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Home Renovation

What Do We Pick For Flooring?

Flooring was a hard decision to make because we are using it throughout the entire first floor. Which includes the great room, the den area and on the run of the stairs. So we better like the floor because we will be seeing a lot of it every day!

In the beginning we were leaning towards a light maple from the flooring samples that Home Depot and Lowe’s carried. I really liked the warm tones of the maple and thought it would make the room look more inviting. Considering everything else seemed quite sterile (whites and brushed nickel). The only problem was, the maple flooring was actually a more traditional look than what we were going for.

Pergo Max Pre-finished Natural Maple Hardwood Flooring

Pergo Max Pre-finished Natural Maple Hardwood Flooring

Contemporary Flooring

We wanted to keep the contemporary theme going and decided to go for a more non-traditional look. Something bold and contemporary in terms of style. The flooring style that we were thinking of, was a distressed, light ash or grey European Oak with warm tones based on some of these designs we liked:

[https://www.reclaimedflooringco.com/project/braided-river-driftwood-oak-floor-engineered/] by The Reclaimed Flooring Company

Braided River Driftwood Oak Floor by The Reclaimed Flooring Company

Deer Valley by Sapp Development Group

Deer Valley by Sapp Development Group

Woodvalley Residence by Gaile Guevara

Woodvalley Residence by Gaile Guevara

This was quite different from the traditional walnut and maple flooring, which has more of a reddish and yellow tone, pictured below:

by John Kraemer & Sons

Walnut Floors by John Kraemer & Sons

Hardwood Flooring vs. Laminate Flooring

Now, we know there are many different kinds of flooring out there today besides hardwood and laminate. You can find a comprehensive list with their pros and cons on [lifehacker]. But in our case, we were mainly interested in looking at laminate and hardwood flooring for the house.

We originally planned on using laminate flooring because we have a cat and a dog. It seemed like laminate would be the best solution since it is scratch resistant and seemed somewhat easy to maintain. But we decided to take a look at the pros and cons between hardwood and laminate flooring in detail before making the decision.

The Pros

Hardwood: longer lasting, easier to buff out scratches and re-stain the hardwood. More color and material choices, better resell value.

Laminate: cheaper than hardwood, looks great – recently manufactured laminate flooring are made to look just like hardwood, easy to install, scratch resistant (good for pets).

The Cons

Hardwood: generally more expensive, more difficult to install. Not as scratch resistant compared to laminate.

Laminate: 10 years of use, cannot be refinished or sanded (if the surface gets damaged – must be replaced). Limited styles and colors.

In the end, we decided to go with hardwood over laminate flooring. We were worried about the floors getting scratched. Both laminate and hardwood will eventually get scratched, but it is easier to buff out scratches and re-finish hardwood than laminate flooring. And the look we were going for was really hard to find in laminate flooring. We think of hardwood as an investment, since it does have a better resell value.

In the end, we decided on this European Oak with oil finish, which had everything we were looking for. Distressed style, light ash/grey color, with warm tones. Just like the flooring in the designs above. We loved how the distressed texture gave it some character and how the unique ash tone gave it a contemporary and unique look.

Delfino Flooring by Monarch Planks

Delfino by Monarch Planks

If you do like this kind of style, another hardwood flooring I would recommend is this one (pictured on the right):

Pale Tan by D&M Flooring

Pale Tan by D&M Flooring

This has a slightly warmer tone than the one we picked (in person – not sure if you can tell from the picture). But it still has that very contemporary style without looking too sterile. This was definitely one of my top picks! I would have been equally as happy to go with this flooring as well!

If you have any question regarding the flooring we picked, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Home Renovation

Front Facade Redesign

Original Front Facade

Original Front Facade

Many of the houses in the neighborhood are Mediterranean or Spanish style homes. So our original front facade was pretty common in the area. However, during the inspection, the inspector had pointed out there was termite damage around the bottom and sides of the front facade.

So we thought… since we were renovating the interior of the house to a more modern and contemporary design. Why not update the exterior so it could match the interior space? This way, it would get rid of the termite damage as well.

Redwood in Contemporary Homes

The look we were going for was inspired by the redwood element found in contemporary homes. Usually redwood planks(or cedar is also a popular option) is used as the exterior walls instead of just stucco finish (in our case). Here are some examples (notice that the houses are mostly “boxy”):

Alternative to redwood, cedar planks are also very popular (slightly more yellow tone than redwood). Kirkland Residence by allied8

Alternative to redwood, cedar planks are also very popular (slightly more yellow tone than redwood). Kirkland Residence by allied8

We didn’t hire an architect for the exterior design because we thought it would be a small change. We didn’t plan on re-designing the whole exterior and landscaping, just one wall. Our contractor did not warn us and seemed so confident that they had ripped out the front facade before the city approved the exterior design.

The front facade looked like this for a long while:

Gutted Front Facade

Gutted Front Facade

So we thought the design would pass, until we submitted it to city planning for a design review..

Our Initial Design

For the city to make sure that the homeowners get their unique look. But still look like it belonged in the neighborhood, there are guidelines (if interested read here: Sunnyvale Single Family Design Techniques) that city planning follows.

This was our initial design:

First Exterior Design

First Exterior Design

We just wanted to add redwood siding to the front facade above the garage and change the exterior paint color. Nothing else was changed in the design. But since we didn’t know about the guidelines beforehand. Needless to say, we did not get approved with our first design.

Front Facade Redesigns

These were some of the feedback we got:

  1. The gable roof, arch and other elements made the house look too traditional, having one modern element (redwood siding) was not aesthetically pleasing.
  2. The redwood siding made the house look top heavy and suggestions were to add rocks to the bottom half.
  3. Front door entrance was no longer the focal point, which did not agree with the guidelines.
  4. We could not add redwood siding just to the front facade, there had to be a balance. Possibly need to add the redwood element throughout the exterior and other modern elements as well.

So we took these suggestions and short of implementing a new roof. We came up with several new designs:

Exterior Redesign by Stewart

Exterior Redesign by Stewart

More Exterior Redesign by Stewart

Exterior Redesign by Stewart

  • Added white paint color to walls, instead of all slate grey.
  • Adding glass panels to the gable, which I really hoped was not needed.
  • Adding redwood siding on top of the front door to extend the entrance.
  • Adding a wall with the redwood siding and black trim. To balance the redwood siding on top of the garage.
  • Changing the garage door window shape to rectangles.

These new designs were on the right track and we had better feedback. The design review committee liked the direction that the design was going. Having a fence with redwood siding, and adding white paint.

Final Approve Design!

Eventually the design we agreed on was this one:

Stewart modeled the exterior design using SketchUp

Stewart modeled the exterior design using SketchUp

Different perspectives of the contemporary exterior design using SketchUp by Stewart

Different perspectives of the contemporary exterior design using SketchUp by Stewart

I think we did pretty good with the final design! It might take a while until we get to finish it up. But at least we were able to go ahead and incorporate the redwood siding to the front facade. The whole process was a great learning experience. Now we know there are guidelines for changing the exterior design. Next time we decide to change the exterior design, we will know better. Can’t wait to see the final product!

Home Renovation

Current Home Renovation: 1970s House to Modern Home

Stewart fell in love with this split-level, 1,900 square feet, 2-1/2 bath, 4 bedroom house. Which was a big jump from the apartment rentals we were used to. The thing was, the house was a fixer-upper. And neither of us had any experience with home renovations. We just knew there were some fixes that needed to be done before we were able to move in. We also wanted a design update. With a small idea of where to start. This is the story of how we are giving this 1970s detached single-family home a modern and contemporary update.

A little back story… we are currently located in the Bay Area. One who recently moved here and the other grew up in California. We are newlyweds and started looking for a house after we got engaged. We both have an interest in smart-technology with a modern and contemporary taste for home design. Both of which were non-existent in these neighborhoods. It only started becoming popular in the last few years. We also have a pretty different idea of housing expectations from each other. I am used to having the option of being able to purchase a house from a new housing construction (for a decent price). While Stewart is used to seeing overpriced neighborhoods with older houses.

Modern VS Contemporary

I use modern and contemporary separately because they are considered different categories. I’ll try my best to use the correct term when talking about the design. I found this article which does a pretty good job of explaining the difference between modern vs contemporary, if you are interested in reading.

The short version is, modern is a defined style characterized by: white walls, neutral colors and natural materials (timeless). While contemporary describes what the current popular design style is: (such as) folding glass wall systems and redwood siding. Which might not be considered “contemporary” 25 years from now.

Here are some examples of the modern and contemporary house styles:

Floating vanity by The Furniture Guild

Floating vanity by The Furniture Guild

Redwood siding by Heydt Designs

Redwood siding by Heydt Designs

We definitely like the modern minimalistic style, open spaces and lots of natural light. With the contemporary glass wall systems and redwood sidings.

So we went to open houses in a few different neighborhoods. Hoping to compare and understand each neighborhood better. It was hard to decide on a location, house and price. Eventually we compromised and bought a fixer-upper close to our dream location. Since the house needed some work, we were able to get it for a bit cheaper than the other houses for sale in this area. Buying a fixer-upper also meant that we could renovate it to our style. Stay within our budget in a nice neighborhood and potentially sell it for more in the future.

Current Status of Our Home Renovation

As of writing this post, the house has been gutted and mostly empty. Some major structural work has been done. We have put in a new roof, and waiting for the skylights to be installed.

Current home renovation

Gutted Front Facade for Redwood Siding

Load-bearing Wall Removed

Load-bearing Wall Removed

Current home renovation

Kitchen area with recessed lighting wired and prep done for sky lights.

With still have a lot left to do and stories to share along the way. We hope that you will find our modern and contemporary home renovation interesting. And maybe even help inspire your space. If you have any questions feel free to send us a message.