Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fantasy house hunt

Now our real house hunt is over, and we are unpacked and settled in, I can get back to a much more enjoyable kind of house hunt: the fantasy one. I get plenty of fodder from my jogs along the beach, but I also like to scour the pages of DIGS, the South Bay's freebie real estate rag.

It is an intoxicating blend of the desirable, and the pretentious. The cover says it all.
'Retraite elegant' indeed. Pretentious, moi?
For what it's worth that home on the cover is not in France, but according to the ad, it easily could be. Or at least 'anywhere from Marseille to St Charles Avenue to the Hill section of Manhattan Beach'. Last week's cover was a Napa farmhouse. Only not in Napa, but in Manhattan Beach.

See what I mean about the weird absence of a sense of place around here? I mean, you live in a great, beachy SoCal town - why would you want to imagine you live anywhere else?

Another thing I'm baffled and intrigued by is the Honor Roll of architects. This ad describes the home as being representative of some of the best architects in town: 'starting with Pat Killen to Nota to Starr then back to Killen then Lee to Meyer then back again to the architect of this home, Pat Killen'. Confused much? Me too. But I suspect if I keep up my readership of DIGS in a few months that sentence will make perfect sense and those names will be as familiar as a list of BBC news anchormen.

Let's take a closer look at one of these flights of fancy. This home was apparently inspired by a 'personal journey through the hills of Tuscany'. Quite often when I get back from a nice holiday I decide to build a house to remind me of it. It's more cumbersome than a photo album but oh, so much more evocative.
Check out this Old World styled pool table:
And this Tuscan gym:

Here's another winner. How convenient, to be able to park your car right there in the living room! Oh, wait, or is that just a really luxurious garage?
Now you can see why I love DIGS so much. It's part salivatory surf through beautiful homes, and part just pure goofiness. I'll know we've made it when I'm actually looking through it for somewhere we might really live. Till then, I'll keep dreaming of a home in the Tuscan hills, with space in the living room for a fast car.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Estate agents with personality

When we outgrow the Sugar Cube and are ready to move into an elaborate mansion on the beach, how should we choose our realtor? I guess I'll just base it on the advertising.

Kudos to this guy for the beach community-relevant metaphor.
'There is a perfect wave brewing in the real estate market right now'.

A close up of the realtor about to hit the waves. In his suit.
But I think Alison, shown below, is that bit more creative. When you think about the South Bay, of course you think about surfing. So obvious it's boring. How about a nice Segway pun, complete with a shot of her in action on the beach, instead? Brilliant.

These ads are from DIGS, my favourite free magazine ever. But we shouldn't ignore street advertising. Given their love of a neat rhyme, I feel Kevin & Kaz & I would get along very well.

Choices, choices. This personality-lead approach is rather different to the UK, where all estate agents kinda look the same from a distance, and you just go to the guys who are least annoying. That's all well and good if you're just buying a house. But over here, it's much, much more than that:
So that's alright then.

Monday, April 14, 2014

We furnished it! Sort of.

I know you've been worried sick about how we've furnished our outdoor space. Allow me to put your mind at ease.

We bought a cool outdoor rug for not a lot at Gumtree, our favourite 'cute stuff' shop in Hermosa. That, and the bistro table and chairs, mean the patio is done. Complete. You want to lounge out there? Grab a cushion from inside and prop yourself up that way.

We also inherited a knackered old table and benches from former Sugar Cube occupants. And found two incredible bargain dining tables, which I have sanded, and primed, and painted for outdoor use. As one of them was a Pottery Barn closing down sale $150 bargain, and the other bought for $75 from the sidewalk section of a Salvation Army store, I took a fairly slapdash approach to painting them. Thick brush strokes, drips and all. The expression 'if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well' did not apply.

Still, they look jolly nice. Throw in a handful of IKEA chairs and some little solar paper lanterns, and we are all set. For at least a season or two, till that paint peels off and the pine splits.

As for the office deck, and that sunny spot, I think we'll worry about them next summer. Rome wasn't built in a day and the Sugar Cube garden will not be finished in a day (or a year, even), either.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Leaving the bubble

As you may have noticed, I love Hermosa Beach. I also, as previously posted, like being in a comfortable rut. So two months into our new life here and I have established a fairly small radius within which I operate. It's about the size of Hermosa Beach. Well, we have everything we need right here, why would I ever leave?

It took our first house guest to drag me out of the bubble. Lady P's godfather, my old and very dear friend, The Gambler, has come to town. He loves being schooled in animal sounds by Lady P, and jogging along the Strand with me. But after a couple of days in the bubble I sensed he had itchy feet.

So it was that we hired bikes from the Hermosa Cyclery and took the bike path up to the Marina Del Rey.
As we passed the industrial sites of El Segundo I started to doubt the merits of leaving the bubble
...but before too long we were enjoying the cheesy delights of 70s tourist spot 'Fisherman's Village'

... and we got to gawp at plenty of beachfront real estate on our way too
Emboldened, I braved the freeway traffic to take him even further afield. The Getty Center was well worth the drive, and an afternoon's mooching around Santa Monica was fun.

But it all started to look a bit hairy again when we ventured into hipster paradise, Downtown LA, full of warehouses and pop up shops and moustachioed boys in jazz shoes. We had a lunch reservation at Factory Kitchen and parked a couple of blocks away (being the Brits we are). Wow, those downtown blocks are long and bleak.
DTLA. Not as pretty as Hermosa.
Lunch was great but the walk to and from was not. 'Hurried and tense' is not my ideal post-meal constitutional. Having learnt our lesson we drove the remaining 2 blocks to the heart of Little Tokyo. A brief sampling of Japanese American history and coffee rounded off our big city adventure perfectly.

Then it was back to the beach. Phew.

It was really great, being forced out of the 90254 bubble. There's a whole exciting world out there. But The Gambler's gone now. So TLOML are now enjoying not leaving the bubble again till someone else makes us.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Furnishing the Sugar Cube

Furnishing the Sugar Cube itself is no great challenge. Its modest size will happily accommodate our modest furniture. We had to buy some bookcases and a new sofa bed and that's about it.

Furnishing the garden which surrounds the Sugar Cube is not so easy. As well as the lovely, pebbled backyard we have a patio alongside the living room, and a newly landscaped area next to the office.
The backyard, complete with grape arbour

The office's backyard
And to fill all these various, spacious spaces, we have... a small bistro table and two chairs.

The right thing to do, for the long term, is to go and buy a good, solid teak dining table and chairs. The arbour is about 15 foot long, and is crying out for a long Italian-style table. Then we need a picnic table or a bench, or both, for the space by the office. A breakfast-sized table and chairs for the patio, which is closest to the kitchen so a natural spot for morning coffee in the sunshine. And maybe some lower seating there too, so we can chill outside while Lady P learns to walk / ride a bike/ skateboard on the patio. Oh, and a couple of loungers for this sunny spot in the backyard.

My guestimate suggests that to furnish the entire outside space the way we'd like, we'd need to sell the baby, or a kidney, or both. So it's time to be creative (or, as some might put it, cheap).

I know, I know, first world problems.