A West L.A.
homeowner didn't want to wake up in a boring box, so he turned his condo
into an angled showplace.
The West Los Angeles
condominium Jay Falamaki bought in 1997 was like scores of others in
boring," Falamaki says of the 860-square-foot condo's white walls,
vinyl floors and beige carpeting. "It was very basic with no
character at all."
But bland surroundings would not work for
Falamaki, a native of Iran who studied set design at the American Film
Institute in L.A. and who now works as a freelance designer.
While his peers who own condos tend to put off
remodeling until they move up into a house, Falamaki did not want to
"I'm here now," he thought.
"This is my everyday life. I must enjoy it."
But to get the two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo
from where it was--dull--to where Falamaki wanted it to
be--dynamic--would cost tens of thousands of dollars, which he did not
have. So, he decided to do most of the work himself and to buy materials
and hire professionals as his earnings allowed.
months and $20,000 later, Falamaki has created a colorful, elegant and
unique home that he considers a fitting backdrop for his life.
Long before he bought the condo, Falamaki had
spent hours thinking and reading about remodeling. His favorite
magazines are Architectural Digest and Architectural Record.
go to magazines," he says, "you get ideas."
start this project--before he moved in--Falamaki hired his brother, Max,
a general contractor, to alter some walls and to reroute some plumbing.
This allowed him to improve the awkward layouts of the two
"standard condo bathrooms" into more usable space. After one
bathroom and one bedroom were livable, Falamaki moved in. One of his
biggest priorities was transforming the kitchen, which he considers the
"center of the home" and where he enjoys cooking for friends.
His specialties include such Persian dishes as kebabs and stews.
of his modest budget, Falamaki chose to leave some onerous elements in
place, including the plastic dropped ceiling and the shopworn stove.
"It was here," he says of the
latter, "and I hate it."
transforming the existing cabinets and adding tile counters, a tile
floor and robust wall color, the kitchen bears little resemblance to its
To create unique-looking cabinets on a
limited budget, Falamaki removed the plywood doors, which had raised
panels, and turned them around so the flat side faced out. He then
sanded them, stained them yellow and added a wide rim of flat wood
molding and a small rim of green molding.
* * * "It's very easy," he says
of his efforts, and especially so because of the vast home-improvement
resources available in this country. In Iran, he points out,
"there's no Home Depot."
a few cabinet doors, Falamaki cut out the center panels and had glass
inserted by a glass shop.
enlarged the kitchen--a neat trick in a condo where adding square
footage is impossible--by extending the cabinets, counters and tile
floor into the adjacent dining room. He built the new cabinets "out
of square," or at angles that correspond with other odd angles he
inserted throughout the home.
corner, I tried to experiment with angles," he says, explaining
that he was inspired by the unusual angles of Staples Center, for which
he was hired to make miniature models before the arena was built.
add interest to the living room, Falamaki created a new fireplace facade
out of wood framing and concrete, into which he pressed decorative tiles
and brass furniture tacks. He got deals on a century-old Dutch table for
the dining room, and a couch, chair and coffee table for the living
room. He plans to complete the scene with giant film-noir posters.
But Falamaki didn't confine his time and
talents to major rooms. He also wanted to make his hallways interesting.
On one wall, he asked the contractor to build out the wall in a curve,
and add a lighted cove to hold a shelf, which Falamaki made. With a
"cheap paint brush" and a lot of paint and glaze, he added
texture and depth to the hallway walls.
the main bathroom, Falamaki had tile added at unusual angles around the
tub and on the counters. He worked closely with the tile setter, who,
Falamaki says, was unaccustomed to out-of-square designs.
Living alone has its advantages and
drawbacks during remodeling, he says. On one hand, "you don't have
to argue or compromise; you just do it." However, he says, "a
second opinion is always good."
give his condo a greater sense of elegance, Falamaki replaced all the
"cheap 10-buck doors" with solid raised-panel doors made of
Douglas fir. He would have replaced the aluminum windows, but the
condo's homeowners' rules forbid that.
For the final touch, Falamaki hired
professionals to install hardwood floors in the living room and dining
Although the whole-condo remodel
was "fun" for the first year, it became drudgery for Falamaki
as it moved into the second year.
don't you finish?" his friends asked.
the hammers and dropcloths and paintbrushes were put away and the
remodel was finished. But once Falamaki can move up into a house, he
plans on starting the remodeling process all over again.
"I'm looking forward to it,"
* * *
860-square-foot condominium in Los Angeles from insipid to interesting.
Designer-Owner: Jay Falamaki
Contractor: Max Falamaki, Angeles
Fabricators Inc., Los Angeles, (310) 571-4190
Duration: 20 months
Cost: $20,000 ($8,000 for professional
labor, $12,000 for materials)
* * * Kathy Price-Robinson is a freelance
writer who has written about remodeling for 10 years. She can be reached
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