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!
Because we work with a lot of vintage homes, we’re often thinking of ways to try and decorate them according to their era. Some of the tips we’ve found can be used in any home and one of the better ideas is vintage phones. Seriously! Vintage phones (or vintage-inspired phones) bring warmth to a house and take us back to a time before texting and emailing. Maybe that sounds a little corny, but there was a time when phones kind of brought people together. If you’re really lucky, your vintage house has a phone nook. Plus, they were part of the home so a lot times they were made to look aesthetically appealing. They come in all different shapes, sizes and even colors. If you’re trying to bring some authenticity to your vintage home, great! Or if you’re just looking for a conversation piece or a unique decoration, this might be a perfect option.
Picking out what kind of art goes on your wall can be intimidating, to say the least. What kind of art do you want, how big should it be, where it should go and, of course, the expense. But actually, this can also be one of the most rewarding, creative and personal spaces in your house. And it doesn’t have to be expensive! In fact, it could turn out to be one of the easiest ways to big make changes to your house for little money.
One of the coolest ways to make your space more personal is to take items that you already have and love and then hang them on the wall. Drawings by little family members, such as kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews, favorite album covers (which used to be art!), hang up interesting scarves, frame pieces of cool wallpaper for a little accent or even frame some magazine covers. Some people like to hang up family heirlooms, such as quilts or frame doilies that mom or grandma made. Whatever speaks to you and represents your home best. There truly is no wrong answer!
We got a lot of rain last winter, which is great because we’ve needed it for long! Our drought is getting better, but a lot of homes are suddenly seeing the signs of water damage.
Water leaks are something everyone needs to keep a lookout for—homeowners, renters, apartment dwellers. Water can impact any structure. Because our weather has been so dry, potential water leaks have been allowed to hide for a long time—in some cases, years. Once water gets into a structure, it can go anywhere.
Whether you’re looking for a place to buy or you’re already “at home,” here are a few signs of water leakage.
Stains on walls and/or ceilings:
Peeling or bubbling paint/wallpaper:
Sagging ceilings and distorted walls:
Floors: There is a saying that water seeks its lowest level and that’s true. No matter where a leak starts, it will eventually start trying to make its way downward. This is can cause damage to floors and subfloors, which will likely need repairing.
Baseboards: When wood gets wet, it swells. When this happens in baseboards or trim, it can actually pull away from walls.
Darkening grout: Grout can turn color when if there is a leak nearby. Sometimes it’s just dirt, but look into it just in case.
Odors: A lot of older buildings have that musty smell and leaking water is often to blame. Stagnating water allows mold and bacterial growth, which smells.
If you see you signs of water leaks, it’s best to get it checked out right away. If there really is a leak caused by rain or pipes, it won’t get better on its own. A professional can help you get your home back into top shape so that it’s sturdy, secure and safe.
When you work with vintage homes, like we do, we come across a lot of old school closed kitchens. These were built when life was a little more formal than we think of it today. For the last 20 or 25 years, a lot of people are deciding that an open-concept kitchen better fits a modern lifestyle. You know why? They can be pretty great!
Open concept kitchens are famous for many things—allowing light to flow through a house, watching the kids as they play and enabling people to hang out when entertaining. These are definite bonuses for some families and houses.
But we also see a lot of reasons to keep the original structure of a closed kitchen. And believe it or not, a lot of people are realizing they prefer the separation from the rest of the house when cooking.
Before buying an old home and tearing down the walls between the kitchen and living areas, take some time to decide what works for you. Here are some things to consider when it comes open concept versus closed kitchens.
Storage: When you remove walls, you’re also eliminating storage. That can mean cupboards, pantry space and even countertops where you place appliances and prep food. Without those spaces, do you have enough storage and prep areas?
Costs: Turning a home into open concept isn’t just about removing a wall or two. It also includes plumbing, electrical work, rearranging the large appliances like stoves and refrigerators, and moving cupboards. Oftentimes people choose this time to completely remodel everything and kitchens can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Depending of the extent of the work, you may have to hire an architect, a designer, a contractor and a construction crew. Another thing to keep in mind when talking to professionals about home remodels is if they have your best interest and budget at heart. Or are they just trying to sell you on products and services because let’s be honest—this is how they make money. There are many great professionals who will work within your budget and treat you and your wallet with respect. But like any industry, be careful of who you work with.
Entertaining: We hear this one a lot. “We like to have people over and I want to be able to talk with my guests!” That’s understandable but it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people love chopping veggies and prepping chips and dips while chatting with everyone in the kitchen. But others have trouble multitasking or simply want to concentrate while preparing large meals, like on Thanksgiving. Sometimes guests are more hindrance in these instances. We also know people who like to surprise guests with what they cooked or want a more formal dining experience. It’s different for everyone. In this case, take an honest look at how often you entertain and what floor plan provides the best functionality for daily use.
Privacy: This applies to both entertaining and a daily routine. When you have an open floor plan anyone who drops by can see your dishes sitting in the sink, the mess from lunch you haven’t cleaned up or your pots boiling over. The same goes for entertaining. While it may seem fun in theory to have friends hanging out with you when you’re cooking, even small meals or snacks can make a mess. That includes dirty pots, pans, dishes and utensils—that are now fully on display as people trying to eat.
Odors: Sometimes a good scent wafting through the air is the best invitation to dinner! But other times it’s just annoying for those in the house. Is this something that you want on a daily basis?
Supervising children: One of the biggest concerns people have is making sure their children are safe. Fair enough. We have three small boys so we understand this one. There are a couple of things to consider though. How old are your kids? How long will they need to be supervised and is it worth the cost to reconfigure a house if they only need supervision for a couple of years? Will they be safe in the next room when you can pop your head in whenever you need? And this leads us to …
Noise: When you’re concentrating on cooking, will the noise of the kids playing or watching TV disturb you? Or will your cooking and clanking around the kitchen bug them? This also goes for others in the house, such as teenagers or adults. And it goes for entertaining as well. If your guests are drinking wine and trying to chat with each other, will the noise put a damper on their conversation, which is usually the highlight of a good dinner party.
Architectural integrity: We love historic homes and buildings! If you have a vintage house, consider whether or not the changes look right and fit into the home’s décor and structure. Everything needs to be updated sometimes, but we’ve walked into houses where modern “remodeling” looks out of place or downright jarring. For those of us who love vintage charm, modernization can kill some very cool character. When you remodel a property with a distinctive or historical look, if you don’t stick to it the updates simply don’t look right. And this is something no one ever talks about: That new modern kitchen will be out of style in a few years anyway. Now you’re stuck with an architecturally ill-suited kitchen that will only need remodeling in a few years anyway. Keeping a unique or distinctive look of a kitchen never goes out of style.
What’s Right for You? Every family and home is unique. Ignore trends when it comes making big, permanent changes to your house. Think about what functions best for you on a daily basis to make your house as happy and efficient as possible. Also think about what your needs will be in the future. We don’t want to suggest something that doesn’t work for your family or make you feel like you’ve been strong-armed into anything you don’t want. Just the opposite! Hopefully, this list helps serve as a guide before making serious commitments of time, effort and money.