Friday, November 17, 2017

Bringing a 1980s Relic Into the Light, Bright Modern Age

It’s never easy to restore an old home, but redesigning a home built in the 1980s – an era not particularly loved for its style – requires imagination.

Debbie Cederlind and Lora Lindberg, Seattle house-flipping pros and owners of Urban Squirrel, recently tackled a Bothell, WA home built in 1989 that didn’t have much going for it on the style front.

“With 1980s houses, it’s a challenge to put character back in,” says Cederlind. “We started with no character, but it felt good at the end. We made it stand out and gave it some specialness that wasn’t there.”

The traditional-style home had already been renovated before Cederlind and Lindberg got their hands on it, but the work was less than desirable.

“There were some hideous paint colors on the wall,” Lindberg recalls. “You could see they were trying to inject character with super bright yellows and reds. And there was a bathroom with no windows. It was livable, but pretty ugly inside.”

Let it breathe

When Cederlind and Lindberg first walked into the home, their main objective was to let some much-needed light inside.

They removed a wall between the kitchen and dining room and opened up the stairwell leading down to the basement. The stairwell was long and completely closed up with a door at the top, so the designers decided to open both sides of the wall.

“We let it breathe a little bit,” Lindberg says.

The kitchen was reimagined – taken from dark and unremarkable to sleek, light and modern, featuring a charcoal-colored island, white open shelving and a shiplap treatment. The designers also covered the appliances with paneling to make them less obvious.

In addition to revamping the kitchen and the main bathroom, which was lightened with a rectangular exterior window and some large-piece tile work in the shower, the designers also altered the awkward layout upstairs.

They decided to close off an outdated half wall that overlooked the living space and front entryway, then create a bedroom to replace the lofted office that previously existed there.

Inject character

The bulk of the work and style added to the home was in the basement. “The space was super creepy and weird and didn’t flow well,” Lindberg says.

Out of this blank, dark and uninviting slate, the designers created two bedrooms, a library, a kitchenette and an additional bathroom. The kitchenette and bathroom feature sliding barn doors, which open up to the large living space downstairs.

The kitchenette is every bit as stylish as the full kitchen, featuring open shelving, charcoal-colored open cabinets and stone counters.

The biggest quandary the designers faced in the basement was deciding what to do with the three posts in the middle of the room. After much deliberation, they turned the posts into a built-in library, adorning it with vintage-style hanging chairs on each side suspended from beams.

“We went around and around, and that was the trickiest thing to figure out,” Cederlind says. “But if you’re a family with kids, you want the whole basement to be a big playground.”

Get the look at home

  • Make your kitchen flow. “Now that we’re doing these open kitchens, people don’t want their kitchen to look like a kitchen. They want it to flow,” Cederlind says. Add artwork, pottery and other accessories to make the room feel less like a kitchen and more like the rest of your home.
  • Consider conversation. “We think a lot about our seating arrangements. We think about conversation and not about TV placement,” Lindberg says. Face couches and chairs toward each other – not the TV – to create a cozy space for chatting with friends and loved ones.
  • Incorporate contrast. “You need the balance of dark and bright,” Cederlind says. If you have dark hardwood floors, don’t feel like you have to match your cabinetry. Creating contrast will prevent your home from looking too dark or dated.

Take the full home tour:


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Top 10 Power Tools Every DIYer Needs

Top 10 Power Tools Every DIYer Needs

Top 10 Power Tools Every DIYer Needs Time and time again I’ve been asked what my desert island tool would be. But honestly I have a hard time narrowing my answer down to just one tool. Instead I decided to make a list of the Top 10 Power Tools that Every DIYer Needs in their […]

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

This Hobbit House Will Have You Dreaming of Middle-Earth

Building tiny meant dreaming big for Kristie Wolfe.

Inspired by the “Lord of the Rings” stories she enjoyed as a child, the Idaho native set out to build a tiny home in a hillside for an unlikely client: a real-life hobbit.

“I grew up watching the 1970s cartoon, and I’ve read ‘The Hobbit,’” Wolfe said. “I really always loved the house and the type of house that they lived in.”

Wolfe found the perfect backdrop for her Shire in the small central Washington community of Orondo. (It’s not quite Middle-earth, but smack dab in the middle of the Evergreen State.) She had already built a treehouse in Hawaii; for her next project, she had her heart set on an authentic, buried hobbit hole inspired by characters from the famous “Lord of the Rings” books.

But what the soul wants, the soil can’t always deliver: The property offered million-dollar views, but getting construction equipment up to a rural hillside would prove challenging.

“I wanted the house to be buried, to be as authentic as possible. I tried to do a lot of research, but there’s not a lot out there,” Wolfe said. “I couldn’t get a concrete truck up here. We could have mixed it by hand, but it would have been really difficult. I talked to the building department, and they just said nobody’s ever done it, but you can give it a shot.”

Wolfe relied on the construction know-how she’d picked up from her parents – her mother remodeled houses when Wolfe was a child – and brought in a backhoe to clear the land. Wolfe needed to ensure the hobbit hole could hold the foot of dirt she planned to place on the roof, so she used marine-grade, pressure-treated wood.

“Any time you put dirt on top of a house, when that dirt gets wet, it’s basically having a swimming pool on top of your house,” she added. “It’s a lot of weight.”

Up next: an entrance fit for a hobbit. Wolfe wanted a signature round entryway, which she created using an industrial-sized cable spool. She enlisted a local designer to craft the hinges and the opening to the 288-square-foot space. He repurposed a trailer hitch to build the door handle.

When guests enter through the circular portal, they immediately stand in the bedroom. To the right is a fireplace, which helps heat the home in the winter, along with a woodworker’s bench. To the left is the bathroom, complete with a large, wooden tub.

Other touches were sustainably sourced. Wolfe crafted the cordwood floor from roadside logs she gathered, chopped up and glued together. She found some furnishings on Craigslist. The cozy wood Jacuzzi bathtub came from a used furniture shop.

With a location so remote, Wolfe installed solar panels to generate electricity. The dirt-covered roof has the benefit of keeping the home at a cool 55 degrees year-round (the oversized fireplace comes in handy in cooler weather). Wolfe’s sister, a landscaper, wove sticks and branches together to create a hobbit-style fence, greeting fans and friends alike.

Speaking of fans, they’ve made this spot as beloved as the books themselves. The home is available as a vacation rental and is so popular, it’s almost fully booked for the next year. Some guests come in full hobbit regalia, Wolfe said; others have used the home as a backdrop to get engaged.

Given the home’s popularity, it’s no surprise that Wolfe is looking to expand. She’s got two more hobbit holes planned for the same property.

“I want to build a communal kitchen … that will look like an English-style pub,” she said. “People from all over can meet, or come stay with their friends and family, and break bread together like hobbits would.”


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Doing the “Double” in a Chevy Colorado

Chevy Colorado Shoreline

The Chevy Colorado took the mid-size truck category by storm last year and won the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award in 2015. They followed up that win with the same award for 2016 due to a new 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel engine that gets 31 mpg on the freeway. A statistic that is unmatched by any truck in any class. We joined Chevy for a day of adventure as they introduced a special edition Colorado Shoreline package, and set us up for a day surfing and snowboarding with pro surfer and Fiji maestro Damien Hobgood and leading motocross gear company Fox Head Inc.


Colorado Shoreline Edition


We started the day loading up our 2016 Chevy Colorado with surfboards, skis, snowboards, and gear and headed to Huntington Beach. It was a sloppy day out with multiple crossed up swells and a strong current, but Damien still shredded and we checked out the 2017 Colorado Shoreline. The new Shoreline is designed to appeal to a younger aftermarket crowd that loves customizing their truck with bright paint, blacked-out wheels, and a minimal amount of chrome. It’s definitely a head turner and a truck my 25-year old brother would love, but we prefer the extra cab, Z71 4×4 with the Duramax turbo-diesel.

Chevy GearOn System


Our Chevy Colorado was equipped with the Chevy GearOn system that included Thule racks and accessories that come straight from the factory. With the Chevy Colorado you don’t need to buy aftermarket racks and accessories, just order it when you buy your Colorado and you’ll be ready to hit the surf or snow straight from the dealer lot.




Our 9’2″ longboard fit in the bed of the truck and our snowboards were held secure by a locking Thule ski rack. There was still plenty of room for our gear bags and anything else we needed to toss in the bed or the cab of the truck.

The Drive


My daily driver is a full-size rig and although I’ve become accustomed to parallel parking in tight spaces and spending a lot on gas, I still love it. The Chevy Colorado definitely tested my allegiance to the full-size truck category, as I really enjoyed driving it on the freeways, up the mountain passes, and navigating parking lots. I never had a chance to even fill it up as we still had plenty in reserve after we returned from our trip. The available V6 might be more peppy but the turbo-diesel had plenty of power for what we needed. With the diesel we’d never worry about towing anything but the largest trailers and the exhaust brake feature is worth it’s weight in gold when towing and descending over passes or down from a day in the mountains.

The tech these trucks sports is also impressive as the onboard navigation was spot-on and the OnStar system was ready to go. The WiFi became useful as we were in the mountains with out cell service but the WiFi in the truck still worked so we could still check our email and login via our smartphones or laptops.

Thanks to the great folks at Chevy, Fox Head Inc., and Damien for sharing their stoke on this truck. Chevy is truly innovating in a truck category that has long been dominated by Toyota and Nissan. It would make sense for them to continue to concede to them leaders but Chevy is aggressively building the Colorado to surpass their peers and bring a truck to market that fits the active lifestyle of many SoCal residents and action sports enthusiasts across the country.


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Gift Guide for the Trend Setter

It’s that time of year again. Time for mistletoe and holly. Time for egg nog and cider. Time to buy presents for everyone on your list…even you-know-who...that certain someone who is perennially ahead of the curve. That person who doesn’t follow a trend, but blazes the trail and sets the trend. That person who keeps you up at night pondering over the perfect package to present.

If you have one of those on your list, this gift guide is for you.  From the fashionista who has everything to the rebel who wants nothing, this guide will open your eyes to unexpected possibilities with gifts for the stylish home that are guaranteed to please.

Cosmopolitan Cocktails

Help your trend setter elevate happy hour with this swanky bar cart. Who can say no to the antiqued goldtone finish and sparkling glass shelves? The wheels mean this baby goes wherever the party is.

Esther metallic bar cart

Time After Time

It’s busy work being a fashionista, and this clock is sure to help your trend setter maintain his or her hectic schedule. A brilliantly etched faux marble face is elegant and on point.

Marble wall clock with a gold trim

Sitting Pretty

Leading the way in fashion can be a pain – after all, those trend-right shoes look fab but can come at a painful price. This little number is the perfect remedy. Give your trailblazer a stylish place to prop tired toes or provide an extra seat for all their BFF’s.

white fluffy pouf

Shining Bright

All things bright and beautiful deserve the spotlight. These gorgeous table lamps are so chic your diva won’t mind sharing center stage.

cube square lamp shade tops this open brass table lamp

contemporary gold lamp on a console table with accessories next to it

white ceramic table lamp with cream shade and gourd shaped body

Details Matter

Those in the know, know that it’s the little things that matter. The right fork at dinner. The right glass for the right wine. And this tray. It can house everything from perfume bottles and cosmetics to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

round mirrored tray with antique gold frame

Captivating Catchalls

What to do with all those baubles, bangles and beads? This jewelry box set is just the thing. Even if diamonds aren’t your girl’s – or guy’s – best friend, these boxes are perfect for odds and ends that need a pretty home.

White and gray decorative boxes

Assortment of three glass jars with lids

Pillow Talk

An ordinary throw pillow for your fashionista? Perish the thought! Your trendsetter knows that a pillow tossed here and there can make a big design impact, especially when that pillow is a testament to style. Whether it’s warm and fuzzy or ferociously feline, these pillows are the perfect gift.

Giancario flokati accent pillows in , gray and black

faux fur cheetah print accent pillow

Looking Glass

Sure, mirrors ensure that everyone’s selfie-ready before heading out the door, but they can do so much more than that. Adding a bit of sparkle in strategic areas transforms a wall and supplies just the right amount of shine.

Antique Gold Finished Metal Accent Mirror. Sunburst Design. Keyhole Bracket for Hanging

Art Critic

Trend setters know the next big thing before anyone else. Show them you’re ahead of the curve with this attention-grabbing canvas artwork. Appealing blue and teal are accentuated with goldtone leaf that adds just the right amount of glam.

Blue abstract painting that can be hung up on a wall.

Incandescently Iridescent

Sophisticated style and up-to-the-minute designs aren’t just for urban dwelling trailblazers. With sea glass texture and shimmering blue hues, this eye-catching bottle is a siren call to beach-loving trend setters everywhere.

Blue glass vase added to living room decor.

Blue Hues

When your thoroughly modern maverick has a soft spot for the classics, consider the perennially loved ginger jar. These ceramic beauties are a testament to their heritage and are a simply irresistible accessory in any room.

Navy blue and white vase

Skinny navy blue and white vase


Down Home Comfort

At the end of the day, even the most fashion-forward of us need a soft place to land. Your fashionista will adore the clean lines, sophisticated hues and on trend details of this sofa.

neutral gray loveseat and couch accented with white and gray pillows

With so many stylish ideas for your trend setter, you’re sure to land a spot on their Top 10 most favorite people list.

Need to find a gift for the girl boss of the group? We've got you covered, check out this Gift Guide for the Girl Boss. 

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