One of my very favorite things on earth is freshly cleaned laundry. I love snuggling into bed on freshly laundered linens, thinking about how clean everything is. But for most people, the laundry room is an afterthought. It’s not a room that most people think to spend a lot of time designing. But for people who like doing laundry as much as I do, having a well-designed laundry room is a bonus that can make everyday life more enjoyable. It’s like a little added treat every time you do a load of laundry.
This is why I am LOSING MY MIND WITH EXCITEMENT about my Laundry Room Makeover Giveaway with Grove Collaborative and Method. One lucky winner will win a custom-designed laundry room by me. We will be swapping out cabinetry, appliances, wall treatments, lighting, etc to make your laundry space a place you like to spend time. Here are the full details:
· Must enter by July 16th, 2018.
· Valued at $15,000.
· Designed by Top interior designer Orlando Soria (Me!).
· Plus, you get a YEAR of FREE Laundry products from Method and Grove.
· I will come to your house and give you the makeover of your dreams and the perfect space to handle any Laundry challenges your life can throw at you!
· You can only enter once but if you complete the bonus actions ( follow Method, Grove, and Orlando on IG or Refer a friend to enter) you will get more chances! Check this link for details on those actions (don’t just follow on Insta, you must hit the follow link through the site to have it register as a “bonus action”).
I won’t be doing your laundry, but I will pose with a laundry basket and pretend I did. The whole goal of the giveaway is to give you the laundry room you always dreamed of, that reflects your personal style, and to have fun while doing it. We’re going to film the whole thing for a cute video that will be shared online, so get ready for your close-up!
It’s been a while since I lived in New York, but it’s always fun to head back and waddle around to reconnect with the city I grew up dreaming of. So when Parachute told me they wanted to film the next installment of our makeover series in the City That Never Sleeps, my head exploded with glee. Our first two installments of the series were so much fun to shoot and the third video was basically like taking those first few experiences and mixing them with the iconic film, New York Minute (which I saw twice in the theater as a fully grown adult man).
Shooting in New York was fun, mostly because it provided a fresh backdrop and an opportunity to catch up with friends there. However, it provided a set of challenges that were difficult to anticipate. As a designer, it can be hard to be away from your home city because none of your resources (painters, builders, furniture sources, etc) are available. It’s not like we were in the middle of nowhere, there were resources abound. But I’ve never lived in New York as a designer, so I don’t have a strong network of go-to people for different tasks.
I’m going to be fully transparent. This shoot was VERY stressful. Mainly because the contractor we found to do everything (build a vanity, paint, install wallpaper, build furniture) ended up being a total dud. He quoted us a few hours to get the work done, which honestly is what it should have taken, but ended up taking days to do everything. Which meant that the day we shot the reveal, his builder was still working trying to get everything done until around 3 PM. If you know New York in winter, the sun sets at like 4, so we were losing what little light we had very quickly.
I’m not fully sure what happened. I think maybe the contractor wasn’t as skilled as he said he was. I figured this out when he and his builder were putting the bed together. My parents recently put a similar bed (from the same company) together in about 45 minutes. It took him and his builder about four hours. Almost every task took an equally preposterous amount of time and so by the time they were out of there and the room was clear to shoot we have VERY little time to get the whole thing done. And I was completely frazzled and crazy because it was part of my job to keep things moving along.
I’m telling you this not to defame the contractor, but more to just explain that there is always more than meets the eye with sponsored content like this. I love the team at Parachute and we always have fun shooting, but this particular shoot had a whole set of undercurrents that made it extra challenging.
One thing that was not challenging was working with Gabby Prescod, a senior editor at Bustle and the ultimate fashion girl. We did all the planning for the room remotely, so I didn’t get to meet her in person until I showed up for the shoot. We were immediately comfortable with each other and it was so much fun getting to know her and learning more about her glamorous New York fashion life. Gabby is a Westchester girl, which means that she comes from Westchester County (a fancy suburban area right outside the city). I’m well-versed in Westchester because I was educated at Westchester-heavy universities, so she reminded me of a lot of people I went to college with.
From the multiple conversations I had with Gabby, I gathered that she wanted a light and airy bedroom that was equally a reflection of her fashion interests and her preppy Westchester background. Her fashion is edgy and young, but she’s definitely got a preppy undercurrent in there as well. She loves ivory and neutrals, so the initial design plans (below) were very paired down color-wise. Initially, we proposed this beautiful removable wallpaper (by Genevieve Gorder for Land of Nod, sadly no longer available). But she didn’t respond to it, so we set out to find a removable wallpaper that she would love.
I’m not always a fan of accent walls, but the structure in Gabby’s bedroom really made sense for one. So we decided to do one right above her bed.
One thing that really impressed me about Gabby was how organized her clothing was. As a fashion editor, she gets tons of clothing sent to her constantly. But she’s pretty good at getting rid of the things she doesn’t need/want (she told me she’s constantly donating things). Still, I wanted to make sure storage was maximized. I also wanted to give her a great place to get ready since she constantly has events to attend. So I wanted to make sure we gave her a vanity with adequate lighting. The solution was to buy ready-made dressers and have a custom tabletop created for them the allowed for a counter height stool.
I was so relieved that Gabby LOVED her bedroom makeover. She didn’t get to see the final product until the moment we shot this so it really was a true reveal. And she genuinely loved it.
Clearly, the showstopper is the beautiful floral wallpaper we found on Etsy. This wallpaper is truly gorgeous and now I want to use it somewhere in my own place. It gives the room a great focal point without putting anything perilous over the bed.
The vanity turned out beautifully and it provides a ton of drawer storage for clothing. I have been wanting to use the beautiful
As you know, I’m currently in the process of renovating my parents’ kitchen and doing a house full of makeover projects for them. Their house is currently a big construction zone and will be so for a few more months. This isn’t the house I grew up in, my parents moved to this area five years ago after retiring and leaving my childhood home in Yosemite. One of the first things I noticed about the area they moved to is that there is a ton of weird siding on houses up there. On houses from the low-end to the high-end, there’s lots of dated plywood house siding. It doesn’t sound like a bid deal, but the inclusion of dated, badly worn siding can completely change the look of an entire community. My parents’ neighborhood is no exception.
The area my parents moved to in Sonoma County sits up on a hill on streets lined with big old trees and well-kept gardens. It’s a nice neighborhood. The houses were built by a developer in the 1970s and the whole neighborhood reminds me of the neighborhood from E.T., big houses with weird 70s details. I mean this in the most loving way possible, the neighborhood feels really nice and I love my parents’ house. The outside (as you can see below) is its worst feature, as the house has absolutely zero curb appeal.
When James Hardie®, the purveyor of durable fiber cement siding in a beautiful variety of colors and finishes, approached me about collaborating I immediately thought of my parents’ house and how it could be transformed with a new exterior surface. Something I’ve noticed from working on their kitchen and expanding onto the back of the house is that all types of exterior surfacing come with their own challenges and benefits. There are many benefits to using James Hardie® siding. One that is at the front of my mind now is that it’s more fire resistant than wood or vinyl siding. As you may know, the area where my parents lived almost burnt down a few months ago. I happened to be up there checking in on the kitchen project when this happened, and it was very scary. We were evacuated five times, there was no electricity for a week, and the fires came within a few blocks. Thankfully their house survived, but 7,500 buildings burnt down. Everyone up there knows dozens of people who lost their homes. So anything that can be done to make a house a bit more fire safe is a great thing.
Here’s the outside of my parents’ house. I know, it’s not amazing. But don’t be too mean. For some reason I’m weirdly defensive about it even though I myself have told them I think it’s ugly a million times. The house really does feel amazing from the inside (check back soon for some great posts on makeover projects I’m doing in their sitting room, family room, guest bedroom, dining room, and kitchen). But the house lacks curb appeal for sure. For some reason all the houses in this neighborhood have three car garages. I think maybe this was a status thing in the late 70s? They’re big houses, maybe around the time developers decided to start making things huge for no reason. Luckily, this neighborhood has aged really well. Neighbors have updated their houses and everything looks beautiful (except the exterior of my parents’ house). It doesn’t help that there is a giant concrete driveway in front of the house instead of anything green.
This is the current siding situation. It’s the type of siding you see all over Sonoma County and I don’t understand it. I think it could have something to do with the time the area started getting really developed in the 60s and 70s, but it’s outlived its welcome and its time for something new. A cleaner, more sturdy alternative is HardieShingle®, which achieves the handcrafted look of cedar with lower maintenance than cedar or wood-based shingles. It’s also very versatile, with applications on both traditional and contemporary homes.
Another issue with my parents’ house (and many hastily-built tract houses from the time) is that there is inconsistency with siding. The whole house is stucco, except the front which is covered in siding. It ends up making the home look haphazard. Elegance demands cohesion, so combining James Hardie® siding with their great options for trim and soffits gives a home a more considered, polished finish.
In all honesty, before collaborating with James Hardie®, I’d never really given siding much thought. My renovations tend to be interior, so I don’t often deal with the exteriors of homes. But I was impressed with how beautiful their siding looks on so many different types of homes. Here are a few facts I’ve learned about James Hardie’s® offerings:
It stands up to moisture and harsh weather.
It is water resistant to protect against swelling, warping and cracking; also resists damage from mold.
It won’t be eaten by animals or insects.
As I mentioned above, it’s more fire resistant than wood or vinyl siding.
The color finish (ColorPlus®) provides consistent, long-lasting beauty.
It offers less maintenance than wood or wood-based siding.
Northern California provides a lot of challenges for siding. It’s hot there in the summer and cold/wet during the winter. Also, small earthquakes happen with mild frequency and can contribute to cracking in exterior finishes. Luckily, James Hardie’s® unique formulations resist the effects of humidity and moisture, damage from mold and provide superior dimensional stability to resist shrinking, swelling and cracking.
I don’t know if it’s appropriate for Casa Soria, but I love a blue house. I also love how the above home combined James Hardie® surfaces to help give the home some structural definition.
An added benefit to using James Hardie® siding is the warranty. James Hardie® stands behind its siding 100% for 30 years and behind its trim 100% for 15 years. 30 years is a long time. I’m literally going to be a 65 year old man in 30 years. That’s a long time to not have to worry about your siding failing.
Editor’s Note: I love this image by Zeke Ruelas. It was taken for a chapter from Get It Together about weight loss and body dysmorphia. I know I look absolutely insane but it makes me laugh so hard. Okay bye.
Dear Dating Diary,
The other night, I went to dinner with a guy I’ve been “hanging out” with. I say “hanging out” because I have no idea whether the two times we’ve hung out were actual dates or if they were networking. The first time we hung out I texted all of my friends and was like “IS THIS A DATE?” I got mixed responses. We were going to dinner, so that made it kind of datey. But he also works in my field, so I thought maybe he just wanted to meet and chat about work. Honestly, both would have been fine but the ambiguity is what drove me crazy. WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE AM I SUPPOSED TO BE FLIRTING?
One of the weird things about being gay is that the same people who are your friends are also people you could potentially date. This always confuses straight people because they’re like “WHY DON’T YOU DATE KEN HE’S HOT AND YOU GET ALONG!” And you’re like “EW NO HE’S MY FRIEND THAT’S LIKE DATING MY BROTHER!” We somehow create these little walls between ourselves once we become friends that prevent us from seeing each other as potential romantic partners. I don’t really know why this is. DO STRAIGHT PEOPLE DO THIS?
An added layer to this “we’re friends/not potential mates” wall that can arise between gay friends is that it kind of makes you feel like you have to jump on a romantic relationship with a new person before you turn into friends and any chance of that happening are erased. Like it stresses you out a bit because if you like someone then you have to make them your boyfriend immediately before they relegate you to the role of “friend.” It’s an added layer of pressure that can be anxiety-inducing.
This guy. I’m gonna call him Brandon because that’s one of my favorite go-to white boy names. I use it sometimes when I order coffee just to laugh at how funny it would be if my name were Brandon in real life. Like how different would my life be if I didn’t have this weird-ass name? Anyway, Brandon and I have been Facebook friends for a long time. I don’t really know how we connected but we saw each other at the gym a while back and were like “LET’S HANG OUT.” But he had a boyfriend at the time so the premise of that previously-discussed hangout was obviously platonic. But then he texted out of the blue a while ago (after breaking up with his boyfriend) and was like “let’s meet up!” and I was like “Duh you’re gorgeous let’s hang.”
I’ve had a crush on this guy for a while so I was excited to hang with him. But strangely I’m not that desperate right now. Like I guess I’m not actively seeking a boyfriend because I’ve noticed how much better I am on my own (for the time being). When I’m in a relationship I tend to dissolve into it. I fade into the minutiae of daily life with a boyfriend, like grocery shopping, what we’re going to do for dinner, planning the weekend, etc. It’s nice, because it’s constant companionship and affection. But it’s also draining and makes me boring. I have less to write about because the only thing I really care about is my boyfriend and that’s boring and unrelatable. Realizing this has been a good thing in that I don’t feel like there’s some hole in my life that needs to be filled.
Knowing this didn’t stop me from being very nervous on my first date (was it a date?) with Brandon. We went to a decent restaurant in Beverly Hills and chatted about our lives and goals. It was typical first date type conversation. I’m pretty good at dates because I know that the key to them is asking a lot of questions and getting the guy to talk about himself. This works because the majority of humans are egomaniacs who only want to talk about themselves all the time. So they’ll feel like it was a good date if they got to talk a lot. It’s a scientific fact. The conversation was decent. Not my best work but passable.
A huge moment of anxiety came at the end of the night when he dropped me off because I was like “AM I SUPPOSED TO TRY TO KISS HIM I CAN’T TELL IF THIS IS A DATE!” We ended up having a super awkward kind-of-on-the-lips-kind-of-on-the-cheek kiss that makes me laugh to think about. It’s so funny to me how awkward it was. It’s like if my self-esteem could be boiled down into one action it would be that one very awkward non-kiss. As you can probably guess, I’m not very aggressive and I never want to push myself on anyone. I’m like the opposite of a #metoo moment. I got out of the car and was like, I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHETHER THAT WAS A DATE OR NOT.
As I walked inside I was pretty resigned to the fact that I’d never see Brandon again. I was sort of disappointed but mostly I didn’t care. Again, I’m kind of feeling like it’s okay to just explore and meet new people without any sort of expectations aside from just wanting to learn more about them. The only thing that really bothered me was that I was nervous and maybe acted like a nerd. Brandon is hot and perfect looking and whenever I go on dates (WAS IT A DATE?) with guys like that it brings out the most in my body dysmorphic/I hate myself vibes. I was feeling intimidated and out of my league.
You can imagine my shock and excitement when Brandon said he wanted to hang out again. I was like WAIT MAYBE THAT WAS A DATE??? We made plans to hang out Friday night and I didn’t hear from him until Friday about what he wanted to do. He ended up bringing me with him to a dinner party his friends were hosting. We were the only ones not drinking. I’m not drinking right now, mostly for superficial reasons but also because it’s helping me be way more energetic and because it helped me heal from being totally depressed last year.
After dinner (which was delicious, his friend is an amazing chef) we went into the living room where everyone continued drinking wine and Brandon and I continued drinking sparkling water like dorks. After a few delectable glasses of wine, the host of the party turned to us and was like “ARE YOU GUYS ON A DATE?” I must have turned bright red because I was MORTIFIED. I think my response was “I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE?” And Brandon didn’t say anything. Then the host was like “ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO HOOK UP?” I was dying inside, but also thought this was the most deliciously uncomforable thing that ever happened in my life. Again, Brandon said nothing and I said, “MAYBE?” There was literally no “right” thing to say.
The drive home, like much of the evening, was awkward. I asked Brandon what he thought about the host asking us if we were on a date and he said “I just thought it would be nice to hang out and see what developed.” That was probably the smartest thing to say, because anything more intense would make him sound needy, anything less committal would make him sound mean. At this point I confessed that I’d had a crush on him for a while (because HEY WHY NOT WE ONLY LIVE ONCE). We went to my place, hung out for a bit, and NOTHING HAPPENED (aside from a small lips kiss on his way out, which was nice).
I’m not sure if I’ll ever hang out with Brandon again which is fine. He’s a sweet, special guy but I’m strangely not feeling that vulnerable about it. Obviously, he’s cute and fun so I want to see him again. But my whole outlook right now is that I’m having fun meeting new people and learning about them. I don’t feel an intense need to jump into anything. Obviously, if I fell in love with someone that would be a different story. But for now I’m good just exploring and seeing what happens.
BUT CAN WE JUST ALL ADMIT THAT THIS WHOLE THING WAS SOOOOO AWKWARD AND CONFUSING? Being gay is annoying sometimes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit here contemplating whether either of those interactions can be classified as “dates.” I honestly may never know…
It’s become increasingly clear that my parents’ kitchen renovation project has ballooned and is now basically an entire home makeover. One element that I’ve been itching to change on their house since they moved in is the deck the sits outside the kitchen. An interesting thing about their house is that it’s very vertical. There are three levels because it’s on a hillside and the kitchen is on the top level. In order to make sure there’s easily accessible outdoor space, a deck off the kitchen is essential. We’re expanding the new kitchen out onto an area that was previously an outdoor deck (a process which has taken a lot more engineering and money than anyone expected, but ultimately makes way more sense for the house).
When construction began on the kitchen, it quickly became apparent that the posts that were supporting the existing deck would need to be replaced as they were rotting and ready to collapse if there were too many people out there wiggling around. So when Humboldt Redwood Company approached me and wanted to work together on building a new deck and shade structure, I jumped at the chance. I knew I wanted a natural wood deck system, but I didn’t know much about redwood and I also had a lot of misperceptions about the timber industry in general. I’m trying to make this kitchen renovation project a chance to learn about the things going into my parents’ house (we toured the Fireclay Tile factory months ago to see the tiles for the kitchen being made). In general, I love seeing how things are made, so this has made the whole project so much more fun. I used to love those TV shows where they’d show you how crayons, etc. were made (was that on Mr Rogers?) so this is basically the adult version of that.
One of my major preconceptions about redwood (and wood in general) was that it is the result of timber companies clear-cutting forests and destroying animal habitats. I was pleasantly surprised to find this isn’t the case (at least with Humboldt Redwood Company). Humboldt Redwood Company actually plants more trees than it harvests, so they are creating a surplus of forest instead of cutting them down and leaving bare soil. Another thing I learned from visiting is that the stewards of these beautiful forests have a pretty strong understanding of what’s going on with these trees. Like they know if there’s an owl living in a tree so they avoid cutting that one down until he moves to another one. I never really thought about timber harvesting as an environmentally conscious activity, but for certain companies it is.
The forests that Humboldt Redwood Company manages are FSC certified, meaning they meet the standards of an international board that oversees lumber production and harvesting. The Forest Stewardship Council is based in Germany and basically makes sure wood is being harvested in a way that is environmentally friendly, respectful of indigenous lands/people, and conscious of wildlife habitats. Obviously, all of this stuff is important to me as someone who grew up in a national park.
I toured the Humboldt Redwood Company’s forests with representatives for the company and of course found time to climb inside a tree and pop out again. I don’t know why popping out from behind corners brings me so much joy, it just does. I’m basically a peek-a-boo baby that won’t grow up. DEAL WITH IT. A huge trends I am not into these days is to use synthetic planking instead of natural wood. I guess people think this is going to be more durable than wood. Which is maybe true, but I don’t love the way it ages and the downside of it being durable is that it’s still going to be sitting solid in a landfill in a thousand years. Wood obviously requires care and upkeep, but what I’m learning from this Casa Soria renovation is that pretty much everything worth putting in/on your house does.
Okay, now that I’ve yelled at you about why we’re going with redwood for the deck and shade structure, let’s take a little tour down memory lane. The main element I hated about the previous deck (which I think was added after the house was built in 1977) was the trailer-themed corrugated metal roof that was on it. It’s crazy how much one material can ruin a whole space. The metal roof provided shade and kept the space safe from falling rain, but it made the whole house look like a double-wide.
In an attempt to improve the deck, I did a makeover out there a few years ago. I brightened it up by painting the previously-brown garbagemetal white and changed out the furniture. I also painted the little alcove (which is now going to be the kitchen) white, so the whole space felt more clean and bright. We’re hoping to paint the whole outside of the house white depending on the quote we get from the painter this week. I’m honestly considering just painting it myself if it’s too expensive, because this beige color makes me want to scream (sidenote: literally everything in the house was beige when my parents moved in, from the carpet, to the tile, to the countertop, to the wall color in EVERY ROOM).
This is what the back of the house looked like before construction began (yes, those are appliance boxes under the deck). The deck juts out over the yard, creating a dark space underneath. My plan for the new deck is to create a dining space underneath complete with a hanging pendant, a table, and eight chairs. It’s an awkward space so I want it to just look purposeful and elegant.
The new deck is going to be a lot more masculine and structural than the previous one. I love that we’re going to have a beautiful redwood structure on the back of the house to bring some warmth and color to the mix. It also helps that the view out the back of the house is beautiful, giant redwood trees. They take up a lot of the real estate in the backyard but make it feel a lot more private and green.
The backyard has a lovely vibe and is a great place for an outdoor party. orMOMdo is a Master Gardener and loves keeping up her garden, so there’s a good foundation out there. But it lacks a bit of cohesion. The style is a bit schizophrenic. The house’s style in general is challenging. It was a 1970s modern tract house that was flipped in 2012 by an investor who chose the cheapest finishes possible and didn’t pay any attention to the style of the house. The makeover they gave the home left it a Frankenstein hybrid of crazy 70s and late nineties suburban traditional. So with the deck plan I’m trying to create something that is simple and elegant, not too modern, but also not overtly traditional.
The plan for the new deck is that it’s going to have the same footprint as the old one but will have a much more rectangular, simple style. The shade structure on the upper portion will be a lot higher than the previous metal roof, making that space feel not only more spacious but also allowing much more light to come into the new window and door that we’re adding to that corner of the home in order to build the..
I first came across Seth Bogart about ten years ago when he was the frontman of the band Hunx and His Punx. I was immediately obsessed with the world he’s created with his music, his performance, and his visual art. The whole thing reads as some sort of fucked up version of 1950s melodramatic teen love drama, mixed with a bit of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and a little bit of Litchenstein/Warhol/Hockey. His work has followed me and remained everpresent in my life for the past ten years and it’s something that makes me happy every time I remember it exists.
I guess what I love so much about Bogart’s work is how clearly it creates its own world. It’s a world that’s made up of humorous references, with a definite John Waters vibe. Sidenote: You know who John Waters is, right? One time in grad school he came to lecture and I wash shocked to find out that most people had no idea who he was. If you don’t know who John Waters is, LOOK IT UP/GET IT TOGETHER (Also, remember to buy my book of the same title, available for pre-order now on Amazon).
The richness of references in Bogart’s work is part of the point. It’s supposed to be cacophonous, an onslaught of relics from our culture, from Eggs Pantyhose to McDonald’s. All of this is done in a bright, colorful way that mesmerizes they eye and leaves you wanting more. It’s candy that’s also kind of weird and gross.
Bogart’s paintings are much in the same vein as his installation work. Colorful, crazy, and filled with a ton of noise and information. There’s an undercurrent of feminism and gender equality that runs through all the work, which was what initially drew me to it.
Bogart released his first album under his own name in 2016. His previous work had all been done under as the character Hunx, so this was his first chance to do something that was more a reflection of his actual personality. According to him, it was “like a weird teenager’s version of an adult album.”
One of my favorite shirts is a Seth Bogart design. It’s a pink patterned shirt covered with drawings of feminine products. I get compliments all the time on it, usually before people notice I’m wearing a shirt covered in tampon logos. I love it because it’s bright and happy. I also love it because there’s such a stigma about feminine products for no reason. It is absurd, but also a little subversive, keeping with the overall theme of Bogart’s work.
Bogart creates his clothing and objects line under the name Wacky Wacko, and maintains a studio in downtown Los Angeles. If you live in LA or nearby, you can set up an appointment to visit the Wacky Wacko Mini Shop. But you can also buy some of this stuff online. I love the shirts and I covet the ceramic objects. See below for some of my favorite picks from the current collection.
After you’ve lived in LA for a while you start to dread meeting actors, especially ones on popular TV shows who are famous. Normally, they are crazy high-maintenance, attention-hungry, and completely insane (like not in a fun way, in a way that makes them irritating and unrelatable). These are vast generalizations, but I’ve made friends with enough COMPLETELY BONKERS actors to know that you should approach them the way you’d approach a mountain lion in the wild, with caution, fear, and a thoroughly-planned escape route. You can imagine my surprise when Homepolish set me up with Amanda Crew and she turned out to be a hilarious, warm, and intelligent woman. I expected her to be a crazy actress who would yell about carbs and Moon Juice the whole time (in case you don’t know Moon Juice is a dumb juice shop here in LA run by a modern day dilittante/witch who puts fake tinctures into her products then charges $20 for an 8 ounce glass of nothingness).
But Amanda and I immediately loved each other. I guess this shouldn’t have been such a surprise, as Amanda is from Canada and I always get along with Canadians. Just look back to 2013 to when I met Kelly Oxford during a Homepolish collaboration. She became one of my best friends and now we spend most days texting each other about our feelings.
Amanda is best known for her role on Silicon Valley, but she’s been a working actor for years. She is incredibly multi-faceted, a writer, and is an insanely talented photographer. She purchased a home in Silver Lake not far from Orcondo, where I was living when the makeover started. The house was adorable, a cute Craftsman with tons of character and detail. The house had all the right parts, but needed some edits to remove some awkward decisions the previous owners made (mostly in buttery wall color and crazy light fixtures).
Amanda found me on Snapchat, back when I used to do that before Insta Stories were invented and I decided there was no way in hell I was going to try and keep up with both those apps. It pretty much felt like we’d known each other forever when we first met, and while the project took a lot longer than either one of us expected or wanted, I love the way it turned out. Why’d it take so long? Well, two reasons really. Firstly, Amanda is an in-demand actress who can disappear for weeks on end (these shooting schedules and press tours are no joke people, actors on major shows WORK for their money). Second, I got dumped and laid off a short while into it, so I was slightly distracted for a few months trying to find a place to live, mend my destroyed soul, and, um, FIGURE OUT HOW TO NOT BE HOMELESS WITH NO REGULAR INCOME (thank God last year is over tbh).
Oh, and in case some of you are confused, I still do celebrity projects for Homepolish and we are friendly collaborators. In addition to Amanda, I’m currently working on a project with Aubrey Plaza (who is just as awesome, funny, and sardonic as you’d expect) and another one with Olivia Culpo (who is totally hilarious and fun and cracks me up at every meeting).
I love the Craftsman bones of Amanda’s house but also wanted to honor her contemporary taste with the furnishings I selected. Her dining table from LAX Series is one of my favorite finds. It’s a sturdy, solid English walnut table that can fit a decent party. I contrasted it with a classic brass sputnik and a beautiful buffet wrapped in grasscloth.
Amanda’s not a huge drinker, but this corner in the dining room was just begging for a bar cart. People often ask me how to best style bar carts and here’s my advice. Firstly, buy a lot of booze, that’s your main accessory. Second, get some cute decanters. Third, invest in some cute glassware. Fourth, add in some sculptural elements and/or books. And voila! You have a stylish bar cart!
Amanda had this console in her old place, so I found the perfect spot to incorporate it into the dining room and styled it out with a collection of vintage accessories. I’m always a sucker for a round mirror and this one was a bargain from Urban Outfitters.
We partnered with Minted Art for art for the entire home and we found a ton of gorgeous large-scale pieces to scatter around the house. I love this big forest photograph, which provides a serene focal point for the dining space.
I love contrasting a modern table with more traditional chairs, so I added these classic wishbone chairs to the mix. The lovely and lush rug from Loloi helped bring in some much-needed color while keeping the mood soothing.
Amanda’s kitchen was already pretty great, but the cabinet color made us both wanna barf. So I brought in my painter to paint everything simple white. Eventually Amanda wants to completely redo the kitchen, but this update will last for years and let her enjoy her kitchen without having to look at that crazy cabinet color. The pulls were all a rare, custom size so instead of replacing them we chose to paint them gold (Amanda did this herself, I was very impressed). Luckily, the home came with a gorgeous Bertazzoni range (you know I’m a fan) so no change was needed there.
Yesterday I was at Emily’s house shooting some promo stills for Get it Together! when I got news from my mom that the contractor I hired to renovate their kitchen told her it was going to be another two months until it was finished. I was furious. This project started nearly a year ago has taken months longer than expected, cost twice as much as expected, and been filled with compromises I didn’t care to make. I called the contractor to check in on what was going on and completely lost my cool. I tend to be pretty level-headed and easy to work for/with. I believe in being respectful and giving people the time and space they need to do their jobs. I hate micromanaging and I normally just trust people to do their jobs. But I couldn’t hide my frustration with the contractor, because he’s changed the completion date every single month since we signed the contract with him in April 2017. My parents have been out of their kitchen for almost six months. The price tag for labor ballooned from under $100k to much higher (I think it’s around $140k right now, which does not include the approximately $80k of free fixtures/furnishings I’ve procured for them via sponsorships). My point here isn’t to drag the contractor (who is a very kind man who we all like a lot) but more to explain why I was screaming on the phone yesterday at someone I genuinely like. If you mess with my parents you’re gonna get screamed at.
Design can get emotional and uncomfortable. Designing and renovating is fraught with emotional undercurrent that can make a process that seems like it should be all fun and laughs into one that is stressful and overwhelming. My experience designing my parents’ kitchen has been a lesson in patience, diplomacy, and management. I’ve never had a construction project go off the rails like the kitchen renovation I’m doing for my parents, my most important clients ever. I plan on writing more extensively about the harrowing process of this renovation, but today I’m here to chat about the connection between design and emotion.
My parents moved to their house in 2012, away from the house I grew up in. The living room from the Yosemite house I grew up in is pictured above, a shot I grabbed years after they’d left by sneaking in the back door. It’s still under renovation for the next tenant (apparently it was filled with asbestos and all the Sorias will be dead soon). When my parents moved into their Rincon Valley house, I immediately wanted to help them figure out how to plan it and make it as nice as possible. I don’t really know where this urge came from, but that’s what I’m here to explore today.
Obviously, one of the reasons I wanted to design my parents’ house was that I am naturally drawn to creating beautiful spaces. That is why I became a designer. But I think a more germane reason has to do with how I was raised, the type of expectations my parents had about their home, and a response to going to my own grandparents houses growing up (keep in mind my parents moved to Sonoma County to be close to my niece and nephew, who live about 25 minutes away).
The house I grew up in was lovely and cozy, naturally collected over time. I don’t think my parents ever sat down and thought about how to lay the whole thing out. They never came up with a design plan, mood boards, or contemplated how different furnishings worked together. Instead, they designed their house the way most people would. If they had an old sofa that was too worn to use, they’d go out and find one. And then they’d keep it forever. My parents are a combination of frugal and environmental, which means they hate replacing things not only because of the cost, but also because they hate waste. They were born in the 50s but sometimes it feels more like they were raised in the Depression Era, they have always had a strong fear of scarcity, despite the fact that I never wanted for anything (aside from designer clothes, which I had to buy with my own money) growing up, and it colors the way they consume.
My parents spent most of their adult lives planning and saving for retirement. I remember hearing about their retirement plans from a pretty early age. They were way more on top of it than I have been (though I do have a retirement plan set up finally, GO ME!). I think one of the reasons I want their house to be perfect is that they’ve worked so hard for it. They have saved and scrimped their whole adult lives. They both come from humble means and didn’t get a hefty inheritance or help from their parents. Instead, they did the thing you used to be able to do in America. They worked hard, went to excellent schools, and saved their money until they elevated themselves into a more comfortable financial place.
One of my dad’s go to phrases is “we’re poor.” I think he says this because he wants to make sure my mom doesn’t spend too much money, but it definitely seeped into my brain growing up. It wasn’t until I arrived at a fancy east coast college that I realized the privilege with which I’d been raised. While we didn’t grow up with a lot of material spoiling, we did get to go on trips, to see plays, dance performances, museums, ski trips, etc. My siblings and I all got jobs when we turned 14, but my parents made sure we were exposed to great cultural experiences. So part of the desire to make their house great is a bit of a thank you for making sure we grew up to be worldly, interested people despite the fact that they were also trying to be super frugal with money so they’d be set up for retirement.
Another reason I’m so keen to make sure my parents’ house is perfect has to do with my grandparents’ homes. There was a stark contrast between my mother’s mom’s house (Grandma English) and my father’s parents’ house (Grandma and Grampa Soria), even though they were less than a mile away from each other. Grandma English’s house was bright and open, with lots of windows and natural light and the lights turned on when they needed to be. Grandma and Grandpa Soria’s house was dark, with wood paneled walls and lights that were never on. I never really wanted to go there as a kid because it felt scary and dark. And it wasn’t because my grandparents weren’t amazing. Grandpa Soria LOVED his grandkids and was always genuinely so excited to see us. And Grandma Soria (who was bedridden due to horribly debilitating arthritis), was always down to goss about celebs and world events. She laid in her bed and I’d sit on a chair next to it, listening to her stories, which were plentiful and filled with exuberance. She was an incredibly spirited woman and it still breaks my heart to think about how cruelly her body betrayed her. I could tell she just wanted to get up and dance but was barely able to sit up by the end of her life.
I have a lot of residual guilt about not wanting to spend more time at Grandma and Grandpa Soria’s house. And when I look back on it I think it had a lot to do with how uncomfortable, dark, and forbidding it was. So part of me wants to make sure my parents’ house is as bright, airy, and comfortable as possible because I want my niece and nephews to want to hang out there. I want to make sure my parents get lots of visitors, that their house is a destination and that they never feel lonely. I’m making them sound pathetic, they are actually busier than me and are often hard to schedule with because they always seem to have something on their calendar. orMOMdo and orlanDAD are very popular, especially with their kids and grandkids. Nevertheless, I just want to make sure they get as much love and attention as possible.
I have a reputation in my family for being controlling. I think this comes from the fact that I’m the youngest and I never really felt like anyone was listening to me. So when it comes to home-related topics, I always make my case in a more aggressive, pushy way than my siblings do. I’m also much more of a perfectionist and more crazy type A than my siblings. My way of showing love is butting into other people’s business. I think my family wishes I’d butt in less and I wish my family would butt in more. But part of getting older is accepting your family as they are and just trying to have the best relationship possible based on that.
Now back to my parents’ kitchen, which is the first of a number of makeovers I’m doing at Casa Soria. The reason that I am so easily enraged by a contractor who is mismanaging the project, allowing it to go months over our timeline and tens of thousands of dollars over budget, is that there’s this whole emotional backstory behind it. A whole set of hopes and desires the renovation represents. Not only for me, for my parents as well, who I’m sure have a completely different set of baggage in how they’re approaching this project. One of the largest stressors for them is probably the money, as I’ve already established how frugal they are and how freaked out they are by spending money.
When I work with clients I try to be sensitive to all the emotional backstory they bring to the table. A house is the most personal possession you have. It is a representation of what you think your life is, what you think your life will be in the future, and what you think your life was in the past. Knowing that past experiences color current perspective on your home and any makeovers/renovations you might be doing helps you keep everything in perspective.
From the outside, other people’s renovations just look like fun makeover design shows. But everyone brings something different to the table. That’s why people you talk to about renovation usually have some kind of crazy, stressful stories to account. There’s are few things more personal than your home and there are few tasks more personal than designing it.
I recently received this message from a prospective date:
Hi Orlando! I hope you’re week has gone well. I want you to do a little exercise for me tonight. Stand in front of the mirror and say this: I’m really just a self-validation whore who’s on dating apps just to get attention with no real intention to meet anyone. Through my profile I mislead people into thinking that I’m looking for something real, when in reality I’m totally unexcitable and disinterested in the whole thing and that makes me a pathetic liar. I don’t care about other people’s feelings when I ignore their text messages and give them bullshit excuses because I’m a narcissist at heart. I will never get a quality guy because smart guys will see right through me that I’m an inconsiderate narcissist sac of shit [Kissy Face Emoji, Thumbs Up Emoji]. Oh and by the way, I saw your other profile on another dating site, you’re showing your chest. It’s pretty slim and saggy. And just to let you know: I knew that your sister excuse was complete bullshit. [Kissy Face Emoji].
What would you do if you got this message?
A small aside that if you look at the text messages above you’ll see they were received by my phone in a totally jumbled order which I had to patch together in order to understand what he was saying. I’m assuming this is because he’s on some sort of non-iPhone. Obviously, no judgement on that but it made the messages have an even more sinister tone, sort of akin to those old ransom notes created by cutting letters out of magazines to tell the recipient, “YOU WILL BE MURDERED SOON.”
I received this text from a guy I met on a dating app called Chappy (which I actually like in general, despite this interaction). A little backstory: we’d been chatting for a few weeks and were in the process of setting up a time for a first date. He lives in Long Beach so it’s a bit of a schlep as the plan was to meet on the west side somewhere. If you know me you know that I’d rather drive to Canada than go to the west side. It’s a completely different world and takes minimum one hour to get there. Because I have a pretty tight/busy work schedule during the week, I try to relegate west side adventures to weekends. But I was definitely interested in meeting this guy. He’s very handsome, a doctor, but I knew little else about him.
Before this uncomfortable interaction, there were a few other red flags that this guy might be a bit too intense for me. About a week after we started chatting, I failed to respond to him in a timely manner so he wrote me, “What the fuck are you doing on here! Fuck you for wasting my time!” It had been three days. The other red flag was that he was wearing an Ed Hardy shirt in one of his pics. I hesitated when I saw that, but then chided myself for being so superficial. I guess part of me thinks that one’s personal style is a bit of an indicator of what his personality and interests might be, another part of me thinks it’s absolutely not okay to judge people by their clothing. The jury is out on which side of me is right.
I am definitely inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I know how terrible this whole world of dating apps is. So even though this first outburst seemed a little crazy, I let it go because I kind of knew exactly the type of guy my prospective date was used to dealing with. So we kept chatting. I proposed a few times to meet up, those didn’t work for him. He proposed meeting over the weekend, but my sister, her wife, and my three-month-old nephew were going to be in town.
Also, just a point of information about me that actually makes this guy sound less like a crazy person: I am actually quite terrible at texting, emailing, most forms of communication. It’s a combination of the fact that I receive a pretty large amount of outreach, from DMs on Instagram (I’m guessing I have about 10-20k unread messages in there) to emails and the fact that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the never-ending stream of messages that can result if you actually respond to someone. I guess this sounds kind of conceited, like I think I’m more important than other people, but it’s more the result of just feeling overwhelmed and also stems from the fact that naturally, I’m an introvert. I have to try pretty hard to be outgoing (which you’d likely not guess from meeting me or following me online).
But the point of this post isn’t really to place blame on him for texting like a lunatic or me for being terrible at communicating. What this interaction brought to light for me is how much pain everyone brings to the table in dating situations. It’s a harsh world out there, especially in the land of these dating apps, where flakiness is the default form of being. My response to this guy could have been better, but it also could have been much worse considering how intense his condemnation was.
Ok. Well thanks for reading into things that aren’t there then body shaming me. You seem level headed and totally normal. [Heart Emoji]
Think about it this way. At least you won’t be wasting your time going on a date with a fatty! [Upside Down Smiley Emoji – my favorite emoji btw]
And just keep in mind to be gentle with future guys you meet. You don’t know where people are coming from. Try not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Sometimes people are just busy and distracted and it has little to do with you. Everyone’s out there fighting their own battles. Best of luck to you in finding love.
From there this interaction turned into a total therapy session. I tend to do that with people (just ask the massage therapist I went to yesterday!). I think (hope) I turned it around and made it better? You can be the judge of that. He kept being accusatory for a while, but eventually my questioning/listening won him over.
Orlando, here’s a little funny list: sorry my nephew is coming. Sorry my niece just visited unexpectedly [Note: my niece is six I have no idea how she’d get here by herself unexpected but fine, extra points for shocking story details]. Sorry I have to go to Chicago last minute for an emergency. Sorry VIP client is staying longer. Sorry it’s been a crazy week I’m very busy. Sorry I just had a car accident I’m having a tough time right now. Hahaha.. sound familiar?
What I started to sense was that I wasn’t me to this guy, I was some sort of avatar for every guy he’d ever hit on online. And honestly it made me feel for him. Our conversation continued and basically what I drew out of this guy was that he has a lot of pain and anger that stems from his interactions on dating apps. A few issues rose to the top as contributors to his frustration. Keep reading to find out what they are.
Dude, I have body issues too. I am short statured and narrow shouldered and thin boned. Being short is a major disqualifier for 99% of gays and straight women. Also, beautiful or not is irrelevant. I am aging and I am single. Being a doctor doesn’t mean jack shit to gays. I am short and not caucasian and I don’t have a Porsche. So being a doctor doesn’t matter. They don’t give a fuck.
One of the most telling pieces from this text is the part about dating while non-white. The gay community is notorious for being overtly racist. An aside, I never asked this guy the idiotic “WHERE ARE YOU FROM” question, but he looked Middle Eastern. Pretty eyes, beautiful dark lashes, very handsome. This is sort of relevant since he seems to feel ostracized in dating because of his ethnicity. Racism and being left out for being non-white is a legit grievance, and while my reservations about him had nothing to do with his ethnic background (I was very attracted to him), he has every right to be sensitive about that given that I’m sure he’s encountered constant race-based aggressions and micro-aggressions.
Another thing I got from this exchange was his sense that he has to fit into a box in order to be a viable candidate for a relationship. You have to be tall. You have to be white. You have to have the right kind of body. I also feel oppressed by that rigid system of who is deemed datable and who is not. I’ve said it before and I stand by this: the gay community is utterly cutthroat when it comes to body issues and appearance. And that can be totally demoralizing and crushing.
We continued this chat for a while and I asked him questions and kind of just let him vent about stuff that bothered him about gay dating. Honestly, by the time we’d been chatting a while I was almost like “Hey, should I just go out with this guy?” But I ended up deciding against it because I think the body shaming he did is ultimately unforgivable. If you know me you know that I’ve felt deep shame about my body for years. I have literally been on a diet since I was twelve and my shame and hatred of my physicality is something I’ve been trying to shake my entire life. Also, if the picture he’s referencing was actually me (which I’m not sure of because I’m not sure what “other dating site” he’s talking about), I look fine in it. Like I’m not a body builder but I also don’t look like a fat pizza.
Anyways, I don’t want you to go to sleep feeling shamed. I am sorry for bringing up your appearance. It’s not a reflection of what I really think of u. Obviously I think you’re cute I would not bother communicating with you. I just said that to piss you off. So hopefully you don’t feel unwanted or undesirable tonight. Take care.
I really appreciated his apology and it made me feel better about the entire strange interaction.
This is just a small selection of the extensive text conversation we had. It would have been overkill to show them all and analyze them, but mostly they were just a list of this guy’s grievances about the gay dating scene, most of them very valid and worth hearing. The overall feeling I got from this interaction was this. There’s a collective pain and anger in the dating world. I’m trying to do my best not to contribute to any negative experiences that might contribute to the communal pool of pain and frustration that will ultimately make its way back to me. In dating world, if you do something shitty to someone, they eventually pass the anger and resentment they feel about it to someone else. And that residual pain eventually makes its way back to you. So it behooves everyone not to be an asshole.
Growing up in Yosemite, I was always aware of a Leave No Trace philosophy. This is a set of beliefs about how to properly go out into the wild (i.e. prepare, don’t litter, take everything out that you bring in, etc). The concept is that you’re not leaving a path of waste and destruction behind you. The same philosophy can be applied to dating. It’s important to make sure you’re giving out the type of energy you want to receive back, that you’re treating people exactly how you’d like to be treated. Otherwise it will eventually come back and bite you in the ass.
I don’t really think there’s a right and wrong side on this text exchange. Did I screw up by not responding in a timely enough manner? Yes, but that is absolutely to be expected when you’re on a dating site. I tend to give other guys a lot of leeway in this arena because people are busy and when you haven’t met someone yet they aren’t a priority. I never take it personally when people take forever or don’t respond. The downside of these dating apps is that you connect with a million different people, so it can be hard to keep up with messaging (this is why more and more I’m trying to meet people in real time, through friends, in person).
Did this guy screw up by immediately becoming accusatory and mean? Yes, but that’s also to be understood as it sounds like his experience in the dating world has been terrible, he’s been mistreated, and he has a lot of pent up anger and sadness about it.
So here’s what I learned: be more attentive to people who you are chatting with on any kind of dating site. If someone says something crazy to you, try and figure out why they are being aggressive instead of feeding the anger back to them. Ultimately you’re doing something good for the entire dating community if you can talk them down and make them feel heard. And gay people, stop being racist body nazis. Have some sensitivity to other people and treat them with kindness and respect. If you don’t, how can you expect to be treated with any level of decency?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go out and find more guys online to call me fat.
Firstly, let’s discuss the fact that I’ve named my parents’ house Casa Soria. I did this for a few reasons. Firstly, I love naming things (Orcondo, Châteaulando, orMOMdo, orlanDAD, etc). Second, I’m working on a fair amount of projects there (kitchen, sitting room, family room, foyer, and so on) so I thought it would just be easier if it had a name. Casa Soria is where my family tends to get together. I’m making it nice because I think after working hard their whole lives and saving forever so they could send us to school and help us out, my parents deserve the most beautiful house on earth.
When my parents moved into Casa Soria five years ago, I looked at it and wondered what style it was. It was built in 1977 and is unquestionably contemporary. But it was flipped by people who filled it with traditional ornamentation (moulding, light fixtures, etc). We’ve been working to edit out some of the bad choices made by the flippers and also renovating the kitchen, so the house has seen a lot of action this year.
The home has four bedrooms, three of which are guest bedrooms. orlanDAD uses one as an office and my mom has pretty much decorated another one, so I decided to start my makeover journey with the one most frequently used by guests. We call this room “The Japanese Room” because it’s filled with my mother’s collection of Japanese antiques she collected while living there as a child and also has gathered over years of being a lover of Japanese art and culture. Not only did orMOMdo spend her childhood in Japan, she also spent years as an adult living there through a Fulbright program (orMOMdo is smart you guys).
My goal with the guest bedroom was to keep the vibe bright and cozy while making it the perfect backdrop for my mom’s collection of pretty antique art and objects. orMOMdo had already done a little bit of decorating in there (I’ll show you pics in a minute) but the overall vibe felt a little too thrown together and not quite polished enough. I also wanted to add some storage for guests, because there was nowhere to unpack and every time I stayed there my suitcase basically exploded all over the floor.
I took inspiration from past bedrooms I’ve designed, including the above beach house. The guest bedroom gets a fair amount of light, so the goal is to just let it be bright and happy.
I’ve been thinking back to my old apartment in Hollywood Hills West quite a bit. Like everywhere I lived that place was an experimentation lab that allowed me to try out design ideas. orMOMdo already painted the walls in the bedroom grey, so I knew I’d be creating a design that worked with that neutral palette.
Now onto what the space looked like before we got started. There was a lot of good elements in there but the layout felt a little cramped and it bothered me that there was no bed frame. The older I’ve gotten the more insistent I get about the fact that grown ups should have a bed (not just a mattress on a stand a full bed with a headboard). I lived for years with no headboard, but now a bedroom doesn’t feel done to me unless there is a whole bed in there. I don’t wanna rest my head on the wall.
One of the glaring issues with the room are these cheap white sliding closet doors that the flippers installed on the closet. There’s no getting around the fact that these we the cheapest thing that could possibly have gone in there. Maybe one day my parents will feel like replacing these with a higher quality door (like perhaps after their million dollar kitchen project is long over) but the solution I came up with for beautifying them was to install removable wallpaper from Chasing Paper on them.
This is a progress photo. I installed a Chasing Paper pattern called Rapids which was beautiful but not quite right for the space. I wanted something calming and this pattern had a bit too much movement. So I’ve already replaced it with another pattern which proved to be much more soothing and appropriate for the space.
The bedrooms in the house are carpeted and I have to say I actually like it. The carpet is a relatively attractive berber carpet in a neutral tone so it just makes the bedrooms cozy and bright. One of the first things my parents did when they moved in was to remove the carpet from the rest of the house (literally the whole house was carpeted, a cheap contractor trick that doesn’t wear well over time).
My mom’s creaky old tansu is one of my favorite things in the room and most definitely will be staying. She got it from here mother and it sat outside my childhood bedroom in Yosemite, filled with art supplies, dolls, and treasures. It doesn’t function super well but its made of unfinished teak which has a warm, matte finish and smells like an old library (in a good way). Sidenote: if you need a tansu (who doesn’t?) I found a great place in Berkeley that makes them and ships them nationwide. Check out Eastern Classics for all your Japanese furnishings needs. They’re not paying me to say that or anything I just love them because they’re a small family-run business that makes great stuff.
I’m editing the layout so the tansu is no longer going at the foot of the bed. It crowds the bed and makes the room feel cramped. Also, total aside, we plan on replacing these hideous doorknobs eventually. I have no idea why someone thought they needed to be so twangy and curly. Just be a doorknob, dude. Why you gotta be a Starbucks light fixture from 1998?
My old apartment’s bedroom saw lots of Japanese influence over the years, including two gorgeous screens hung over the bed. I don’t have either of these screens anymore, but I’m looking for one to add to my parents’ guest bedroom because I love the serenity they bring to a space.