After a couple decades in the design industry, you learn to refine your approach to a new design project and at our firm, unlike many others, we aren’t known for just one type of look or style. The first thing we do when we sit down with a new client is get to know them, how they live, and what they like and then we begin our turn key process to put their vision into motion! So when we began designing the Bel Air Road mansion, we asked the most important question that would inform our design process and choices:
Who Is the Client?
Enter Lisa Chiang: She is a Chinese-American TV show host, and an expert for Chinese families on how to raise children in America. (Did you know such a thing exists? It does and it’s a huge industry!) She’s a larger-than-life, ultra-glamorous fashionista with an extensive designer wardrobe (more on that later – check out the closet along with all of our closet organizing tips in this post here.) and would be making most of the design choices with our team.
Her husband Stanley Chung recently sold his windows manufacturing company and is working on real estate investments in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Beverly Hills chapter of Young Presidents’ Organization. Clearly, high end finishes and architectural details were going to be incredibly important in this project.
Fun fact: There were so many little un-utilized ‘bonus rooms’ in the home so we turned a couple into home offices – check it out here, we wrote all about it. Plus, Lori gives a little behind the scenes tour of her favorite spaces and products.
The Connection Between Client and Interior Style
Together they are proud parents of two champion student athletes. They’re a super cultured family, having lived all over the world, including time in Shanghai and they all speak fluent English and Chinese. The home would have to reflect their sporty, California-Casual sensibility — one of our specialties!, as well as their multiculturalism. But when you hear that word, it might conjure up home decor images of overgrown plants and boho explosions – all the stereotypical boho decor you see gracing the discover pages of Instagram. As much as love our hippy dippy rattan, we have some qualms with boho decor overload. We wrote about that here.
Is it cheaper to remodel or build a new house?
How long does a mansion renovation take?
The project took about six months from Design to construction completion and furniture installation.
How much does a Bel Air mansion cost to renovate? Is investing in a luxury interior designer a good investment? And is it worth remodeling to sell?
In this case it was… Even as the budget inflated. Our original budget was $750,000 but we exceeded $1 million as the client made decisions to completely renovate the entire house -every single material all the bathrooms and kitchen, And all new windows from Lion Windows and Doors. Typically the average ROI on a remodel is about 20-30% of the remodel costs. The house was purchased for about $6 million and is now worth about $12 so I’d say it’s a pretty good investment! If you went a cheaper route, in this case, you would more likely not be recouping your investment – unless you take emotions into account, and plan on living in the home a very long time.
What’s the first thing to do when renovating a house?
What should I remodel first? Where do I start in a remodel?
- If you have the luxury or time, live in the home first to make more informed choices. Know the flow. Understand the needs.
- Get a plan in place.
- Decide on a budget and add at least a 20% cushion.
- Decide on where you will live during the remodel. We highly recommend it NOT be in the home during construction.
- Hire a designer from the very beginning who will develop a clear and cohesive vision (include benefits of hiring a designer: save money and time in the long run, consistency, thoughtful and beautiful use of the space, avoid mistakes in the long run…) A designer will also help you stay focused and on track with both the vision and the budget. It can be confusing and overwhelming with so many options and decisions to make. Difficulty in making decisions can lead to delays and cost increases.
- Hire a contractor whose bid is in the middle of the road, not the cheapest. They will get permits, building materials, etc. set in place.
- If this is a flip house, focus on the Kitchen, Bathrooms and easy but attractive landscaping.
- If you’ll be here for awhile, focus on the layout / floor plans, roof + foundation, windows & doors, flooring, plumbing and appliances, decorative light fixtures, exterior finishes and landscaping, finish materials, updating technology and the health of the home (air, water, energy use, emf, lighting, etc.)
- Think of your splurge items (or make an allowance for them as you discover what they are), and decide which items are not as important to you.
What should I expect during a remodel?
- Costs to be about 20% more than expected
- Timeline to be longer than expected
- Things will change due to unexpected events.
Next Step: What to Keep + Goal Setting
What to Keep from the Original Home?
The house was initially remodeled and decorated in the 80s. It was covered in cabbage rose wallcover, an ornate trompe l’oeil forest pattern covered the entryway. Saturated eggplant venetian plaster adorned the living room, and extremely dark paneling and window treatments in the family room. It was already gorgeous! What were we doing there?!
These finishes were all expertly done and very beautiful, but it was dated. The house was so dark and heavy and this client loves light and bright. So let there be light! She wanted the house flooded with light.
Chandeliers were really the anchoring design element throughout this home — they were Lisa and Lori’s favorite things to shop for together. Check out more of the home’s chandeliers here.
Brightening It Up & Emphasizing Indoor Outdoor Lifestyle in Bel Air
What I loved about this house was that it had an indoor outdoor vibe and a lot a natural wood and stone. It reminded me of something Michael Taylor would design if only it was white. First thing first: remove the dark finishes and get lots of cans of white paint to the site so that the rustic woods and natural stones pop out and be highlighted.
Starting in the entry way, the white walls and wide plank French Oak flooring from Diamond W is what defines the Cool California Ranch vibe for the entire home, and is neutral enough to give us some room to play with accessories, funky art, furnishings, and my favorite: lighting. The entryway and hallway to the Bel Air Road home was ALL about the lighting. Some of my personal favorite light fixtures come from the Lamps Plus Possini collection and I use them any chance I get to! The Bel Air Road entry way features the Possini Euro pendants in brushed nickel along the stairs and Pax sconces along the hallway way.
The entryway chandeliers are also from Lamps Plus: The Hudson Valley manufactured Bari chandelier in polished nickel was the perfect fixture to add some glamour to the California Ranch home.
No expense was spared in making their modern chef’s kitchen a reality. Top-of-the-line stainless steel Sub Zero and Viking appliances from Ferguson make this kitchen a real show stopper. But it’s the Crystal Clear Island Pendant from Lamps Plus that gives the space some glamorous style. We wrote a more detailed post all about the kitchen here – and Lori gives a behidn the scenes tour of everyone’s favorite room in the home!
Challenges Designing The Master Bathroom
One of the biggest challenges we had in the house was that we love the existing marble in the bathroom and we did not want to tear it up or replace it. But the client wanted a brand new, bigger bathtub and that required is to match the existing marble for the tub deck. I think we did a good job even though an exact match was nowhere to be found.
The master bathroom is actually one of my favorite rooms of the home. Because we liked the marble so much and because of the expense of replacing it we decided to leave the master shower in its original configuration and just replace the Faucets.
Now that they live there, and are using the shower they are underwhelmed by what they call “1970s showering technology.” We had hoped we could simply remove the faucets and add some hand showers and more up-to-date technology for the faucets however California recently instituted some pretty tough regulations regarding faucets and our choices are so limited. We’re still working on this issue, but hope to have a solution with adding a hand shower. In this case function supersedes form even though the client has one of most beautiful showers I’ve ever seen!
Mixing & Matching Styles: Casual California Ranch with International Fashion Glam
The next challenge was that the design was very Bel Air California relaxed ranch and the client is a little more international Fashionista. Lighting was the solution. We added a lot of the bling that she loves in the accessory lighting. So when you go throughout the house you see lighting of various styles and mixed metals that marries the comfortable vibe and the sophisticated style that the client wanted. Lamps Plus to the Rescue!
Mixing High & Low: Lisa Chiang’s Incredible Closet
The next challenge was housing the clients enormous fashion collection and wardrobe. Even though there were two master closet’s and a considerable hall with shelving outside of the master bedroom, we needed a lot more room for her collection of over 1000 pairs designer shoes. We decided to go into the hall and make it kind of an art installation expanding her closet with glass shelving which was really cool because it displayed the most beautiful shoes.
The $30,000 price tag from the cabinet builder was not a solution that the client was really happy about. IKEA to the rescue. We installed Floor to ceiling glass faced cabinets all down the bedroom hallway for around $2000. I love IKEA I think they have really good solutions with some of their closet and cabinet systems it’s affordable and Durable. There’s nothing that makes me happier than going high and low in the same project and putting something from IKEA in a $12 million Bel Air house. I love IKEA and what they stand for. And in this case their product completely solved the price and storage problem for us.
Last week, I published the closet reveal with all the tips and tricks we used to get Lisa’s closet organized BEFORE we could even begin designing along with some of the affordable organization systems I love using in closet design. For more on closet organization, give the post a read here.
And watch the second season of Renovation Inspiration here! This is for a very different kind of project — Lori and her husband put their own money down and take a gamble on renovating a vacation rental property. Give it a watch here to see how it all turned out!