Obviously by now everyone knows I am an architectural junkie. I am a huge fan of the 50’s especially during the Mid-Century boom, sometimes known as the golden age of design and architecture. It was a time when people started to break away from the more conventional design principles and started doing things more daring. If you don’t know what Mid-Century Modernism is, the best way to explain it is to look at 2 very big companies. The first is Ikea, the home furnishing store. Their ideas in design are based on this era. The second is actually Apple. A lot of Apple and Ikea designs are based on the emphasis of the modern aspect of this era. It just so happens I am huge fan of both companies, and it has a lot to do with their designs. One of the agents in my office, Anthony Vasquez came across this house and knew that I loved these kinds of homes. When this property came across my desk I knew right away who built the house and who designed it. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s there were a select tract of homes throughout Southern California that were being developed by Joseph Eichler. His vision was to build these homes based on the designs of Quincy A. Jones and Frederick E. Emmons. The idea behind these homes was to have open concepts with large glass windows and sliders with post and beam construction. The vision was to inspire open thinking and for people to explore the world around them by bringing the outside in. Another aspect behind these homes was that they can be built with readily available materials at that time. You have to imagine after the second world war there was a surplus of material such as plywood and steel. It was a perfect storm for this era to grow into an iconic period of society. You had people who wanted to forget the war just happened and to do that you had to usher in a new era of forward thinking and designing. (Enough with the history lesson. I get carried away sometimes. I actually made a whole post about Eichler Homes, which can be found here.) I was very intrigued by this home, so we set up a showing because I had to see how much of the original features were still intact. On our way to the house we drove through the neighborhood to get an idea of what these homes looked like. When we pulled up I could immediately see that there was something missing.
This particular track of homes all had an open outdoor atrium you would walk through before actually getting inside the house. When you first walk into this particular home you stepped right into a tiled living area. It was very big, but I knew it was not correct. To the right was the dining room and kitchen. Straight ahead was the living room and to the left was the bedroom and bathrooms. I walked the house for close to an hour so I could envision what this place looked over 50 years ago. I could see that at some point one of owners removed all the glass from the atrium and actually poured new concrete to bring the old atrium up to floor level. They also patched over the roof where the opening use to be and put in sun lights instead.
The kitchen was dated and I could tell it was remodeled at some point but definitely not era specific. Same with the tile throughout the house and the carpet in the living area. To the untrained eye, one could not fathom the amount of work required to get this place back to how it should look. I spent many hours trying to come up with a budget on this place and I will be honest there were a lot of variables that I could not accurately project. The biggest of all was to bring the atrium back. After a long discussion with Tina and going over the numbers we felt we could take this project on and make a profit. I have to admit that I was very excited to get to work on an Eichler.
Once we closed escrow I went to work immediately. We wanted to take on the biggest challenge first and again, that was the atrium. I brought the demo crew in to remove all the tile from all the floors, and I had them jack hammer the atrium floors. I had to get that level lower than the rest of the house and I had to find the drain that would lead all the water outside for when it rains. Believe it or not, an exterior run off drain is one of the most important things to have when dealing with a multi level area. Without one the lower area would flood every time it rained. If we didn’t have a drain we would need to trench one from the atrium to the exterior of the house and this would cost $3000-$4000. I had my fingers crossed that day. Luckily for us, my crew was able to locate the drain after the demo and when they tested it, it appeared to be in perfect working condition. First disaster averted!
Tina and I walked this house after the demo was done and I started looking over the floor. It was a concrete slab that went through out the house. I have always been a big fan of polished concrete in homes. You see them in a lot of commercial businesses and even in some higher end offices, but you rarely see them in a home. I wanted to bring that look and feel to the house. It would meld perfectly with the open concept and all the glass that would be surrounding the house. So we made the call to a local vendor to get a bid. They came in and gave us a fair price so I gave them the approval and they knocked it out in 4 days. It was more than what we would regularly do, but I believe the result is worth the cost.
Now we had to design the kitchen since we changed the lay out completely. Is was easy since we now had a blank slate to work with. Tina was extra excited because she loves doing large kitchens. She had it planned all along that we were going to do a water fall style kitchen island that would be able to entertain and act as a dining table. We also wanted to go ultra modern with cabinets so we decided on a flat panel style kitchen with a wood look veneer.
With the color choices we knew we had to bring in some bold statements to make the kitchen really pop. For the backsplash we went with a dark blue square patterned texture tile. Very hard to find by the way but Tina knew exactly where to go. On the side of the wall that featured the upper wall cabinets I didn’t like the idea of going with the same style base cabinets. I wanted to bring more of a 1950’s element to the kitchen.
On one of our trips to Modernism week out in Palm Springs I would see a lot of furniture that had sliding doors that revealed when slid back and forth. I wanted to something with that effect, but with a modern flair. I pitched Tina the idea and she loved it. She also added that we should do a bold color veneer on the doors so there would be more color in the kitchen. After some research she found a place that sells just what we were looking for. We went with a dark blue and a gold veneer to bring out the blue back splash and the wood grains of the base cabinets. Once we got the design figured out I went to work building these cabinets. I had never built anything like this. Our usual custom build cabinets are doors that swing open like a door. This design required them to slide open on both sides. After some trial and error, I figured out how to make the slot where the doors would sit and we made it so is would slide back and forth easily.
Next we had to put our focus on the bathrooms. We knew we wanted to go with several shades of white for the walls and ceiling for most of the house so that we can add bright colors to make everything pop. We did the same for the bathrooms. In the master we went with the same type of tile in the kitchen but instead of dark blue we went with teal. In the hall bath we did the same thing but with an orange. With the straight lines of the tile pattern and the layout we chose it brought everything together.
We were pretty much done with the interior at this point but I felt something was missing. I honestly couldn’t figure it out but Tina went through our photos when we visited the Desert during Modernism week and she saw that a few of the homes had a lauan accent wall. The true Eichler purist of these MCM homes would have caught it right away. The problem is we didn’t really have any walls to spare. In the kitchen we had cabinets on all the walls and to be honest we really liked the white. Tina came up with an awesome idea. She decided to do it on the partition wall in the master bedroom separating the room from the closet area. This was just the right amount of wall space to give the room some life without over doing it.
The next big project was installing all the tempered glass surrounding the atrium. I was very nervous when they were doing the installation but the guys we hired from WMB Glass were very good at what they do. The last big item we had to complete was the gas fire pit. You can’t have an indoor outdoor living style house without a conversation fire pit. When they were forming the concrete pads for the atrium I had my plumber run a gas line to a spot where I knew I wanted the fire pit. Personally I have never done one so I did a little research and learned that it was not that hard. All we had to do was form 3 separate layers at 3 different times. Once we formed the base we waited for it to cure. Then we added another layer and repeated. Once the last layer of concrete cured we just removed the forms and “Tada!” a fully functional gas fire pit.
Now, we were done on the inside. All we had left was to install a flat panel garage door to match with the era and add some landscape to brighten up the front. At this point I handed it off to the my designer savant Tina. She told me she felt added pressure on this one because we had to make everything look authentic as possible. There are a lot of critics out there, especially with mid century modern homes. There is a certain look to them that boarders modern and natural. It is easy to overdo it on the modern side of it. You can spend a whole day at “Ikea” or “Scandinavian Designs” and go on a shopping binge, but you would not get it 100 percent right. We had to dig deep on this one and we made a bunch of phone calls. We finally found a place in Highland Park called “The Hunt Vintage”. They specialize in custom vintage mid century furniture. We set up an appointment to meet at the store with the owner. When we got there it was like a blast into the past. I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to buy everything! After walking the place with the owner we knew we found the place. He was very intrigued by the show and he wanted to help us out. It was pretty clear that we did not have the budget to buy enough furniture to furnish the entire house so he decided to lend the furniture to us. This was so elating to hear. After all the added expenses we finally caught a break. Whooo Hooo! All we had to pay for was the delivery fee and that was it. We were able to really deck this place out with true Mid Century furniture. On staging day we as a family had a lot of fun. Our boys Carter and Mason were able to join Mom and Dad to complete the house. It is always nice to be able to spend time with the family while working. It is the one true benefit as a business owner that Tina and I can say all the hard work pays off in moments like this. Once we were done we ordered pizza and just sat around the kitchen island and had dinner. A well deserved treat for the hardest working family on HGTV! J
Of all the projects on season one I would have to say this house was the one that broke our hearts. As you may already know, Tina and I love craftsman style homes, so when we came across this house we fell in love immediately. It had all the details that make a craftsman so unique: the pitch on the roof, the support beams coming out of truss, the window trim, the siding and the beautiful front porch all just scream craftsman. As a bonus this home is located in the heart of an area called Retro Row near Belmont Shore in Long Beach. It is famous for its independently owned stores that offer unique goods such as clothing, furniture, art, books, coffee, bars and some of the best food from restaurants you have never heard of. It was the farthest of homes that we worked on, but I used to look forward working here because of all the great food.
Our first challenge was the usual when it came to older homes. The home did not flow and there was no master bedroom suite. In the beginning we had a lot of options, because we had a lot to work with. So we took what was then a sun room that lead to the living room, but was also connected to one of the bedrooms into a master bath. By sealing the doorway to the living room we could then open a door from the bedroom.
We then planned on evening out one wall in the kitchen and taking down the wall that separated it from the nook. We would have been able to create a very large kitchen with adjoining laundry room, and an over sized island overlooking the front window. It would have been an entertainers kitchen with a lot of space to maneuver and cook. It was going to make this place feel so open with the functionality of today while keeping all the characteristics of a vintage craftsman. After drawing the plans we went to the planning department in Long Beach for approval. This process usually takes a couple of weeks for most people, but we have got it down to science, so I figured it would take a week before we would begin demoing. Oh was I wrong! I mean really wrong!!
We found out that the porch and sun room were technically encroaching the allowed setbacks. Basically, they were saying that both the porch and sun room were too close to the sidewalks. I am a person who is very fair, and I understand that when things are not right you have to correct them. That is the price of doing business the right way. I will agree that the sun room was not originally part of the house, but the porch had to be. I am one thousand percent sure it was, so sure that I had one of my guys jack hammer into the foundation knowing this was an added cost just to prove that I was right. So happens after jack hammering we found the foundation footing was original. We took our findings back to the city and it made no difference. Even after we proved it was there before any of us were born they still would not acknowledge it.
As a flipper and general contractor you hear about these horror stories. You see it happen on other TV shows, and you hear about how a city can come in and make you tear things down. Well I can honestly say this was one of those times, and yes it can happen. After much debate and arguing with the city of Long Beach, we lost. They actually made us tear down the sun room, and worse they made us tear down the original porch. This was devastating for so many reasons. One, it was one of the key features that made us fall in love with the house, and now that it was gone the house looked drab. Two, the expense of demoing the porch, the foundation it was sitting on, and the roof that tied it all together was a huge unforeseen expense that could topple this project into the red. And three, we were going to be close to a month behind which we did not account for at all. This was a total disaster! This is what I mean about breaking our hearts! Tina, being the supportive wife that she is, simply said “Let’s get to work! No reason to mope. Let’s do what we always do and come out on top.”
After the demo of the sun room and porch we had to come up with plans to correct the mistake. So we closed off the area and added a door to enable access the outside. We also had to correct the roof, foundation, siding, and fascia and we had to relocate the original window to a place that worked. All this was adding up and it was adding up fast. While all this was going on, I had our electrician and plumber come in a move all what they needed for the new floor plan.
We were still able to create a master bath, but to make that happen we had to take some space from the kitchen. This was not something I wanted to do but we really had no option. The moment we did this the kitchen got really small, really fast. So we had to make another revision. The laundry area was taking up too much space so we had to relocate that to the hallway that we designed. It took a while but Tina and I finally came up with a floor plan that we both agreed on. After we got all the framing, plumbing, electrical and drywall we had to come up with designs. We knew we had to step it up even more so to make up for the lost porch and smaller kitchen. I went to my clutch hitter Tina to come up with a design scheme that would be a home run.
First the biggest obstacle, the missing front porch. We knew we had to take your focus off what was not there, and draw your attention to something that was. Tina went a bluish gray for the siding, a very dark gray for the fascia, and bright white for all the window and door trims. Then she went very bold and did a burnt orange on all the horizontal beams and lines, to give it a nice pop of color. I have never seen this combination but I have to say she hit a home run with this idea.
After the paint was done we stood back and although we were very pleased we felt we were still missing something. We had this very large open space on the side of the house of where the old porch was. (Thank you city of Long Beach) *that was sarcastic by the way* I came up with a great idea. If the city is going to take our porch away, then I was going to build a yard. I built a fence that encompassed the space 25 feet one way and 50 other. We used a nice cedar and had the fence built in a craftsman-like style to emphasize the era. We then painted the outside of it to match the fascia to tie it together. It came out very nice, and now I started feeling better about this project.
For the interior we had to do something dramatic to take a away from the feeling of the smaller kitchen. Tina to the rescue! She wanted to brighten up the kitchen, and to bring in some natural light via the windows. She went with a light gray floor tile and a gray shaker style kitchen cabinet. For the back splash she used a white raised bevel edge subway to give it more depth. In fact it looked so good that we had the tile go all the way up to the ceiling on all the walls.
For the wall cabinets we knew we had to give an open space look to the now enclosed kitchen. We decided to remove the interior panel by routing them out with a router and we added glass so you could see inside. Since we went all the way up with the subway it would have been a shame to cover it up. We decided to remove the back panel as well to show off that awesome looking tile. Even after all this Tina was not satisfied. She felt it lacked life, and life to Tina means color. She went bold again by painting the upper cabinets and the open shelves red. It really came together very nicely and we accomplished what we had set out to do. We made the kitchen feel open and bright, but we were still able to give it the accents of yester year.
Next we had to do something about the amazing built in hutch that was in the dining area. This was a design feature that we had to keep, but that we also had to dress up somehow. One thing that a lot of original craftsman homes had was stained glass, and we wanted to bring that element into this house. There was one major problem. It was too expensive to do it professionally, and neither I nor Tina knew how to do it. Tina did some research, and decided to take a local class on how to create stained glass. Well I’ll tell you one thing, never tell Tina she can’t do something, because one way or another, she will figure it out. After a few classes she designed and created a piece that tied in all the colors we used. It came out way better than I thought it would. LOL! Don’t tell Tina I said that!
Originally, we were going to turn the dining area into part of the living room, but since we lost the eat-in kitchen we had to bring the dining room back. Unfortunately, there was no separation from the living room to what would become our dining room. After racking our brains a bit we decided to bring back a feature that I am sure was once in this house, but was probably removed to give it more space. That feature was built in book cases with a tapered post to match the outside. This feature was very popular during the craftsman era and I wanted to bring it back. There was no way we could find original ones that would fit perfectly so I did the next best thing. We decided to build them from scratch. It was not as hard as I thought it was going to be and they did the trick beautifully. They made the home look and feel more authentic while giving the living and dining rooms some separation. Dual purpose! My favorite kind of projects!
At this point people were walking by the house and giving tons of positive comments. We were feeling really good about ourselves and everything was moving smoothly. Just when we started loving this house again, I got a call from one of my guys with the typical “I have some bad news for you”. The hardwood floor guy was not going to be able to bring the original hardwood floors back. Apparently over the years and years of sanding and refinishing, the floors got too worn. Basically if we tried to bring them back we would end up sanding into the sub-floor. So that was another few thousand dollars that we did not account for at all. This place reminded me of that old Tom Hanks movie. “The Money Pit”.
After we got all the big items resolved and completed, we still had to address the bathrooms. When we first walked the house before we bought it, there was an original Kohlers claw-foot cast-iron tub in the garage. We had no idea what shape it was in, but we knew if we had a chance to restore it and bring it back to life we would. I called my glazer Jeff from DeMontigny Refinishing and Restoration to give me his opinion. He checked it out for us and told us he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he could totally patch and re-glaze the thing to look new. The bad news is that the legs on the thing were beyond repair and finding a perfect set of 4 would be very difficult. Tina really wanted to make this happen so she went searching online at every possible retailer, and no one had them. She came close a few times but they always ended up not working out. She eventually went to a swap meet in LA and found a set that was all brown and rusted. She checked under each foot and they all had the numbers on them that we were looking for. We got really lucky with the feet.
On that same trip it just so happened she came across an old desk that was made of solid wood. It really had this old world craftsman handmade feel to it. Tina called me right away and asked if it was possible to take an old desk and turn it into a vanity. I told her to measure the width, depth and height of the table so I could make some calculations. She texted me a picture along with the dimensions I asked for, and after running the numbers, I determined it would make a great vanity. We had to make some modifications of course, but it took less than a day to make them. After we cut out the top for the drop in sink and after cutting the holes for the fixtures all we had to do was water proof it so that it could last forever. Just to finish off the master bathroom we added a barn style door to complete the look.
We were now basically done. All we had left was landscaping and Tina’s favorite: “Staging Day!” On this particular house we knew we had to bring in some special pieces to mix in the new with the old. It was kind of a tribute to what we did to this house. We brought in New-Original features. It is an oxymoron, just like this house was. So we asked a friend of ours who collects old items if we could borrow some of her stuff, and she was more than happy to help. After a day of staging, I have to say the house turned out really really great for what we had to deal with.
The “Time Capsule”. That is the nickname that we came up with on this project. I actually came across this one from a dear friend of mine, Mr. Bob Karatz. Both Bob and I are prominent members of the prestigious Red Hill Country Club where I play a lot of golf, and take the boys for swimming lessons. We spend as much time there as a family as we can. On one of our outings I ran into Bob and he mentioned to me that his neighbors, the Duvall family, was selling their home, and he knew that they didn’t want to sell it to just anyone. He mentioned to them that I have a knack and passion for restoring vintage homes. After hearing this, they wanted to set up a meeting and I was more than happy to oblige. So we decided to meet at the house on a weekday with Bruce Duvall, who is an established and respected Optometrist in the city of Upland. We walked the house together and I had to say one thing. This house was the best house I had ever seen in its original condition. I mean, it was like stepping into a “Time Capsule” (hence the nick name.) Everything was the way it was supposed to be back in 1957, when it was built. In fact, I learned from Bruce that his father, the late Dr. Edmund Duvall built the house. This home is right up against the golf course. From the back yard you have a clear view of the 8th hole, which is amazing. I also learned that they have owned this house ever since, and he and his sister were raised in this very house by Dr. Duvall and his wife Elaine. I really didn’t know what to think at the time. I mean we were just finishing the Spanish Revival in Monrovia with a similar situation and the pressure on that project was taxing on Tina and I. That night I went home and talked it over with Tina. Of course being the great wife and that she is, Tina told me “If anyone can give this house the love and care it deserves it would be us.” The next morning I called Bruce and made an offer of $500,000 and I promised him that we would take their childhood home and turn it into something they and their late parents would be proud of. It was not long before they accepted the offer and we were right back into the thick of a major remodel. Personally I was excited because on light days I would be able to sneak away and play a couple rounds of golf. Oops! Just kidding Tina. I mean to say that I was excited because being prominent members of the country club I would be able to show off our talents. Many people know what we do but none had actually seen in person the product that we are capable of putting together. We knew that we had some challenges with this one. We had to take the original character that was already there and take it to the next level without losing that 50’s feel.
The first thing that I noticed was that the family room which in this case was in the center of the home didn’t feel right. First off it was separated by a sliding glass door which gave it an outdoor feel. Second there was a built in BBQ grill on the other side of the fireplace. Lastly there was a 3-4 inch drop from the rest of the house when you entered that room. All these thing made it clear that this room did not belong inside the house. So we decided to remove the sliding glass door and left it open to the living room. Then we demoed and removed the outdoor built in BBQ. Finally we poured new concrete to bring the floor up to keep it level with the house. This was not part of the budget but we knew it had to be done.
Once the floor cured we stood back and looked at what was missing. We noticed that there was only two ways out to the back yard and that was through 2 regular sized doors. We had to do something about this but we felt that by putting in just regular slider doors was not dramatic enough. I mean, you sit in this room and look through the back window and you have this phenomenal view of the golf course. It would be a waste to use a simple 8 foot sliding glass door. So I came up with something dramatic. We went with La Cantina style doors. These doors are a hybrid of sliding and swinging doors. You have the option to use one of the four panels as a regular door or you can collapse all four panels to give you a 12 foot opening.
Even after that we were not satisfied because we knew back in the 1950’s the term “indoor/outdoor living” meant something. We succeeded in making this room look and feel like part of the house but we lacked the outdoor part of it. The La Cantina doors helped but we knew there was just one thing missing. Tina came up with an idea of creating a deck that was on the same level as this room so when you stepped out it really felt like you were outside when you were still inside. I knew the moment she said it that we had to do it. Again another added cost to the budget, but we felt it was a must to truly honor this home.
The next challenge was the overall layout of the house. It was large, but not as functional as we would have liked it to be. First there was another lounge area off to the right of the den that served as a conversation room in its day, but now with the living room being extended to the den and beyond it really had no purpose. After drawing it out and many different versions we came up with turning that area into a master suite with a full on walk in closet and master bath. We did this by extending the hallway and popping a doorway into the lounge room from the hallway. Then we closed off what used to be master bath, and made that room into a regular room and popping a door on the other side of the bathroom to connect to what will now be the master suite. Once we did this the home became 4 bedrooms with a master suite and a living area that is double the size from before.
Now we were headed in the right direction. The next challenge was to find a way to save all the awesome features this house had and we knew the first thing we had to do was save the kitchen cabinets. The question was how to do this while giving it a feel of the modern era. Tina put her thinking cap on and decided to go with something dark to contrast against the honey colored cabinets. We went with a black quartz counter top with mini sparkles in it to give it some flair. Then we went with a large black 24” by 12” tile laid in a symmetrical line pattern to give it more clean modern lines. We also popped a peek-a-boo opening from the cook top so you can look into the indoor/outdoor area.
Next we had to do something about the flooring in the living, dining and hallway areas. During our first walk through we discovered that this house originally had cork floors. This was very popular in the 50’ and it would be fantastic to be able to bring that aspect back. Unfortunately the floors that were there were beyond saving so we had to install new floors. Tina decided that we had to do something other than the natural cork look since it would clash with all the natural wood elements we were using. We went bold and decided on black cork. I was a tad nervous since it would be installed everywhere but I have to say it came out looking like a million bucks.
Next we moved to the bathrooms where we decided to save the vanities to match the kitchen. When we decided to create a new larger master bathroom we didn’t account for the fact that the vanity in the old master was way too small. Luckily for us I made sure we save all the wood from the house with the honey look. After taking some measurements it appeared that we had just enough to make the dual vanity. This was going to be tricky because we did not have any wood to spare and if we made one wrong cut it would mean the difference between a single vanity or a dual vanity. The next reclamation project was to try and save these amazing original porcelain sinks. The colors were not appealing but it was easily fixed by re-glazing them a classic white. On the bathroom designs we kept it simple. Clean lines with a splash of classic color and texture. In the master bath we did 24” by 12” tile in the same pattern as the kitchen floors and for the pop we used an oval texture tile in white to give it some contrast. In the hall bathroom we did the same design but inverted the colors.
Even after all this Tina felt like we were missing something. She wanted to add some dimension to the home with something that will hit when you first walk in. The way the home was designed now is when you first walk in you are in the foyer looking directly at a blank wall. The easy way to solve that is to add a painting or wall art. No, not Tina. If it was easy everyone would do it. She went and got a special order wall paper with a pop of color and texture that this house would have had in its golden days.
After this we pretty much had the interior buttoned up so we moved to the exterior. I knew we had to do something drastic to give it a transformation without breaking the bank. We walked the exterior to get some inspiration and after a short while we found it. It was the same day the deck was being built, so I took a piece of scrap wood and held it against the house. I then took another piece and stacked it on top and asked Tina what she thought. I saw her face light up and I knew I was onto something. After a little tinkering with different types of woods and different sizes we decided to use a stain grade cedar tongue and grove plank. We then went with a light stain to not take away from the natural wood look with the beautiful wood grains of the cedar. We painted the house a nice neutral color so the wood planks could really pop. We did a full landscape plan and painted the door teal to give it more contrast.
One thing that was not featured on the episode was that I actually put in a concrete golf cart ramp. So whoever bought this house could access the course whenever they wanted. To me I felt it was a must since one of the major selling points is that you have this great course essentially as your back yard. But not being able to access it regularly would be a waste. This was not in the budget but we went ahead and did anyway.
Now we were 99 percent done. What’s next, oh yeah staging day! Tina’s favorite part. On this house it was a bit of a challenge. We had to balance mid century style furniture without being too modern. I mean, this is still a mid-century ranch so we had to find era appropriate furniture. After several trips to swap meets, fairs, craigslist post and even some trips to Ikea we were able to put together an eclectic look that met the flair it needed while conforming to the great era this home was built in. Once we had it all done we asked Bruce Duvall if he would come by and take a look before we did our open house. I have to say he was very pleased and impressed with what we were able to create. His opinion was very important to us since we made him a promise that we would honor the home his parents built and raised him in. I drive by this house all the time on my way to Red Hill Country Club and I see the backyard every time I am at the 8th hole. And every time I feel a sense of pride of what my lovely wife and I were able to accomplish together.
Monrovia, what can I say? This is one of the best small towns left in the LA metropolitan area (besides Claremont of course ) I was able to obtain this house for one simple reason. When I came across this listing I knew it was priced well at $499,000. I also knew that it was going to be a bidding war with other buyers and investors. So I went in with the same approach I do with life and business; I was completely transparent and honest. I let the agent know that my intention was to buy this home and to flip it for a profit however I added that my goal was to honor this home by taking it back to its glory days. At that time I was not aware that it was owned by the same family for the last 50 years. I was also unaware that the couple Mr. & Mrs. Dryden who originally bought it was survived only by their children whom they raised in that very house. Unfortunately Mr. & Mrs. Dryden has long passed and their children all grown and living their lives. As you can picture this sale was very emotionally charged. I made the best offer I could and I was told that it was $25,000 less than the highest offer. The listing agent Lynne Jennings, who is the nicest person in the world, did what most agents fail to do. When she presented the offer she gave more background to each offer, giving the seller an idea of who the new owners potential can be. When they heard what my plan was and the vision I had for their childhood home they did something out of the norm. They decided to accept my offer that was $25,000 lower so that they can honor their parents knowing they are selling the home to someone who actually cares. Right after we closed escrow I got a call from Lynne and she had a very strange request. The family wanted one of the pantry doors for sentimental reasons. We were of course more than happy to oblige but we had to know what was so personal about it. Tina and I went to the house to see for ourselves. After searching for awhile we found the door. It was obvious right away why it was so important. On the inside of the pantry door there were line markings showing the height, names and year of each sibling. Marvin and Sharon actually tracked their kids year by year just like you see in the movies. We were instantly touched and we had to meet them. I asked Lynne to set up a meeting and we were able to meet all of them and I can say one thing. “Marvin and Sharon Dryden, you raised some terrific kids and you should be proud of what you accomplished.”
Wow got a little teary eyed there. So now we own this great house in a great city with the added pressure that we had to make this house look good for not only potential buyers but for the family who sold it to us. Oh, did I mention that the city of Monrovia has a very strict rule, where we can’t change the look of the front of any house for at least a year after the sale date? That was the first obstacle that Tina and I had to face. So we had to come up with a design that was fresh to the eye but still had that Spanish revival look. The first thing that you notice is that the front bedroom windows were not era specific and the steps and landing leading to the front door did not have any Spanish influence. Tina spent all night putting together a mock up of what she envisioned the home looking.
First she removed the front window and overhang and added real wood windows. Then she added an eyebrow above the front window to give the home a more authentic look. Next she knew she had to do something about the front porch so she added Saltillo tile to the steps and landing. Then she added wrought iron banisters and a decorative front gate. Lastly being the perfectionist that she is, she felt it didn’t look complete, so she did more digging and editing and she came up with using a colorful Spanish tile. She wanted to use them on step risers so from the outside looking in you could see this amazing pop of color. After she showed me the mock up I knew this was it. This was the design we needed to present to the city’s historical board and request special approval. It took a while but the city actually loved it and they did something that is very rarely seen. They approved our design and gave us special permission to change the look of the front of the house. It was our first major victory and after that the ball really started to roll.
We also submitted plans to change the layout of the house. With this home being built in 1924 it did not have a true master so we gave it a master and we were able to take some area from the kitchen to give it a full size laundry closet. After we got everything approved we went to work. We basically demoed every wall and removed all the electrical and plumbing. It took about a month to get all the bones in including the plumbing, electrical and HVAC.
We then put up all the drywall and closed everything up. Now we had to come up with a design idea that is on par with the design idea from the outside. I had to lean on the design savant for this, so Tina stepped up and did what she does best. First we had to address the walls, so we went era specific and went with Spanish texture. Then we had to redo the entire fireplace, so we went with a bulkier base and a tapered chute to really give it that old world feel. Even after that Tina was not satisfied so she added using some of the same Spanish tile from the step risers to accentuate the fireplace. She also added a solid wood mantle to complete the look.
Next we had to address the kitchen. We knew we had to keep the cabinets simple but had to get creative with all the other pieces. We decided to go with the same Saltillo tile from the porch to be used in the kitchen. We also wanted to bring in some more wood elements so we decided on a butcher block counter top. We now had a really good picture of what the kitchen would like but we were still missing color. We found this amazing blue and white subway tile that we patterned in a chevron.
Now we had the base of what this house should look like but we were still missing something. On our way home from the house on a work day we decided to stop by the Habitat for Humanity Restore. It is a non-profit organization that takes donated unwanted items and they sell it to help those in need. Not only is it a good cause they also carry some very cool stuff from time to time. We came on a very good day because we came across a pallet of Granada Tile. This tile is special for a few reasons. One, they are made of cement instead of ceramic or porcelain. Two, the patterns and colors are actually baked into the cement so you can actually sand and polish it like a hardwood. Three, no 2 pieces are 100 percent alike. Four, every pattern is only made once during production so each style is unique.
When they were loading the tile on a pallet Tina I started wandering around and we found these amazing arched doors. These doors were solid wood and was exactly the architectural design features we needed to bring into this house. Right then and there I called my crew because I knew they were installing doors that day and I had them stop. We knew it was an added cost and it would delay the timeline but we knew it was a must and looking back at that choice I believe we hit it right on the head with that decision.
Its now about 45 days into the renovation and we had to decide on a tile layout for the bathrooms. We went with the same scheme with the kitchen as we did with the bathroom. The only difference is that we had this gorgeous one of kind Granada tile that we had to incorporate. There was so many designs on these tiles that we decided on no pattern. Instead we went random tiles to give it a controlled chaos feel that really worked. I have to give it to Tina, even when she makes it random it looks planned somehow.
After a couple weeks of putting it all together we run into a snag of course. The real wood windows in the front bedroom that faces the street were not done. I called a bunch of places that specialize in recreating vintage windows and all them were either too busy or they did not create windows from scratch. Honestly I was very disappointed so I went to the house myself and looked them over. After about a half day of drawing and measuring I decided that we were going to make the windows ourselves. So I came up with a design that resembled the windows that were already there and made them myself. Honestly, I was very proud of how they turned out.
About 60 days into it we were pretty much done. Now it was staging day so I had to rely on my personal designer Tina to do what she does best. We went very natural with our staging pieces. A lot of wood elements, with some wicker and a lot of copper to tie in with the faucets we chose for the kitchen and baths. We also used a lot of colorful pottery to bring out those same colors in the Spanish tile that we used on the back splash, fireplace and step risers in the exterior. After a full day’s work we took a minute to look everything over and I can say I am very very proud of what Tina and I accomplished.
We were about to leave and I remembered something very important. I had a plaque made to honor Sharon Dryden and it read “Sharon’s Tree: In Memory of Sharon Dryden and her unrelenting passion for helping others. Loved, admired and respected by all.” After that day I called Lynne Jennings and asked if the Dryden family would honor us and come see the finished product of their childhood home. To be honest this was one of the most stressful days in all the years of flipping and construction. I mean we have done remodels for clients before but this for some reason hit us very personally. We were able to give them a private tour before the open house and it was an emotional moment. A lot of tears and hugs were exchanged and the Dryden family was very happy with what we did. It meant the world to us that they were happy and that we did what we said we would do. We honored this house that had so much love in it for years and years by putting what we love doing into it.
We came across this house in the most random way. Tina and I love our city of Claremont and we love our neighborhood. We ride our bikes often and we always take the same route to the “Village” where all the shops are. On most days on our way there we would see this house on 12th Street and it was very easy to spot. It was very run down and there was always trash and debris scattered everywhere. Every time we would pass it I would always tell myself that if I had the chance I would take this place and make it look the way it deserves. Well after years of riding by the house it finally went on the market. So that same day I called the agent and told him that I had to have this house and that is has been calling me to it for years. What can I say, you just have to dream it, think it and believe it and it sooner or later it will happen. At that time what I didn’t know was that I was dreaming, thinking and believing in something that might have been more than I could chew.
The first obstacle was to remove all the debris and 20 something abandoned cars, vans, trucks and even motorcycles. We spent a week just towing these vehicles out and every time we would remove something, we would find more trash and debris. When we finally got the place cleared out it was easier to picture what we were going to do with it. It was not a very big house so we had to make the floor plan much more functional.
It took Tina and I awhile, but we finally came up with something. We knew that whoever was going to buy this house had to have a master bedroom. So the most challenging part was to find a way to fit a bathroom into the back room without taking too much from the kitchen. So we decided to take down the wall in the living room and create a galley style kitchen so that we were able to get enough room for a true master bathroom.
After all the mechanical items were done we were ready to get to the fun part, design. Tina and I live in a craftsman and we can say it is our favorite architectural design. I mean what’s not to love, when you see craftsman you think hardworking America building their homes by hand using real wood. So with that thought in mind Tina went to work on coming up with the perfect designs. We wanted to use as a lot of wood features and stains to emphasize on the craftsman idea. So we decided to build our cabinets from scratch using real wood like they did the day this house was built.
Tina also came up with an amazing idea. When we were on one of our shopping trips at Silverado Salvage she remembered seeing a set of old 9 lite windows that we could use as doors for a book case. So we went back and found the doors she saw and we knew they would be perfect. After taking some measurements and making some adjustments, I figured out a way to make it. In fact, I came up with the idea of putting in a reading bench just the they were built back in the old days. We knew all this custom work was an added expense, but we knew in our hearts this was the right way to do things.
I will be honest, this house became a little personal for us in so many ways. It is in our neighborhood and we would be walking by this place for the rest of our lives and we want to be able to tell our boys that mommy and daddy fixed that house. Plus our neighbors would see this house, and we had to show them that this is our passion and we are the best at it. So we went back to work and dug deep.
For tile choices we decided to go simple, but we knew we had to give it some old world accents. In our home we have a Batch Elder fireplace and we knew that was something we wanted to bring into this house. So after searching for tile at several stores we finally found a tile that had that Batch Elder look and feel. We decided to use it as an accent piece, and in the bathrooms we went with subway tile. It was a perfect balance of clean lines with old world feel.
We also went brass fixtures everywhere to really enhance the craftsman pride.
For color we knew that had to do something to make a splash so this place would stand out. So we decide to go dark with mint green accents. It was a bit daring but Tina nailed it again.
Some of the things we did that were not shown on this episode are that this house is actually a duplex with a full 2 bedroom 1 bath home with its own kitchenette. It also had stairs leading to the front deck that was the entrance to the unit and the stairs were actually falling apart. We had to build brand new stairs and a deck from scratch along with a banister to meet code.
Another big thing we did which didn’t make the cut is that we actually demoed and removed the old cracked concrete driveway. We then poured all new concrete for the driveway and formed block steps leading up to the house.
We also built a cedar fence in the back yard to give the front unit some separation and privacy. This was one of the biggest projects we have ever taken on but honestly with it being in Claremont and so close to our home I can say it was definitely one of our faves.