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"Optimista" Home Remodel

Our Frank Lloyd Wright-Inspired Home Remodel

This particular page of my blog is devoted to telling (and showing, of course) the story of our 3-year DIY whole-house remodel. We named our home "Optimista", which is Spanish for "Optimist" or "Optimistic", which expresses how we feel about our home and the future. We also live in the desert southwest, so a little Spanish homage seemed appropriate.

I won't bore you with too much detail, but will let the photos do the talking. This brief overview will set up the rest....... Basically, we bought the townhome as a blank slate in 2008. With a very small budget (right at the start of the recession), we (somewhat foolishly maybe?) started doing remodel work ourselves. We removed all of the existing flooring except the Bathroom tile. We then painted the whole house, then had the concrete floors stained by Jo Ann's Construction Clean Up.

We measured and drew the existing floor plan on the computer, then designed each room for furniture layout, accessories, etc. We ended up designing and building most of the custom furniture ourselves for scale, continuity, aesthetics and functionality. We then ordered almost everything else online in terms of accessories, placemats, dinnerware, etc. We created some of the artwork ourselves by either our own painting (Master Bedroom) or photography (Living Room and Bathrooms).

We maintained an overall design concept of desert-inspired colors (sage green, rust red, yellow, brown....), clean lines, and organic detailing throughout to achieve continuity while each room still has it's own feel. As an architect myself, Frank Lloyd Wright has always been an influence as you can see from the "Frank Lloyd Wright" tab on this blog. More will be revealed as you take the following tour room-by-room. Please, send us your questions, your thoughts, your comments. We want to encourage the discussion of design, remodeling, and do-it-yourself. If you're considering your own project, we can tell you that it's long, hard, committed, patient work with the most gratifying results when it's all said and done!! Enjoy the following tour/posts and we hope to hear from you!


Living Room at "Optimista"

(Above) Living Room "After"
Lots of work in this room! We painted the room, removed the existing carpet to stain the concrete floors that were underneath, designed and built almost all of the furniture ourselves out of plywood and 1-by, assembled bookshelves and modular seating, selected and purchased all of the lighting, accessories and area rug, added the green wood strips on the ceiling for added interest and had the soffit/shelf built for additional indirect LED lighting.

(Above) Living Room "Before"
As you can see compared to the "After" photo above, the room was as mundane and lifeless as it gets. I say don't be afraid of color, as long as it's not too garish and if the entire color scheme is integrated. I like to have everything integrated and coordinated from furniture design to selection of fabrics, materials, colors, fixtures, and accessories. Part is to whole as whole is to part. This concept helps the space feel serene, peaceful and comfortable.

(Above) Living Room "After"
The green strips on the ceiling lead the eye upward and express the structural roof rafters behind. We painted the red fireplace brick to match the chimney color outside as well as replaced the existing multi-lite French doors with dual-pane, single-lite for a better connection to the backyard terrace. The table and chairs are custom-designed and built ourselves specifically for this house. The red and yellow accent pillows match the accent colors elsewhere in the room.

(Above) Living Room "Before"
Compare with the "After" photo above for all of the differences and new work accomplished.

(Above) Living Room "After"
We painted the red/orange/yellow design (top right) where the beam is to add some interest to an otherwise large expanse of blank wall.

(Above) Living Room "Before"
This is taken from the Foyer portion of the house.

(Above & Below) Living Room "After"

(Below) Living Room "After" Details
(Above) "What's out comes in, and what's in, can, and certainly does go out" ~Frank Lloyd Wright. The stained concrete floor, bookshelves and lights extend to the covered outdoor terrace. Notice we even have the same coaster in and out!
(Above) We built this end table out of scrap wood to match the console on the other side of the room. It became the purrrrrfect cat bed area! Now that's integral design. He even has his own garden rock that matches the rocks outside.
(Above) The half-circle plexiglass panel is hinged to flip up and provide translucent light instead of transparent to cut down on glare and heat. We repeated the half-circle/full-circle pattern throughout the house (notice it in the custom furniture above). We painted this quote on the wall because it truly expresses exactly how we feel. It's probably how just about everyone should feel in this economy!   


Master Bedroom at "Optimista"

(Above) Master Bedroom "After"
After removing the existing carpeting ourselves (and all the tack strips - back-breaking!!), we had the concrete floors stained throughout, even to the outside courtyard to extend the space and connect to nature. We painted the room (everyone loves the purple accent wall) and built all of the furniture (even the matching headboard!). We added perimeter ceiling trim (MDF) and corner shelves for display. The shoji lamps match the rest of the house for design continuity, while the accent rugs tie all of the integral colors together. 

(Above) Master Bedroom "Before"


Offices at "Optimista"

(Above & Below) Office 1 "After"
We ordered and assembled wall-to-wall bookcases for storage and display of art/models above. Again, we had the exposed concrete floors stained a warm leather color, which is different than most contemporary concrete floors today that are left gray. We painted the room and aded the soffit shelf for plants & other items as well as the ceiling trim at the perimeter of the room. These items were easy to make out of stock 1-by pine and MDF, but they add a lot of detail and interest to the room. An area rug finishes off the room w/ a cozy feel and the red chair is color-coordinated with the red curtains and red in the area rug.

(Above) Office 1 "Before"
It couldn't have started out any more mundane than this - beige walls and carpet. Boring and lifeless.

(Above & Below) Office 2 "After"
There is design continuity organically unifying the entire house, but at the same time each room maintains its own feel. My wife's favorite color is fuscia, as shown by the accent wall and corresponding throw pillow in her office. We modified IKEA furniture/accessories to fit our needs and overall design style of the home. The area rug ties everything together with a connection to nature.

(Above) Office 2 "Before"
Same mundane beginnings as Office 1 - very generic w/ no personality. A good home should artistically represent its Owners.

Bathrooms at "Optimista"

(Above) Master Bath "After"
Lots of DIY work here but at minimal cost. Painted existing oak cabinets & installed hardware matching the rest of the house for design continuity. Removed existing counters from 1985 and replaced w/ Formica solid surface blue countertops w/ new sink bowls & low-flow faucets. Removed existing mirror (which was too low) and intrusive medicine cabinet & replaced with 2 mirrors trimmed out to match door frames. Removed 8-light bulb fixture over mirror and replaced w/ 4 CFL wall lights at the proper height to light the face (you never want a mirror light up high because it casts shadows on your face). Removed old shower doors and replaced w/ half frosted/half clear glass. We painted the walls pale blue and white to give them a clean, cool feel. We also applied Feng Shui (ancient Chinese concept of the flow of Chi, or energy, and Yin/Yang balance & its affects on your life) to the whole house, so color is very important. Blue is appropriate for Bathrooms because it represents the water element.

(Above) Master Bath "Before"

(Above) Master Bath "After"
Transformed the commode area into a more attractive art niche reminiscent of a Japanese tokonoma (a slightly raised art niche in the corner of a living space with a simple flower arrangement appropriate to the season). Added the counter to help conceal the commode and make it feel more built in. The artwork is our own digital photo of a Wyoming landscape at Yellowstone. We changed out the commode seat to blue (commodes don't have to be all white!!).

(Above) Guest Bath "After"
Same colors/details as the Master for cost control and convenience. A lamp and towel tray adds a classy touch. 

(Above) Guest Bath "Before"


Kitchen at "Optimista"

(Above) Kitchen "After"
Big transformation from the "Before" photo below. Exposed concrete floors stained by Jo Ann's Construction Clean Up (thought we could stain them ourselves, but lots of work requiring some equipment). Painted existing oak cabinets & installed new door knobs. Existing laminate counters removed & replaced w/quartz (EVERYONE does granite - not here!) and extended it down to a wine rack & new cabinet @ bottom right of the photo. Removed upper wall cabinet w/ doors & replaced w/ 3 open shelves for easy access & display of dishes/glasses. Replaced the plastic lens & fluorescent tube lights w/ track light and trim detail resembling clerestory windows. Designed & built the custom barstool & breakfast table/chairs out of plywood and 1-by Oak to match dining table/chairs so that tables can slide next to each other for more seating.

(Above) Kitchen "Before"
Sheet vinyl floor, oak cabinets, laminate countertops, plastic lens concealing fluorescent tube lights (ugly blueish color), beige walls, very drab.


(Above & Below) Kitchen "After"
Painted the entire house including accent walls in most rooms (note: 1 accent wall minimizes the "box" feel of a room and adds interest). Added the soffit shelf above the door for display of plates. Counter at left w/ vase matches breakfast table for continuity w/ the lamp matching the Living Rm. lamps to make it feel less "Kitcheny".

(Above) Kitchen "Before"
Only the appliances are the same for now, but we don't mind the black color because there is a black accent throughout the house.

(Above & Below) Kitchen "After" Window Seat Detail
We built in the custom bench and added the gravel below to match the courtyard outside with the Frank Llloyd Wright garden sprite. Ordered the art glass window w/ bird theme online that fit perfectly in the existing window. Painted the oak frame to match the window frame color for a "built-in" look.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Optimista Furniture

Much of the custom furniture at Optimista was made ourselves from off-the-shelf materials of local building supply stores. A 2-tone wood color/type of design was used for added interest. The structure is the ornament! Warmth, beauty, and continuity permeate the whole house as a unified design! You can visit!/pages/Colin-Edward-Slais-Architect/111784272179993?fref=ts for more info.

Monday, August 12, 2013


We recently had our own custom-designed Foyer rug made and installed here at Optimista and absolutely love it! It's a one-of-a-kind that could go nowhere else because of its direct relationship to the existing design elements that were already in place -- such as the existing color scheme, wood door panels with filigree, moon-shaped glass wall table with black metal corbels and round gold-colored mirror frame. Thank you so much to Linda Nagel of McFarland's Custom Carpets, Inc. in Phoenix, AZ, whom we highly recommend (see photos below).
Original Rug Design

Completed Rug Using In-Stock Colors

Relation to Existing Design Elements


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