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.
This time we found an abandoned ranch home in West Covina that was built in 1952. It was just off the 10 freeway, and truly was one of the most run-down homes we had ever purchased, including peeling paint and water damage. The house was 1050 square feet, with three bedrooms and only one bathroom. The purchase price was $275,000. However, we saw a lot of potential in this home.
In southern California in the 1950s the freeways connected Los Angeles to the suburbs, marking the beginning of suburban living. As a result of remarkable expansion during the post World War II building boom, West Covina became one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities between 1950 and 1960. Everyone had a car and garages were very important, which is why builders starting building single story homes with attached garages. It truly was the beginning of the car culture, which remains today in southern California.
We thought we could have fun with the design on this house, using touches of car culture, especially after we discovered a stove that was left in the house. It was a 1950s O’Keefe and Merritt stove, De Ville edition, and had decorative features that looked like a hood ornament and speedometer. We decided to restore the stove and return it to the kitchen.
Other original items we wanted to return to the kitchen were the mid-century boomerang style cabinet pulls. They were in pretty rough condition, but we took them to Inland Powder Coating Corp. in Ontario. The pulls were sandblasted, taking them back to the bare metal, and then powder coated in a bright yellow that Tina chose. Very eye-catching!
This house only had one bathroom, and we strongly felt we needed two. We found the solution in the laundry room behind the kitchen. We sealed up the wall between this room and the kitchen, and opened the adjoining wall to the bedroom. We made this room a bathroom, thus creating a master suite. We then were able to take a hall closet and convert it to laundry space.
The other floor plan change we made was taking down the wall between the kitchen and dining area. This opened up the area and made it feel more spacious.
Tina originally wanted to use cement-look tile on the kitchen floor. This industrial look was very mid-century and also a nod to the car culture (aka a cement garage floor). However, upon further research she found that you could now buy Terrazzo tiles and that idea intrigued her. The tiles are much more cost-effective than the large poured Terrazzo floors that were common in the 1950s and 1960s. She also wanted to use metal strips between the tiles to join them, and the result was both unique and striking. We then installed modernistic flat panel cabinets with a quartz countertop that was also the backsplash, and with the yellow cabinet pulls the kitchen was complete!
We wanted to use the same upbeat style in the bathrooms! We used the 12×24 concrete-look tile on the floors and shower walls, laid in a stacked pattern. To add a bit of whimsey we laid penny-round tile in a bright colored accent racing stripe coming down the shower walls and across the floor to the doors.
To complete the inside we had the hardwood floors refinished and stained gray, giving the floors a true modern feel.
Designing the exterior of the home was just as fun as doing the interior. A custom milled front porch screen was designed and built by Jessie and our contractor Casey. The wood was layered in different sizes in order to help provide a sound barrier from the freeway noise. The front door is a modern design painted yellow, which gives the front of the house a true pop of color.
The backyard had an old travel trailer, which we needed to pull out. It was a bit of an adventure getting it out, and Tina was a little nervous about it fitting without hitting the house. However, it made it out and Jessie and the boys had a blast washing it out front. He thought it would be fun to turn it into a mobile coffee shop, but that plan is still up for discussion.
The modern landscape and horizontal fencing completed the mid-century look of this home. We really did have a fun time on this one!
We were very excited at the opportunity to purchase another home in the city of Upland, Tina’s hometown. This time it was a mid-century modern home, built in 1959. This renovation promised to be both an adventure and a lot of fun!
The home had been built by the previous homeowner. It is rare that we are able to buy a home and be only the second owners! We had the privilege of meeting the homeowner’s children, and they told us that their dad’s building of this home was a true labor of love.
True to mid-century design, the house had a flat roof, vertical board and batten, large front door with a glass sidelight, hardwood floors, a vaulted ceiling with beams in the living room, a geometric fireplace, built in bookcases, and large windows that brought the outdoors in. We wanted to honor these features, while also bringing a 2017 sensibility to the home so that it would appeal to today’s buyers.
We made very few changes to the floor plan. We took down the accordion doors between the living room and kitchen and enlarged the opening, making each room flow right into the next. We also squared off the wall in the master bath and removed a closet, making the bathroom and shower much larger.
The living room had a fireplace with a very geometric shape that we wanted to keep. The travertine tile that was on it was not true to the era, so we replaced it with a combination of geometric tile (laid randomly) and a textured plaster. The bookcases on either side of the fireplace were painted white, the beams on the ceiling were painted charcoal gray, an accent wall was painted teal, the ceiling and other walls were painted white – and the result was breathtaking!
The kitchen needed to be completely gutted, as none of the cabinets were able to be saved. We took out the peninsula and soffit to further open the area. Tina found flat panel wood grain doors for the lower cabinets, to mimic the previous cabinets, and white doors for the uppers. A white tile floor, with a blue and white 3-D tile backsplash, finished off a perfect kitchen.
Squaring the wall in the master bath and taking out the linen closet made such a difference. The bathroom and walk-in shower were greatly enlarged. Because there was no window in this bathroom we wanted to use light colored tile, and found some beautiful geometric tile that reminded us of the original. Also the original light in the room was amazing! It consisted of four cut glass rectangular pieces on a light bar. Unfortunately the light bar broke when it was being taken down, and we were so sad. Luckily we have a friend, Rob Lewbel, who owns Moonshine Lamp Co in Claremont. Jessie took the glass pieces to Rob and he was able to make a new light bar for the glass pieces to attach to. The result was perfect and provided a lot of light in the room!
The hall bath was roomy and just needed new tile, paint, vanity and mirror.
Moving on to the floors, we hoped that the laminate that was laid over the hardwoods in the living room could be successfully removed and the hardwood floors restored. Once again we were able to patch, sand and stain the original floors in the entire home, and they were gorgeous!
Outside we wanted to give the home a little more interest, so we removed some of the board and batten and installed horizontal tongue and groove siding. With a paint scheme of light gray and white with charcoal trim, the house had just what it needed. A final touch was the beautiful large front door. It needed a pop of color and the perfect shade of tangerine was it!
Modern landscape is defined by strong elements, clean lines and unusual materials. In our front yard we wanted to incorporate all of this, and used a combination of grass, gravel, pebbles and native plants. We already had the curved sidewalk pavers, and the space between them was perfect for the pebbles. We couldn’t be happier with the exterior of this home.
Time to stage! The previous homeowners left us many period pieces which we used in our staging. Mid-century homes call for lots of color, and we were able to add color with our furniture and accessories. The house looked amazing – a real showstopper!
We were so excited about the possible purchase of this 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1100 square foot, 1925 Spanish Revival home in downtown La Verne. La Verne is a vibrant small city with a downtown full of historic homes. The day that we first walked the home we were full of anticipation. We just weren’t prepared for what we actually found.
There was a large concrete ramp leading up to the front door. Once inside the house the odor was overpowering! Poor pregnant Tina was very close to losing her lunch. It was one of the dirtiest, smelliest houses we had ever bought. And horrifically there was a pile of dead cockroaches in the oven!
However, this house was a great example of mission architecture, and the house was full of great design possibilities. This style of home was based on the grand idea of making a home look like the beautiful missions that are in California. As Jessie said, people wanted to feel like they were living in a mini-mission!
Weighing the positives against the negatives, the positives won! With a purchase price of $350,000, a $55,000 renovation budget, and a possible sales price of $500,000 this house looked like a winner! Time to get started!
On the exterior the concrete ramp came out, the aluminum awnings came down (to be replaced with beautiful fabric awnings in hues of gray, black and orange), and the house was re-stuccoed to give it the original adobe style once again. In addition, Jessie and Tina wanted to make the windows special. They decided to duplicate the pattern of the amazing 9-light French doors that were in the living room. Molding was added to the new windows to replicate this pattern.
The interior floor plan needed minimal adjustments. We removed the wall between the living room and kitchen to get the open concept that modern buyers love. We also made the kitchen a little bit smaller so that we could increase the size of the third bedroom and bath, making it an actual master suite with a full bath.
The living room had a great fireplace that needed to be returned to its former glory. The best way to do this was by using a beautiful hand-painted Spanish tile on the face. Tina found the perfect one, but it was very expensive. After Jessie got over the initial shock of $15 per tile (!) he realized it was exactly what was needed.
Original features of the home were the coved ceiling in the living room, the 9-light French doors, and the original hardwood floors. We restored all of these, just like we always do if it is at all possible. We put a dark stain on the floors.
The kitchen was galley style, and we brightened it up by painting the cabinets a beautiful blue. Spanish homes are so fun because they call for lots of bright colors. We installed butcher block countertops in a natural stain and a gorgeous tile backsplash. The tile was the traditional star and cross pattern that you see often in Spanish design.
In both bathrooms we used a combination of white square and white hex tile. To add color we installed a band of brightly colored Spanish tile at eye level.
Perhaps the best part of working on this home was finding out we were having a third boy! In the episode we visited Tina’s OB/Gyn, Monica Valenzuela, MD, and with all the family present we got the news about baby boy #3! My goodness, are we going to be busy!!!!
Tina was on bed rest on the day of our Open House, so Jessie was on his own. Many people walked the house that day and gave very positive feedback. We ended up selling the house for $485,000, and after a $60,000 renovation and closing costs and fees, we netted $52,000. But we also saved another vintage home, and provided one lucky family a beautiful place to live. We really do have the best job in the world!
I usually wouldn’t say this, but I thought this house would be one of my least favorite projects. I say this because I didn’t see a lot of potential for restoration. I knew we would do an amazing job on the renovation but I pride myself on bringing old homes back to life and giving them a little Cal American flavor. I didn’t see any of that potential for this house. Fortunately, that all changed. We bought the house almost sight-unseen. I was only able to see the front half of the house and I was not allowed in the garage. Buying it was a risky move but I felt it was going to be a good deal. Another reason I bought this house was because I have a rental property literally across the street. I knew I would either flip this house or keep it as a rental.
The first day we filmed at the house was really the first day I was able to get a full picture of the home. The first thing that stood out was the color. It was a blinding lime green. Completely hideous! We had to walk the house before we filmed, in order to get a grasp of things. Still I couldn’t really figure out the layout. I saw a boarded up wall and it was definitely an opening to something. I then figured out that the dining room had been converted to a make-shift bedroom. This discovery was the easy part. I later found out it was not done completely right.
There was also a 2-car detached tandem garage. I was never able to see inside the garage when we were trying to buy the house. Filming day was the first time I was able to get inside. The garage was full of stuff. I mean floor to ceiling full of old stuff! There was also a partition dividing the garage and what appeared to be some kind of bedroom. There were plumbing lines and a drain and I could clearly see that the place at one time was being used as living quarters. I already knew this had to go and it was not going to be cheap. Everything was on a slab and that always costs more to repair. We were only one day into this house and we were already seeing additional costs that were unexpected. We usually run into these problems during demo. Oh well! This is what to expect when you flip vintage homes.
Demo day was finally upon us. This part is usually fun but in older homes like these you always find things that were done wrong. However, sometimes you get lucky and find something cool. Or in this case you find something you can actually use. I was in the middle of doing demo in the only bathroom in the house. The tub was sitting against the wall and it was actually duct taped all around the base. I assumed this was because there were cracks or leaks at the base. It never dawned on me what could actually be underneath all that tape. When I was hammering the base there was a strong mildew odor that hit me right in the face. It was straight out nasty! After about the fourth or fifth swing of the hammer I noticed the tub starting to bull nose. I tapped it with the hammer and I heard the most beautiful sound. “Dong!” We had just discovered the original cast iron claw foot tub. Fully intact but definitely in need of some tender loving care. These are the few moments that I get to feel like a kid again. It’s like digging in the backyard, playing Indiana Jones, and finding something cool like an old coin or an arrowhead.
Since we decided to rearrange almost all the walls we decided to take down all the drywall. (Here is a tip for those of you planning to do a major remodel. If you have to remove half your drywall or plaster in your house, you might as well remove it all and just drywall the entire house. It will take more time trying to patch and match the thickness of the wall than just doing it all new. Plus you avoid any uneven walls which you sometimes get when patching.) We were in the middle of removing the ceiling and we were able to find the old cast iron sink in the attic. I am not sure if it belonged to the house but it was in great shape. I didn’t want to put this part in the show at that time because I knew not many would believe you could strike iron two times in one day. So I told my guy to hide it so I could surprise Tina later.
Design time! For today’s modern living it seems everyone is in agreement. Open space is better space. Unfortunately, when they built these homes back in the early 1900’s that model was nonexistent. To make matters worse the previous owner decided to close off the dining room and make it another bedroom. Now it was our job to make it right. We had plans drawn up making this home a 3 bedroom, 1 bath with a true dining room. That is difficult to do when you are working with 1054 square feet. After a lot of measuring, drawing, erasing, more drawing, we were finally able to come up with an awesome floor plan. We even found a place for a stackable washer and dryer closet. Now it was time for Tina to do her thing. She still amazes me with these ideas that just pop into her head. Not all of them work, and almost all of them end up going over budget, but I have to say her creative talent knows no bounds. I struggled trying to come up with a theme and she just walked in and said “let’s do a railroad theme.” Boom! Done. Really? That was fast. So that’s what we did!
We used railroad ties as steps for the front walkway and specific hardware to pay homage to the era when this house was built. We went so era specific that we did something that I have never done before. Tina was able to talk me into using linoleum, or what some like to call vinyl flooring. You have no idea how many times I have flipped a home and discovered linoleum floors. I always think to myself “Yuck, that has to go.” And now I am actually voluntarily agreeing to install it. It is mind blowing the way things can “flip” on you so fast. (Haha!) The linoleum design surprisingly was very cool. We went with shades of blue and white and came up with a plaid design. I was very impressed when I saw what you can do with linoleum these days.
Now we needed a kitchen design that would balance the wood floors and linoleum. Since we were doing an open concept kitchen and living room we needed a design that would be inviting and not dividing. We went with a traditional white shaker cabinet but we knew we had to turn it up a notch. Tina decided to use a butcher block counter top and use the cabinets as a peninsula. This would give the two rooms some division but still keep the open concept. I loved the idea so we ran with it! Tina’s backsplash design was a little risky. She wanted to use three different tiles to make a design. It started with a base of mini-hex tiles, then a blue pencil liner that would match the linoleum floor, and finally transitioned to a traditional subway.
For the bath we decided to restore the claw foot tub. I wanted the tub to be the centerpiece of this room. We also decided that we were going to bring the butcher block from the kitchen to the vanity in the bathroom. In order to bring some more color and authenticity to the room Tina wanted to do wainscoting all around. For the floors we chose a light gray hex tile that would really complement the rest of the design. All in all I was very happy with the choices we made.
After about two weeks spent wrapping up the inside we needed to decide on the exterior design. We had to get rid of that hideous lime green and we wanted to use a more traditional paint color. However, we also had to make sure we didn’t do a drab paint scheme. Today’s buyers wouldn’t like that. The solution was to use two traditional paint colors and then a third accent color that would pop. We went with a crème colored base with white trim and then chose a teal accent color for the windows and doors. It really worked out well. Another issue was the fact that we had this fairly large porch and it was being neglected. Tina had the idea to create a trellis that would expand the porch and give the home a more welcoming look. I would never have thought of this. I have to say it again, she came through with another amazing idea. For landscaping we decided to keep it simple. Clean lines with sod, gravel and bushes in addition to the railroad ties leading up to the house. We made the house look so welcoming that everyone will want to just walk up, pull up a chair and have some lemonade.
At the end of the remodel I was excited to surprise Tina with the cast iron sink that we found in the beginning. I knew she would really appreciate what it represented. Being able to restore and reuse old tubs and sinks is a joy that we both share. We were able to incorporate it with the vanity that we had and were able to sit it on the butcher block. It came out looking spectacular. I also added a design feature of my own. I did not like the way the dining room looked. It was too plain for me, so I came up with corner built-in shelving that would act as functional storage. Also by painting it a deep blue-green we had the pop of color that I knew was missing. I was very impressed and proud of myself. I actually gave myself a pat on the back. LOL!
Staging day was here and this was the last house that Cal American Homes was going to stage on our own. We had so many homes that we were restoring, and with Tina being pregnant it was getting very difficult to stage. We did go out with a bang! My crew and I worked on staging until 10 pm the night before the open house. We got everything done in one day. It was a grind but it was all worth it. This project ended up being one of my favorite ones. The open house was a huge success and once again we outdid ourselves. We sold the home for $380,000 which was $30,000 more than my original asking price. Score another win for team Tina and Jessie!