I know that June 8, 1997, was a Sunday.
That’s because it was the launch date of my “Pardon Our Dust” series in the Real Estate section of the Los Angeles Times, my childhood newspaper, the newspaper I loved and cherished (and still do). Yes, I was stoked.
The article that appeared that day, on the cover, was about this house, where a young woman and her family moved in with her Grandma, added a second story, and kept the house its original pink.
It was kind of weird back then, though. Few people understood what I was trying to do. Write about regular remodels? Of normal folk? Why?
All my career, publicists have been trying to steer me toward the work of their clients — uber-talented, hip, edgy and upscale architects and designers. That’s what people want to read about, right? Those chic projects, someone told me, were “aspirational,” which means average people like me and you should aspire to live like that.
Uh, I don’t think so. Happily, my wonderful editor Dick Barnes gave me a crack at it, and his successor, the wonderful Lauren Beale, let me keep doing it. I knew the concept was sound because I had done a similar, well-received series for the Santa Barbara News-Press once a week for seven years. That’s more than 350 stories between 1990 to 1996.
To launch “Pardon Our Dust,” I had to dig up the first few projects myself, and I solicited Southern California members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, who I knew would be stand-up guys. But I knew from experience that once the series got going, people would start submitting their own projects, and I wouldn’t have to ask contractors or architects. To me, that’s what made “Pardon Our Dust” so endearing. Ninety-nine percent of the projects I wrote about are submitted by the homeowners themselves.
I had a 13-year run writing my “Pardon Our Dust” series. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.