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Retaining Walls

4 Mar

I don’t know if we’ve ever shared one of the things about this house (or property) which disturbs us the most.  I think we have simply pretended it doesn’t exist.  You know, one of those things that you just look the other way because taking it on will be so massive and such a headache and you have fantasies about wiggling your nose and it’s all taken care of?  For free?

We have a swath of land to the south of our house that looks like it has been carved out of the earth.  Some efforts have been made at reinforcing the base of the huge evergreens, but the row of cypress have roots that are still exposed.




We have been pretty lucky this winter in that we have had no real storms or snow.  This gave us the opportunity to final tackle putting in a much needed retaining wall before we lost some lovely trees.

The big question was materials.  Now we probably could have gone and used interlocking bricks that are common around here.  And done it ourselves for about half the price.  Our issue was that we didn’t think they really fit with the mid-century feel of the house.  Plus, they have to be placed at an angle and wouldn’t have the nice lines of a straight wall.  (Our other issue was did Brett we really want to take on such a back-breaking project?  Really?)

Inspired by a few photos I found on this website Eichler for Sale, the vision began to come together.  (This site has some wonderfully inspiring photos for all mid-century home remodel needs.)



Our contractor brought out two samples for us:  a traditional cinderblock and a more textured block of the interlocking kind.  Guess which I chose?



Of course, neither match the stone retaining wall at the front of the house.  Pesky little detail.  But I think we will solve that by building a gate between the two, marking a separation between the front and the back of the house.

The project will start in about two weeks and I cannot wait!  Stay tuned for updates and let us know if you have any experience with retaining walls that would help us.


Mid-Century Modern Remodel Landscaping

2 Oct

The beauty of the blog world is all the sharing and support you get from readers and fellow bloggers.  I have an open invitation for people to share their stories with me and I love it when they do.  The post below comes from fellow blogger Rebecca of Mid-Century Modern Remodel.  Enjoy!

After we remodeled our bathrooms, we were left with a 10 by 67 square foot piece of land off the back fence. I was terrified it would turn in a junkyard. Odd bits of yard are prone to become somewhat ghetto overnight … a hose here, some unused lumbar there, random pieces of flagstone stacked up against a wall — and before you know it, a blight on the neighborhood. But, luckily, I had saved a tiny bit of the remodel budget to deal with our mid-century modern garden problem. I was obsessed with having a view out the new bathroom window:

mid-century modern bathroom window after picture
 I got my wish.mid-century modern bathroom window after picture

You remember the BEFORE?

mid-century modern landscaping before picture

Pretty normal for a BACK back of the house. Except the sprinkler line was cut which elminates water to other areas of the yard, and when it starts raining we would have had mud slide. Due to the weep screed incident, near the fence line, the yard was left approximately 6 to 9 inches higher than the strip near the house — which would force rain towards the house during a big storm. BAD.


mid-century modern landscape design AFTER picture

Our needs were simple. We wanted California native plants, sparse landscape, decomposed granite, concrete pavers and some sort of water feature (AKA bubbling pot). And we got it.

Our design held pretty true to the tips on Eichler for Sale who have recommendations for mid-century modern landscaping and garden design:

There are some general guidelines and tips to keep in mind when designing a landscape or garden to compliment Eichlers or other midcentury modern homes:

  • Allow the geometry of the home to guide the overall design of the landscape & garden,
  • Select water-wise plants that maintain their foliage year-round,
  • Allow hardscape elements to carry from the front yard to the back (including the atrium),
  • Repeat the use of certain plants throughout the landscape,
  • Consider a water feature,
  • Mix materials to create variety with textures (rock, grass, wood, metal, crushed stone.

Click here to see the rest of their lovely work!

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

18 Jul

How does your garden grow?

After these posts on the vegetable garden we planted and the landscaping we did where the former deck lived, we had a request from several readers to show the growth progress.  On the whole, we are pleased.  Especially with the vegetable garden which is already yielding great quantities of broccoli, swiss chard, spinach and radishes.  Even our tomatoes seem to be growing like weeds.   Can’t wait for them and for the zucchini to be ready for picking!  (The herb section isn’t thriving however and I am not sure why.  Stupid cilantro.) 

Upon planting:


And probably one of my favorite projects has been the evolution what was once a walkway/deck to an imagined rockery to a planting bed.  What the bed looked like after first planting:

What it looks like today:

One weird and disturbing thing is that the grasses on the south end of the bed aren’t growing as well as those on the north.  I don’t think it’s sunlight, but maybe it is.  I am sure they will catch up eventually.  I am also wondering when they start to grow out in addition to up.  I am particularly happy with the way the succulents have spread.  They are so beautiful.  The photos don’t do them justice.

Have you had any adventures in gardening this summer?

Other People’s Homes: Splendor in Spokane

16 Jul

I’m a city girl.  I can’t help it.  Even Seattle seems smallish to me.  So imagine my surprise when I had a moment of…’Hey, let’s move to Spokane!’  After you see this house, you will understand why.  I am usually drooling over those California mid-centuries, so it’s really nice to see this enviable one here in the Pacific Northwest.  Enjoy the Ferris Home by Bruce Walker.

(Via 2Modern)

How about some Mid-Century Modern-ness this lovely Monday?!!? We’ve got the gorgeous photos of a house in Spokane, Washington, designed in 1954 and built in 1955. It’s considered by many to be the best example of Mid-Century design in Spokane, but also the best example of work done by MCM architect Bruce Walker. Known as the Ferris House, it’s located on East 16th Avenue.

Educated at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Walker was influenced by Marcel Breuer, as well as Southern California designers like Craig Ellwood, Gregory Ain, Raphael Soriano and Charles Eames.

The landscape was designed by Lawrence Halprin, who was very highly regarded even in the mid-50’s. and is considered by many to be a master of American landscape architects. He designed the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC among other projects.

The home’s architecture is of Harvard Post and Beam design/construction and the stunningness of the structure easily extends to the inside, where warm woods and stylish details make the home seem like it goes on forever.

Sam Ferris, of Ferris & Ferris, emailed us this home, and had the lucky privilege of growing up in this space. Can you imagine the kind of style tastes you would have inherited?!

The house was featured in the May 1961 issue of Sunset Magazine and was repeatedly featured in Sunset’s “Ideas for Planning Your New Home” book published throughout the 60’s and 70’s. There’s an information website dedicated to this wonderful structure, and you can read more about the home here.

What do you think about this great Mid-Century Modern house?!?

Images: J. Craig Sweat Photographer, 2012

Formerly Known as the Future Rockery

9 May

We had big plans for this.  We did.  Visions of Mexican beach pebbles filled my mind.  That is, of course, until I figured out how much Mexican beach pebbles cost.  So, as illustrated in this post, we started filling the bottom with rocks on the property.  Using the children as slave paid laborers.  We started here with a deck covering the area that was 35′ x 5′ across the front of the house.  (Please note:  We started this in July 2011.  It is now May 2012.  These things take time.  A lot of time.)

And yeah, it pretty much stayed like that for a while, half filled with river rocks and growing weeds as spring sprung.  Life gets in the way, you know?  But then I had an idea.  We had all this soil delivered for the raised bed gardens and only used about half of it.  Let’s fill the bed and plant some things.  Yeah.  That’s it.  Flexibility and imagination are the ultimate advantages in these situations, right?  Right.

So that’s what we did.  We filled it with dirt.  Back-breaking, I tell you.  But I think my arms will be ready for sleeveless shirts after all that.  Hmmm.  Now what?

Brett had put in a new screen for the drain-like thing.  And he attached it with this goopy stuff that looked like icing.  (I just asked him what it is called and he said ‘yellowy foamy expanding stuff….that’s good enough for your blog.’  Lovely.)  When asked what could be done about that expanding ugliness, he said ‘sand it, of course.’

Next?  Shopping for plants!  That’s what.  I knew I wanted tall-ish spiky type plants.  Very mid-century modern and minimal looking.  Grasses and the like.  Maeve, Ainsley and I headed to Home Depot with very different interpretations of what that look would be exactly.  Ainsley wanted flowers.  She said we needed something ‘warm and welcoming’ for people coming to our home.  I didn’t disagree per se.  Maeve was into the succulents.  I wanted grasses.  So we compromised and got it all.

In uncharacteristic planning, I gave some thought to the height of the plants.  We planned to have the tallest plants in the back.  I wanted something around 5′ so we bought some Feather Reed grasses.  Then for some color, we added in a slightly shorter Cordyline in a lovely share of red.  In front of that, we planned to plant some lower height mondo grass in this lovely purplish black.  Then we added in some succulents, Stonecrop sedum and something called ‘Hen and Chicks’.  There is another one that is long and spiky but I don’t have the name for it.  (Mainly because my lovely husband threw away the tags I was saving for my blog!)  Ainsley still wasn’t satisfied and wanted something flowery still.  We ended up buying some interesting looking pink annuals that we call ‘Truffula trees’ in homage to the Lorax.  I don’t know that official name (yes, in the trash too, courtesy of the husband) but they are the perfect modern looking flower.

We laid them out according to height and recommended spacing and proceeded to dig and plant.  Maeve tamped them down with her bare feet, reminding me of a harvest crush festival.

But it was still missing something.  I was wishing I could still have some Mexican beach pebbles to fill in the bed.  And I remembered something I saw on Pinterest recently where a bed was simply trimmed with stones instead of filled with it.  I suggested this to Maeve and she was on board immediately.  I shoveled.  She arranged.

 The end result was perfect.  Enough zen from the rocks to complete the vision.  I still think we need some black mulch over the dirt, though I expect the plants to fill it in fairly well.  On the whole, I love the look of it and can’t wait to watch them grow.  (Why does new landscaping always have to look so bare and naked?)  The rockery is now a plant bed with a rock border and that works for me.


Building Beds

1 May

Sometimes doing-it-yourself is honestly more difficult and more expensive and less lovely than taking a short-cut.  Case in point is the raised garden bed we wanted to build in the back yard.  Last year, we had a very haphazard garden.  Clear out a space.  Throw down some seeds.  See what grows.  Eat what’s recognizable.  This year, we wanted to take it up a notch.  Inspired by this post on Apartment Therapy, I sent the link to Brett and asked if we could get the kids involved and make this a family project one weekend.  Of course, my fearless husband replied, Absolutely.

raised bed planter

Above is the image from Apartment Therapy and the image in my head of how these beds would turn out.  Uh-huh.  Right.

Fearless husband and I go to Home Depot to buy supplies.  While walking through the garden section, I see a kit.  (I love kits.)  Treated cedar wood.  Grooves already cut.  Hardware included. $79.99.  Done!

Or maybe not.  Brett has this thing about not doing things the easy way.  I am not sure where this comes from.  Pride?  Stubbornness?  A manly need to saw and nail things?  Who knows.  So we headed to the lumber aisle to check out the treated cedar 2x4s.  At $15/each, making this bed would cost us about $150 including the hardware.  Not to mention the days hours we would spend sawing and measuring and assembling.  The sweet afternoon family project I had in my head was about to be destroyed.  After explaining that the kit actually was just as good, twice as easy and half as expensive, my lovely husband saw the wisdom of my ways.  Grumbling, he put the kits (we bought 2) into the cart and talked himself into a better attitude.

And within about 90 minutes, we had the area cleared and the boxes assembled.  Easy peasy.  We ordered two yards of soil delivered to the house and have started planting!  We even had time to head to the beach for the afternoon where the girls made these amazing sand castles.  We will keep everyone posted on our bounty.  (Hopefully!)

Other People’s Homes: Los Feliz Mid-Century Remodel

13 Mar

Via the LA Times ‘LA at Home’ section.  I am noticing a lot of my ‘Other People’s Homes’ features are in California.  Must be California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.


Interior designer Julie Maigret’s recent update of the Los Feliz home she shares with her husband, Rob, is the latest installment of Pro Portfolio. Our Monday feature looks at recently built, remodeled or redecorated spaces with commentary from the designers.


Project: A 1961 two-story home with four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in 3,100 square feet.

Location: Atop the hills of Los Feliz.

Designer: Julie Maigret Design, Los Angeles.

Designer’s description: This project was a collaboration with my husband. Since the house was built in 1961, we wanted to stay true to its Midcentury Modern roots but also make sure it reflected our own casual aesthetic.

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make a space with white walls and white floors comfortable instead of cold, an environment where visitors would feel welcomed.

That was accomplished by bringing in warm and bright colors and textures, vibrant artwork by local artists and comfortable seating. We also surrounded the home with lush, distinctive outdoor spaces.

To see more of the house, keep reading …

Julie Maigret house

The clean, bright entryway with light terrazzo floor and photography by Scott Rhea is a glimpse of what is to follow.


In the dining room, we replaced beige wallpaper with Dunn-Edwards Swiss Coffee paint to match the rest of the house. We replaced tan shag carpeting with bright white linoleum, which combined with white furnishings, shifts attention to the artwork and outdoor space.

Julie Maigret dining

Warming up the room are vibrant digital collages that layer photographs of fire by Los Angeles artists Simmons & Burke.

Julie Maigret house

The color scheme in the family room complements the outdoors. The blue area rug made of Flor tiles mirrors the pool. Midcentury furnishings mix with a new Louis chair from Vioski. The double-height family room provides perfect space for an Arco floor lamp.  (I LOVE the poster in red on the left.  I want that for my bedroom.)

Julie Maigret

Adjacent to the fireplace is photography by Slim Aarons. A hand-blown pendant lamp from Santa Ana glassblower Caleb Siemon casts patterned light in the corner.  (Do you think that fireplace is painted?)

Julie Maigret

The thick shag carpeting that ran throughout the house trapped dust and made the space busy. Now, Flor carpet tiles make the room appear bigger and less complicated. Many of the artworks and accessories in this room were found at yard sales, on EBay and in Palm Springs thrift shops.

Julie Maigret

Decorative tempered glass was installed in the guest bathroom door to let in natural light. The artwork is by Los Angeles artists Audrey Kawasaki and Alex “Defer” Kizu.


In the guest room, the 1960s Calze Ortalion poster advertising women’s stockings is by Italian artist Rene Gruau.  It keeps the room from taking itself too seriously.


The sunny upstairs balcony became a relaxing spot with a built-in chaise that I designed. The seating is made of ipe wood and Sunbrella fabric, making it highly durable and functional.

Julie Maigret garden

Desiring something unusual outside the kitchen window, I turned to Annette Gutierrez from Potted in Atwater Village to create a cinderblock wall of succulents.


The sculptural greenery planted in linear concrete adds an industrial air to the backyard.

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