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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An architectural tour of Hermosa Beach: a journey through space and time

Not only do the Haves and Have Nots live side-by-side here. So do the New England Quakers and the Medieval Spanish and the Balinese. Or so it would seem.

Back in the early 20th century, when Hermosa was developed, there were beach cottages. Then came little white box sugar cube houses and their mid century modern bungalow buddies. Then the 80s happened and the money and taste explosion spewed an unrestrained expression of personal style in the shape of massive houses. There are plenty of shiny, post-modernist monstrosities dotted around Hermosa from that era.

In the 90s, this is what the future looked like
As well as the hangover from the post-modernist era, Spanish style was also pretty big in the 90s. You see some nice examples of houses that look very authentically Californian, with their terracotta roofing and sweet Spanish pottery tiles on the steps.
A pretty contemporary Spanish (right next door to a 70s beach cottage).
You also see a lot of their ugly sisters, or 'the Matador's Miniature Castles', as I call them. The Venetian palaces I see are probably from that time too, a time when people dreamt of a more ornate balustrade, or some swagged curtains around their window, or a portico on their patio.
A slice of Venice. Next to a slice of Cape Cod.
Then came the '00s, and the Craftsman, and the Cape Cod and their shingled, white trimmed brethren. And nowadays if you're building a new house in the South Bay it's all about the Balinese and the Plantation style.

All of which is well and good. Each to their own, and all power to those home owner for building the castle of their dreams. The weird thing is the way they sit side-by-side. It's such a hodgepodge. I'm used to England where for the most part houses look like their neighbours, thanks mainly to the fact that it was all built a long time ago.
Old El Paso

Industrial chic meets beach cottage

Neoclassical meets contemporary

Victorian splendour wedged between a slice of Mexico and some midcentury modern. Wonder which was here first.

I like the freedom here, but with idiosyncracy comes a disorienting sense of misplacement. I mean, this is not Cape Cod. Or El Paso. So why live in a house that was designed for that climate? And it must be odd to gaze out from your Venetian balcony onto a house that looks like a 1960s library: like being in a timewarp. And how irritating to be living your sleek, Balinese, luxury hotel-style dream right next door to some salty old seadog. That's the price of freedom, I guess.