Getting years of dirt and general gunk off hard wood can be a challenge. Some people might even consider giving older wood items away or throwing them out, but that is such a tragedy when it comes to vintage homes. Original wood touches add so much character and warmth. Cleaning up wood may take a little elbow grease, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or involve anything elaborate.
One of our favorite methods to clean wood is a combination of water and vinegar. It’s not fancy but it works! We used this method at a house in Redlands that was featured on season 2 of Vintage Flip. There was an amazing built-in that was in rough shape. We knew right away that it was worth saving and, as it turns out, it mainly just needed a good cleaning. We used a mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Then we SCRUBBED.
Although the example seen on the show was a built-in, this can also work for wood floors, baseboards, wood trim—you name it.
For a basic vinegar recipe, mix about 1 gallon of warm water to ½ cup of white vinegar. White vinegar works best because it doesn’t smell as strongly as the other types and is less likely to stain the wood. We like to funnel the mix into a spray bottle to make things easier but that part is up to you. (If you’re washing a floor, you might want to use a bucket or a refillable mop. Also, go in sections instead of tackling the entire thing at once.)
If there is a ton of dirt or dust just sitting on the wood feature or floor, go ahead and wipe or sweep it away before you start major cleaning. No need to risk scratches from the dirt. But after that, you’re set to wash with mops for floors or paper towels or cloths for detailed work. Some people like to wash with the wood grain in case of streaking. If it’s a first wash, though, just get it clean.
When you’re finished you can pretty much just let everything air dry. If there’s tons of pooled water or it looks especially wet, wipe up the excess with a towel.
And that’s pretty much it. This is a good option if you’re budget conscious or prefer natural cleaning products. It’s also safe to use around children and pets because it’s non-toxic.
By the way, this mixture isn’t just good for cleaning wood. You can also use it for spot cleaning around the kitchen when it comes to footprints, fingerprints, spills, grease spots around the stove. Just shake the bottle a little and spray onto the spot or into a towel and wipe!
We were so excited to be back in Redlands! We bought another beautiful Victorian Home. This time it was a Queen Anne Cottage, built in 1899. It is 1860 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths.
Redlands is a lovely college town full of historic homes. It reminds us very much of Claremont, where we live. We have grown quite attached to Redlands. The city was founded in the 1880s when people came to Redlands because of cheap land and a warm climate.
Queen Annes were known for their gabled roofs, ship lap siding, stained glass windows, and wrap around porches. This home had all of that, including a grand entrance with built-in bookcases and bench. The entrance also had a wooden pocket door that led into the grand dining room. We are crazy about pocket doors!
The home was magnificent but a little tired and worn. The natural wood built-ins and moldings needed a good cleaning, the hardwood floors needed to be refinished, the kitchen and baths needed a total renovation. The ceiling was covered in acoustic tiles that were probably added in the 1960s. We removed them and discovered many cracks in the plaster. The most efficient fix for this was to dry wall over the ceiling.
The kitchen had an original butler’s pantry. This is where Victorian homeowners would keep all of their special china and silver, and in fact the butler would sometimes sleep in the pantry to guard all of the valuables. This butler’s pantry had a built-in with shelves and an original butcher block countertop. As much as we loved the pantry it made more sense to take down the wall into the kitchen. This opened up the kitchen, made it so much larger, and we were still able to keep the built-in.
Tina wanted to do a checkerboard pattern on the kitchen floor. This pattern was very popular in Victorian times, as they were mimicking the floors of castles and grand homes. Jessie thought doing a large (24×24) tile would look very dramatic and Tina agreed, but she wanted to do the tile in a subtle gray and white. Finishing off the kitchen we installed white shaker cabinets, open shelving with corbels that duplicated the ones on the built-in, a gray quartz countertop, and a beautiful marble backsplash. Marble and tile became very important to the Victorians. It was beautiful and very easy to keep clean, and they were obsessed with germs and cleanliness during that time.
The only other changes we made to the floor plan were adding a closet to the second bedroom and closing one wall of the Jack and Jill bathroom to make it a master bath. Once the wall was closed we had a true master suite. We used subway tile in the shower up to the 11 foot ceiling, ceramic tile on the floor, and quartz that resembled marble on the bench top in the shower.
We put a geometric hexagon tile on the tub wall in the hall bath, and white hexagon tile on the floor. Clean and fresh was the vibe in this home!
Our next dilemma was the cabinet doors on the dining room built-in hutch. One of the doors was missing and we wanted to reproduce it. Building it wasn’t the problem, staining it was. We couldn’t find a stain to match all of other wood in the house, and we certainly didn’t want to re-stain the entire house. But we got lucky! The guys found some of the original stain in the basement.
There was a little hiccup with the lighting. Tina found authentic Victorian lights, but when transporting the dining room light to the house one of the globes broke. Tina and little Max visited a local antique store and they were very fortunate to find a replacement!
Time to paint the outside! Tina took her inspiration from the Victorian Painted Ladies, the most famous of which are in San Francisco (the Full House home!). Painted Ladies have three or more colors, and for this home Tina chose teal, seafoam green, and white with accents of purple. The transformation was incredibly beautiful.
For the landscape we decided to use flowers that would have been at the home back in 1899. Lots of lavendar, roses, and hydrangeas. The result was just what we hoped for.
We are very proud to have lovingly restored another historic home in the beautiful city of Redlands. May the current and future homeowners enjoy living in it for another hundred years – and then some!
We were so fortunate to find this gem, a 1936 Spanish hacienda home in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach. This was a smaller home in a very expensive neighborhood. It had a large corner lot and great bones, but we had our work cut out for us.
In 1884 Jotham Bixby, owner of Rancho Los Cerritos, sold 4000 acres of his rancho to what would soon be called Long Beach. The city was incorporated in 1887.
Spanish homes of this era had clay roofs, archways, hardwood floors, and courtyards. Our home was no exception. It was in disrepair and very overgrown, but it wasn’t hard to see the beauty that was underneath.
The original floor plan needed very few revisions. The only changes we made were closing off a door leading from the living room to a bedroom, and taking out a small closet in the master bath to increase the size of the shower.
The entry to the home was through the courtyard. The living room was large and had a beautiful fireplace and the original large windows and wood moldings. The only thing we decided to add were wooden beams on the ceiling. We also wanted to leave the formal dining room as it was. The kitchen had a gorgeous coved ceiling and an adjoining breakfast nook. The breakfast nook had built in shelving and a door leading to the courtyard.
The kitchen was a total gut. We installed rough hewn wooden cabinets, black quartz countertop, farmhouse sink, and a blue clay tile backsplash with a random star pattern. The floors in this kitchen and courtyard just called out for Saltillo tile. This house would have had Saltillo tile when it was built, as it was a very common material due to it’s coolness and ease of care. However, when the tile was laid Tina thought it would be too dark after sealing and would blend with the cabinets too much, so Jessie decided that white washing the tile was the way to go. That was a small change but made all the difference.
The Saltillo was also laid in the courtyard, on the steps and the front porch – and was just what it needed!
Other original features of the home were the built-in telephone nook, the windows and the moldings.
The hall bath had the original vanity, tub and sink, all of which we restored. The original tile in the hall bath couldn’t be saved, but we wanted to honor the triangle pattern by using a similar pattern on the shower walls.
We also used a triangle pattern tile in the master bath. Since the master bath was fairly small and dark, we doubled the size of the door by opening it up and hanging two barn doors. Making the opening larger made the bathroom feel larger and lighter.
Next we moved to the outside, and needed some inspiration for the paint colors. What better place to go than Rancho Los Cerritos! The Bixby family home still stands and is now a public museum owned by the city and dedicated to the history of the Rancho and the surrounding area. Tina and Jessie visited the Rancho with the boys and took inspiration from the colors. They decided to paint the home in similar colors, cream for the body with green for the trim.
Once the overgrown plants were removed it became clear what was needed to finish off this amazing home. We landscaped the front yard with decomposed granite, grass, bougainvillea, cacti and succulents. In the back yard we were hoping to save the in-ground spa. Jessie and Tina were distressed to discover that it had been filled with concrete and brick and couldn’t be saved. Instead it was concreted over and made into an inviting patio area.
This project was a labor of love. We couldn’t be happier with the results of the renovation and we know that the owners will be happy here for a very long time.
We really had our work cut out for us when webought this Victorian home in the beautiful college town of Redlands, California. For starters it was built in 1898, and we had never worked on a home of that advanced age. In addition, it was in very rough shape.The home had not been maintained over the years, there had been a fire in the attic, and it had a sagging kitchen floor, just for starters.
The house is 1800 square feet, but some of the rooms were small and disjointed. We decided to take the house down to the studs and create a floor plan that worked for today’s buyers. This meant opening the small parlor into the living room, making a more open space. We also created a real master suite upstairs, adding a bathroom and closet to the bedroom. The small upstairs hall bath was reconfigured to make it more usable. The final result was a 5 bedroom, 2 3/4 bath, amazing home.
One feature of the home that we really loved was the corner fireplace. This is very common in Victorian homes. There was no original mantle, so we decided to look for an antique mantle that would have been in the home originally. We were so fortunate to find the perfect mantle at Redlands Estate Sale and Consignments. The city of Redlands has so many great businesses, and we had fun discovering many of them during our time in the city. It was a challenge getting the antique mantle into the house. Luckily we had a large picture window on the front porch and it fit!
Tina’s other nods to the drama of Victorian design were the wallpaper that we installed in the living room, the green octagon tiles on the fireplace, the jewel tone backsplash in the kitchen, and the marble tile in the bathrooms. It is always her goal to stay true to the era of a home while making everything work for the modern lifestyle.
As mentioned above, when we took the walls down to the studs we discovered there had been a fire in the attic. The house had knob and tube wiring and there were many rats nests in the attic, which is an invitation for fire. Luckily the house was built of redwood, one of the hardest woods out there, so the fire only penetrated 1/4 inch in to the wood and didn’t cause the entire house to burn down. We were able to replace the burned wood, rewire the home, and continue our renovation.
The original hardwood floors were throughout the home, and we weren’t sure we could bring them back to life. But we worked our magic and the result was fabulous! Our first choice is always to restore the original hardwoods if possible.
What you didn’t see in the TV show was a visit from our friend the chimney sweep. We wanted to make sure the fireplace was safe for the new homeowner, so we had a fireplace inspector/chimney sweep come out to check it. Terry from A Quality Chimney Sweep came out to the house in his top hat and tails – just like in Mary Poppins! He cleaned and repaired the chimney and fireplace for us.
A Folk Victorian home gets it’s name from the fact that the homeowners over the years have added their own touches and embellishments to the exterior, trying to outdo their neighbors. This house was no exception. There was an intricate pattern in the fascia that was broken in places. We wanted to restore this, so Jessie used spray paint to duplicate the pattern before cutting out a new piece. It worked perfectly! Tina decided to use Gothic inspired paint colors for the exterior of the home, and to landscape with plants and flowers that you would have seen in the yard when the house was new.
A house that is 119 years old is bound to be full of surprises, and this house did not disappoint. When Jessie was on the bobcat in the backyard he discovered some old bottles, a pot, a coffeepot, a bell, a railroad tie, and a spoon. Tina cleaned these up and displayed them on the mantle. There also was an original chandelier that we were able to rewire, clean and put back in the home. The opportunity to restore items to their original place in our homes makes us so happy!
We got the opportunity to buy this 1918 Grove House in the city of Ontario from another investor. He started the project and was unable to finish it. It was a great house, but unfortunately we inherited a few of that investor’s problems. This was one of our largest home renovations to date with 1900 square feet, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths.
Ontario was settled by the Chaffey brothers, who came to California from Ontario, Canada. Easterners flocked to California in the early 20th century. The warm weather and ability to grow crops all year round was a real draw. Southern California had the perfect climate for growing citrus. There were lemon and orange groves all over the area, and this home was originally a farmhouse for the groves. It would have been the only house for miles around at the time it was built in 1918, surrounded by lush citrus trees as far as the eye could see.
The house is on the historic registry, thus we couldn’t make any changes to the floor plan. It still had many of the original features, such as the river rock planter on the front porch, coffered ceilings in the living room, and beautiful mahogany paneling and built-ins. It had a large kitchen and large dining room.
There wasn’t much demo to do on this house, but we had to make sure the house was up to code. We updated all electrical and had to reframe some of the walls. We had two major surprises, however. The foundation needed major repairs – new rebar, posts and concrete. This was an additional $10,000 we hadn’t planned on. Also, the city threw a wrench into our plans when they required us to gable the back roof that was over an upstairs addition. Another $5,000! This was adding up fast. Oh well, it’s only money. Right?
True to the period there was no master suite but we were lucky to have two bathrooms, one up and one down. The upstairs bath was huge and we wanted it to have a dramatic design. Tina chose black subway for the shower walls, dark green paint for the bathroom walls, and a mahogany vanity that had a double sink and was 72 inches wide. It was uncertain if the vanity would fit through the door at first, but it just squeaked through. Whew!
The kitchen was large, and we wanted it to have a traditional look. Because of this we used bead board cabinets, marble countertops, a farmhouse sink, and tin backsplash. Tin ceilings were everywhere in the early 1900s and now companies have adapted the tin and made it into backsplash material. This kitchen was unique, beautiful and true to the period. We were very proud of the final result.
Finish carpentry was very important in this house. We are proud of the talented crafts people that work for our company. From installing and adapting the vintage French doors in the living room, repairing and rebuilding some of the mahogany panels, refinishing the coffered ceilings, and giving the beautiful built-ins some tender loving care – they hit a home run!
On the exterior we decided to stay with the Americana theme. We painted the siding a navy blue, the trim a crisp white, and the corbels a beautiful red. In the porch planter we put red and white geraniums, and in the front yard azaleas, gardenias and camellias. Just like the plants the farmer’s wife would have lovingly tended in her yard back in the day.
This house will always be special to us because you got to see the day that our third beautiful boy, Max, came into the world. This is why we do what we do. In the end it is all about family! Not just our family but the families that will be living in the homes we renovate for many years to come, making their own beautiful memories. We are truly blessed.