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.

Images:
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.

Resources

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.


LA inspired decor

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Whether you’re already an official Angeleno or on your way to moving to the West Best Coast, we all have something special in common: We love LA!  And what better way to show off your love for the city of angels than by paying homage to the beaches, the palm trees, and the bright Hollywood lights with a little LA-inspired decor?

Our search for the best accessories started when photographer Catherine McDonald followed us on Twitter and we clicked through to her website.  A few clicks later and we were madly in love with her pics and her pillows!  So much so that we were inspired to find some fun decor to help bring a little bit of LA home to your apartment.

Welcome to the land of fame, excess.  Are you gonna fit in?  Of course you are!  And now so will your apartment with these fun and fabulous LA-inspired decor items.

1: “The View: Los Angeles” canvas print by Catherine McDonald $75.00-$175.00
The city of Los Angeles as seen from Griffith Park Observatory.

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2. “Strength” pillow by Catherine McDonald $30.00-$40.00
Palm Tree in Los Angeles, California.  Pillow is professionally printed with original artwork. One-sided or double-sided printing.

3. “Hollywood” pillow by Catherine McDonald $30.00-$40.00
Hollywood sign in color.  Pillow is professionally printed with original artwork.  One-sided or double-sided printing.

4. Beach rocks glasses by Sisters of Los Angeles (Set of 4) $45.00
Surf’s up at Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, and Zuma with this set of four beach glasses. The perfect way to celebrate the end of a day, the ultimate wave, or that one-way ticket you just booked to LAX (whoop! whoop!).  Each 11 oz. glass is printed with organic inks right here in Los Angeles.  Because organic and local is so LA.

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5.  DTLA printed shower curtain by Janet Antepara Designs $65.00
Black and white photo of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).  While you’re sittin’ pretty in el baño, you can close your eyes and imagine lip syncing to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” while making your way through LA traffic.

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6. Hollywood sign drink coaster by Zazzle $12.95/each

7. Los Angeles modern wall clock by iluxo $39.99
This modern clock features the iconic Randy’s Donuts, Beverly Hills palm trees, a view of downtown, and LA’s initials.  You can set it to your local time or mount it next to another wall clock with the time in Los Angeles.  You know, so you can get acclimated to your future time zone, dahling.

8. Oscar statue cookie cutter as seen on YumSugar (with recipe) $12.90
Nicole Perry of YumSugar cleverly used a mummy cookie cutter and magically transformed the shape into an Oscar!  You can sit with us, Nicole Perry.

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9. Silver lake candle by Stark Waxing Studio $32.00
Fresh, spicy green, crisp scent with hints of caramel and fruity apple.  Yep, that smells like Silverlake to us.  Notes of cape chamomile, cucumber, tuberose and sandalwood.  Oh yeah, we can smell the hipsters now.  (Is that a hint of kale we detect?) All Stark candles are 100% soy wax with a cotton wick and hand poured in Los Angeles. How very LA of them.

10. Chateau Marmont & Hollywood Roosevelt locket by Myan Soffia $24.00
Using Myan Soffia’s images as three interchangeable lids, Cat from Polarity has created this gorgeous magnetic locket.  Flaunt your LA style with pictures of the Chateau Marmont, LA skyline, & Hollywood Roosevelt hotel (Marilyn Monroe’s ghost not pictured).

11. Vintage black and white street sign of Los Angeles by Z Gallerie $249.95-$399.95
This street sign of Los Angeles lists the locations that every traveler should visit on a trip to The City of Angels. This giclee by Zoey Riley lists all of the destinations that should never be missed in the amazing city in which they are located.  Wait, we have a Main Street?

12. LAX perfume by The Scent of Departure – for women and men
Jet-set to LAX without leaving home.  Just a spritz of this Los Angeles perfume will spark scent-sational memories of sauntering down Robertson.  Conjuring the subtle aromas of life in your favorite urban oasis, this fragrance sparkles with notes of jasmine and gardenia. Each packaged perfume comes travel ready: the bottle is designed to look like a baggage claim ticket.

13. Beverly Hills notebook $8.00
Jot down all of your memories and star sightings in Beverly Hills.  And be sure to get Lisa Vanderpump’s autograph (and Giggy’s paw-tograph) when dining at Villa Blanca.

What’s your favorite item from our LA inspired decor picks above?  Let us know in the comments below.

Head on over to our Pinterest page for even more LA Decor selections including a candle by Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles’ Madison Hildebrand that smells like the beaches of Malibu.  Happy decorating!


5 ways to warm up your suite for fall

Fall is one of our favorite times of the year.  The leaves turn colors, the weather gets crisp, and all the yummy pumpkin and butternut squash recipes come out at our favorite restaurants.  We love to bring this feeling indoors and make our apartment feel just as cozy. Here are five easy and inexpensive ways to make your home feel warm and comfortable for Fall.

start at the front door Fall entry

Create an instant feeling of warmth before your guests even step inside.  Hang a seasonal wreath on your door (we love this over-the-door wreath hook so you don’t damage the apartment door with nails). Then change out your door mat to a warm color or fun pattern that immediately says “Autumn”.  If space permits, you can also add a large uncarved pumpkin or a cluster of smaller ones by the side of your door or a pot with Fall colored blooms.

suite scents DIY-Votive-Candles-with-Leaves

There’s nothing better than walking into a room that smells of the holidays or mom and dad’s house at Thanksgiving.  We love to choose one seasonal scent and then use that throughout our entire apartment so your nose gets the same fragrance from room to room. Add a few candles, scented bead jars or potpourri to each room, a spray and reed diffuser in the bathroom, and a few scented sachets in closets.  In the bathroom, you can also try this fun product, Poopourri, that even offers holiday scents.  Try not to go too candle crazy – the goal is to have a subtle seasonal scent that makes your apartment feel warm and inviting.

For Fall, try scents like pumpkinspiced cake, or cranberry sauce.  Then switch to pinepeppermintcinnamon, or gingerbread in December.

add a warm throw blanket zambia-throw-chocolate-043284624a

Cuddle under a furry blanket in the living room or bedroom when the temp dips lower.  It will instantly warm up any space.  A favorite of ours is from Z Gallerie because it is just so soft and has a warm lining.  Drape the throw over your couch or chair or fold and place at the end of your bed. And remember that faux is always the way to go when purchasing “fur” items.

change up your pillows fall-leaf-pillow-21

Give your daily throw pillows a break and bring out some harvest inspired or Autumn colored ones to spice up your apartment’s decor.   Add one or two to the couch, a side chair, and a few on the bed to make any space more festive. We found these cute DIY pillows on fab blog Positively Splendid.

treat yourself to fresh flowers pumpkin-vase-fall-flowers-sunflower-bouquet-decoration

Fragrant blossoms instantly make any room feel brighter and Autumn offers some beautiful blooms.  In season for Fall are the rich hues of chrysanthemums, calla lilies, roses, dahlias, and gerbera daisies.  Add a small bouquet to your kitchen table, your nightstand, bathroom counter, or coffee table for a fresh and fragrant statement.

How do you cozy up your apartment for Fall?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: ciao domenica, b lovely events, z gallerie, positively splendidlush home