Thursday, May 2, 2013

It happens to even the best of us

We finally wrapped things up at the Gutshall house in Hermosa Beach.  Our part was easy.  We had to demolish-rebuild half of the kitchen island and build/install a very custom, furniture-like dining room built-in. 

This is the kitchen island before (with bar height counter)-

And this is the after (we had to match the existing kitchen doors/color)

And here is the custom designed dining cabinet (paint grade with antique/distressed effects)-

And we also built the wooden piece above the fireplace (not the mantel)- 

And finally, allow me to introduce to you, Ben and Kelly Gutshall - 

Ben and Kelly hired a designer for this remodel project and what was supposed to be a 4 week project that started in January, Juan and I were finally wrapping things up today.  Kelly is also due to give birth to their second child in a couple of weeks.  I couldn't imagine the stress they had to go to through, especially living in the house where the remodel is taking place. I'm impressed that Ben is still beaming that smile after being kicked in the balls so many times. 

Ten years go, Ben built this house from the ground up.  Ben's father is a home builder and was handed down enough knowledge-experience to build this house in Hermosa beach. Great location by the way, a few steps away from the sand and a three minute walk to the pier. Ben personally designed the house himself by combining all his favorite features from different homes in the area.  He hired an architect to put his ideas on paper and created his own team of contractors to build his manly house with one serious man cave. Ben is no longer a bachelor, but a family man now. The manly house where all cool features came together is now a confused mixture of styles.  It's time to make it a home for the new members of the Gutshall family.  It's time to remodel. 

What went wrong this time? How can this happen to a veteran builder?
The original cabinet contractor took a heavy 50% upfront deposit, then said he couldn't get to his project right away because the job is too small and he's too busy with bigger projects.  It took months and a legal process for the Gutshalls to get their deposit back. 

The Gutshalls went with a commercial grade double pane glass fireplace that no one knew how to frame.  After it was finally framed/installed, the unit was burning too hot and attempts to fix it by the manufacturer of the unit all failed. 

I don't know of all of their other delays, but I do know that it was difficult coordinating with all the different contractors, also their electrician was busy with another "larger" project, and trying to receive all their hand-picked materials added time to their project. 

Their budget also spiraled out of control. Instead of going over 10-15%, they more than doubled their original budget, but they said it was mainly due to the problems they had with the fireplace. 

Well, I am happy for them that it is all over and their home is ready in time for their new baby. 

Congratulations Ben and Kelly!  

Thanks for being such good sports for trying to help me make a video about your project.  I know being in front of a camera is a lot for someone to ask for. 

I hope our paths will cross again. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Juan in a Million

Kerri: What happened to your eyes? Are you okay?
Me: Must be the alcohol.
Kerri: Oh Lord... Why do you drink? Why do you do that to yourself?

My good friend Raymond wanted to get some drinks tonight because it is his Friday.  He's a restaurant manager at Casa Del Mar and works most nights and weekends.  Raymond is also the only Mexican I know who geeks out on European cars, single malt scotch, wine, photography, and jazz which he collects on vinyl of course. He has a tramp stamp of either a Mayan or Aztec calendar (it's actually on his upper back) and he taped two episodes of "Yo MTV Raps" on VHS that we would make everyone watch over and over again if you ever stepped foot in his old apartment.  Raymond also once worked at Cabinet Happy and he hooked me up with a bartending gig at Shutters Hotel when I needed some extra income.  I'm very proud of Raymond.  He's come a long ways since working at Jamba Juice.

So Raymond picked me up and we headed to "Cinco" which is about a mile from where I live. I might have a drink maybe three or four times a year. I had one beer tonight, an Old Rasputin.  I nursed it with some great Mexican food and a couple of hours later, I am still buzzing.  What can I say, I'm a cheap date. I am only mentioning this because I might slip and say something stupid, offensive, or inappropriate.  So allow me to apologize in advance.  While I am still buzzing, let me just say this one more time tonight, "Raymond, you are still hungry because you are fat!"

Today was busy and eventful. It was our first day on a project in Playa Vista and we are modifying existing cabinets.

This is the before picture (with obsolete tube tv cabinet in the center) - 

Now the after - 

The center is going to get some matching doors sometime next week.

The other part of today' project involved us removing a wine refrigerator and patching a wine rack into its spot.  To save the owner some money and recycle materials, we used the demolished pieces from the desk above to create the wine rack patch. I had Juan working on this patch. 

I am practicing shooting video with the new camera Kerri got me, so here's Juan in action -

Meet Juan. We picked Juan out of 80+ resumes because he went to Cerritos College for woodworking (where Larry and I met), but Juan also worked for Steve Miller (a high end cabinet shop, Larry and I met the owner, Steve Miller, who wowed us with CST Berger laser levels and measuring devices and how he kept his shop super clean by throwing everything useless away). I first met Juan on a concrete bench in front of a book store. I figured that must be a good sign, he must like to read. It was hardly an interview.  He's quiet. I'm quiet.  Some awkward pauses. Ummmm, okay then... Cerritos College, Steve Miller, when can you start? 

The first day Juan rolls up in his dark blue GMC Sierra V8. Til this day, I don't know which side of his truck has a big dent and it might as well be both sides because I can't remember his truck having one clean side. Both sides may have identical dents, but it isn't worth the effort to walk around his truck to find out. I guess I will never know and it doesn't really matter. What did matter was that Juan impressed us with all the tools he packed in the cab of his GMC.  When he set up shop, he really sets up shop.  Saw horses with a big piece of plywood, some other tall bench, ladders, table saw, chop saw, belt sander, compressor, nail guns, big squares, bubble levels, and this tool bag that must weigh 100 lbs. Juan never slows down. He eats every 3 hours, so at anytime of day, he has a generous supply of healthy snacks, water, and protein shake. He usually shows up before me and he'll keep going until he's out of food which is never. He's been working with us for almost two years and he's still teaching me new things. Things like how water is the most important nutrient or what an honor and privilege it is to be working in someone's home alone because that means we have earned their trust.  I remember when he first started, he offered his truck to me so I can pick up material. I can't remember why I couldn't use my own truck that day, but I remember feeling so grateful to receive such help from a person I just met. Juan has taught us that we should hire someone for their ethics and values.  Juan is not just a good coworker, he's a good guy. 

Here's the end product of the wine rack - 


I was also hired for a design-consultation meeting this afternoon.  The owner said she had a home in Mar Vista, it is contemporary. and wants a custom cabinet with zebra wood.  Again, my third eye failed and I couldn't have been more wrong with my assumptions.  I've received this call before "Mar Vista, contemporary, zebra wood" only to discover "Z Gallerie" chrome-black-lacquer furniture (not present day Z Gallerie, but Del Amo Mall 1980's Z Gallerie). 

This time, the home owner is Sherri Noel of -

She has a handful of videos on youtube -

The Noel home is impressively designed, the furniture is tastefully eclectic, and is located in one of the nicest blocks of Mar Vista. Sherri picked out the furniture herself which I found to be genius.  It all made sense after she told me that she was an international fashion shoe designer. It is obvious that Sherri is one overachiever with great stories to tell. We managed to come up with a quick sketch and it looks like we are starting this build in the next day or two. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Lunada Bay Barbershop

I went to Torrance High School with this guy named John Rios.  The story I heard was that John got injured while working for Fedex and was able to collect some money for hurting his back.  John used that money to buy a barbershop. John and I have a handful of mutual friends. We were never super close, but he's someone I can drive across the country with and we would probably never run out of things to talk about.  My visits with John are always cut too short. I should give him a call soon to say hello.

In 2004, John contacted us to build him some cabinets. So for three hours, I sat there and watched him cut hair.  I asked him hundreds of questions and he had hundreds of complaints.... "the health department needs all the clippers to be covered, so there's a hole on the side of the cabinet to put all of our clippers in.  The problem is that all the cords will get tangled up and if I pull one clipper out, another clipper will fall out onto the floor.  It's expensive to replace a damaged blade, but it happens all time!"

(click on the pictures to enlarge to full size)

We met all of his requests and had we fun with the project.  I think he was happy with the results. 

We worked into the wee hours on installation day so the shop can be open for business the next morning.  This picture was taken by John at 4am. 

(That's me on the left and Larry on the right)

And for good measure - 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oh no! Little Laundry Room Project

It's 7am in Marina Del Rey.  Time for demolition before we install some new cabinets. 

(after two extensive tests from a water damage insurance claim)

Oh NO! Rohl Shaw's Original Farmhouse Sink!

Time to start building a structure to support the heavy fire-clay sink!
(Weight = 132 lbs. Price = $1,200)

OH NO! The sink corners are round and we have a European frame-less cabinet!
(A farmhouse apron sink like Rohl Shaw is most ideal for face-frame cabinets. We had to create our own solution to house this sink in combination with a frame-less cabinet.  Creating a false-front apron surrounding this sink took almost 3 hours.  We had to make two cardboard templates and slowly sculpt our panel to the uneven shape of the fire-clay sink)

After 10 hours of straight installation, Juan and I were able to complete the installation of these two base cabinets.  I underestimated everything involved with the Rohl Shaw sink. We were supposed to install cabinets across the top (wall to wall) today as well but due to the mold discovery, we will resume installation after the mold is removed. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My kitchen design meeting with a veterinarian and engineer

My day started with a very pleasant 4 hour consultation session with Dylan and Christine.  They initially wanted a reface, but now they are going with a full remodel that they seem extremely excited about. We worked as a team today. We created drawings, spreadsheets, and researched multiple options. Everyone kicked-ass and we got it all done! I can not emphasize more that this is the most important step of any remodel!  This is where all the thinking needs to take place.  This is where all the drama is removed from the project. This is THE most overlooked step and the number one reason why projects turn into nightmares. Here's a picture of Dylan and their old kitchen that they are happy to get rid of.

I provided them with a drawing just so they can get accurate countertop bids. This "countertop drawing" will keep all the bids they receive "honest." 

Otherwise, they would be getting a bunch of "ballpark estimates" and missed expectations.  Do not get bids without a drawing!  Do not schedule a contractor to come to your house if you do not have a drawing of what you are looking to do.  If you are thinking to yourself ,"well I do not know what I am doing and I don't know anything about this stuff," then focus on finding someone that can help you plan, design, draw, create a budget, and a critical path.  You want to work with someone that recognizes that all the real thinking of a project must be done before the project even starts.  

Dylan and Christine's remodel is going to take place in July which gives everyone and everything plenty of time to be on-time, no excuses. That's about the best anyone can do to minimize any unwanted surprises. 

Meanwhile, Juan and Larry are in Eagle Rock at a project we refer to as "Wawro."

We built and installed this kitchen back in 2005 (8 years ago!).  Here is a picture of the kitchen taken in 2005 right after it was completed-

What I found interesting about this house was that the owners hired/flew-in a designer from Seattle to design their house.  They discovered the designer through HGTV's show "Designer's Challenge."

This picture was taken by Juan today-

They hired us back to build/install this bathroom vanity-

Returning customers are always a good sign!

Daily Blog, so it begins...

Around midnight...
Kerri: Where are you going?
Me: I'm going to blog
Kerri: Your blogs are too long, come to bed! Why do you have to blog tonight?
Me: I want to start blogging everyday, at least every "work-day"
Kerri: That's too much to do everyday, your blogs are too long!

Today we made our second attempt to deliver the "black cabinet." This is the before -
and this is the after -
A Manhattan Beach couple needed a cabinet to fit a corner of their master bedroom, but couldn't find the perfect size cabinet and for the right price. They already had this cabinet that was part of their daughter's baby crib furniture set which fit perfectly in the corner, but didn't match the rest of the black furniture in the bedroom. Unfortunately, we had to spray lacquer and deliver this cabinet twice.  On our first delivery attempt, the cabinet had white over-spray from a different project which we thought can be easily wiped off after the accident happened. Juan and I desperately wiped and wiped at a Panda Express parking lot on PCH, but the spots wouldn't come off.  I had no choice but to abort the delivery, make that dreadful call to the owners to confess what had happened and why I had to cancel at such last minute.  This was last Wednesday.  I was so upset and embarrassed that I drove out of that parking lot like a pigeon from hell, then abruptly turned right into Round Table's "all you can eat lunch buffet" and buried my sorrows with one pizza slice after another. I fled right before the crowds of retired seniors started fighting over the slices with jalapenos. They did not care if the jalapenos were paired with pineapple or sausage. They just wanted their jalapenos.  I don't blame them. I sought after the same slices myself.

By Friday morning, the cabinet is beautiful again (thanks to the finishers, Nelson and Rudy, for a quick turn-around). We couldn't afford another over-spray incident because the white project was still in progress so Juan picked up the cabinet first thing in the morning (thank you Juan!), but now the owners couldn't receive it that day. We had no choice but to store the cabinet in the foyer of our condo over the weekend. Kerri was not happy with the smell of fresh spray lacquer, but I think she was even more worried about Cameron (18 months) being around it. These are the sacrifices a cabinet maker's family makes.

So today, Monday, we said our farewells to the "black cabinet" and delivered her safely. She was returned to her corner to serve her storage duties.  She is no longer part of a baby's crib set, but instead all grown up and now part of the master bedroom set.

The rest of the day, Juan and I scrambled up and down the 405 fwy to get our next job going- getting samples approved/picking up materials, etc. I had to call on Larry too to get materials out his way which worked out perfectly.

This is the nice view from our new client's office (Olympic Blvd/405 fwy 10th floor)-
The new client's name is Gary. He's done some woodworking too.  He recently restored an old boat just to show his kids that he can do more than just sit behind a desk with a nice view and run his own business. Naturally, game recognizes game, so he gave us a deposit!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sample Pricing to Save You Time

starting paint grade..................9000
optional upgrades                               
plywood*...............................add 600
premium plywood**..............add 900
paint/stain/clear coat............add 1200

large bathroom vanity
starting paint grade..................2100
optional upgrades                               
plywood*...............................add 200
premium plywood**..............add 400
paint/stain/clear coat..............add 700

small bathroom vanity
starting paint grade....................900
optional upgrades                               
plywood*...............................add 100
premium plywood**..............add 200
paint/stain/clear coat..............add 400

entertainment center
starting paint grade..................5000
optional upgrades                               
plywood*...............................add 700
premium plywood**............add 1400
paint/stain/clear coat............add 1500

starting paint grade..................3600
optional upgrades                               
plywood*...............................add 400
premium plywood**..............add 800
paint/stain/clear coat............add 1200

 garage cabinet
white melamine.........................4000
other colors and materials available

other service

 kitchen design & drawings...........................1200
kitchen demolition & disposal.............800
breakfast nook bench, paint grade.......800

ikea pricing
design service..............800
average size kitchen installation................1600
order & pick-up................800
custom doors........starting at 800
paint/stain/clear coat........starting at 800

kitchen reface***
30 linear foot (small galley kitchen).............4200
50 linear foot (typically 1500-3000 sq ft home)....6500
70 linear foot (large size kitchen)...................9500

*includes maple, alder, beech, birch, and red oak.
** includes walnut, wenge, white oak, and cherry.
plyboo, "fin-ply", and kirei wood, available on request.
other wood species available at additional charge.
***new thermo/euro-foil laminated doors with matching
laminated exterior on cabinet face frame + box.
replacement drawer boxes & slides available at additional cost.
solid wood doors & wood veneer available at additional cost.