The Insta-Home Challenge: Los Angeles

by Angela on November 27, 2013 · 0 comments

Jack Kerouac once said that “LA is a jungle,” but since we’ve moved into Studio City, LA’s been more like a nicely manicured topiary in the San Fernando Valley. Oh man, we’ve become soooo LA.

Of all  the sprawling LA ‘hoods, we chose Studio City because we wanted to be a stone’s throw from our friends David and Stephanie, and their twenty-month-old twins Orlando and Sophia. They told us the quality of life here is pretty good, and the commute to the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood would be a cinch over the hill. Little did I know it would cost an arm and a leg to find a suitable 2-bedroom vacation rental here! This is a celebrity hang, I’m now told. Clueless me.

On VRBO, we snagged a sweet little 2-bedroom/2.5 bath house in the Hollywood Hills, on a private section of Laurelwood Drive — which pretty much just means that you can’t park along our cul-de-sac unless you’re a guest of ours. The roads, they’re steep. Do you see our yellow house through the shrubs?

LA is definitely our splurge city. With The Lion King playing here for two months over three different holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s), we wanted a comfortable space to host friends and family. I negotiated a fair (yet still expensive for us!) price with the owners almost nine months ago. The holidays made it necessary to plan waaaay ahead.

First off, I just wanna show you our front view when there’s not a lot of smog over the city. The San Gabriel Mountains are north of us, over yonder. Gorge!

Our front door…

The living room is open and airy, the floors are a brushed concrete.

So the owner is a writer, as I’ve gathered from a productive session of internet stalking. He’s got a ginormous collection of books in the living room, as well as DVDs and VHS tapes (!) …

… and a wall full of framed black & white portraits of notable entertainment figures (mostly men), like Orson Wells, Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson. We’ve been trying to guess who the more obscure faces are, and especially who the sole female is.

Here’s Eva during her 18-week photo shoot, taking a breather.

The kitchen’s outfitted with state-of-the-art appliances, but the pots and pans were a bit beat up — and there wasn’t much of them to begin with. We were missing what we deem essentials — a baking dish, cookie sheet, mixing bowls, to name a few. We needed our vital gear for the holidays! The owners told us they’d reimburse us for some new items if we did the legwork to buy them, and trust us — with Thanksgiving to host, we purchased in force.

We also started out with a major ant problem in the kitchen and master bath. It actually bummed me out, as I had high expectations of our house, and I haaaaate ants (remember Miami?). The problem was somewhat severe; we had to immediately clean up any sort of food or dirty plate out on the counters, or the ants would attack. After a few days of trying to convince the owners that it was a real issue, including a tactic of emailing their previous tenant to ask if they had experienced the invasion we were witnessing (they did but never told the owners! Grrrr!), exterminators were called, the ants were banished, and Mama’s a happy camper.

Get this: the furniture is prominently Ikea. It’s a funny contrast to the beautiful collection of art on the wall and the care taken on the interior structural design. I’ve knocked my light-as-air chair over many times upon standing up to clear the dinner plates, and the spindly, slight kitchen table sometimes feels like it could tip. Will it hold our 18-lb turkey, cooked up by Mike and my sister Eileen?

We are distinctly happy to have a powder room, near our front entrance!

I love in-house laundry. It’s in my Asian genes, I know. Since leaving New York in 2007, I can’t imagine not having this creature comfort.

The hallway is full of framed photos, some of which look like old world family shots.

Included in the hallway is a pen drawing of the owner. I dig it.

Our master bedroom is comfortable, with these surprisingly helpful bumpers around the queen mattress. And mind-bogglingly, the pillows are Ikea — pretty much the quality of flimsy, lumpy airline pillows. (My niece Maya reported, “It feels like there are cotton balls inside.”) My neck was screaming at me after the first night, so David and Stephanie lent us some good spares.

Our GoCrib was too wide to fit the open nook for Eva, so David and Stephanie came through again and lent us their spare pack ‘n play.

The walk-in closet fits our stuff perfectly!

Max has the party room.

There are no dresser drawers, but this bookshelf does just fine for clothes and book storage. Check out Max’s Scar mask from Halloween adorning the top! Blog post on that FUNtastic costume coming soon!

Max’s bathroom has a tub with jacuzzi jets, but the glass sliding door definitely hampers our ability to help him during bathtime.

Oh, the owner has one of his published works framed in the bathroom. It’s a poem entitled “Rebirth of an Angel”.

We have a really lovely backyard patio, with about a sixty potted plants that the owner waters each week. It’s so sunny and warm here in the San Fernando Valley, so we’ve been able to hang outside, even now in the winter.

We really are up in the Hollywood Hills, evidenced by the slope into the back.

These are some of Max’s favorite animals, hanging out on the gate.

Perhaps the best part of living here? We’re in walking distance to bustling Ventura Boulevard. We can hoof it in 10 minutes to Trader Joe’s and 12 minutes to the Total Woman Spa & Fitness, where I’m taking Zumba and group dance classes with women of all ages, shapes and sizes. There seem to be 2 sushi joints on every block. I am in heaven!

Every Sunday, the Studio City Farmer’s Market boasts a kid-friendly extravaganza — a petting zoo, pony rides, rock climbing, bounce houses, and of course food vendors and lots of local organic produce and meats, all without being too crowded or overwhelming. Here, my friend Michelle wrangles five kiddos single-handedly on the way home from the Farmer’s Market, and I had to photograph the evidence of her Maria Von Trapp beastness.

Max loves hanging with Peanut Butter the guinea pig at the petting zoo!

Goats are fun too. Some cute “kids” spotted!

Have we spotted any celebs yet? No, but we also haven’t really been looking too hard. It’s nice to simply enjoy a sunny, friendly city with a bit of routine. Max is in a cute in-home daycare in North Hollywood three times a week, Mike has his regular noon hot yoga class at Yoga Shelter, while I’m trying my best to work out (while maintaining Eva’s breastfeeding) at the Total Woman Spa & Fitness (which has babysitting!). Perhaps I can make more headway on our business as we enjoy the holiday season in SoCal.

Come visit us! We have plenty of space!

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