An interior designer, Bette Hornstein knows she has the taste and talent to buy a plain home, infuse it with style and sell it at a profit.
And in fact, that was Hornstein's intent when she purchased a 1920s two-bedroom white-stucco cottage with a tile roof in Hollywood. But something unexpected happened.
"This was supposed to be a resale," Hornstein said of the home she bought in 1992. "But I fell in love with the neighborhood. It's very friendly, very safe, very mixed."
Once she decided to stay, Hornstein realized that the house needed some major revamping, particularly the floor plan, which had the kitchen at the back of the house and access to the dining room only through a narrow doorway.
"The house didn't flow," Hornstein explained. "If I was entertaining people, I felt isolated. When I was in the kitchen, I felt like I was out of it."
Also, the kitchen was small, dark and had little charm with white cabinets, white appliances and white tiny-tiled counters.
Hornstein's solution in 1994 was to take advantage of the kitchen's isolated location, transforming it into a master bedroom, and to build a kitchen adjacent to the existing dining room and more toward the center of the home.
"Now it flows," said Hornstein of the remodeled house.
"Now it's all open."
But the $75,000 transformation of the cottage really began in the frontyard, which was bare dirt and three palm trees before Hornstein got started on it. Today, it's a richly verdant oasis of succulents, cactuses, rocks, flowers and a few more palms.
Beyond the garden, the front door leads into a small vestibule, a welcome element borrowed from larger homes that is rarely seen in small homes built today. From there, the living room is straight ahead, and on the right a hallway leads to the home's original two bedrooms and bathroom.
Through the living room is the dining room and, to the left of that, the new kitchen. Off the dining room is the doorway, recessed a little to add a sense of separation, leading to the new master bedroom and bath.
During the four-month remodel-addition, Hornstein lived in the house, camping out in the original two bedrooms with a wok and a hot plate. "I've seen 70-year-old people live through these," Hornstein said. "I thought: I can do this."
To keep some of the dust and noise out of the house, the kitchen addition was nearly completed before the wall (once bordering the backyard) was removed between it and the dining room.
In designing her new kitchen, which was built by Gerig Construction of Thousand Oaks, Hornstein followed her usual style, which she calls "cheap chic." You can see it in her living room, where a sofa recovered in 1940s reproduction fabric mixes nicely with hefty old upholstered chairs.
"I don't have a designer's home," Hornstein said. "I don't have sculptured carpets. I have thrift store going here."
You can also find "cheap chic" in her master bedroom, where two wooden bedside tables, made new to look old at Designs in Pine on Beverly Boulevard, complement a bed topped with a duvet cover she made from sheets. Converted bedsheets also make up the outer shower curtain in her small bathroom.
For the kitchen, Hornstein, who works out of the nearby Pacific Design Center, started with inexpensive yet elegant beech cabinets from Ikea. Patterned glass in the wall cabinets, along with unusual chrome-and-black handles, dress up the kitchen.
For the counters, Hornstein chose a budget-grade white tile but had her tile contractor, Daniel Sexto of Valley Village, break it up and install the pieces with tan grout to create a more dramatic back splash. The floor is covered with basic black industrial-strength vinyl squares.
The existing dining room, already blessed with a high coved ceiling, was made dramatically more functional with single-light French doors that lead to the backyard and a new Sautillo-tiled patio. Before, the backyard could be accessed only through a service porch off the kitchen.
Throughout the home, it's obvious Hornstein doesn't treasure the ordinary. When she recovered four chairs to surround her glass-topped dining room table, she made three of them dark green and one of them a lighter green. "I couldn't do all one color," she said, "and I couldn't do two and two." Her latest addition to the dining room is a pink sofa.
A similar offbeat situation exists on the patio, where two wooden chairs are painted blue, and one is yellow. The small wood table there is green.
No matter. Hornstein and Josie, the little dog who shares the home, are happy with their new and eclectic abode.
"It's a great house for entertaining," she said. "I love this house. I don't plan on moving. "
Kathy Price-Robinson is a freelance writer who has written about remodeling for eight years. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
Project: Add new kitchen to 1920s Hollywood cottage, transform original kitchen into master bedroom.
Designer: Bette Hornstein, (310) 659-1170.
Contractors: Robert Gerig, Gerig Construction, Thousand Oaks, (805) 379-4899.
Daniel Sexton Tile and Marble, Valley Village, (818) 753-9897.
Length of job: Four months.