Renovation Update: 8 Weeks In and Demo is FINALLY Happening!

That blog post title pretty much sums up our progress on our Ojai fixer– ay yay yay!  But let me back track a little- to when we were looking for a house here in San Diego.  We stumbled on this house by Shelter Residential and were blown away by how bright and beautiful it was, and our minds basically exploded (emoji) because it was a flip.  I don’t know how flipped houses are where you live but here in San Diego they inspire fits of rage (mine mostly)!  It’s like the flippers all went to the same store and bought all of the same EVERYTHING (none of which happens to be my taste but that’s not exactly the point) and then they slap it together with shoddy craftsmanship and jack up the price a few hundred thousand dollars.  Um, NOT OK.  It should be illegal actually but I don’t make the laws around here unfortunately.  The photos in this post are from another house they just completed here in San Diego.  It sold very quickly because DUH but reach out to them if you’re looking or want to work together on a reno project, I promise you will want to make them your best friends and also sign up for any house they’re re-doing or hire them to design your dream home ground-up build.  With the amount of experience they have pretty much anything you dream up they can do.

You can bet we hightailed it over to see the house I mentioned at the beginning of this post in person and it was so well done, we were major into it.  Unfortunately it wasn’t in a neighborhood that would work for us.  So we reached out to Lauren and Ryan (the beautiful brains behind Shelter) and set up a time to meet with them.  By the end of the meeting we’d decided they were the perfect people to help us sell our house and buy/remodel our next house.  Little did any of us know this would lead us all to Ojai!  I am sure they’ve had moments of WHAT HAVE WE GOTTEN OURSELVES INTO but they haven’t let on, they’ve rolled with our craziness all the way up the coast to North of The Wall (aka Ojai, our town soulmate).

We probably never would have bought a house that needed as much as ours does (literally EVERYTHING) if we didn’t have Lauren and Ryan in our pockets.  They’ve held our hands through the whole process, they’re a go-between for us and the contractor, as well as any subcontractors.  They take all of my design ideas and help me figure out how to make them happen, recommend products when I find the most expensive thing and we can’t afford it, and kind of act as home renovation therapists too – talking me off the ledge when I’m freaking out because the reno costs have doubled what we were expecting when we bought it.  And the best part?!  They’ve become friends.  There’s nothing I love more than when a creative/work partnership becomes something greater!

There’s so much more after the jump.  Like really, A LOT more of this house and my rambling.   Have at it!  xx- Sarah .  {Photos by the lovely Amber Thrane}

Ok so now I’ve filled you in on Shelter and their amazingness so I can fast forward to when we finally closed on the Ojai house and started to really get the ball rolling.  Step one was finding a contractor!   It turns out choosing a contractor is like what I would imagine speed dating that ends like the bachelor (totally ill advised marriage proposal) to be like.  It’s such a huge commitment and you don’t really get to know them going into it, so the nerves are big.  We interviewed a handful of contractors that were referred from friends, looked at bids, checked out their work, and eventually chose on one who seems to be the perfect fit!  The person we landed on was a referral from our dear friend Greg who grew up in Ojai and who you may remember built the beautiful floating credenza in our living room, the window bench in our dining room, and designed the hammock structure in our Palm Springs house.  Shout out to Greg for being awesome and for growing up in Ojai AND having a friend who is an amazing contractor!!!

I got sidetracked there for a sec, sorry!  Choosing our contractor was nerve wracking and stressful- we hear horror stories about contractors because they happen all the time!  And that makes an incredible contractor even more valuable, so we are thrilled to have someone we trust implicitly taking on this project for us.  It took us a couple of months to get all of this buttoned up because things move at a different pace in Ojai (think: island life).  That’s why we’re moving there.  That’s also why we are facing a longer reno project than we expected.  C’est la vie!  Totally worth it to have found the perfect person.

Next up we had to get drawings done, and that’s where we are now.  We just got the proposed plans back today, have to make a few minor tweaks and then they’re off to the city for the permitting process.  If you have a sec and feel like putting a little good wish/prayer/juju/vibe into the universe for us that the permitting process goes smoothly that would be SO appreciated!  Cities and permits can be a female dog, you know?  I’m hopeful we can sail through without too much trouble since we’re not changing the footprint of the house but WE SHALL SEE!

The blessing in having this part of the process move slowly is that I’ve had time to really dig into my design ideas, flush them out and source my materials. I still have a few things a decent list of things to decide on (countertops! tiles! flooring!)  Even though my design has been pretty much finalized I still have to juggle and shift and make things happen within the budget, which is a bit of a moving target.  Speaking of….BUDGETS!  You guys, they are the WORST!!!!!  That’s why we have Lauren.  She loves a budget!  She LOVES to find a way to achieve the look you want with less money.  It’s a perfect balance for me who LOVES to choose the most expensive thing always and then cry when I can’t afford it.

I’ve been posting more on Instagram stories– getting advice and hearing about your experiences has been so helpful!  So now I’d like to know, how can I help YOU?  Is there anything about this process you’re curious about?  Want to see roundups of materials?  My design inspiration?  What a gut job remodel budget really looks like?  Green materials and how I’m trying to be conscientious about what we build with?  What are you into?!  I will try to deliver, I promise.

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Reader Comments

  1. lynn|

    OMG shoddy house flippers who just got in to make a quick buck KILL ME. But I’m biased bc my husband is a residential architect. I’ve watched all of our Dallas neighborhood and the other old neighborhoods in our area be flipped by both the home flipper lady who thinks she has design skills because she can shop at west elm (I love me some west elm but come on) and hires a bad contractor and you can literally see the new drywall coming apart at the open house, and big developers out to level the old bungalows and build mcmansions they can sell for way too much a square foot on small lots with home depot bathroom vanities. KILLS ME. People, have some taste and know what you’re buying! End rant. But the Shelter team looks lovely. That bath is beautiful (we’re about to redo ours and I’m having tile envy in that shower). I totally feel your pain.

    • Sarah Yates|

      hahahaha Lynn!!! You are as impassioned as I am! It’s just the lack of quality in the build that infuriates me the most. I can *kind of* get over the design choices although I’ll never understand why they don’t at least mix it up every once in awhile. But I’ll never forgive the poor craftsmanship- it feels like it’s taking advantage of unsuspecting home buyers! Argh.

  2. Geri|

    Hi Sarah
    Love th endeavors of tearing ou the ceilings of a 50’s ranch but what about the heat? Love love love the look but the air conditioning will cost a bloody fortune 🤔 esthetic vs practicality

    • Sarah Yates|

      Yes Geri! It’s definitely something to consider! Our Palm Springs ranch house had vaulted ceilings and I thought the air conditioning costs were reasonable (certainly better than our San Diego Spanish house!) . But, it had all new windows and was a brand new build essentially, so everything was energy efficient.
      Sadly I don’t think it’s in the cards for us to vault the ceilings in our next house. The price to do it is much higher than we anticipated! But I’ll have lots more to say on that down the road. 🙂 . xx

  3. Shannon|

    Hi Sara! You actually shot my wedding years ago. Congrats on the house!! I would love to hear about all your green options and what you used and also budget? Thanks and excited for your move!!

    • Sarah Yates|

      hi Shannon!!!! Thanks so much! Your wedding in Palm Springs, right?
      So happy you’re interested in the green products we’re using, will definitely share about that! It’s been so eye opening to me to learn what goes into building supplies! And budget posts coming up too! 🙂 . xx

  4. Jennie|

    Hey Sarah!

    I am so excited to see a new project from you guys, I have always loved your previous houses. I would love to see a budget of the project. Like what it really takes from start to finish to buy a home, gut it, hire designers, contractors, and reno it. I am queen DIYer and every house I have owned it has been such a long process until I felt the homes were “finished”. I have dreams of our next house getting to start from scratch and use a designer someday not to design from scratch but to help me rein in my ideas! haha. Thanks and good luck with getting plans approved! Sending out the good vibes for you. <3 Jennie

    • Sarah Yates|

      Hi Jennie! I am so excited to share our numbers with you, I think it’s fascinating to see what things cost and there aren’t many opportunities to look at what things really cost in reno projects. I want to wait until we have things a bit more finalized to share but I will be happy to do so when I have everything ready!
      Also I love that you are a DIY queen! It’s so satisfying right? I wish I was more handy. But on the rare occasions we DIY something I feel like the greatest human ever. HA!
      It’s been such a dream to be able to start from scratch with the design. Every house we’ve ever lived in has been a mix of someone else’s vision that I’ve tried to make my own. To be able to choose what every surface, finish and inch of the house will be like is THE BEST!!! I hope you have your chance soon!!!!! xx

  5. Valentina|

    Where did you find your bathroom mirror? We are pulling together our own fixer and I totally agree that the budget is the worst part! Your home looks gorgeous!

    • Sarah Yates|

      Valentina it’s not my house but I believe you can find similar on! 🙂

  6. Courtney Dillon|

    Hi Sarah,
    Without this sounding strange, I’ve missed you! For some reason, this week I decided to check your site after about a year, and I was like, YEAH! So happy you’re well, and back. Motherhood makes all of us go underground for a bit. 🙂 Yeah Ojai!