Confessions of a Professional House Snooper

PhotoI’ve been snooping around remodeled houses since 1989 (first for the Santa Barbara News-Press when it was owned by the New York Times, then for the L.A. Times, and now for Kathy’s Remodeling Blog) and I guess I’ve got one of the best jobs on earth — visiting homes (or virtually visiting them via webcams and phone calls) and writing about them. Here you see me snapping photos during a recent tour of a luminous Hermosa Beach house.

Much has changed for me in the last two decades. No. 1 in importance: I got a GPS (global positioning system) device, which is my new “higher power.” In the past, with my total lack of directional wisdom, getting to an interview in San Pedro or Lake Arrowhead or Laguna Beach or Westlake village was traumatic. I’d study maps, print out maps, memorize directions, get directions wrong. And then, I couldn’t pull off the freeway for a detour or I’d never find my way back again. Now, I just program the address and follow the kindly voice prompts to my destination. Ahhh.

No. 2: My cellphone! In years past, if I was running late or got lost, I’d have to get off the freeway to find a pay phone, and sometimes in very scary neighborhoods. And when you’re running late, that’s a big waste of time. If I’m running late now, on account of traffic (the one thing that has gotten worse in this whole equation), I make a quick call from my van. Done.

And finally, my digital camera has made my life so simple. No more buying film. No more dropping it off to get developed. No more having to wait to see if my images are good. I just get back to my office, pop the little data card into my computer and boom, I’ve got photos I can use to write my articles.

But here’s what hasn’t changed for me in the last 20 years: The people I visit. The subjects in my Pardon Our Dust features are so amazingly friendly, open and creative. And fun! I have actually been changed by my time spent with them, and have become increasingly more friendly and open myself.

People ask me what I’m looking for in the remodels I write about. Trends? Chic? Way cool? No, no and no. I’m looking for human spirit. I want to see what the motivated human being can achieve. If it’s a $7,500 kitchen in Corona where the husband had to talk the wife into it (that was a new one!) or a redo of a woman’s childhood home in Los Angeles, I want to hear more about it.

If you have done a remodel recently and it’s got a good story, lots of involvement from you and wasn’t too darned expensive, consider submitting it for consideration Kathy’s Remodeling Blog. Email before and after images and a description of the project to me at

And wish me luck as I attempt to arrive at my next interview, in a place where my GPS doesn’t recognize, and I’m not sure my cellphone will work: Rosarito Beach, Baja, Mexico. I’ll let you know how it goes.