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I am really disappointed in you.” He kind of chuckled under his breath and then I deadpanned, “I am really disappointed that you didn’t buy two.” I mean, come on, I have to admit that a skeleton that can easily peep right into my second floor bathroom window while I’m showering is kind of a cool addition.

Then we added those good ol’ headstones, the car-sized spider, last year’s purchase: a skeleton horse with a new, black, glittery skeleton rider, and pretty much everything else Brian had squirreled away.

We normally confine the Halloween decorations to only the front yard of the building, but since we remodeled and relandscaped it last year and the trees have grown in, our usual set-up had to be reimagined since it would’ve been hidden behind the tall hedge. So we decided to try something new and instead stage it at the entrance and along the driveway of our building this year.

When we decorate for Christmas, I love to hang oversized white and gold ornaments over the driveway and last year we created a more permanent cable system that is reusable and easier to put up than fishing line. So I had this idea that we could repurpose the cables for Halloween and hang bats and skeleton spiders from up above. Brian had the idea to swag beef net “webbing” over the cables so that the spiders looked like they had created a home for themselves. As a final touch, our ghost girl hovers in the center and watches over the building and I like to joke that she’s a potential new tenant that prefers an upper floor.

We still had a lot of open cables so Brian suggested we hang the faux flame candles that we purchased for another project and didn’t end up using. They had just been sitting in the attic so he drilled some holes and looped fishing line through them so they hung upside down a la Harry Potter. This has been my favorite new element by far this year. To see the soft, warm glow of candles that appear to be floating above the driveway is really quite magical at night.

We tried to create vignettes all along the driveway and for a little property management humor, we set up a spot with a “manager” sitting in a chair holding a “Vacancy Available” sign next to an open coffin with two occupants scrambling for the chance to be interred. A metal arbor with dead tree limbs still attached frames the scene and we added black flowers to the arch of the arbor. We had been storing the arbor that was being thrown away by a restaurant for years when I said, “When else are we gonna use this thing?”

And then, this year, we have a vacant first floor apartment that we’re remodeling so I came up with the idea to create a scene in the windows and use the glow-in-the-dark skeletons that don’t really go with the rest of the outdoor decor. And Brian finally got to put one of those floor fans that tenants always throw out when they move to good use and wired a skeleton to it and turned it on to add some movement.

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We have a few more elements to add to finish it all up (a cemetery sign spanning the driveway), but we’re super happy with the skele-fun we’ve been able to conjure up during such a bummer year. To see the kid’s faces when they run down the driveway with their parents is just pure Halloween excitement. #TrickOrSuite, witches!

What’s your favorite part of this year’s Halloween decor? Let us know in the comments below.

All images courtesy of Brett Erickson I Video courtesy of Dan Magro

front yard makeover: the plan

Ever since I took over management of the building 10 years ago, re-doing the front yard has always been at the top of my wish list of projects to complete.  But along the way, other projects took priority like exterior painting, landscaping, and apartment updates.  Somehow this project always seemed to get pushed off of the docket and ended up on the “maybe someday” list.  I even applied to a few HGTV makeover shows in hopes that our building would get picked and our front yard makeover would become a reality.  I thought maybe I even had an in when I met the designer and star of one of the shows at an event.  Sadly, even that dream died.

So this project has been about a decade in the making for me and I am beyond excited to tick this one off the list.  Before we take a look at where we’re going, let’s take a look back at where we started.

Back in 2009, the building was green and taupe and hadn’t been painted in at least 20 years.  It had a ton of overgrown foliage, peeling paint, bars on some windows, rusty security doors on a few units, dirt down the center driveway, and a plethora of opportunity to whip this 1950’s-era building back into shape.  We started small by just cleaning up the existing landscaping and then adding some new plants and faux grass down the center driveway.

Then when we painted, the building really transformed.  Take a look at the before and after photos below.

why update the front yard

Well, it’s the first thing every apartment tour, resident, visitor, and neighbor sees and as the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”.   The curb appeal of the front of the building sets the tone for what you can expect when you step into one of the apartment suites and we believe that a pretty environment makes for a nicer and lovelier place to call home.

design goals

We like to approach every project we do by first asking ourselves what we can improve on.  Here’s a few things we’d like to accomplish in redesigning the front yard:

Improve curb appeal and building aesthetics

First and foremost, we wanted to redesign the front yard to be pretty – both from the street and from the inside of the community.  We want it to feel like a natural extension of the mid-century building while still updating it to make sure it fits with timeless trends.

Enclose the front yard and building

As it is now, the front yard is very open and exposed.  We feel that by enclosing the front yard, this will make the community as a whole more private, less accessible, feel more secluded, and reduce the amount of walk through foot traffic.

Provide privacy for the lower front units

These two suites have their bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen windows exposed to the street, sidewalk, and neighboring buildings.  While this can be great for people watching from the patio, this isn’t an ideal view for a bedroom or bathroom since foot traffic on the sidewalk can easily peer into these areas if the blinds are open.  We redesigned the front yard with increased privacy for these two units in mind.

Provide a sound barrier between the building and the street

Living in one of the front four units naturally comes with an expected level of street noise.  You hear the intersection, street traffic, pedestrians walking by that can get rowdy after the bars close, and Hamburger Mary’s in all its late night drag queen bingo glory.  There’s nothing to buffer and filter the sound so we also aimed to address this in the new design.

Create an outdoor area for community events and residents

Of the 16 1-bedroom apartments that make up the community, only six of them have outdoor patio areas.  The majority of the apartments have no private outdoor space and the community does not have any common areas for the residents to get together.

Every few years, we like to throw an event in the center courtyard so that all of the residents can meet each other and get to know one another.  In redesigning the front yard, we wanted to enclose it so that we could move these events to a private area that wouldn’t impede the use of the driveway.  This also creates an opportunity for our residents to have a place to be able to read a book in the sun or have a margarita outside with a friend.  We hope that the redesign of the front yard allows our residents to do that while still being mindful of the proximity to neighbor’s windows.

the plan

To prepare for the front yard redesign and for inspiration, I’d often walk up and down the surrounding streets, stopping to take pictures of yards that I admired.  I had pieced together a few different ideas that I liked when one fateful day, as I was driving along my regular short cut through an adjacent neighborhood, an intersection was closed and I was forced to take a different street.  And thank goodness I did because I literally stopped and fell in love with a front yard right then and there that I would have never seen on my regular route.  I used this yard as inspiration for the Sweetzer design.

We’re going to start with a clean slate and will be removing all of the existing boxwood, grass, ficus trees, lighting, and wire fence.  Then, we’ll level off the soil and get to work.

First up, we’ll be building a three-foot tall wall all along the length of the front yard and set back three feet from the sidewalk.  This will enclose the front yard and act as a sound barrier while also providing additional security.  We’ll finish it with smooth coat stucco and paint it to match the building so it looks like it’s been there all along.

As a focal point, we’ll also be adding two six-foot tall pillars on each side of the driveway to define the building’s entry and add some grandeur.  To these we’ll add lighting on top and address numbers.  Eventually, we’d love for these to support a gate, but for now they will act as pretty monuments to define the entry.

We’ll also add two pedestrian gates up front to access the walkways that run along the sides of the buildings.

To soften the hardscape, we’ll add a row of white iceberg roses in front of the wall.  This will break up the space between the sidewalk and the wall with pretty foliage that echoes the already existing white roses in the brick planters and along the parkway.  We’ll also plant some fig vine that will eventually climb up the half wall too.

Behind the wall, on the inside of the property, we’ll plant a row of ficus trees that will eventually grow to form a hedge and add a ton of privacy for both the community as a whole, but especially for the two lower front units.  As the front yard exists now, these suites have their kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom windows exposed to the sidewalk and street, so having a green hedge will completely transform the view in these apartments.  They’ll feel more private and like they’re nestled in their own little secret garden.

To complete the design, we’ll add faux grass on the inside – between the ficus trees and the building.  This will ensure that this area is always green while reducing our water usage and also the need for the gardener to mow (hello, no more noisy and smelly gas mowers).  This open grass area can also double as a communal area.  Imagine putting down a blanket and reading outside in the sun with a glass of rosé in hand.  Now that sure sounds suite to us.

Let us know your thoughts on the design in the comments below.

suite spaces: our client’s 1928 town home gets a close up on architectural digest

One of my favorite quotes about interior design is by Nate Berkus when he said, “Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof.”  And it never ceases to amaze me how a little style and panache can completely transform an empty apartment into the most opulent space.  So it came as no surprise when Casey Smith’s home, whom we had leased a gorgeous two story town home to, was featured in Architectural Digest.

The 1928 classic Spanish-style building sits in the heart of West Hollywood’s Historic Courtyard Thematic District.  A cluster of buildings built in the 1920s, the architecture “responds to the region’s mild climate by extending interior spaces into the outdoors and integrates the desire for individual housing and a yard with the practical need for higher density development,” according to the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Committee.

A small building of just seven town home-style units, this apartment was a stunner all on its own with its original hardwood floors, ornate fireplace, and large, picturesque windows.  Each apartment even features a unique stained glass pane located in the center of the living room and master bedroom windows that depict different scenes like a medieval sailing vessel in this particular unit.

Because this type of architecture is so coveted in West Hollywood, the second we put it on the market, we had a ton of requests to come see it and ended up with multiple applicants for just the one unit.  We were even excited to show it to one of our favorite celebrity fashion bloggers who mentioned casually that she would’ve used the second bedroom as a closet, as one does.

When we first showed Casey the town home, he immediately described how he would furnish the space and shared some before and after photos of Arizona homes that he himself had restored and decorated.  They were obviously impeccable seeing as though he cofounded Studio Cavaco with legendary stylist and former Allure creative director, Paul Cavaco.

After he moved in, when Casey invited us over to share a glass of champagne in his new WeHo abode and see for ourselves how he had styled the apartment, we were all too happy to oblige.  We were stunned to see how he had transformed the space from bare blank canvas to high society style worthy of a photo shoot and feature in well respected Architectural Digest.

We love how Casey’s home reflects his warm personality and eclectic, worldly style.  We knew he’d make the space his own and are so happy that he shared it with us.  To see more of this beautiful town home and hear how Casey describes his style, head on over to Architectural Digest here.

What was your favorite part of this home tour?  Let us know in the comments below.

Building Exterior: Kansas Sebastian I   Vacant Apartment: The Suite Life  I   Furnished: Daniel Kukla for Architectural Digest

suite spaces: making over our bedroom at the family cabin in utah

Over the river and through the woods to…Brian’s family cabin.  We both love spending time outdoors and we’re really fortunate that his family has a cabin in southern Utah that we absolutely love to visit a couple times a year.  The family goes skiing in the winter (I’m more of a lodge bunny) and ATVing in the summer (I could ride and explore for hours).

Brian’s father, Lynn, built the barn-shaped cabin about 40 years ago as a hunting retreat for him and his buddies.  They’d come up every year to go deer hunting and Lynn was resourceful in how he finished the cabin since he worked in the new home building industry.  He reused materials like cabinets and mirrors and light fixtures that were going to be discarded from houses that were being torn down.  Talk about being thrifty, green, and creative!

Since the cabin was just a yearly hunting haven for “the boys”, naturally it was in need of some decor and interior design as it morphed into the family vacation home over the years.  Slowly, new carpeting and flooring was installed and the bare walls even got a coat of white paint.  Kathy, Brian’s mom, would spend weekends in Big Bear searching for the perfect “cabin-y” sofa and tables to make the place feel more like a home.

The room Brian and I stay in was very sparse with just the essentials like a bed and dresser.  While it was functional, after a couple years I asked if his parents would be ok with us decorating the room since we started coming to the cabin with the family more frequently.  Luckily we were given the green light, so the ideas I had rolling around in my head could finally come to life.

the inspiration

I wanted to design our room to feel like “us” while still fitting in with the cabin.  I wanted it to feel like a modern retreat in the middle of the woods.  I like to call the idea that I was going for “cabin chic”: an upscale version of your typical cabin decor.  I was mindful to steer away from brown as the dominate color and weighty wood and log-inspired furniture to keep the room from feeling too heavy.

I took note of our surroundings for inspiration which were obviously very earthy and rustic.  In winter, the cabin is covered in nothing but an icy white glaze with little pops of wood peeking through the snow from the naked tree limbs.  I also thought about what colors were absent in our environment and thought that a dark blue and stark white would be the perfect juxtaposition against the mostly cocoa-colored backdrop of Utah.  Then I started a Pinterest board to see how the ideas I had in my head all looked together.

design challenges

One of the biggest focal points and challenges in the room is the slanted back wall behind our bed.  Since it dominates the space already, I decided to embrace and highlight it rather than try to hide it.  With this in mind, I made the bold decision to paint the entire wall a deep blue hue for dramatic effect and to contrast with the white bed spread and dresser we picked out.

We also had to work with the existing brown carpeting, small window, outdated closet doors, and electrical panel on the wall.

the final look

After painting the prominent accent wall, we chose a very light grey called “Evening White” by Behr for the remaining three walls in order to soften and brighten up the space a bit.  It also created a very subtle contrast against the white baseboard, furniture, and decorative accents.

Since Brian is great at woodworking, he made us a rustic headboard by hand that helped to anchor the space, break up the dark wall, and add some texture.  Then we layered in a white linen bedspread from Restoration Hardware that has delicate blue stitching along the edges and blue satin sheets that feel like heaven after a long day of ATV riding.  We topped the bedding off with a shearling blanket and pillows for added warmth in the winter and to also bring in that “cabin-y” vibe.  For another texture touch, we added a geometric cowhide rug underneath the bed to hide some of the wall-to-wall chocolate carpeting too.

We added a large white dresser for storage that is a better scale for the room and long wall that we placed it on, opposite the bed.  Above it, we hung a fun geometric triptych picture and accessorized with woodsy accents and a few of Brian’s favorite cowboy books, natch.  A chair in the corner is both functional and pretty and to hide the unsightly electrical panel, we hung a light-colored tapestry over it so that it was hidden but still accessible.  Blue and white sheer panels from Pottery Barn helped to frame the small window and soften the lines of the wall.

All images: The Suite Life

All images: The Suite Life

Now when we walk into our room, it feels like us.  It feels very comfortable and inviting.  And there’s no better feeling than home – even if it’s your home away from home.


Paint by Behr: “Dark Navy”   I   “Evening White”   I   “Ultra Pure White”
Bedspread   I   Sheets   I  Shearling Blanket & Pillows
Rug Similar Here   I   Curtains  I   Nightstand (Vintage)
Lamp Bases Similar Here I   Lamp Shades Similar Here
Faux Plants  I  White Pots Similar Here   I   Picture Frame
Dresser   I   Artwork Similar Here   I  Blue Vase  I   Clock
Book  I   Book  I   Basket   I   Chair (Personal)

What do you think of this room makeover?  Let us know in the comments below.

suite ideas: be prepared for flu season by building your own sick kit

There’s nothing worse than waking up with the flu or a cold.  You’ve got stuff to do and places to go and no time for being sick.  When my boyfriend and I came down with a week-long cold after Thanksgiving, we were out of commission, in desperate need of cough drops and tissues, had no desire to leave the house, and just wanted to curl up in bed with a blanket and some Netflix.  I wished we had everything we needed to feel better without having to venture out to the store to pick up some sick essentials.

When we felt better, I made a list of all the things that we went out and bought, that I wished we had, or that would’ve made us feel better.  With flu season peaking in February, I pulled them together in a pretty basket to make a “Sick Kit” so we have everything on hand next time Brian or I get sick.  (Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen for a very long time.)

feel better essentials

  • Basket: I started with this cute basket from The Container Store that matched our apartment decor and that I’d be excited to pull out when I was feeling icky.

  • Cough Drops: Mixed berry cough drops with Vitamin C from Ricola to help sooth sore throats from coughing and open up nasal passages.
  • Emergen-C: Tropical Emergen-C packets filled with 1000 mg of Vitamin C plus antioxidants, vitamins, and electrolytes.  Whenever I start to even feel the slightest bit sick, or if someone in my family is ill (hello little niece and nephew), I immediately start adding an Emergen-C packet to my water bottle to help my body fight off any potential illness.

  • Soup/Bone Broth: Nothing makes me instantly start to feel better than a warm bowl of soup.  When my mom isn’t around to make her soothing chicken noodle soup, bone broth has many healing benefits so I picked up this one from Epic Provisions.  You could also put in your favorite can of soup or instant chicken noodle soup packets.

  • Mug: Probably the number one thing I want when I’m sick is hot tea with lemon and honey.  So I included this pretty initial mug from Anthropologie.  I tried to include little luxuries like this that would make me feel happy even when I’m sick.
  • Tea: Served piping hot, tea can instantly sooth your throat when you’ve got a cough.  I chose Pukka’s “Love” tea with organic rose, chamomile, and lavender.

  • Honey: This is my favorite honey because it’s so smooth, flavorful, and has a little spicy kick to it (yes, I do still add it to my tea).  Bees Knees also makes a meyer lemon honey which would be good too if you’re not into the spicy honey like I am.

  • Snack/Granola Bar: I found myself just wanting little snacks here and there that were easy and healthy so I put in one of my new favorite protein bars by RXBAR.  I love these because they’re filling and super delicious (currently craving their mixed berry).  You could also include your favorite granola bar, popcorn, jello, or oatmeal.

  • Fluids/Something Fizzy: You definitely want to keep your body hydrated when you’re sick, so I included these IZZE blackberry sparkling juices.  The bubbles help calm tummies and the fact that these have no added sugar and are just 70% juice and sparkling water made them an easy choice.  You could also include your favorite bottled drink like a Starbucks coffee, Gatorade, or ginger ale.
  • Wipes: When you don’t want to move from your couch or bed, these facial cleansing towelettes come is super handy.  Great for cleansing your face for a quick pick-me-up or your hands.  I also use them to wipe down remotes and my phone so germs don’t spread.

  • Chest Rub: This will help open up airways and clear stuffy noses with eucalyptus and tea tree oil.  We chose this one from The Honest Company since it’s organic and hypoallergenic.
  • Aromatherapy Spray: We love a good face mist and this one from Happy Spritz has peppermint and eucalyptus and makes me feel like I’m at the spa whenever I spray it.  The aromatherapy blend is soothing and the peppermint essential oil helps provide relief from seasonal allergies and colds.  It’s also nice to spray on your pillow before bed or a Netflix binge.
  • Sleep Mask: Your body will need plenty of rest and this soft, furry sleep mask from Target can help keep light out so that you can focus on getting some shut eye and feeling better.

  • Socks: I’m firmly in the camp that believes that if you’re not feeling well, then you pamper and indulge yourself a little.  That includes slathering on a luxurious hand creme and then letting it soak in while wearing soft, furry socks like these from Target (they were only $3).  Bonus that they keep your feet warm.
  • Lotion: I am currently in love with this amazing tuberose scented lotion from World Market.  It smells divine and is so rich and hydrating on my hands and feet.  It’s a definite treat when you may not be feeling like your normal glamorous self.

  • Candle: I like to light a yummy smelling candle when I’m sick (and when I’m not) and I love the way this “Spa Water” candle from The Little Market smells like pineapple, strawberry, and mint.  It instantly brightens up any room or mood and I’ve received countless compliments on its scent.  And what’s even better is that the soy-based candle is hand poured by female refugees and helps to provide them with a source of income.
  • Book: Now’s the perfect time to pour yourself into a good book while you have some downtime.  For me, that’s event planning books like Lauren Conrad’s Celebrate (seriously, so good) or home design, decor, and entertaining books like Emily Schuman’s Cupcakes & Cashmere At Home.  You may want to reach for a mystery, thriller, or business book like my former boss Richard Branson’s Screw Business as Usual.

  • Face Mask: In keeping with the pampering theme, why not draw yourself a warm hot bath and soak with a revitalizing face mask on like this one that I purchased from World Market. You could also face mask while on the couch or in bed reading.
  • Body Scrub: Exfoliate your skin in the bath with an uplifting scent like this pink clay grapefruit body scrub.  Your skin will be more polished and you’ll feel better with the bright scent left lingering on your skin.
  • Bath Salts: Relax and unwind in a warm bathtub filled with a fun scent like fresh melon and bath salts that also include pink clay that will help calm dry skin.  Alternatively, you could also include your favorite bubble bath or bath fizzy to perfume the water.

While the products above are just what make me feel better when I’m sick, you may have other ones that you’d like to include.  A box of tissues, cold remedy medicines, or soft blanket would also be great additions.

I’d love to hear what you’d put in your “Sick Kit” in the comments below.  What would you include?

suite treats: snacking with graze

Graze_box_open lid

Who doesn’t love when little brown paper packages tied up with string show up at their front door?  Umm, no one.  Especially when they’re filled with delicious little packets of good-for-you munchies from Graze!  These are definitely a few of our favorite things.

Graze makes snacking simple and nutritious with their over 100 recipes filled with things like dried fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, and chocolate.  A few of our favorites include the “Veggie Caesar” with ranch flavored half popped corn kernels, cheddar cheese bruschetta and edamame beans, the “Jelly Doughnut” which mimics the sweet taste of the higher-calorie snack with low-cal ingredients like raspberry fruit strings, raspberry infused cranberries, almond slivers, and vanilla cookie drops,  the “Summertime Punch” with goldenberries, pineapple & coconut, and the “Honeycomb Flapjack” (Graze’s version of a chewy granola bar) drizzled with chocolate.



Each perfectly portioned snack has a positive benefit like being a source of essential vitamins, low-calorie (under 150 calories) or a source of protein.  All of their snacks contain no GMO’s, artificial flavors or colors, no high-fructose corn syrup, and 0 grams transfat per serving. And you can customize your box to suit your preferences (like vegan, low sugar, low calorie) or just to satisfy your #SuiteTooth.

For only $11.99, Graze will deliver eight tasty treats straight to your door at the frequency you want: every week, every 2 weeks, or every month.  You can try your first box FOR FREE on us with no commitments, by clicking here.  Happy snacking!


Have you ever tried Graze?  What’s your favorite #WaystoGraze?  Let us know in the comments below.

Note: This post is not sponsored, Graze is an affiliate partner.  We like to share things that we genuinely love and think our readers will too.


all photos: the suite life

the woodlawn suite: in memory of former resident, holly woodlawn

Andy Warhol transvestite Superstar Holly Woodlawn, acclaimed for her performance in 'Trash', photographed in 1970. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

We can only imagine the stories these walls could tell.  Transgender icon, Holly Woodlawn, who passed away just last week at the age of 69, called our apartment building in West Hollywood home for more than 10 years.

Born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Puetro Rico, Holly grew up in Miami and rose to fame in Andy Warhol’s 1970 movie Trash.  She was later immortalized in the opening lines of Lou Reed’s song, “Walk on the Wild Side”.

Living in our building in West Hollywood, Holly was a colorful and lovable character.  She’d often call down to us from her upstairs window when we were out tending to the landscaping and ask if we’d go pick her up a bottle of chardonnay and a pack of cigarettes from the store. On the 4th of July, we’d hear her giggling and tossing firecrackers from her balcony and she could always be counted on for the occasional photo shoot in her apartment.

Above all, our favorite memory of Holly was watching her flirtatious kindness during Gay Pride. As she was being pushed down the center driveway in her wheelchair, she asked to stop and picked a handful of flowers from the courtyard so that she could pass them out to all the cute boys on the street.

Holly not only made a lasting impression on pop culture, the transgender community, and West Hollywood, but also on us, our residents, and our small apartment building.  Our floor plans have all been named after actresses of 1950’s Old Hollywood, as a nod to the era in which our building was built.  To honor Holly’s memory, we’d like to dedicate her previous home, Suite 4, in her honor.  It will now be known as The Woodlawn Suite and we hope that its residents, current and future, will continue to make fabulous and colorful memories within its walls.

these walls do talk: a peek into our remodel process

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

Suite 17_Before_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

 Suite 17_Before_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.

the kitchen

Suite 17_Before_Kitchen

Suite 17_After_Kitchen

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.

the bedroom

Suite 17_Before_BedroomSuite 17_After_Bedroom

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!

the bathroom

Suite 17_Before_BathroomSuite 17_After_Bathroom

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.

brighten up your apartment with a bouq

the grace bouq
There’s nothing we love more than coming home to fresh flowers.  They instantly brighten up any room, smell amazing, and give your apartment that whole “put together” vibe.  So when we heard about The Bouqs (pronounced just like bouquet, but without the “et” at the end), we just had to try out their blooms.

The Bouqs makes sending fresh flowers to your apartment (or a friend) easy and affordable. Their signature bouqs come from Equador and are grown on the side of an active volcano which means lots of sunshine and nutrient rich soil (let’s just hope that volcano keeps a lid on it so we can keep getting our shipment of flowers, ok?).  The blooms are cut when you order them and are shipped directly to you instead of sitting in a warehouse cooler like at a regular florist, which means that they’ll last longer.  And each bouq is reasonably priced at only $40 and includes shipping!

We ordered the “Desperado” with hot pink roses and purple filler accents and when prompted if we wanted to double the amount of flowers we received for only $10 more, naturally we said yes! Who wouldn’t want more roses at that price point?

Our shipment arrived the following week in a long gray box and included flower food and directions on how to arrange our bouq to make sure that they lasted as long as possible.  We wasted no time in arranging the roses in a vase and brightening up our desk in the living room. We even upcycled some pretty glass bud vases (reed diffusers in their previous life) and spread the bouqs around to perk up the bathroom and bedroom too.

If you’re a planner (or a bit forgetful), you can even sign up for their “concierge” service where you can arrange to have flowers shipped automatically on important dates, like mother’s day or your boss’s birthday.  If you just want to keep your apartment looking cheerful and put together, you can also subscribe for regular deliveries to your doorstep either weekly, monthly, or every few months.  We think that’s a pretty sweet way to brighten up any room.

Check out The Bouqs here and tell them that The Suite Life sent you.

Do you love fresh flowers in your apartment?  Let us know your favorite kind in the comments below.


images: the bouqs

4 things to do at daylight savings time

alarm clock on nightstand

Twice a year we have to change our clocks for daylight savings time (maybe not on our phones anymore, but you get the picture).  But did you know that it’s also a great reminder to do a few things around the house that are often forgotten?  We’ve rounded up four things you should do every daylight savings to make sure you and your apartment are safe and organized.

change your smoke detector batteries

We know what you’re thinking: You know your smoke detector works because it goes off every time you cook, right?  But it’s important to make sure that the batteries are fresh at least twice a year in case of emergency.

Often times, Landlords will include in their leases that the tenants are responsible for checking and changing the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  This is important because should a fire start in your building or in your apartment, we want to make sure that you and your pets make it out ok and that your smoke detectors are in good working order to warn you.

flip your mattress

To make sure that your mattress wears evenly, flip it over twice a year.  If you’ve got a pillow top, just rotate it instead of flipping it.

wash your pillows

Twice a year, take the covers off your pillow and wash them in the washer.  This will remove any build up of dry skin or oil that has accumulated.  Be sure to put them on the low setting when you put them in the dryer and make sure that any down pillows are completely dry so that mold doesn’t grow on the feathers.

organize your closet

With the weather starting to warm up (or cool down), now’s the perfect time to pack away your seasonal clothes and break out the shorts, flip flops, and bikinis (or sweaters, coats and boots).

What are your tips that you remember to do every daylight savings?  Let us know in the comments below.

photo: centsational girl