Some of my best memories growing up in Fontana are ones of my dad raising horses. He has a real passion for them and he taught me a lot about them. I have to say there is something majestic about a horse that just makes you appreciate their grace and strength. When this house first came to me I was reluctant based on the price and specs of the house. It was a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house with a little over 1,700 square feet with no garage. These days having no garage is a very big deal since everyone in the household drives. However once I learned that it was a horse property in the middle of Whittier , I was sold! We went to go look at it right away.
The first thing we noticed when entering the community is the sign that says “Pellissier Village, Equestrian District”. Then all of the sudden we saw all of these homes with a ranch look and feel to them. It was very surprising to learn that in Whittier, a sprawling metropolitan area, there was a small tract of homes that allow horses. When we pulled up we could see that the home had a nice look to it, a very simple “A” frame roof pitch with a porch in the front. I was already picturing in my head what I was going to do to this place, but we’ll save that for later.
The first step inside and we noticed that this place hadn’t been updated in decades. There was a landing you had to step down from to be in the living room. It made no sense at all. The kitchen was a little cramped, so we knew we had to rearrange the whole thing and we were going to have to take a wall down to open everything up.
The family room was attached to the kitchen with an old rock fire place. It appeared to us that this was remodeled after the home was built. Right away we could tell that it was not done in the most professional manner.
The fireplace lead to a long hallway with the laundry connections to the right and the first bathroom to the left.
On the other side of the house is where the hallway was located that connected to all the bedrooms and the other bathroom.
The last bedroom at the end of the hallway was enormous! It could have easily been 2 big bedrooms. Ding! (That was a light bulb going on in my head.) That’s what we were going to do. I had a vision to continue the hallway and pop in 2 separate doorways creating 2 large bedrooms making this place a 4 bedroom 2 bathroom home.
Finally we got to the back yard and there was not a lot to look at, but there was an old storage shed made of siding. Besides that it was just dirt and weeds. We ended up buying the house for $387,000 which took awhile to close escrow since it was a probate sale.
We started demo on day one since we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do as far as the floor plan was concerned. Based on what I had seen, I thought this was going to be a lighter rehab then most of our “Vintage Flips”. I couldn’t be there much for demo day since at this time we had 3 other projects going on, so I wanted to be there for the important days.
Day one of design day was one of these important days and it ended being more eventful then I would like. Tina and I arrived at the house on a Monday morning, and disaster struck right away. We walked in to a pool of water and we were freaking out. If anyone out there knows a thing or two about renovations, they will tell you one of the worst things that can happen is a leak that has been going for days without notice. Luckily for us this house is on a slab and the water damage was contained before it could get into most of the drywall. Another fortunate thing is one of my oldest and best friends Ruben Terrazas runs and owns his own restoration company, Puro Clean. I called him and being the great friend that he is, came the same day. He and his crew got almost all the water out on the first day. He had to spend a few more days to run his machines to get all the moisture out, including the walls. After it was done the cost was not too bad (I got the friends and family discount.) I have to be honest it could have been worse but it was still an added cost that we didn’t have the budget for.
After a week of catching up we finally got to see the place after deleting the wall and taking down a bunch of the drywall. When we are at this stage of the renovation, I can envision things a whole lot better. We knew we had to come up with a design that was themed around a ranch but we had to make sure we were able to modernize the house too.
The first obstacle we had to tackle was the exterior, especially the front. Ranch houses have this certain look to them that is inviting and welcoming. You can imagine people just sitting on their porch drinking some lemonade. So I went to my “designer especial” Tina. She right away went online and started doing research on what we had to do to make it look and feel Ranch. We did a draft on the computer so we could try a few options. The first thing she focused on was the porch. Tina came up with doing some crow’s feet for the post and adding some horizontal wood beams to wrap the porch. It was a great first step but it was not enough. Next we added some stone veneers to enhance the Ranch look. The left side of the house now had that look, but the right side was still stucco and that did not sit right with us. So we came up with doing something called board and batten. It is a architectural feature where you take wainscoting but go very simple in the designs. You use very clean lines with no intricate cuts. It is a similar style to shaker doors which so happens is very common in barn houses. For good measure, we added a wooden gate that accentuated the farmhouse look, by going with wood and using 2 cross beams at a 45 degree angle. For the side post we went really high so we could add a solid wood header where a man on a horse can walk under without hitting their heads. Now we were really rolling on the renovation!
Next we moved to the inside. We knew we had to bring in some elements that would meld together. So we decided to go with metal, wood and leather as the theme. For the kitchen we knew that we wanted to go with a shaker style since we were going for the ranch look, but we wanted to kick it up a notch. I came up with routing out the insides of the upper doors, and inserting chicken wire mesh. Tina came up with a great idea for the door knobs and pulls. She wanted to not use them at all, and instead wanted to go with leather pulls for both the doors and drawers. We got two of the three elements so far, and now all we needed was to bring in some wood. Tina thought of using butcher block for the counters but that was too obvious of an option so I thought why not use it for the back splash. I do not believe anyone has ever done that, so I figured we should be the first. The kitchen is the heart of every home and we wanted to give this home a very strong and nurturing heart.
We had to tackle the floors next. As much as I wanted to, our budget did not allow us to go real hardwood floors (Especially with the flood we just had!) We went with the next best thing, a very thick laminate in a light natural color with a semi distressed texture to it.
For the bathrooms we went pretty simple with white subway tile with added colored tiles to give it some life. We wanted to bring the same theme of the rest of the home into the bathrooms so we decided to bring in some wood. For the main bath we took the old chicken shed siding from the backyard and cut them into 8 inch pieces. Then we used the pieces in a herringbone pattern on the wall to the left. It was an excellent statement piece that brought out the blue trim we used. In the hall bath we kept the interior wood siding that was already there and moved it around and restored the pieces that were missing or damaged. I was very proud of the way both bathrooms came out.
After we had the kitchen and floors done we still felt we were missing something. Especially when you first walked in. There was no “Wow” factor, something that we are so used to doing. So we went back to Silverado Salvage in LA and went on a shopping trip. We didn’t really know what we were looking for, but we knew it had to be vintage and it had to have character. We went on a Thursday to meet with the owner Jeff to get some ideas. It took a while since we had been there so many times and we knew what was mostly there. Finally we came across a stack of reclaimed wood planks. What caught our eye is that some of the planks had a teal color to them. Tina is a huge fan of teal because it is one of those colors that goes with anything. It stands out so well, but has a very neutral feel to it. I loved the wood but I had no idea what she had in mind. She explained to me that she wanted to cut these pieces into random lengths and that she wanted them to go on the wall in the living room to make a custom accent wall. I loved the idea! We were taking the accent wall to a whole new level. So we asked Jeff to pack it all up and we had our fingers crossed we had enough. Lucky for us, we had just enough, and it turned out amazing!
Things we really moving and we were feeling really good about this house again. Then “Bam!” we get another call. Our framer Casey was forming the hearth for the fireplace in the living room and while he was doing this he noticed that a couple of the wood studs were charred. We didn’t catch this at first since it was behind the wall, but after carefully examining it we discovered that the fireplace was not properly built. The brick and the mortar holding it together was not properly channeling the heat up into the chimney. So what was happening over the years is the heat was escaping through the brick and mortar and was heating the wood up. Honestly it was a devastating phone call to get, but at the same time I was very happy to catch it before we sold the house. As the owner and contractor of this house it is very, very important that we make a quality product and that we sell a quality product. This was no exception! It was going to cost us a couple of thousand but it was well worth it. We removed the damaged brick, reframed the damaged studs, and replaced the brick with a special heat brick made specifically for fire places.
During the reconstruction of the fireplace I came up with another idea. I really liked the crows feet for the front beams and I wanted to bring that into the house as well. After a couple of drawings (on a napkin if you believe it) I came up with a design to bring some posts into the house where the living room and kitchen meet and where the kitchen and the family room meet. I also added wrapping the beams in cedar planks to really add the wood element. That night when I went home I showed Tina my napkin schematic, she instantly fell in love. That same night she went on her computer and put my mock up on the screen and started doodling with the color. My original thought was to stain the beams the same color as the floor, but Tina said that by doing that the eye would not catch these beautiful beams. Plus it would clash with the butcher block back splash. She then remembered her white washing idea back from the Upland house (We white washed the floors with Milk Paint.) Her notion was that by white washing them we would be adding a hint of vintage while keeping the place light and open.
At this point we were practically done but looking at the back yard I felt it was nice and open. Yet something was definitely missing. I called in the expert on this one (If you guys thought Tina, then you are all wrong) I called Papi, my dad. I showed him the place and he was very impressed with the front and the inside. We went to the back yard and he knew right away what I was missing. He said to me “Jessie, this is a horse property right?” I replied yes of course it is. Then he said “So if this is a horse property, where are you going to keep your horses?” I don’t believe it, he was so right. My dad is a genius and my hero. Even now he is still the wisest man I know (thank you dad.) That night we started working on drawings for a horse stable. I knew what I wanted to do but it is always easier to say then to actually build. We went with a wood stable with the same style design as the gates at the front of the house. For the roof we went with corrugated steel. It took 3 days but we got them built and water proofed.
Now we were done. After a day of staging and cleaning up we got the house looking perfect. Tina spent a good amount of nights putting together ensembles that paid tribute to the ranch style while keeping things semi modern for today’s living. This house was challenging but after it was all said and done I have to admit it is one my favorites. It was a challenge to Tina and myself to get this place dialed in with a style of house that we had never worked on. I can happily say “We nailed it!”