Design Vidal's Renovated Farmhouse

Design Vidal's Renovated Farmhouse

Abby Stone
Oct 2, 2012

Name: Karen and Guy Vidal, Design Vidal
Location: Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
Size: 1652 square feet
Years lived in: For sale sold

While we don't normally show homes that are staged for sale in our home tours (we prefer to see how people actually live!), I've got very good reasons for making an exception for this Los Feliz house. This story begins a few years ago…

I remember walking into a house that belonged to a friend. Yes, it was beautifully decorated (check out the house tour here) but that wasn't all. What struck me about the house was that, even though it was a small home, it had amazing flow, that bordering-on-mysterious feeling that moves you naturally through a home. Cut to the present. Another friend, another house. This was being staged to sell (it did). Again, great flow. This time, however, I got to chatting with the real estate agent, Karen Lower, and then, later, the designers she worked with. It turns out that the same designers, Karen and Guy of Design Vidal, were behind both houses. I wanted to be privy to their process so, when this farmhouse was set to undergo its facelift, I got in on the ground floor, so to speak, saw the befores and learned a little bit about the process of getting to the after.

Though it's located in a great area (just off of Hillhurst in Los Feliz, walking distance from restaurants, the library and the grocery store), to say this house was a mess was an understatment. Boarded up, it looked like it would crumble to the ground with the next big earthquake. For an investment of just around $100,000, Karen and Guy took this house from breakdown to breathtaking. How did they do it? Knowing where to save and where to spend is key to getting the most bang for your buck in a home remodel.

Here are some of the things I learned:

Keep the water rooms (kitchen, bathroom, laundry) where they are. Although you can, and should, play with the configuration to maximize the rooms' footprints.
Subway tile is used in subways for a reason: it's durable and cheap. Mix in other tiles to achieve a unique look.
Don't lose everything. Period details are what give your house charm and character (notice the oilcloth floor on the sleeping porch and the raised garden beds out back). Karen put in penny tiles in the bathroom's floor, in keeping with the home's true age (the 1901 picked out in black is when the home was built!).
Keep the big picture in mind. When Karen needed to put up something to separate the back of the garden from the neighbors, she considered a lot of options, finally setting on generic fencing from Home Depot, painted to match the house. It does the job and it looks great.
How do you live? Old houses often have kitchens cut off from the rest of the house but situated near formal dining rooms. Widening doorways and/or breaking down walls can turn these into combination rooms that are much more workable for today's lifestyle.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We renovated this house for our client, Will, who had lived there for 12 years. The house was a total wreck when he moved in and he had to spend any available funds on system upgrades, so although the house had a lot of vintage charm, it was in pretty rough shape. As circumstances would have it, when Will finally had the capital to do everything he wanted to, he no longer lived in the home — he had to relocate to Atlanta. Rather than sell it as a fixer, his realtor Karen Lower introduced us. Will trusted us to realize his vision and made periodic visits during the process. It was important to him to see the house restored before letting go of it.

Inspiration: We were totally in sync with Will about how the house should be restored; we wanted to maintain the vintage charm. This is a home where over the years, previous owners have knocked on the door to tell Will about when they lived there and how happy they were. The house had a great spirit, it just needed to be carefully updated.

Favorite Element: There are so many! I love the porch — it just invites you to relax and hang out. We had to re-build it, so we made the cap rail out of poured concrete and wide enough to sit on. The sleeping porch upstairs is magical. There was the original linoleum carpet in the whole upstairs, and we were able to save the section that's in the sleeping porch — it's such a throwback! I think the area that is most transformed is the kitchen. It's open and airy — you can cook and interact with people in the dining and living rooms, but it still feels vintage and charming.

Biggest Challenge: Just as the kitchen ended up being the most transformed, it was also the most challenging space. Originally it was broken up into two rooms, sort of the "kitchen" and a little mud room. Oddly enough, there were so many doors coming into the kitchen that there almost wasn't any available wall space! We realized that we could take some of the space from the existing dining room, which was way too large, and use it to extend the footprint of the kitchen. We re-configured the walls and openings, and provided better access to the large backyard.

What Friends Say: Will came to see it when it was finished and he was very moved. Other people who have seen it love the kitchen and the bathrooms. And everyone loves the tile on the front porch.

Biggest Embarrassment: I think we addressed all the most embarrassing areas. I know Will always felt self conscious that the house looked sort of run down. He had done a ton of upgrades, but it was system stuff that needed to be dealt with — foundation, roof, electrical — so there were holes in the plaster where they had done electrical work but hadn't patched, things like that.

Proudest DIY: I guess we did it all! We had great crews and craftsman, and we conceptualized and executed the whole renovation.

Biggest Indulgence: We tried to do a blend of high/low. The soapstone countertops were a splurge, but the backsplash tile was left over from another job. Also, in both bathrooms we utilized a standard white 3 x 6 subway tile (from Home Depot), but tricked it out with handpainted deco liners from Mission Tile. When we re-did the front porch we didn't need to put tile on it, but I'm so happy we did. It makes such a bold impression and lets you know that something unique is going on with the house.

Best Advice: In a major renovation it's worth it to make a list of elements that you can save and re-use. This can save a lot of money, and it's much more eco-friendly than just getting rid of everything and putting in new stuff. In this case, we saved all of the interior three-panel doors and hardware, baseboards, as much original moulding as possible, and all of the original windows (except for the aluminum ones that had been put in over the years). We also chose to re-finish the floors instead of replacing them, even though there were all different types of wood used. By staining them a fairly rich color throughout, the space doesn't feel disjointed.

Dream Sources: For this project we liked a bunch of the industrial style lights from Restoration Hardware — they worked with the style of the house without pulling it too "period". We also liked Rejuventation Hardware for the bathroom lighting. The Revival Tile from Mission Tile West is a great resource for period restorations. George's Plumbing has the best plumbing fixtures — I especially like the "George's" handle from California Faucets. Taylor Brothers is a great local resource; they can match any wood window to the existing ones.

Resources of Note:


  • Refurbished vintage stove
  • Ikea farmhouse sink and faucet
  • Plumbing fixtures are California Faucets from George's Plumbing
  • Upstairs bathroom sinktop from Ikea with a custom cabinet
  • Downstairs bathroom sink from Kohler dropped into a leftover piece of soapstone


  • Kitchen cabinet hardware from Rejuvenation
  • Bathroom cabinet hardware from Look in the Attic
  • All door hardware original to house


  • We staged it with a blend of vintage treasures from our collection


  • Over island light, bar lights, dining room light, dining and living room sconces, and pull-down light in sleeping porch, all Restoration Hardware
  • Mercury Light over sink: Potted
  • Bathroom sconces and center lights: Rejuvenation Hardware
  • Bedroom Lights: Ikea
  • Porch Lights: Lamps Plus
  • Outdoor Chandelier; Garage Sale
  • Some of the original lights were re-used, like the cowboy light in a bedroom, and the light at the top of the landing and in the laundry room.

Benjamin Moore Regal Colors, all purchased at Jill's Paint

  • Living Room/Stairwell: Pashmina
  • Dining Room/Kitchen: Blue Echo
  • Study/Downstairs Studio: Pashmina
  • Bathrooms: Windchime
  • Kids Bedroom: Soliel
  • Master Bedroom: Pashmina
  • 3rd Bedroom: Tranquility
  • Sleeping porch: Pashmina
  • Ceilings and trim: Mascarpone
  • Exterior siding: Jojoba
  • Exterior Trim: Meditation
  • Front Door: Moroccan Spice

All the wood flooring was original but there were three types of wood -- Douglas Fir, Maple, and Bamboo (in the back studio). All stained with a blend of Coffee brown and Antique Brown to unify it.

Badia Design and vintage


  • Bathroom floor and liners: Mission Tile West
  • White Subway tile: Dal tile from Home Depot
  • Kitchen Backsplash: Mission Tile West
  • Soapstone: Giallo Stone

Target (also for shower curtains)

Vintage from our collection

Custom Wood windows, front door and french Doors: Taylor Brothers

Thanks, Karen & Guy! And also to Karen Lower! Check out Karen & Guy's home here and another home they did renovations on here.

(Images: Design Vidal, additional photos by Adam Pergament for Swift Pictures)

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