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.