...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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That handsome man is Orlando (pronounced or-LON-doh) Soria and he’s quickly climbing to the top of my favorite designers list. I’ve been a fan of Orlando’s for years and I was super excited when he took on the role of West Coast Creative Director at Homepolish last fall. Orlando and the rest of the Homepolish team are doing revolutionary things in the field of interior design!

So about a month ago when the peeps at Homepolish contacted me about a possible collaboration, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. YES! I had the pleasure of interviewing Orlando and he’s just about the sweetest thing ever. I still can’t believe he took the time to read my questions – let alone answer them. Find my interview with Orlando below then keep reading for details on a giveaway you won’t want to miss.

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There must be some amazing story or unusual meaning behind your name. Do tell.

My mom was reading the Virginia Woolf novel Orlando when she was pregnant with me so I’m kind of named for that character. I have Spanish / Mexican lineage on my father’s side so my parents wanted us to have Hispanic-sounding names so Orlando kind of went with that, too. My middle name is Dumond which is French so I basically have the most racially ambiguous name in the whole world.

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Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about your childhood? Perhaps something that influences your work today?

I grew up in Yosemite Village which is a community of about 800 people inside Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. I didn’t really appreciate it growing up but it was pretty much the most incredible place to grow up. Through the window in my childhood bedroom you can see Yosemite Falls which is the tallest waterfall in the U.S. It used to shake and rattle my windowpanes at night.

Growing up where I did made me fall in love with California. My grandparents (on both sides of the family) lived in Steinbeck country (on the outskirts of Salinas, towards Monterey) so I grew up going to Big Sur and Santa Cruz and the central coast all the time. When I moved East for college, grad school, and New York City I missed California incredibly. After ten years I finally moved back and I think a lot of my design sense comes from the romance I had for California while I lived away. I like interiors to feel natural and casual yet beautiful. Kind of like California.

Your dimples…do you use them for good or evil?

LOL! I use them for good. Mostly.

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As a designer you’re challenged to cater to clients’ needs and wants but what is your signature “Orlando” touch? Is there an element you include in every project?

I like to have at least one piece in every project that is handmade and unique. This can be art, a hand-painted dresser or some kind of wall treatment. My hope for every client is that they have something no one else has, something that is inspired by their personality.

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Is there one rule you like to break when designing a space?

One thing I like to do is break clients from the idea that things need to “match.” My pet peeve is people being like “oh that wood is a different color than the wood over here.” While of course it’s nice to match wood tones, fabrics and other finishes for some projects (i.e. ones that are more streamlined and conceptual) most homes look better with a collection of furnishings that are more real, natural. Thus, it’s fine to mix types of wood, etc. as long as it’s done intentionally.

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You’re the West Coast Creative Director at Homepolish. (YAY!) Can you describe Homepolish’s mission for those folks who haven’t heard of it?

I fell in love with Homepolish the minute I heard about it because it’s striving to change the interior design industry from within. We’ve been around for about two years now and we’ve already revolutionized the markets we’re in. Basically, the goal of Homepolish is to take away the hidden costs and confusion normally associated with interior design and make the whole process more transparent. We don’t up-charge on furniture. We have a program called “swatch” which allows us to share exclusive discounts with clients and all our fees are upfront so there’s no confusion on what things are going to cost. There’s no incentive for designers to recommend super expensive furnishings so they are free to design specifically to the taste of the client. We have a huge range of clients – from small budgets to enormous ones – and they all seem to appreciate that we are most interested in meeting their needs and giving them the space they want, not upselling them on overpriced furniture.

There’s also a huge advantage for the designers who work with Homepolish. We take away the annoying parts of their job (billing, collecting taxes, etc.) and allow them to concentrate fully on designing. Also, we’re helping pair them with great clients and helping them build their portfolios. So not only is our company helping clients attain beautiful homes and enjoy their spaces more, it’s also giving young, well-accomplished designers the tools they need to finally have access to clients and thrive in their design practices.

Homepolish has a presence in more than a dozen major U.S. cities. Are there plans to expand? (Ohio needs you.)

YES! We want to be in EVERY CITY as soon as possible. Since we are getting so much press and doing so well in all the cities we’re already in, we are balancing the need to be responsible with the desire to help as many clients as we can. Eventually we will be a truly nationwide service but for now we are expanding as quickly as we can. Starting up in a new city takes some time because we have an intense (and ridiculously competitive) selection process for our designers to make sure we only have the best talent. So, in short, yes we will be to Ohio as soon as we can!

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What has been your favorite Homepolish project to date? Why?

Well, the answer to this question changes every day. Right now my favorite project is The Beach House because it’s so different than anything I’ve ever done. (Fact: designers actually like designing for clients that have a style totally different than their own.) I’m sure if you ask me this in a month I will have a different answer. I am working on Kelly Oxford‘s new house right now and when that’s done it’s going to be disgusting(ly amazing).

In design, we’re told everything is better in 3′s. Please respond to the following:

3 things on your bucket list

1. Learn a language other than English. Preferably Spanish because it would be super useful to me in southern California.

2. Buy and renovate a house in California before the whole state falls into the ocean.

3. Own a brownstone in Chelsea before New York falls into the ocean.

3 things every room needs

1. Art. By real people not Urban Outfitters.

2. Rugs. Ever notice that if there’s a rug in a room everyone is hanging out where the rug is and no one wants to be where there is no rug? There’s a reason for that.

3. Lamps. Even if you don’t have anywhere to sit, you need light. Or you’ll get depressed and sad.

3 things you can’t live without

1. Avocados. If a day goes by where I don’t have at least a little serving of avocado I feel like life is not worth living.

2. Knowing where the coast is. It’s true, if I don’t know which direction the ocean is I get disoriented. For this reason, I have never not lived in a coastal state.

3. Light. I have window treatments in my bedroom but they’re just for looks. I never close them because I love having light shining in my windows at all times. When it gets dark and gloomy in the winter, I want to stab myself with a sword.

3 things you like to do outside of interior design

1. California road trips. Ojai, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, Yosemite, San Francisco, Sonoma County. I love just getting in the car and driving somewhere, just to stare at it and be in love. Living in a car city has its disadvantages but the advantage to having a car is that you can just wake up on Saturday and be like “I’m going to Santa Barbara!” and it’s super easy. We live in a beautiful country, so much to explore. I think our wild areas, our beautiful cities and our amazing parks are our greatest national treasure. Oh my god that’s so cheesy but I totally believe it. Sorry.

2. Art. I paint and make drawings. It’s what I studied in school and I still love it. I also love ogling other people’s art. My favorite place to do this is LACMA, which in my opinion is the most beautiful, relaxing art museum in America.

3. Outdoor movies / concerts / picnics / events. I am down for anything if it’s outside, whether it’s Coachella, Tchaikovsky at the Hollywood Bowl or The Addams Family screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. If there’s food, friends, and some kind of entertainment, sign me up!

3 places you’re dying to visit

1. Soria, Spain, where my last name comes from and from where, apparently, our Jewish ancestors fled during the Inquisition.

2. Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico City (I’ve been a huge fan of hers since childhood.)

3. Berlin. Just because it sounds cheap, gross and kind of scary.

3 jobs you’ve held

1. Indie music publicist (first year out of school in New York).

2. Graphic designer (for a great stationery company in Los Angles, Jonathan Wright and Company)

3. Production designer (I worked on a lot of small / indie movies and music videos and photo shoots)

3 traits of a perfect client

1. Decisive. (Because slow decision making is what always leads to lagging projects.)

2. Realistic. (I’m a designer, not a magician. As much as I like to make my clients happy, there are limits to what a certain budget / space can do.)

3. Humble. (I’m down to earth and pretty self-deprecating so I don’t do well with pompous, entitled people).

3 adjectives to describe your personal style

Colorful, artistic, handmade.

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Thank you so much Orlando and Homepolish!

Orlando’s answers only make me adore him that much more. I love his reply to three things every room needs. How cool is it that he grew up with a waterfall right outside his bedroom window?! And who knew a SAHM in Ohio could have anything in common with a legit designer in LA? I, too, am a lover of avocados, living in a fish bowl and outdoor shenanigans.

Now about that awesome giveaway…head over to Homepolish to enter to win a pair of brass swing lamps from One Forty Three! Coincidentally, they’re the same lamps flanking Orlando’s bed above. I’ve long admired OFT’s workmanship. Good stuff and good luck, friends!

images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7) Tessa Neustadt 5, 8) Zeke Ruelas 6) Bethany Nauert

I get a surprising number of emails asking whether or not I use rug pads or non-slip rug grippers. Up until a few weeks ago, the answer was no. I’ve never liked cushy rug pads for the sake of padding alone. For me, they make vacuuming more difficult and I feel like they’re just one more thing to collect and hold dust. And the good ones are expensive!

As far as non-slip pads go, most of the larger area rugs in my home either have a built-in, non-slip backing (living room sisal, boys’ Flor tiles) or are anchored by such substantial pieces of furniture (dining room kilim, master bedroom jute) which render rugs pads unnecessary. The shag rug in the living room is layered over sisal which has a textured surface that holds the shag rug in place. The cotton and jute rug in Mabrey’s room rests directly on the wood floor. When I first bought the nursery rug, I was sure we would need a pad of some sort to keep it from shifting so I was happy to discover that it stays put. I think it’s because the room is so small and doesn’t see a ton of foot traffic. The 4′ x 6′ sisal in the entry has a built-in, non-slip backing.

entry and kitchen rug  HouseTweaking

I don’t use a pad / gripper under the kilim near the kitchen desk – nor under the Persian rug near the kitchen sink. The kitchen is a high traffic, high mess area so I’m frequently taking the rugs outside to shake out crumbs and dirt. A gripper would keep them from shifting but I don’t want them stuck to the floor. I tried the cheap mesh grippers that you can cut to size but found them completely useless. They bunched up and only stuck to themselves. If we had elderly people in our household then I would consider anchoring the rugs properly (or forgoing them all together) but we don’t find them to be tripping hazards. We’re all subconsciously aware that they’re here, I guess.

The only rug that has given us problems is the seagrass runner in the hallway. (Btw, do you call it a hall or a hallway?) It has a cloth backing and due to all the traffic it sees, it shifted easily. I was constantly repositioning it and, more than once, it posed a tripping / falling hazard. Since the only functioning bathroom is the master, we and our guests have to walk down the hallway to use the restroom. Most OH SH@#! moments occurred as someone was exiting our bedroom and entering the hallway. I called it rug surfing. Fearing someone would inevitably experience a full on wipeout, I finally bought some gripper tape to keep the rug in place.

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After measuring my runner, I bought two boxes of rug gripper.

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I removed the runner from the hallway. I vacuumed the floor then wiped it down thoroughly with Bona and a microfiber cloth to ensure the gripper tape would have a clean surface to adhere to.

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While the floor was drying, I vacuumed the underside of the runner. Preparing clean surfaces for the gripper tape is essential.

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I applied the gripper tape around the perimeter of the (backside of the) rug then ran an extra line down the middle for added adhesion. This used up the majority of the two boxes of tape.

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I removed the yellow backing from the tape then carefully put the runner in place and walked around on it to press the tape to the floor. Easy!

The rug has been in place with the aide of the gripper tape for over a month now. It hasn’t budged. Not even with kids running wild and weekly vacuuming. If you’re curious, I vacuum the rug weekly and use an attachment tool to vacuum the narrow space between the rug’s border and baseboards.

While we’ve had great success with the tape, the reviews are all over the place and, from what I can tell, results vary depending on the type of flooring and rug. It doesn’t look like it works well on carpet or on rugs with highly textured backing. But with our wood floors and fairly smooth cloth backing? Two thumbs up. Even so, I expect the tape will need to be replaced at some point in the future. But if it keeps people from wiping out in the hallway then I’m all for it. (FYI – I used this same rug tape in our previous home under a small rug in the entry. We had hardwood flooring in the entry. When we were preparing to move, I took up the rug and tape and there were a few sticky spots of residual adhesive but they cleaned up with a little Murphy’s oil soap and elbow grease. There was no damage to the wood floors.)

What about you? Are rug pads / gripper tape necessary in your home? Is there a particular pad you would recommend? Oh! In case you’re wondering, the seagrass runner is from Overstock. I love the texture it brings to the bland hallway. I can’t wait to add art to the walls.

P.S. – See who won the ShoeMint giveaway here. I added sources for my entire outfit since so many of you asked.

07.12.14 / Made Me Smile

nature walk

At the beginning of the summer, the kids and I made a pact to hit up as many parks as possible before school was back in session. We’ve hit up over a dozen so far and it has been so much fun! I’ve been giving the kids free rein on deciding where we end up with the only stipulation being no parking / admission fees. We’ve discovered creeks, bridges, stone stairways, swimming holes and the ideal picnic site. Sometimes I daydream of living somewhere more scenic, more exotic but our recent nature walks have brought on a new appreciation for this place we call home.

A few smile-worthy links from around the web…

*…and now I want to explore more of Weird Ohio.

*Hollywood takes on Cincinnati.

*Captain Pizza.

portable treehouse

*A portable, suspended treehouse.

*Ikea ranked “highest in customer satisfaction with kitchen cabinets” in J.D. Power study. (You can see how Ikea stands up to other brands here.)

*Love this look.

*Gray-green in the kitchen is hot right now.

Have a wonderful weekend! Maybe squeeze in a nature walk.

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Tentsile

07.10.14 / The Kitchen

Ohhhhh, the kitchen.

kitchen before

The original kitchen was walled off from the living and dining rooms.

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If the cabinets had been in better shape, we might have tried to work with them but, sadly, they were rotted and the doors / drawers didn’t open or close properly. The odd layout assigned the refrigerator to a lone corner with no storage or counter space nearby. There was no dishwasher.

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One thing we liked about the kitchen was the window above the sink which looks out onto the backyard. It was one of the few windows that had been replaced by the previous owner.

kitchen after

kitchen after 3

To enlarge the kitchen and create a more functional layout without altering the house’s original footprint, we removed walls separating the kitchen, living and dining rooms. We aren’t formal people so the small dining room was relocated to allow for a large island. The dining room window was replaced with french doors to connect the kitchen to the backyard. A vaulted ceiling and skylights flood the north-facing space with natural light. It’s a far cry from the dark, soffit-heavy room we started with.

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We had our plumber run new water and gas lines to accommodate the current layout. A counter-depth refrigerator stands where the stove once lived. A freestanding range occupies the site where a wall used to separate the kitchen from the original dining room. A new dishwasher is located to the right of the sink. It’s hidden behind a cover panel that matches the base cabinetry. When the house came to us, a microwave sat in a corner eating up precious counter space. We added a shelf next to the refrigerator to house the microwave and a few cookbooks which freed up counter space for a coffeemaker, toaster and shelf of drinking glasses.

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One thing we didn’t change was the location of the sink. I like that I am able to look out the window when I’m washing dishes to admire the greenery or watch the kids playing.

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We opted for solid surface countertops around the perimeter of the kitchen for easy maintenance. An extra deep, under-mounted, single basin sink makes cleanup a breeze.

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The nine-foot-long island is the hub of the house. It sees as much Play-doh, crafting and homework as it does meal prep, entertaining and casual dining. We topped it with a walnut slab to give it the feel of a wood table since we eat most of our meals here. It’s a warm contrast to the granite in the rest of the room. Guests always comment on the island and wood top saying they feel like they’re at a bar. We take it as a compliment.

We suspended a trio of pendants above the island. I wanted something that would punctuate the island but not impede the view of the kitchen from the adjoining living space. Clear globe lights were an ideal choice. I especially like the black cloth cords. The pendants are on a dimmer so we can have bright light for food prep or low light for dining and ambiance.

I chose durable metal counter stools to stand up to the kids and their inevitable messes. I wipe them down with a wet cloth and they look brand new. To keep the view from the living room to the kitchen uninterrupted, the stools are backless. This feature also makes it easy to turn around to talk with someone in the living room. Initially, I had some reservations about using backless stool with kids but it hasn’t been an issue.

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We kept the back wall free of upper cabinetry and installed reclaimed wood shelves. A sleek range hood and minimal backsplash add to the open feel. It’s nice to look over from the living room and not be bombarded with a slew of wall cabinets or an entire wall of tile. I really wanted the kitchen to feel like an extension of the living space instead of a kitchen thrown into a living room. To achieve this, we continued the engineered hardwood flooring into the kitchen. The wood flooring, walnut island top and reclaimed wood shelving help bring warmth to an innately utilitarian room.

The cabinetry is Ikea. From the get-go, I had my heart set on a tuxedo kitchen: dark lowers, white uppers. I wanted dark base cabinets to ground the kitchen in such an open space. I wanted white wall cabinets to keep things light. A mix of black and white just made sense.

We fell hard for the Ramsjö black-brown base cabinets but were disappointed with the slightly pink tone of the coordinating white wall cabinets. In the end, we used three different door styles. (Ramsjö black-brown, solid front for the bases and Lidingö white, solid and glass-front for the uppers.) I was a little worried about the mix on paper but in real life I think it goes a long way in helping the kitchen feel less generic.

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One end of the kitchen is devoted to paying bills, making grocery lists, creating meal plans and all the other secretarial tasks that go along with running a household. It’s also where I do the majority of writing and photo editing for the blog. Essentially, it’s a home office. Base cabinets hold a printer, office supplies and the kids’ crafting supplies. Upper, glass-front cabinets provide pretty storage. I use an assortment of baskets, bins and boxes to corral vitamins, batteries, camera accessories, receipts, crayons and a bunch of other miscellaneous. The planked backsplash is a repeated element also found on the ceiling and TV wall.

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To give the kitchen space a cozy vibe, I added greenery, artwork, vintage rugs, an upholstered desk stool and a linen-covered lamp. It feels lived. It is lived in.

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There are a few tweaks yet to be made in the kitchen. (We need to add a trim piece next to an upper cabinet in the corner near the microwave and I’m brainstorming an interactive side panel for the refrigerator.) But I’m very lucky to be able to spend the majority of my time in this bright and airy space. In the evening when the kitchen is tidy after dinner and the dishwasher is humming away, I pour myself a glass of wine and golden light glows through the skylights. It’s my happy place.

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore tapestry beige
trim, ceiling, planked backsplash paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
french door paint – Glidden trim & door oil paint, extra high gloss in deepest black
flooring – Jasper engineered hardwood handscraped birch in Texas brown via Build Direct
base cabinets – Ikea, Ramsjö black-brown
wall cabinets – Ikea, Lidingö white
perimeter countertop – kashmir white granite via Stone Design
walnut countertop – Hardwood Lumber Company
island corbels – The Home Depot
hardware – Ikea (Värde handles sans rosettes)
refrigerator, dishwasher, gas range, range hood – Ikea
microwave – LG
sink – Kraus 32″ undermount single bowl
faucet – VIGO stainless steel pull-out
backsplash tile – imperial bianco gloss 2″ x 12″ via The Tile Shop
backsplash grout – Laticrete epoxy grout in natural grey
globe pendant lights – West Elm
counter stools – Overstock
wall sconce above sink – Barn Light Electric
house artwork near sink – gift
spice rack – Ikea
glass storage containers – Wal-mart
kitchen towels – Crate & Barrel
step stool – Ikea, painted & stained
rug near sink – ebay (seller was manhattanrugs)
open shelving - DIY using Ikea brackets and reclaimed wood
oil & vinegar drizzlers – Amazon (These are the best!)
stainless steel containers – Target
antlers – etsy
black & white planter – vintage
rug near desk – etsy
desk stool – Blu Dot knicker stool
laptop bag – STM
blue & white planter – JoAnn’s
letter tray - Ikea
magazine files – Ikea
linen lamp – Crate & Barrel
wood cubby – Kalon Studios
highchair – Ikea
art above highchair – Clare Elsaesser
mat & frame – Utrecht art supplies
tongue & groove planks – Home Emporium
skylights – Velux

In case you’re interested in seeing how this space came together over time, a slew of kitchen-related links:

KITCHEN RENOVATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/08/30/a-few-new-things

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/10/25/light-skies/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/22/finishing-the-walnut-butcher-block/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/24/installing-the-walnut-butcher-block/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/25/countertops-are-in/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/11/01/kitchen-backsplash-tweaked-shelves/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/03/11/our-pantry-a-tasty-giveaway/

IKEA KITCHEN

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/06/03/an-ikea-kitchen-in-the-making/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/06/15/an-after-dinner-ikea-run/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/06/29/ikea-appliance-reviews/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/07/09/designing-our-ikea-kitchen/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/07/12/purchasing-our-ikea-kitchen/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/07/20/installing-our-ikea-kitchen/

DECOR

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/08/21/kitchen-island-pendants/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/08/06/those-stools/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/08/22/our-kitchen-cabinets-color-matched/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/10/05/ill-take-it/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/03/14/a-new-desk-rug/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/08/11/what-happened-to-the-wall-planter/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/09/30/a-kitchen-rug/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/12/01/sink-hole-quick-fix/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/04/the-cheapest-most-loved-fiddle-leaf-fig/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/04/11/how-im-not-killing-my-fiddle-leaf-fig/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/24/i-call-it-the-stop-stool/

KITCHEN DESK

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/09/27/organizing-the-kitchen-desk/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/12/12/kitchen-desk-backsplash/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/12/16/the-kitchen-desk-backsplash-painted/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/03/04/baby-steps-in-the-unfinished-bathroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/16/my-home-workspace/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/26/diy-sueded-cord-cover/

For ease, you can access this kitchen tour under the “See My House” tab in the side bar along with a general house tour and the living room tour. I’ll be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking