my new kitchen must-haves

I pinch myself every day that, A, we have a finished kitchen, but even more so, B, that it is bright and open (goodbye wall) and feels like a beautiful part of the home instead of just a utilitarian space (with a big thanks to Café Appliances coming in with the matte white finish and customizable hardware colors… and a new pantry which keeps the counters uncluttered), but most of all that it is exactly right for our family. It really is a dream and since it’s now part of the same room as the family room, it’s where we spend the majority of our time at home together. It’s been so nice finally settling into the new heart of the home and just in time for the holidays.

For a quick re-cap… we moved into our fixer house in July 2018, construction began November 1st of the same year and we moved out into a rental house until April 1st 2019. When we moved back in, the kitchen was fully functional but we didn’t have hardware, trim, island panels etc (basically all of the finishing touches). We worked with a contractor for all the new framing and structural work, drywall, plumbing and the flooring so when we moved back in, his work was done. It then took us from April to October to do all the finish work ourselves. These photos we took along the way so you will see some progression even through this post. I’ll be sharing more in depth about each project we did ourselves but I also wanted to give a quick realistic timeline of what it looks like when there is a lot of DIY involved (and are a working mom with two kids). The good news is we got it to a functioning space in 6 months, before we moved back in, and was able to use it while we deliberated and didn’t rush to choose all the finishing touches at the same time.

So how did we do it? I am sharing my own personal list of must-haves for my kitchen and they might (probably will) be different from yours but I have received SO many “why” questions throughout the process on IG stories that I thought I’d give you the run down and hopefully answer all your burning questions along the way.

Here is a look back at the floorplan of how it was pre-renovation.


sss new studio first look!

Oh, hi! It’s me, just casually welcoming you into my brand-new built-from-scratch studio. (But really, someone pinch me; is this even real?!) This project went lightning-fast—especially since our home renovation is on 1.5 years and counting. Of course, a studio has a lot less going on than a house, and I got a real taste for myself the difference between renovating versus building from the ground up. Things tend to go more smoothly when everything is new and you aren’t discovering and fixing one problem after the other. Even though it was so much easier, my heart still lives for the renovation. Call me a glutton for punishment, but there is something so satisfying about taking a structure that is on the down-and-out and breathing new life into it to make it something beautiful and functional. However, an accessory building that complements an existing structure was pretty dang satisfying to create, as well. Now onto the tour!


Archie Finally got his Bunk Beds

A year and a half ago we pulled up to #samuelfamilyfixer for the very first time (having bought it sight unseen, it was already ours) and pop pop was there to greet us and record our first tour of the house. I shared it in my IG stories and it still is live in the highlights under  the first “SAMUEL FIXER” if you haven’t seen it yet. Archie, who was 3 at the time, was thrilled that the house was “already builded!” but when it came to checking out the bedrooms he was VERY distraught over the fact that there were no bunk beds (he also didn’t even have a bedroom at the time which I guess didn’t phase him as much). We had told him in LA that maybe in the new house we will build him some bunk beds and that boy does not forget A thing.  Well it took us a few months but we did build him a bedroom and we kept our promise on the bunk beds.

I’ll share more of his bedroom soon but for now here is how we made the bunks. I should preface this by saying we made this up as we went along so I wouldn’t swear by my instructions. Please use them as inspiration and check with a contractor if you are not a well versed DIY-er.


Warmboard update & install

After toughing out last winter in a very old, VERY drafty rental house we moved back into our #samuelfamilyfixer post construction. Spring was already in full swing so we didn’t get a chance to feel the difference in our Warmboard radiant heated floors but do you want to know something I do not miss AT ALL?! (aside from the forced air heating in the rental house and all the dryness and runny noses and eczema and allergies we put up with All. Winter. Long.)… The baseboard heaters. They were really messing up my streamlined vision.

Let’s take a peek back with a little before and after of the corner of the living room because it is OH so satisfying. I already forgot the baseboard heaters existed.

Both are Iphone snaps of the same corner. Looking at the first one gives me the heebie jeebies for real. We had just landed about a week before from our cross country road trip and this was Clover’s make shift play corner, complete with our lawn chair furniture while we waited weeks more for our furniture to arrive.

Aside from the shelving change, the biggest difference is the absence of the baseboard heaters.


Doré Living Room(s) before, design, & after

I’m excited to share a more in depth look at our project for the writer, illustrator, style icon and founder of Doré…. Garance Doré, and we are starting with the living room. Garance had recently bought the modern developer-built house when we met at there for a walk through to discuss plans. At the top of the list was to build-in some character that still fit the modern aesthetic but felt more custom and considered.  We did this in many areas with actual build-ins like the double plaster sofas that flank the fireplace above. The second order of business was to brighten up the main living area. She didn’t move from New York to California to block out that California sun after all. The first thing to go was the wall with a double sided fireplace in order to let the flow of light through and unite the living areas. The room it created in the back had all the good light but it went unused and disconnected from the rest of the space.  So let’s take a look at the before photo…


Garance told me Lulu, her sweet pup, was the only one that went in the space, as shown in the photo above. So off to the drawing board. Moving the fireplace against the wall, designing the built-in the sofas, sourcing mostly all vintage furniture, and a couple cozy rugs all helped to bring the character as well as brighten it up. Below is the rendering with my design plan pre-construction. There were a few small changes in the end… we only installed one floating shelf and we used the mirror on the other side of the fireplace in the entry instead of here, but it is gratifying to see what we sketched up come to life.


The first two photos in the post were from the Domino feature shot by Jason Frank Rothenberg but I recently swung by with Jessie Webster to shoot some more angles and details because so many of you asked for more photos and better late than never… here they are.

The vintage Milo Baughman coffee table, hanging chair, and one of the Herman Miller “chiclet” chairs were all found on Chairish. The matching Herman Miller chair we got through Ebay. The upholstery was worn and the chairs were different colors so we had them reupholstered in “Bolden Fabric” from Fabricut. The built-in plaster sofa was finished with Portola Paints Roman Clay “shining” and the cushions were upholstered with “newport” fabric from Fabricut.

On the other side of the fireplace, are more vintage finds. The coffee table and the velvet chair were both found on Sotheby’s home. Both rugs are from Loloi.

Hanging Rattan Egg Chair and Burl Wood Cocktail Table by Milo Baughman Chairish //Vintage Chairs by Herman Miller in Bolden Fabric Fabricut // Hygge Rug Loloi Rugs // Custom Integrated Couch Sarah Sherman Samuel // Cushions and Pillows in Newport Fabric Fabricut // Photograph by Maria Del Rio Del Rio Photography, framed by Framebridge // Print by Caryn Owen from minted // Ceramic bowl and Candle Holders by Virginia Sin // Circle Line Block-Print Pillow  Kesslyr Dean // Vintage Japanese Wood Sculptures from Merchant Gallery // CSS-8-1 by Jen Garrido Jen Garrido // Ceramic O’Dear Bowl by Ben Medansky  Lawson Fenning // Half Black & White Stoneware by M Quan

And just for fun some side by side before, rendering, and afters shot from the same angle.






Top Photos by Jason Frank Rothenberg for Domino Magazine
All others by Jessie Webster 
Design by Sarah Sherman Samuel

Doré Residential Project

Oh Hi! I’m about a year-ish backlogged here on the blog and while I have been keeping up to date on IG, you know the blog essentially serves as the resource page for projects where I can get more in depth and I’ve been meaning to share all the goodness from my project for the lovely Garance Doré since the spring! It was the cover story for Domino and it came out while I was knee neck deep in our own renovations as well as working on a major commercial project (more on that soon!) and oh have I mentioned we moved across the country?…or right, ad nauseam got it. ha Anywho…the catch up starts now!

The main living space is essentially one large open concept. It was pretty open when Garance purchased the home but the kitchen had dark cabinetry and there was a tiny window in the kitchen that didn’t bring in much light. There was also a wall that divided one sitting room from another in an attempt to easily differentiate the space but what it did instead was cut the one living space off from the rest of the house as well as block the view to the outside from the other living space and kitchen area. The room simply went unused. So with the addition of a few strategic built-ins, moving of the fireplace, and tearing down the wall, the space was unified. I then used rugs and low seating to create designated conversation areas which divides up the space without blocking any of the views outside. In the kitchen I used my signature line of cabinet doors for SemiHandmade, Caesarstone countertops and Concrete Collaborative cement tile to create the all white kitchen where textures subtle patterns in each material bring the visual interest.

In the guest bedroom and the guest bathroom Garance wanted to go bold and I happily obliged. With pattern play and a statement color. We demoed out most of the bathroom but kept re-used the existing bathtub and toilet while giving it a major facelift with a new surround and tile work.

In the entry I commissioned a custom console table from Hedgehouse furniture based off of one of their cabinet designs which sits across the two Britt Merrick for H Merrick surf boards. The half moon shape of the mirror is repeated in my sss x park studio “half moon” hardware on the drawers.

In Garance’s master bedroom she wanted it as dark as possible for ultimate sleep, so dark we went… and monochromatic. The moody hue is perfect for her “sleeping den”. In the master bathroom the opposite was needed. It was already a dark cave and Garance wanted all the natural light so we busted down walls, opened up the space and breathed new life with white fireclay brick tile, a custom vanity, and a huge oversized mirror.

All of the stunning photos above were taken by Jason Frank Rothenberg for Domino Magazine and Styled by Rosy Fridman. I made a trip back to Garance’s to shoot more angles of the house and will be sharing those photos along with all the details and before & after’s in more posts later this week so see you back here soon! x

Photos by Jason Frank Rothenberg, for Domino
Design by Sarah Sherman Samuel
Story Produced by Kate Berry
Styled by Rosy Fridman