Empire vs. The Local Guy

So, carpet.  The first couple times we saw the house, The carpet in the bedrooms seemed OK.  The master bedroom carpet was a little worn, but the guest bedroom carpet looked brand new.  I figured we could replace the master bedroom carpet, but maybe save a little money and just clean the guest bedroom carpet ourselves with one of those fancy steam cleaners you can rent at the grocery store.  Then we closed on the house & walked through the empty house that was now ours, and we knew both bedrooms would need to be replaced.  First we noticed the smell.  Then…the white cat hair.  So.  Much.  Hair.  That white cat sure was cute and friendly, but oh, OH, the smell and the hair was just too much.  During the week between closing and move-in, whenever we were in the house, I had to open all the windows just so the smell of cat pee wouldn’t permeate into the walls.  I was actually worried about the subfloor, the smell was so bad.

I decided we would get a quote from Empire (you know, the next day installers…), as well as a carpet guy I’ve worked with on a couple of my projects at work.  I knew my guy would likely be more expensive, but also have better quality goods.  I was surprised when the Empire rep arrived and laid out her samples.  There were many options, some softer (and more expensive) than others.  We picked a couple we liked, and then she started the car salesman song-and-dance about putting the quote together, then us haggling with her, her calling her “manager” to see about a lower price, and we finally arrived at a price we could swallow, which was, admittedly, more than we originally anticipated.  The thing with Empire is…you have to give them a “deposit” (I think maybe $75?) and book RIGHT!  THEN! or the quoted price isn’t guaranteed the next day or a week later (because, of course it’s not!).  So we gave our deposit and signed up for installation the following week (they were REALLY pushing to install the next day, but no, not while sanding and painting were still going on, thankyouverymuch).

My carpet guy showed up with his samples, and I immediately knew what I wanted.  And I was scared what the cost would be.  Sure enough, it was about $800 more than the Empire quote.  But, he was able to convince the particular manufacturer’s rep to give us a better price since I’m “in the industry”, so we were at just $200 over the Empire quote, which, to me, was totally worth it.  I called Empire to cancel and they tried to throw in a better pad or another room for just a few hundred more, but we had made up our minds…and we didn’t have any more rooms anyway!

Carpet2   Carpet1

Bye bye old carpet (and the subfloors were fine!)…

Through the process, in addition to the feel of the carpet itself, I learned that a good carpet pad is worth its weight in gold.  That was the other factor that ultimately made us choose not to go with Empire; their pad thicknesses were not the same as the “industry standard” descriptors, so it was like comparing apples and oranges, and I was worried that a few months after their warranty ran out…so would the pad.  So, we got a luxuriously thick pad from my guy, along with our luxuriously soft loop carpet, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts about the new house upgrades.  I could sit/lie on our bedroom floor for hours!  We definitely made the right choice, once again!

Carpet4    Carpet3


Hello, luxurious new carpet!

For anyone in the LA area, I highly recommend the company we worked with–not only because of our experience with them, but also because I have worked with them through my job, and already knew I could trust them!  Here is their contact information…

Coverall Industries
Stephan Amirayan
e: stephan@coverallindustries.com
p: (310) 288-9990

457 S. Robertson Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Well.  Things got a little hectic there for a while, but now I’m back…where did I leave off?  Ah yes, kitchen demo and pre-move-in…which looked a little like this:
Before1     Before2     Before3

After getting rid of that horrible 2×2 ceramic tile countertops and backsplash, the stone guys went on their merry way with accurate field dimensions so they could fabricate our stone (ie: cut it to the right size & fabricate the edge pieces).  This is how the kitchen looked after the countertops & backsplash were demo’ed, and they had put down the rough top (that long piece on the end is waiting for an end panel; since we were doing new countertops anyway, and we had the space at the end of those cabinets, we decided to extend them & add a wine fridge!)…


In the meantime, our painters got to work on the cabinets.  They moved quickly, sanding and then spraying several coats of primer and paint.  Luckily the house is very close to our apartment, so it was easy to stop by every night after work to see the progress.  The painters started on Thursday, and by Monday night (they worked all weekend), much to my surprise, they were pretty much finished.  And what a HUGE difference!  Finally, I could start to see my vision coming together…I couldn’t wait to see the countertops and backsplash go in!  Here’s a little peek at the painting progress…


Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long…the countertops were installed on Wednesday, and my stone guy (and friend), Claude, sent me some photo updates throughout the day, which was good, because I could hardly contain my excitement at work!  Walking into the house that night, I just couldn’t believe the beautiful gray quartz countertops I was staring at were OURS!  This was OUR kitchen!

Progress5     Progress6

Of course…nothing we do is exactly easy.  Something always manages to go wrong, so here’s where the record scratch comes in.  Way back in November, I had ordered a couple samples of glass tile for the backsplash from Amazon.  It was  a really gorgeous tile in the photos, and I was excited to see it.  Well, after our whirlwind Florida trip for Thanksgiving, we returned and the samples still hadn’t arrived.  This made me nervous, as we were due to move into the house less than two weeks later, and I was determined to have the kitchen finished.  I ran out to Lowes and Home Depot to get as many “acceptable” backsplash samples as I could find, and while we were happy with the one we ultimately chose, it wasn’t the one I had always pictured.  Alas, we were running out of time, so we went back to Lowes to buy the 34 square feet of tile that was needed.  We finally arrived home, after our Lowes run took slightly longer than expected, and what was waiting in the mailbox?  Yep, the glass tile samples from Amazon.  I was afraid to open the envelope, because I didn’t want to like them.  I opened it anyway, and when I saw them, *MAY* have uttered some words that are, as my father would say, “unbecoming of a lady”.  Ben asked what was wrong, and I showed him the samples.  He may have repeated the words I had uttered seconds earlier.  We knew this was the tile for our kitchen.

This all happened on Wednesday…a week and two days before our intended move-in day.  So, we knew we had to act quickly.  A rather inconvenient factor in this whole situation was that the tile company is located in the Vancouver area.  As in, Canada.  If you’ve ever ordered anything internationally, then you’ll know it’s not as easy as overnighting a package across the border.  When US Customs is involved, things happen on their schedule, not yours.  But, I spoke to the guys in Canada, and they said they could guarantee delivery by the following Wednesday, so we went ahead with the order.  On Wednesday, I gave instructions to Claude to make sure his guys signed for any packages that arrived during the day.  He was as anxious to see the tile as we were, as he wanted to make sure he had the proper materials for the installation on Thursday.  Well, he called me Wednesday evening and said there was a UPS notice on the door, which said something about a COD.  After several frantic calls to various UPS departments, I learned that somehow, they were requiring a payment of $30 (PER BOX, I later learned–there were two boxes) via money order or cashiers check (turns out it was a Customs charge, that not even the tile company knew about).  So, even if I had been there to receive the package, I would not have had a money order or cashiers check ready.  So with that…backsplash installation was pushed back a day to move-in day.

I made arrangements for UPS to leave the boxes at their distribution center so I could pick them up Thursday morning, and MAYBE still have time for a half day’s work on the backsplash.  In a nutshell, someone at UPS only held one box, while the other box was sent back out for delivery.  So, two money orders, much confusion & frustration, and many hours of waiting for the UPS delivery guy later…we had all of our tile.

In the end…we had to make a few adjustments to our expectations, and have the movers work around the stone guys, but everything did finally get moved in, and the backsplash got installed.  It was just went a little differently than we had planned.  But by this point, 7+ years into my architecture career, I should have known to expect something like this happening!

And now…the final product.  Our gorgeous new kitchen, completed over the span of about eight days total.  We really couldn’t be more pleased with the final result–the layout, so far, is working great for us, and it’s STILL fun to arrive home every night and just stare at it.  It’s ours.  All ours…

Here’s a comparison before & after…this is before the kitchen was completely finished, but you can get a feel for the transformation…
Before & After

And, here’s the finished product, new appliances & all (more about those later!)…

Kitchen5     Kitchen6     kitchen 2

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2012 was a whirlwind year, as most in recent history seem to have been.  I probably remark at every year’s end how lucky and blessed I am to have the life that I do, but every year…that’s the best way for me to sum it up.  I have some awesome friends, a wonderful & loving family, and an amazing boyfriend.  When it really comes down to it, everything else–the good & the bad in my life–is just fluff.  I’ll be honest and say this year definitely had it’s ups and downs…ups and downs which pretty much lasted until the very end.  But instead of lingering on all of that, I’m just going to focus on what makes me so lucky…and why, as 2013 begins, I feel so incredibly blessed after a truly great year… (my advance apologies for the long-winded-ness of this post, and the AMATEUR photo placement…I’m still getting used to this whole blogging thing, so cut me a little slack :))

Sisters in Vegas1. Had a great 30th birthday celebration in Vegas, surrounded by some (but not all!) of the people I love most in this world.
2. Celebrated, in some form, whether near or far, many other friends’ 30th birthdays…a big milestone for all of us!
3. Met Miss Gabriella Straus, my dear friend, Naomi’s first born (and had a lovely [& balmy for March in MD!] weekend in Baltimore catching up with Naomi & Anthony)…first baby down, now starts the surge?!
4. Celebrated Ben’s Papa Al’s 90th birthday in New York with his family…90!
5. Purged a LOT of “junk” in preparation for an involuntary (but definitely meant to be) move in May.
6. Had an amazing trip back (finally!) to Italy with Ben.  We didn’t have much time, but we saw enough for the first trip (for Ben, and for me, after 9 years absent) & will be back eventually to see the rest!

Venice7. Finally bid adieu to Houdini, my gray Ford Escape, which served me well for my first 7 years in SoCal…and said hello to a shiny new pearly white Fiat 500 sport, which was promptly named Bianca.
8. Ben’s business has been on the move (up!), and he’s had some really amazing opportunities worldwide this year, that will hopefully materialize into more success for him!
9. Had a relaxing & fun trip to Cape Cod to visit Ben’s Dad & Stepmom to see their new vacation house & boat, and enjoy a long Labor Day weekend on the water.
10. Enjoyed a lovely weekend in one of our favorite places, Napa, with my sister & brother-in-law, and his parents.  We always love Napa, and it was great to share some of our favorite spots, as well as find some new ones!Us in Napa
11. Went through the painstaking process of buying a house, but ended victorious (ie: we now have a money pit to call our very own!).
12. Somehow accomplished several small renovation projects in the 8 days between closing on the house & moving in…quite a feat, even for an architect! (More house updates coming soon!)
13. Celebrated the wedding of good friends in Big Bear.
14. Started (and mostly stuck to, and still continuing) a no sugar, no carb diet, including three 3-day juice cleanses, all of which I never imagined I’d ever have the will power to accomplish.  I haven’t lost the weight as quickly as I would have liked, but making such a big lifestyle change has definitely felt good.
15. Enjoyed 6 months in our high-rise 10th floor apartment with an amazing view of Santa Monica bay, and some incredible sunsets.
16. Celebrated Ben’s OTHER grandfather, Papa Mort’s 90th birthday in Florida over Thanksgiving, in addition to Papa Mort & Ama’s 65th wedding anniversary (and a blowout family reunion, to boot!).  Clearly longevity in life & relationships runs in his family!
17. Enjoyed a few days home in MA with my family for Christmas, and even got a little bit of a White Christmas!
18. Saw the beginnings of Mom & Dad’s new house in Maine, a dream that has been talked about & planned for many, many years, and is finally becoming a reality.  I’m excited for this next phase for my family, though it will be bittersweet to say goodbye to my childhood home (and hometown!), the home my parents built when they got married, and added onto as our family grew.  Lots of memories…
19. Had an amazing and much-needed leisurely road trip from San Francisco to LA with friends, including 2 nights in SF, 2 nights in Big Sur (oh, Big Sur, so amazingly gorgeous & peaceful), and 2 nights & ringing in 2013 in Paso Robles wine country, filled with love, many laughs, lots of good wine, and a few Aussie accents, for good measure!In San Fran

20. Received many lovely gifts throughout the year from Ben, including, oh, a HOUSE, among other things, but the best of them all…and extremely well-timed…was what he dubbed my “new years gift” on new years eve…a very sweet and thoughtful tribute to me and to us, which may very well have trumped every gift he’s ever given me…ever.  If that’s not a slam-bang finish to 2012, I don’t know what is!

2013?  Your move.  Don’t disappoint me…

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champagne…and power tools.

Escrow closed last Tuesday.  We met our realtor that night to get the keys, have a little celebratory champagne…and start some demo work.  A week and a half from closing to move-in is not a lot of time, considering the work we had lined up…

1. Replace countertops
2. Replace backsplash
3. Paint all cabinets in kitchen, laundry room, and hallway
4. Replace fireplace tile
5. Replace carpet in both bedrooms
6. Various electrical work, including new outlets for TVs & the wine fridge, new pendant lights in the kitchen, and some other important items

Before & After

Before & After

Our first task we decided to take on ourselves was to take down a cabinet with glass doors that was over the kitchen island.  It closed off the kitchen, and since there is already a lot of storage in the kitchen, we didn’t feel like we really needed the extra space anyway.  So the plan was to take it down and make the island a bit wider to get some bar seating in there.  We had a drill, a sawzall, a crowbar, and a hammer (oh, and some work gloves that I decided to pick up, on a whim, for each of us).  After we finished off the bottle of Veuve, we got to work!  We got the cabinet down without too much trouble, though the supporting piece of wood suspended from the ceiling was another story.  After unsuccessfully trying to saw it off, we decided to try again the next day, but were lucky enough to have one of the stone guys run up to the attic & cut it off for us from above.

Champagne & power tools!

Champagne & power tools!

Wednesday was a flurry of subcontractors and consultants coming in to give bids (carpet, fence), set up the security system, and of course, demo the countertops!  I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to see those 2×2 ceramic tiles go!

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here goes nothin’…

So I’ve thought about this for a long time (years, actually).  A blog.  A place to bare it all to my nearest and dearest…and at the same time, people I don’t even know.  This is a little surreal, to be completely honest!

So.  A house.  Homeowners.  We closed 2 days ago and have already ripped out cabinets and countertops and fireplace tile…all of which will be replaced in time for us to move in next week.

I can’t really define this blog just yet.  Sure, it will tell the tales of our journey through our first home, DIY projects, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But I don’t know that just home things can fill up space on a blog (though I might just be naive), plus, I’m a lot more than that.  So you’ll probably get tales of traveling near and far…of my (our) growing love for Venice, California…my interests…my (our) latest hole-in-the-wall restaurant finds…I guess what I’m trying to say is…hold on tight, because here?  Anything goes.


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