I have a lot of conflicting feelings about my condo. On the plus side, I bought it! All by myself! The building it’s in burned to the ground during the Woolsey Fire, so it’s brand-new construction – which means everything works (!). Having lived in extremely ramshackle (hee) housing over the years – from our adorable-but-not-super-functional Hudson Valley house to a trailer with multi-million dollar views but no especially reliable electrical or plumbing – this is quite exciting. Sometimes I just open the closet where the water heater is kept, think back to the spricket-infested basement hellscape where the water tank lived in Tarrytown, and marvel at its shiny newness.
Our very first house. I LOVED it, sprickets and all.
On the less-plussy side…I miss having a house. I grew up in an apartment, and always craved light and space, a yard for my kids, a vegetable garden I can tend. I really miss our San Jose house, which I renovated from literally inside out…and then put on the market the morning after I finished laying the last bathroom tile (divorce: it’s a good time!). I miss the evenings I spent swimming laps after the kids went to bed. I miss decorating the front porch like Santa Claus exploded. I miss chatting to passing neighbors from our hammock.
Our new place is on a busy corner of the Pacific Coast Highway, and I hear car crashes from my porch on the regular. The view from our kitchen window (ok, most of our windows) is of a parking lot, and the fact that Angelyne’s pink convertible is often parked there (really; California is so fun) only helps a little.
It’s not the life I imagined for us.
A funny picture from a not-funny time
But also: “What I imagined for us,” I see now, was almost wholly external. A performance – for others, but also for myself. I think part of it was wanting to prove that I “made it” according to some screwed-up internal calculations based on a blend of Full House reruns, my parents’ Boomer values, and social media…but when I dig deeper, I see that I’ve spent half my life moving and moving and moving in search of some unknown locale where I will truly, finally, feel like I belong.
I want, very simply and profoundly, to go home. And so often, it feels like I don’t know where that is.
Except, of course, I do: It’s tattooed right there on my arm. Home is anywhere I lay my head. Home is where my children are. Home is a thing you build, not a thing you buy.
I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here; it feels like I was asleep for a few years, and woke up only to discover myself in a seaside town to which I have (or at least had, when I first arrived) zero discernible ties. Yes, the school system is amazing, yes, it’s “paradise” (with a bunch of secret right-wing anti-vax conspiracy theorists mixed in alongside the surfers and Pepperdine students), yes, ocean and sun and etc etc…but really: I have no business trying to keep up with these particular Joneses.
I am a single mom, and a writer, for christ’s sake. I make a good living some years, and other years not so much, and what it adds up to is that I am not the target audience for this silly-fancy zip code, where the bulk of my kids’ friends live in gated enclaves and weekend in Mammoth. I can’t afford the surf camps and the dance classes that it seems like everyone else absorbs without a second thought. I live in the absolute cheapest possible housing within the school district, and still I can barely afford my recently-doubled HOA fees (that was an exciting development).
Listen to me: Aren’t I obnoxious?! I can’t afford $400-a-month dance classes for my eight-year-old, wah wah wahhhhhhh. Don’t worry, the tiny violins are already playing in my head.
Either way, though: Here is where I am, and of all the places on the planet to land through a bizarre confluence of choices, coincidences, and leaps of faith…it’s not a bad one. Malibu is ridiculous, a caricature of itself, but it is also magical. I even have friends! Great ones, ones who remind me that yes, the parade of privilege is exhausting and yes, it might feel inescapable…but really, it’s only there if you’re invested in it.
If you’re not, maybe one day you wake up and realize that life is not perfect, but life is good. We live in a sweet apartment that I’ve been making our own with my own two hands. When I open my window I can hear the sounds of traffic, but if I crane my neck I can see the ocean.
We have a little pink kitchen, and if my daughter wants to dance, we do it right there.
The Little Pink Kitchen: A Before-and-After
Here’s the before.
Moving on to the kitchen reno: To be clear, nothing was wrong with our kitchen (just like nothing was wrong with this bathroom, or this one) – it was just all very blah. I don’t enjoy blah; I enjoy color. So let’s take a quick tour of my favorite spots in our kitchen – the easy additions that made the space feel both super-functional…and frankly (IMO) adorbs.
The plan was born from the fact that Archie is a nightmare, and his nightmarish tendencies extend to burying his face in his water bowl and tossing it all over that (formerly un-tiled) wall, which is very bad for walls. Between that and the trash can lid banging on that wall every time my kids opened it, something had to be done to make it a little hardier.
Enter these square Cloe tiles – I love that they’re pink but not bubblegum-y, and are variegated for a handmade, rustic vibe. I also swapped out the drawer pulls for these rose-gold ones that look expensive, but are not, and added under-cabinet LED lighting strips that make a huuuuge difference in the overall feel of the space (I leave them on 25% as a nightlight, and turn them to 100% during the day to brighten the otherwise pretty dark room).
Here’s that under-cabinet lighting again. It looks a little wonky in photos because I used the same strips as I had on before the tiling job, so I had to re-glue them, but in person you can’t tell at all.
Look at this mushroom! I found it at Goodwill. It’s ceramic, and I so so so wish I had had the foresight to incorporate it into the tile design. Ah, well. Still cute.
You can also see the frame I had built around the window – the matching miter edge tiles (the narrow ones that curve around the corners) were just way out of my budget, so this was a nice solution (in addition to providing extra space for my plants).
This is my hardworking corner, where the kids snacks live alongside this truly genius magnetic spice rack/paper towel holder that freed up a ton of countertop and drawer space. Highly recommended.
Every time I see my cat on the counter – which is every day – I think of when Francesca and I lived together in LA in our early 20s, and how horrified she was by the fact that I allowed my cats on the counter. (Which, yes, kind of horrifying. But you don’t “allow” cats to do anything. They just do things. And you have to deal with them.)
Behind him are a couple more Favorite Things: that hanging rack for my Caraway lids, and that rose-gold fruit bowl that was another Goodwill find.
This is all your fault, Archie.
- 5″ square Cloe tiles
- Cabinet handles
- Bread box
- Magnetic spice rack
- Snack storage cubes
- Rose-gold fruit bowl