Our Rancho: Before + After



My husband and I bought our first house in 2009. As ambitious newlyweds, we tackled a monster rehab in the Cliff May Rancho Estates of Long Beach, California. We gave this house a lot of love over six years and I'm happy to share with you some of the Before + After images here. Check out the Projects tab for more!


Photo by Peter McMenamin

Photo by Peter McMenamin

Photo by Peter McMenamin

Atomic Ranch Feature


My heart skipped a beat when I saw that Atomic Ranch had arrived in my mailbox this month.  I've been counting down the days to see the home of Kristin and Alex, clients who have lovingly restored a 1951 house by architect A. Quincy Jones in Crestwood Hills. 

Kristin and Alex put so much hard work into bringing their mid-century home back to life and they got every detail right! Check out the Fall 2013 issue and see the full spread.  



Architecture + Ice Cream

What a delicious combo, right? Architecture and ice cream might be one of the happiest unions I could have imagined. Coolhaus, the ice cream truck that's been cruising around Los Angeles since 2009 opened their very first brick-and-mortar location in Culver City this week.  Stop in for a one (or two-story if you really need a sugar rush) Mies Vanilla Rohe or any one of their other delicious designer flavors.   

Photo via LA Eater

Rejuvenation Los Angeles

I popped into H.D. Buttercup over the weekend and was excited to see that the Rejuvenaton's new location is open. Even browsing their website, I feel the need to start collecting houses in a wide variety of architectural styles so that I can buy every light they make. So, you can imagine what happened when I stepped into the brick-and-mortar store. Joy.  

The visual merchandising is beautiful! Of course, it helps to start with such beautiful products. In addition to their gorgeous lighting, they actually offer an array of other vintage-inspired products including pressed glass cake plates

Also to note, there are somewhat limited options out there for mid-century homes in the bathroom fixture and hardware department.

Rejuvenation has a mid-century modern collection featuring products in brushed and polished nickel, in addition to their fabulous line of reproduction mid-century lighting


Save Neutra!

While Grace Hilton is an interior design firm, not a preservation blog, I'm also Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee and occasionally bring you preservation-related news and events. Below is a very urgent issue and if you love modern design, I encourage you to read on. 

You may have never heard of the Kronish House, but I hope the name Richard Neutra means something to you. The internationally-celebrated architect lived right here in Los Angeles and while our landscape is dotted with many structures he designed, only three homes were ever built in the City of Beverly Hills. One was torn down, one remodeled beyond recognition and the Kronish House is now threatened with demolition. It's basically being sold as a $13 million tear-down because of its location and the investment group that now owns it (following foreclosure and auction) wants to tear it down and sell an empty lot. Crazy, right? 

I won't get into the politics of preservation here, although I will say Beverly Hills is quickly gaining a rep  for this kind destruction due to their lack of preservation ordinance (A John Lautner home was demolished just a few months back and the Friars Club was lost not long before that). What it comes down to is that each and every one of you need to write a quick e-mail and help save this house! 

You don't really need to know all the ins and outs of preservation, the legalities surrounding the issue or be a Neutra expert. You simply need to speak up about why you love this era, this architect, this house and let Beverly Hills know that it's worth saving. The L.A. Conservancy has created an Advocacy Page for this issue and I did a screen grab of the bullet points they created to guide you in the comments you submit to the city. Write to mayorandcitycouncil@beverlyhills.org  Comments are due TODAY

You do not need to be a Beverly Hills or Los Angeles County resident. Ever single message makes a difference! Thanks for your help! 


Dwell On Design: Wrap-Up

To wrap up my series of posts on Dwell On Design, here are a few more things that caught my eye.  No particular theme to this post or common thread between the the products, except for good design, of course! If you missed Part I and Part II of my DOD recap, check it out.

What products that I've featured are you favorite? What products were you drooling over at the show that I missed in my recap? Do tell! 

1. Donate your heart(beat) to art! For a good cause.

2. These pillows from Balanced Design are lovely and eco-friendly to boot! 

3. The pillows would actually coordinate well with this custom wallcovering from Aztek by 1960s artist, Jim Flora

4. The Charley Harper Studio booth had the dinnerware line by Todd Oldham for Fishs Eddy that I featured in this post was on display.

5. Herman Miller Eames' Aluminum Group chairs get an update in matte black and white. 

6. Stokke adds three new finishes to their Tripp Trapp chair -- Oiled oak, green, and oiled walnut; Best kid's highchair ever! 


Dwell On Design: Beyond Basic Lighting

Next up on my series of posts on Dwell On Design is lighting. I gravitated toward companies that are definitely thinking beyond just your basic lamp shade and base. There is a focus on flexibility and functionality, not just good looks. Although, these lamps look pretty great, too! 


This light is full of function. -- The arm allows it to be adjusted for reading or used as a general light and the pivoting shade means you can transform into an uplight to bounce light of the ceiling. The Fork Adjustable Table Lamp by Foscarini Lighting + Diesel Home (Yes, that Diesel...the fashion brand. Check out their other furniture and textile collaborations with Moroso and Zucchi. They call their first home collection 'Successful Living by Diesel'); The full collection including table, floor, and task lamps by Diesel + Focarini available at Lumens.


Silva table lamp was one of the many beautifully crafted designs from Cerno Group. They also offer a  unique wall sconce that allows you to quickly adjust between diffused and direct light. See it in action here.



My personal favorite was the Trapeze table lamp by Peter Stathis for Joby (the manufacturers of the popular Gorilla Pod) It was on preview at the A+R shop and will be available exclusively through their store this fall.  LED technology coupled with a sleek 3-axis design that allows it to pivot every which way. Of course when it comes to winning top honors from me, it doesn't hurt that it comes in a selection of fun colors -- Orange, yellow, blue, green, plus black and white


Two clever designs from Blu Dot include Bender (top) in black or white steel with a fabric shade and the Rook (bottom) which can be tilted and twisted as you please.  It's solid walnut and linen.  These two table top options are just $199 a pop and add a dash of fun to home or office. The Rook is a great option for next to a bed, since it's easy to manipulate the light for reading.  


If you're looking for more than just a table top upgrade, Trufig offers a full makeover for all the lights in your home and beyond.  This company is out on a mission to clear up wall acne. Outlets, switches, thermostats, even speakers can be a  bit of an eyesore. Trufig offers the option to make everything flush-mounted, so the architecture and interior design take center stage and all the bells and whistles disappear into the background.  It's not just for new construction either. They have a clever drywall patch that allows you to quickly swap out existing controls. It's fully compatible with Lutron, making it a breeze to upgrade your entire lighting, media, and HVAC system to get this sleek look.  

Dwell On Design: Kitchens + Baths

Before the weekend was finished at Dwell On Design, I was convinced no home is complete without a dishwasher that has a 'beer glass chilling' cycle, a built-in steam cabinet in the closet, and kitchen appliances that are wi-fi connected to alert you of maintenance issues. I was also dazzled by all the sleek shapes, fab colors, and impressed by the attention paid to every last detail in the kitchen and bath.  There are some really fancy solutions out there these days and we're come along way since this....

Not that I don't have a soft spot for vintage kitchens and I love browsing Pam's galleries over at Retro Renovation and her site Save The Pink Bathrooms.  But in a world where we consult our smart phones for everything, doesn't it make sense that we get a text if our refrigerator seems to be on the fritz? 

In addition to the high-tech products mentioned above from LG and Miele, here are some other brands that caught my eye including:

1. A sleek Duravit vanity with integrated towel bar

2. A new faucet collection from Kohler called Toobi, which has an unexpected shot of bold green color

3. Also from Kohler, a rainbow of finishes from their line of enameled cast iron

4. Infinity Drain, which is so much cooler than the average drain your contractor would opt for!

5. A trendy metallic tile from the Rondine group


All photos by Grace Hilton

Reader Question: Semi-Custom Corner Bookcase

I had a question from a reader about the bookcases discussed in Cordelia's Nursery and shown completed in Cordelia's Nursery: Part II.  The IKEA Billy bookcases in the 41" height are not meant to used as a corner solution, but I devised a way to make it work by creating a top out of birch ply. It's actually a fairly simple IKEA-hack, despite what may seem at first glance as intimidating directions (see below). If you have a program such as Google SketchUp (bonus - it's free!), it makes the hack that much easier.

You will need:
Plywood of your choice (1/2" to 3/4" thick)
A board of the same species of wood as the ply
Circular saw
Circular saw guide and clamps
Dowel Guide
Drill and bit to match the dowels
Wood Glue
Finish Nails and corresponding Nail Punch
Extra wood
Small wood screws
Table Saw
Miter Saw or Miter Box and Japanese Back Saw
Finish of your choice (I used urethane)

1. Lay out a plan view of you bookcases
2. Add a half inch on all sides except for the back
3. Divide that new shape into sections no longer than 8' (which is the max. length of a sheet of ply)
4. Try to do this so that the grain runs parallel with the front of each bookcase
5. Dimension the SketchUp sections and lay them out on the ply.
6. Using a circular saw and guide, cut the sections out.

7. Lay your pieces out as they would be when installed, but upside down. Be sure to not scratch the good side.
8. Using a pencil, draw three small lines across each joint. equally spaced to each other and the ends of the joint. These will help us align the dowels.
9. Align the dowel jig to each of the lines you just drew and drill holes into the ends of the boards to accept the dowels.
10. Prepare to glue. Lay two scrap wood pieces approximately 2" x 1/2" x 12" parallel to one of the joints. Make sure they are set back about a quarter of an inch on each side of said joint. Also, make sure that you have at least two clamps that are wide enough to get around both of these pieces.
11. Screw these two pieces to the BOTTOM of the two boards. Make sure the screws you use are not long enough to penetrate the finished face or you'll ruin the pretty side.
12. Apply glue to the edges of each board and too the dowels you'll be inserting. Attach the two boards together and place at least two clamps onto the screwed-on scrap pieces to hold them together.
13. Use a damp cloth to clean up any excess glue.
14. If you have additional scrap wood and clamps you can repeat steps 10-13 for all the joints while your first joint dries. If not, wait for it to dry per the glue manufacturer's recommendation before doing the next joint.

15. Use a table saw to cut down the birch board to a series of strips approximately 3/8" x 1". Because the pieces are so thin I recommend you use a feather board to keep the wood against the fence and a push rod.
16. Use the miter saw to cut the edge strips to size, making sure the corners are properly mitered together.
17. I pre-measured the location of the finish nails on the edging and pre-drove them for each piece.
18. Apply glue to the ply and edge piece and hold together. Drive the nails in to hold the edging in place. Use the Nail Punch to recess the heads.

I used a random orbital sander and 80 grit to make sure the edging was flush to the ply. Then I worked up to 120 and 220 before urethaning.  I put on four coats, sanding in between per the manufacturer's recommendation. I left the nail heads exposed. If you wish, you can use some wood filler to fill in the recesses left by the Nail Punch. Also, our walls were straight enough that I didn't want to scribe the top to them, but that is something to consider if you want the fit to be really, really tight. If you are going to scribe, I would make the boards a bit wider to account for the material you're going to eventually cut away.  Good luck! 

Dwell On Design

Yesterday, I finally got around to registering for Dwell On Design, which is coming up June 24 - 26th in Los Angeles. I missed out on the early bird tickets for the home tours though. Darn.  I actually had a blog post draft to remind you all about early bird tickets and then didn't even remind myself!  Welcome to motherhood.  There are never enough hours in the day to check off the many things on the to-do list.

Which brings me to my next update which has nothing to do with Dwell.  As you may have noticed, it's next to impossible for me to keep up the pace of daily blog posts. New clients plus new baby and home remodel equals zero time to blog.  I do really enjoy sharing my favorites things, events, and updates on the restoration of our Cliff May Rancho and my drafts folder is bursting at the seams!  So, I will keep posting and aim for at least once a week.  For now I am just trying to limit work distractions so that I can enjoy this precious time with my baby daughter.  She turns one year old in just four more months.  It's crazy how fast the time goes!

Back to Dwell.  Tickets are still available for the show and all the home tours and you can find a full description of the ticket packages right here. Below are photos of some of the homes included in this year's home tours.  Happy Monday and see you soon!

Images via Dwell On Design

Modern Works Presented By Pasadena Heritage

If you love modernism, don't miss this event tomorrow! Pasadena Heritage gives a nod to some of its mid-20th century architecture with a tour featuring the work of Edward Durell Stone and Smith & Williams.  Alan Hess, the preservationist/architect and author who wrote this book (one of my favorites!) will also be giving a lecture at 1pm.  Attend the lecture only, the tour by itself, or both! Get your tickets right here.

Included on the tour is the Stuart Pharmaceutical Co. Building (pictured above), now known as The Stuart at Sierra Madre Villa, that I've long admired but have never been inside. You know you want a peek inside too. I'll see you there!

Modernism Show Recap

It was such an exciting weekend jam-packed with fresh inspiration which I can't wait to share!  I'm going to pace myself though and start with just a recap of the 2011 Los Angeles Modernism Show.

The Los Angeles Modern Committee had a booth generously offered to us by Dolphin Fairs and as the Vice Chair of ModCom, I was there to raise awareness of all the mid-century gems in LA that need to be protected. (Did you see our booth there? And sign-up for the mailing list? If not, you can still sign up here for monthly updates and find out about our meetings here)

Now that I've plugged ModCom, let's move on to the eye candy!  For those of you who aren't familiar with the Modernism Show, it features the best of the best when it comes to 20th century art and furnishings. If you have a little extra cash lying around (and by a little I mean, at least a thousand bills), you can take home something to call your very own.  Yes, the prices can be kind of steep. There are some affordable finds, however, like this great modular sofa for $1100 from Modern Home in Palm Springs. He actually had a pair of these (one in storage) and the 3-sections of each sofa can be arranged and rearranged to suit your needs.  For example, you can have two seats together with a table on one end. Or put both bases together to create a sectional.  Or even put three seats on one base to create a traditional sofa and two tables and one seat on the other base. I love flexible, functional furniture!

The star of the show was this Paul McCobb booth from Reform Gallery featuring almost a complete set of rare pieces from a collection called the Planner Group.  It took a decade for Jonathan Goldstein and Gerard O'Brien to assemble it all and there were some one-of-a-kind pieces, literally. It was incredible! They even had the original product brochures from 1953 on display. I took a couple of overview shots, plus close-ups of a great desk lamp and vase. Who knew Paul McCobb even designed ceramics? And this 1950s vase feels fresh as if it were just conceived yesterday. Check out Jonathan's blog and his Flickr set for more detailed photos of the individual pieces and if you have any McCobb questions, this is definitely your go-to guy.  He's even working on a Paul McCobb book. 

Another great booth was ModernHause. Oscar had some impressive furniture including this fantastic orange-lacquered George Nelson-designed bedroom suite for Herman Miller (Actually designed by Nelson, not one of his associates). The asking price was $5k for the entire collection. Not bad at all considering it includes a king-size bed with storage, two cabinets, and a chest of drawers. Let's face it, you can easily drop that for some mass-produced contemporary bedroom furniture and you won't get this quality or unique design.

Among the other pieces I coveted were a pair of Russel Wright spun-aluminum floor lamps offered by Studio 101.  It's really rare to see a pair together!

Also on my wish list? A General Dynamics poster from Vintage European Posters. I see this Berkley-based company at all the trade shows and I always stand mesmerized at their booth as they flip through the stacks of oversized, beautifully-designed posters. I have not yet had the opportunity to use one in a project or buy one for myself. Someday soon, I hope. This particular poster reminds me of a box of 64 Crayola crayons! Just wonderful in every way!

Last, but certainly not least, my heart actually skipped a beat when I saw this desk offered by Roy Aldridge Antiques. That colorful combination of laminated drawer-fronts and beautiful teak veneer had me counting my pennies to see if I could swing the nearly $1700 price tag. Sadly, I walked away sans desk. Bummer. Stay tuned though, because I definitely have a future DIY idea inspired by this piece.

So, that's it for my adventures at the Modernism Show. Check back later this week, as I continue the weekend recap with a mega-post about two of my all-time favorite designers on the planet!

Neutra Anniversary Weekend

Yesterday, Daily Icon posted a wonderful glimpse inside Neutra's 1934 Sten-Frenke house in Santa Monica, CA. Ever been up close and personal with a Neutra?  Sure, the photographs are great, but there's nothing like stepping inside one for the full experience and if you're in Los Angeles, there are so many Neutra-built homes right at your fingertips. 

Right now, in fact, you can purchase tickets to the 85th Anniversary Celebration for the Neutra practice (Richard's son, Dion, has carried on the business since his father's passing). The event involves a jam-packed weekend culminating in an exclusive tour featuring nine stops:  The Neutra office, Dion Neutra House, VDL Research House II, Lovell Health House, Treehouse Apartments, Flavin House, Ohara House and Inadomi House. The dates are April 8-10th and you can read more and purchase tickets at Neutra.org

Cordelia's Nursery: Part II

And the winner is....

If you missed Part I, it's worth a look back at the five different inspiration boards I put together for my daughter's nursery and the sources for all the items in the collage above. The runner up was the orange and grey collage with the Thomas Paul rug, but this happy multi-color room won out for several reasons 1) It's a bit more feminine 2) I can add almost any accessory (called 'toys' in her world) without them sticking out like a sore thumb 3) I scored that PB Teen rug for next to nothing and it's still on sale here

The bookcases worked out just as planned. I already had the Kartell storage unit on hand to use as a side table and I snagged the Fat Boy ottoman designed by Dwell Studio at Marshall's of all places for a mere thirty beans (also available right here on clearance). 

Some things were just happy accidents like that as well as the rocking chair that I mentioned I picked up at the Rose Bowl. It was recovered in an ivory shag from Deco Home. Other things in the room had more thought behind them and were shown in the original collage. The Oeuf cribJonathan Adler Havana sconces, Kate Quinn bedding, Puka Puka mobile, and Multi-boxes were all must-haves.  The Adler initial pillow was also on the original wish list, but they were out of stock and we ended up with this one instead.  If you look closely it includes the word 'gin', but my husband jokes that Jonathan is simply referring to the card game, not the adult beverage!

Smaller items of note not mentioned above are in the source list at the bottom of the post. Of course, the most adorable thing in the room, Cordelia, is in the last photo.  Enjoy!

Wall Art - Suzy Ultman
Piggy Bank, Turtle and Snail - Jonathan Adler
Mushroom Lamp - Vintage
Mirrored Discs - PB Teen
Toy baskets - Land Of Nod
Floor lamp - West Elm
Wall color - Sherwin-Williams Harmony paint in 'Bubble'

Cordelia's Nursery

Every mother obsesses over a nursery leading up to their first baby, right? You have to make sure everything is perfect and you're ready to welcome the little one home. Well, that's exactly how I ended up with six different inspiration boards for my daughter's nursery! Let's just say decisiveness and pregnancy do not go well together. 

Of course, I started with a focus on function and never wavered from my original floor plan.  It consisted of a crib (obviously) strategically positioned in the one spot in the room that wasn't under a window (we do live in a glass house, after all, but don't worry we recently installed 3M safety film on all the windows), bookcases lining one wall and rounding the corner, and a chair plus ottoman. Pretty simple. 

The Classic Ouef Crib was locked in, as was the Billy bookcase storage solution from IKEA which would get a birch top (an IKEA-hack since the corner solution doesn't really work with the low bookcases). I had spotted the Britten Nummer fabric, also from IKEA, and envisioned it as the perfect backdrop for the bookcases (simply covering the back panels with the fabric adhered with a little non-toxic Modge Podge). I had also spontaneously selected a light turquoise for the walls when the painters were here to cover up the oh-so-hideous hospital green walls that the previous owner had somehow thought were a good idea.  

So, those were all the decisions that had been made up until the third trimester.  In the mean time, I was distracted with all the other projects happening, which is really just my excuse for not being able to make up my mind. Designers designing for themselves is sometimes a fatal combination. Add in the pregnancy hormones and you're doomed.  

Then, a trip to the Rose Bowl Flea Market turned up a Ralph Rapson-style rocker (which I have to imagine was the inspiration behind IKEA's Poang rocker you'll see pictured in the first collage) and the room finally began to take shape. I had all the major furniture pieces. Although that still didn't stop me from contemplating repainting the walls (as you'll notice in the 3rd collage). So without further ado, here are the many variations on the nursery's color palette, textiles, lighting and decor. Can you guess which one of these five inspiration boards was the winner? 

Clockwise from top left: Mythic Paint in Turquoise, Sunny Outlook, and Sherwin-Williams 'Bubble', Jonathan Adler Havana Sconce, Frazier + Wing Mobile, Britten Nummer fabric and Billy bookcase from IKEA, Room and Board Henley floor pillow, Hable Construction fabric, IKEA Poang rocker (similar to Ralph Rapson-style vintage rocker scored at the Rose Bowl), Jonathan Adler Initial Pillow, Kate Quinn bedding, CB2 Birdwalk rug, West Elm side table, Oeuf Crib

Clockwise from top left: Puka Puka mobile, Thomas Paul sconce, Sherwin-Williams 'bubble', IKEA Britten Nummer and Billy bookcase, Oilo crib bedding, Amenity deer pillow, West Elm stump table, Monte Luca glider, Flor carpet tiles, Ouef Crib

Clockwise from top left: Puka Puka mobile, Mythic Paint in Blush of Dawn, Kate Quinn Bedding, IKEA Britten Nummer fabric with Billy bookcase, Multi-boxes, Crate and Barrel glider, West Elm Martini table, CB2 rug, Oeuf Crib, Jonathan Adler Initial Pillow

Clockwise from top left: Jonathan Adler Havana sconce, Summer Infant organic crib sheet, Puka Puka mobile, IKEA PS table, IKEA Britten Nummer fabric and Billy bookcase, Hable Construction fabric in charcoal, Modernica 'Grasshopper' chair, CB2 ottoman, Thomas Paul 'Parasols' rug, Sherwin-Williams 'Bubble', Oeuf crib, Inhabit wall hanging

Clockwise from top left: Jonathan Adler 'Havana' sconce, Sherwin-Williams 'Bubble', Puka Puka mobile, Jonathan Adler initial pillow, IKEA Britten Nummer fabric with Billy bookcase, Kate Quinn 'Clover' bedding, Multi-boxes, IKEA Poang rocker, PB Teen rug, Oeuf crib, Kartell Componibili storage unit

A Studio

We can all agree that Dwell showcases some pretty cool stuff.  The Joint Table by Tomoko Azumi is no exception. It's base is made possible by a traditional Japanese joinery technique that elevates it to a table worth gracing the pages of Dwell.  (Psst...I'm sure this table costs a pretty penny, but read on for some budget-friendly guidance.)

Image via Inhabitat

Azumi is certainly not new on the scene. These stools from 1965 have become a classic and here are some other designs equally as flawless. (Top - Recharge table, Bottom - Transport lamp)
What if you want to get a similar look for less?  IKEA actually has some products with a similar vibe for your bathroom or bedroom. Try Mandal or Molger. Admittedly not nearly as elegant, but you can't argue with the price, right?

Refresh, Not Remodel

What would you most love to improve in your home? Most homeowners are likely to answer with the kitchen or bath. These rooms are large investments and updates usually get put off while saving up for a dream remodel. That's why I loved this spread in Real Simple which shows you that you can breathe new life into your kitchen with a little cash and some smart organization. This 1950s kitchen was totally functional. It just needed a little love and a lot less clutter. 

There are some changes that are instantly noticeable like the shiny new range and the addition of a bold striped rug. Look closer and you'll notice some other quick tips to add polish. Aluminum toe-kicks covered peeling wood and a pendant from School House Electric replaced the ceiling fixture. What's one of the biggest (and easiest!) changes to help this kitchen look more pulled together? Loose the refrigerator magnets!  

Here are more detailed shots including one of my favorite features, the original built-in produce drawers: 

Great ideas, huh? Thanks to the folks at Real Simple for refreshing this space and saving some of its 1950s character. If your kitchen functions well overall, skip the major remodel and opt for a quick makeover instead!

Mark Your Calendars

Get ready, set, go! The next couple of weeks will be filled with can't miss design events. It all starts tonight with A+D Museum's Launch Party for Architizer.  Next week, the fun continues with West Week at Pacific Design Center with a keynote by Margaret Russell to kick off the festivities on March 24th. Directly following this two-day PDC extravaganza, spend two days on the Avenues of Art and Design for the 13th Annual West Hollywood Art + Design Walk. More than 300 top-notch showroom, galleries, and restaurants open their doors and welcome you to explore.

Also, don't forget that coming in May is Elle Decor's second annual Legends of La Cienega event.