We were so fortunate to find this gem, a 1936 Spanish hacienda home in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach. This was a smaller home in a very expensive neighborhood. It had a large corner lot and great bones, but we had our work cut out for us.
In 1884 Jotham Bixby, owner of Rancho Los Cerritos, sold 4000 acres of his rancho to what would soon be called Long Beach. The city was incorporated in 1887.
Spanish homes of this era had clay roofs, archways, hardwood floors, and courtyards. Our home was no exception. It was in disrepair and very overgrown, but it wasn’t hard to see the beauty that was underneath.
The original floor plan needed very few revisions. The only changes we made were closing off a door leading from the living room to a bedroom, and taking out a small closet in the master bath to increase the size of the shower.
The entry to the home was through the courtyard. The living room was large and had a beautiful fireplace and the original large windows and wood moldings. The only thing we decided to add were wooden beams on the ceiling. We also wanted to leave the formal dining room as it was. The kitchen had a gorgeous coved ceiling and an adjoining breakfast nook. The breakfast nook had built in shelving and a door leading to the courtyard.
The kitchen was a total gut. We installed rough hewn wooden cabinets, black quartz countertop, farmhouse sink, and a blue clay tile backsplash with a random star pattern. The floors in this kitchen and courtyard just called out for Saltillo tile. This house would have had Saltillo tile when it was built, as it was a very common material due to it’s coolness and ease of care. However, when the tile was laid Tina thought it would be too dark after sealing and would blend with the cabinets too much, so Jessie decided that white washing the tile was the way to go. That was a small change but made all the difference.
The Saltillo was also laid in the courtyard, on the steps and the front porch – and was just what it needed!
Other original features of the home were the built-in telephone nook, the windows and the moldings.
The hall bath had the original vanity, tub and sink, all of which we restored. The original tile in the hall bath couldn’t be saved, but we wanted to honor the triangle pattern by using a similar pattern on the shower walls.
We also used a triangle pattern tile in the master bath. Since the master bath was fairly small and dark, we doubled the size of the door by opening it up and hanging two barn doors. Making the opening larger made the bathroom feel larger and lighter.
Next we moved to the outside, and needed some inspiration for the paint colors. What better place to go than Rancho Los Cerritos! The Bixby family home still stands and is now a public museum owned by the city and dedicated to the history of the Rancho and the surrounding area. Tina and Jessie visited the Rancho with the boys and took inspiration from the colors. They decided to paint the home in similar colors, cream for the body with green for the trim.
Once the overgrown plants were removed it became clear what was needed to finish off this amazing home. We landscaped the front yard with decomposed granite, grass, bougainvillea, cacti and succulents. In the back yard we were hoping to save the in-ground spa. Jessie and Tina were distressed to discover that it had been filled with concrete and brick and couldn’t be saved. Instead it was concreted over and made into an inviting patio area.
This project was a labor of love. We couldn’t be happier with the results of the renovation and we know that the owners will be happy here for a very long time.
We were so excited about the possible purchase of this 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1100 square foot, 1925 Spanish Revival home in downtown La Verne. La Verne is a vibrant small city with a downtown full of historic homes. The day that we first walked the home we were full of anticipation. We just weren’t prepared for what we actually found.
There was a large concrete ramp leading up to the front door. Once inside the house the odor was overpowering! Poor pregnant Tina was very close to losing her lunch. It was one of the dirtiest, smelliest houses we had ever bought. And horrifically there was a pile of dead cockroaches in the oven!
However, this house was a great example of mission architecture, and the house was full of great design possibilities. This style of home was based on the grand idea of making a home look like the beautiful missions that are in California. As Jessie said, people wanted to feel like they were living in a mini-mission!
Weighing the positives against the negatives, the positives won! With a purchase price of $350,000, a $55,000 renovation budget, and a possible sales price of $500,000 this house looked like a winner! Time to get started!
On the exterior the concrete ramp came out, the aluminum awnings came down (to be replaced with beautiful fabric awnings in hues of gray, black and orange), and the house was re-stuccoed to give it the original adobe style once again. In addition, Jessie and Tina wanted to make the windows special. They decided to duplicate the pattern of the amazing 9-light French doors that were in the living room. Molding was added to the new windows to replicate this pattern.
The interior floor plan needed minimal adjustments. We removed the wall between the living room and kitchen to get the open concept that modern buyers love. We also made the kitchen a little bit smaller so that we could increase the size of the third bedroom and bath, making it an actual master suite with a full bath.
The living room had a great fireplace that needed to be returned to its former glory. The best way to do this was by using a beautiful hand-painted Spanish tile on the face. Tina found the perfect one, but it was very expensive. After Jessie got over the initial shock of $15 per tile (!) he realized it was exactly what was needed.
Original features of the home were the coved ceiling in the living room, the 9-light French doors, and the original hardwood floors. We restored all of these, just like we always do if it is at all possible. We put a dark stain on the floors.
The kitchen was galley style, and we brightened it up by painting the cabinets a beautiful blue. Spanish homes are so fun because they call for lots of bright colors. We installed butcher block countertops in a natural stain and a gorgeous tile backsplash. The tile was the traditional star and cross pattern that you see often in Spanish design.
In both bathrooms we used a combination of white square and white hex tile. To add color we installed a band of brightly colored Spanish tile at eye level.
Perhaps the best part of working on this home was finding out we were having a third boy! In the episode we visited Tina’s OB/Gyn, Monica Valenzuela, MD, and with all the family present we got the news about baby boy #3! My goodness, are we going to be busy!!!!
Tina was on bed rest on the day of our Open House, so Jessie was on his own. Many people walked the house that day and gave very positive feedback. We ended up selling the house for $485,000, and after a $60,000 renovation and closing costs and fees, we netted $52,000. But we also saved another vintage home, and provided one lucky family a beautiful place to live. We really do have the best job in the world!
One of the most quintessential architectural styles in Southern California has to be Spanish Colonial Revival—it’s perfect for the weather and the Spanish heritage we enjoy here. We see a lot of Spanish houses in our work and we love fixing them up and restoring them to the glory they deserve.
Spanish Colonial Revival first became popular in California around 1915 after the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. After that, the style caught on like crazy and started to pop up all over California. It fit in perfectly with what was going on with architectural trends at the time—the revival of older and classic styles.
One of the big appeals of Spanish houses is how they blend indoors and outdoors. Homes often have large windows that flood rooms with natural sunlight. Some buildings—either residential or commercial—are even U-shaped to form an atrium area. There are several distinctive characteristics of Spanish Colonials so let’s take a look at some of the most popular.
Wrought iron is typically found both inside and outside Spanish houses, from decorative bars over the windows to railings to light fixtures. It’s a timeless element that lasts forever because of its durability. Wrought iron is used in more than just Spanish Colonial—you can find great examples in Craftsman architectural elements for instance—but it’s an easy way to convey that Spanish feeling.
There are multiple types of tiles found in Spanish homes, starting with the red tile roofs. Terracotta tiles are often found both inside and outside and usually come in a rich brownish red color. It’s used for almost all roofs and if you use it on the ground it’s a perfect way to extend indoor floors all the way outside without any seams.
Another classic element is hand-painted tiles that are typically found on stair risers. Often each step has a different pattern in complementary colors but that’s up to you. This is the perfect area to go wild with vibrant colors or crazy designs because these are accents rather than large focal points. But painted tiles aren’t just for stairs. They’re also found around fireplaces, in floors, kitchen back splashes—anywhere that could stand a little dose of color, really.
Doors, windows and room transitions are frequently arched and give the building a graceful look but they’re also really functional. Modern building standards and techniques are much more sturdy than they were centuries ago, but old school builders realized that arches were stronger than squared-off windows and doors. These days it’s more decorative than anything but arches still evoke old world charm.
Exposed, dark wood beams that span across ceilings typify Spanish style, especially in the common areas such as the living room.
A lot of older homes have little niches and alcoves for, say, a telephone and Spanish Colonials are no different. They’re versatile so the only limits are your imagination. Most people don’t have much use for telephone alcoves anymore, but smaller niches can store anything from knick-knacks to books to family photos. Some are even large enough to throw a pillow down and sit in.
Some doors are more ornate than others but the typical look is dark wood. This harkens back to when doors were handmade and carved with decorative elements. Bigger, fancier houses tended to have more details back in the day but now homeowners can have just about anything they want. Common accents usually include wrought iron rivets and hardware, especially for front doors, to make the look more authentic.
A lot of older homes have fireplaces, although improved heating systems make fireplaces less of a necessity and more of a decorative feature. Still, they top homeowner wish lists and make a great focal point. In Spanish-style houses, fireplaces are pretty versatile. They come in stucco, tile, brick, terracotta, wood mantles—you name it.
Typically, Spanish exteriors are stucco and usually in various shades of white, beige and cream, although recent years have seen creativity in house colors, such as terracottas, browns, yellows, pinks and grays. Add pops of color to trims and landscaping elements such as flowerpots and fountains.