Keeping up with the mega-Joneses


About a year ago, while we were in escrow to buy a home, I was spending a lot of time absorbing any decorating inspiration I could get my hands on. I had checked out a Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic book, and in the book she shared how she had sought out and successfully purchased a home that wasn’t even for sale in Malibu. I’m talking about her Casa Sugar, worth $4.4 million.

Then I heard another story of my friend’s brother, who was building a home on the cliff overlooking the water in Santa Barbara and some stranger drove up and said, “My client wants to buy your home,” and the owner said it’s not for sale, and the stranger said, “You don’t understand. Oprah Winfrey will pay whatever you want for this home.”Unknown-4

Thus sold the home.

About a year ago, I fell in love with a home I drove by. It was Spanish-style, with a beautiful courtyard, and I immediately envisioned my kids growing up there. Unfortunately it was not for sale, and I’ll remind you that at the time we were in escrow with another home, and my husband thought this was proof that I was completely insane. But I could not stop thinking about this other home, and my perseverance kicked in. I did some detective work and found the name of the person who lived there. I googled his name, and found his website, and looked for contact info, but not before I was temporarily distracted by his professional videos about his subconscious healing and hypnosis services. (There’s a market for hypno-healing?!?)

Under the influence of the legends of millionaire homebuyers mentioned above, I emailed the guy living in the home I coveted, asking if he wanted to sell the home, and spent the next 8 hours tossing and turning, lovestruck by this home.

The next morning we went to the local coffee shop and while I was trying to convince my husband that this not-for-sale home was the home for us, who should walk in but the hypno-healing spiritualist himself! Feeling like I knew the guy already after watching his videos (perhaps a few too many), I exclaimed, “Joseph? Is that you?”

I probably came across something like Stuart from SNL’s the Californians wherein he exclaims, “Whuuturyuuduhinghere?”


I thought it was fate. My husband thought it was an unfortunate coincidence. And Joseph probably thought it was stalking. And when Joseph told me it was not for sale,  I didn’t have the endless supply of cash to convince him otherwise. My naive hope for that home fell from the sky like a dead duck. I had forgotten to take into account the significant difference between me and those incomparables I was influenced by. Oprah, it turns out, is in a different league.

So I didn’t get the home and I might have lost some points from the “I’m stable” category. I do still go by the home hoping to find a for sale sign. Money draws the fine line between eccentricity and insanity.



RIP my mental state

Before: speechless

Before: speechless

Ever heard about how when laborers died while working on the Great Wall of China, they were just buried right there within the wall? I think I can relate. My mind is buried in the bathroom we just completed. I acted as our general contractor without any experience, so it’s a wonder I didn’t lose more than my mind.

Some of you are asking about our unexpected construction, so here’s the story. We were putting in a pocket door in the bathroom and found the previous owners lied in the disclosure statement about some major HVAC, plumbing, and electrical issues which were exposed when we opened up that wall. So out went the issues, along with 6 months of our lives. We gutted the walls, ceilings, studs, framing, we even had to jack-hammer out the concrete floor. And then we had to decide how to put it all back together. Here’s a photo of the new framing, plumbing, and electrical.


During: New framing, plumbing, & electrical

Like I mentioned in my post How to go crazy in 6 months or less, I am cursed with unrealistically good taste (read: expensive), all things considered, and also serious indecision, both of which were major factors in lengthening this reconstruction process.

catrin bathroom

Keeping in theme with our 1931 Tudor home, I took inspiration from Apartment Therapy’s A Nod to Old-School Classics dream bathroom design board and then tried to decide how to make that work in our space and budget.

There were many a sleepless nights spent anguishing over the pros and cons of different grout color (I went with delorean grey), high-end or budget tile (I went with high-end SoHo basketweave on the floor and budget Home Depot subway on the walls) and paint (I went with Benjamin Moore Aura in 75% Soft Chamois).

Though my husband tried to assure me I was putting too much pressure on myself, I wanted it done impossibly perfect. This post was really helpful: Buyer’s Remorse? Purchaser’s Paralysis? from Young House Love.

We salvaged the cute pedestal sink that was in there before,


but other than that there was nothing we could keep. It took a lot of time to remove debris, insulate pipes and walls, coordinate framers, window installer, plumbers, electricians, tiler, and paint and trim. And at each stage we had to wait until we could either learn how to do it ourself or save up to hire it out.

We laughed. We cried (a lot). We conquered. Here are the after photos.


How to go crazy in 6 months or less

Here’s how I drove myself up the wall:

1) Purchase a sweet little house while whole-heartedly trusting the sellers, their realtor, your realtor, all without good cause.


2) Discover major problems in the house and immediately set to fixing those problems.


3) Act as your own general contractor while your husband is off whistling to work everyday.

4) Maintain unreasonably high standards considering your budget, your timeframe, and your do-it-yourself skills.


5) Make sure to schedule the construction during the cold, dark winter months when you annually suffer from seasonal depression, which I can’t even begin to explain except by directing you to Hyperbole and a Half’s Adventures in Depression.


Illustration copyright Hyperbole and a Half.

6) Throw in a broken condom.

Fool-proof recipe for creating a f*cking mad house. But it’s pretty much settled now so don’t call CPS. Birds are chirping, tile is laid, kids don’t have to try to cheer up a crying mother.