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.