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

8 tips to scoring the perfect apartment

The LA rental market can be a competitive landscape.  It’s not uncommon for landlords to receive multiple applications for just one vacancy.  And when you finally find the perfect place to call home after all that hard work you put in searching, you want to make sure that you and your application stand out.  We’ve got eight ways to help you score your perfect apartment in LA.

confirm your appointment the day before calendar

There are a lot of flaky people in LA.  A lot.  As a property manager, we’re usually the one to follow up with the appointments we’ve made 24 hours in advance to make sure that we’re still on.  But every once in a while, we get a prospective tenant who beats us to the punch.  And we love it!

Treat an appointment to see an apartment as you would a business meeting.  Would you flake on an important presentation with your biggest client?  Confirming the appointment 24 hours in advance shows professionalism and that you’re really interested in the unit.  It also tells your prospective new landlord that you’re the type of tenant that makes your rental payments on time too.

be on time clocks

There’s a lot of crazy traffic in LA.  A lot.  So you’re going to have to plan accordingly to make it to your appointment on time and find parking.  We actually recommend that you show up early and take a walk around the neighborhood for 10-15 minutes to get acquainted with your potential new surroundings. Stumble into a cafe and grab a coffee or iced tea to go and check out the scene.

If after planning to be there on time, you find yourself running a little late, text or call to let them know that you’re running behind.  5-10 minutes late is manageable, but after that it just gets rude and cuts your tour short if they have another appointment scheduled.

TIP:  When you confirm your appointment with the property manager the day before, ask where there’s a good place to park.  They might have on-site parking or they can give you a heads up on some good places.  And be sure to read the signs when you do find parking as LA has permit parking practically everywhere.

do your research do your research coffee shop

When we meet a prospective tenant that has already read the ad we placed and visited the building’s website, we know they’re serious about renting because they’ve done their research.  A building’s website can provide you with a whole host of information like their pet policy, utilities that are included, parking for tenants, what appliances the unit comes with, etc. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who shows up late and then asks basic questions that were already answered if they had just read the ad that they responded to. Reading up on this ahead of time and knowing that the building meets your needs, saves both you and the property manager time on the tour and headaches further down the line if you end up moving in.

ask questions CGyRKRJ3fTKEcp6j49Agv9K9

We know someone is really interested in the apartment when they start to ask really good questions or talk about furniture placement. These are key indicators to a property manager that you like the place and are thinking of calling it home.  You can ask about things like the building’s policy in regards to wall painting, visitor parking, if it’s under rent control, the maintenance team’s response time to requests, area safety, pool hours,  etc.  Ask about things that might be a level deeper than what they would typically list on their website and that you’re interested in knowing more about.

And definitely ask about when the apartment will be ready for move-in, the application process, if there are any applications currently in on the apartment, and when they expect to make their decision.

TIP:  Keep in mind that divulging demographic information about the building is taboo in the world of Fair Housing laws, so the property manager probably won’t be able to answer questions about the people that live in the building.  Instead, after the tour ends or during the weekend, take a walk throughout the complex to take a peek into who your new neighbors will be.

be ready to leave a deposit be ready to leave a deposit

If after meeting the property manager and seeing the apartment in person you fall even more in love with it than you did online, be ready to leave a deposit to hold the apartment.  Bring your checkbook with you or cash to go grab a money order or cashier’s check.  Being prepared to jump on a place may be the difference between you scoring that apartment and the property manager’s next appointment snatching it up.

come prepared come prepared

When you’re apartment searching, it’s best to come armed with all of the documents that a property manager may request from you so that the application you put in for the apartment is complete and accurate.  Here’s a quick rundown:

  • A pen
  • A copy of your most recent pay stub or offer letter if you haven’t started your new job yet
  • A copy of your credit report (keep in mind, they may still run their own credit check)
  • Top Tip to Give You The Edge:  Written references from 1-2 past landlords
  • The deposit mentioned above

be honest and upfront be honest and upfront

If you’ve got credit problems, tell the property manager and highlight what steps you’re taking to resolve them or bring a letter from your current landlord that states your payment history (make sure it’s stellar).  If you really want the unit, let them know if you’re open to paying a higher deposit too.  Some landlord’s are happy to approve a tenant with minor credit issues if they’re honest about them and demonstrate a steady stream of healthy income.  It’s also good to point out if you don’t have any pets, are a non-smoker, or if you’re a quiet tenant as these usually mean that you’re a resident that a landlord won’t receive complaints about once they move in.

follow up thank you card

After putting in an application, wait a couple of hours and then send a thank you email to the person who showed you the apartment.  Let them know how much you appreciated their time and touch on the things you loved about the apartment and the community.  Tell them that you’d make a great addition to the community and would love to have them as a landlord or property manager.  These kind words can go a long way if they’re wading through multiple applications.

We hope that after reading these eight tips, you’ll be on your way to creating sweet new memories in your perfect new pad.  Be sure to check out our tips for getting your security deposit back and ways to warm up your new place for fall too.

How did you score your perfect place?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: the every girlfeathered homechatelaine, lauren conradthe cab look, the remodeled life, the krazy coupon lady, folksy