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.
I bought this turn of the century home in Downtown Upland for 2 reasons. One, I really liked the way the home looked and what I knew I was able to do to it. Two, Upland has always been a city both Tina and I have a soft spot for. It is where Tina grew up and where we lived together for 2 years early in our marriage. After we saw the house for the first time we knew what we could do to this place. Tina already had the vision in her mind of what this place should look like and I knew this was a project that fit my niche.
We started by gutting the entire interior and reworked the floor plan so that it could function better. The biggest obstacle at that time was taking all the old doors and moldings off so that we can reuse them. These pieces have been part of this house when it was first built and it was very important to us that we reuse them. It was meticulous but after days of carefully removing them we were able to salvage most of the pieces.
The back bedroom featured these special drop casement windows that I have rarely seen and we knew that we had to save them. So what we did was we added a bathroom making that room a master surrounded by what I call convertible casements windows. Of course when they were originally built they did not have egress regulations like they do today. So to be in compliance we took them apart and dropped them 4 inches to meet code. When we were taking them apart we took the time to restore and refurbish them. We replace the rope but used the old counter weights.
Once we are done there we knew we had to do something about the century old wood floors. So we sanded and patched them as if they were brand new again. Tina had this genius idea to white wash them. It is a process where you take milk paint and basically stain them to look rustic just like this house. The process was challenging but they came out looking amazing.
After that we went ahead and installed the kitchen cabinets, counter tops and fixtures with the idea of trying to make it look like 1902 but with the mindset of giving it the modern touches of today.
For the bathrooms we tried to keep it very simple using subway tile but we knew that making everything white was too cliché so we decided to add a splash of color. We did this by adding yellow hex tile to the pattern on the floor. It was subtle in contrast so we knew we had to do something a little more.
Tina went searching for something old that we can make new again while giving it the pop color we needed. So she did something that I know she is really good at, she went shopping! In her search she came across an old industrial sink at an old salvage yard that we could take, restore and repaint.
We first had to chemical wash the sink then we patched it best as we could. The next step we re-glazed the inside to make it look new and finally we painted the outside a canary yellow to bring out those accent yellow hex tiles. I have to say it came out better than I could have imagined. Tina’s eye for design really came out on this and although it was subtle it made all the difference.
On the exterior we tried our best to pay homage to what this house should of looked like a century ago. So after sitting in the front for what seemed like hours we came up with the idea of adding ginger breading and corbels to give it that Victorian look. We then chose Earth tone colors that would compliment each other and I believe we hit it right on the nose.
All in all this house came together just the way we dreamed it when we first saw it.