Friday, July 31, 2009

Business, Old House Style

Working from a home office in a historic house means getting a whole new perspective on the working world. Pictured here is business as seen from the Money Pit.

Conference Room

Corporate Retreat

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting there....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stone and Water

WooHoo! Here is the mudpit where Richard used to BBQ under VERY challenging conditions. Groundcover goes in between the bluestone, and we will be Tri-Tip ready. I already gave it the "cocktail party test" by going out there in high heels, no loss of ankle stability.

And this is a gadget Jeff installed for the fun of it. The spigot sits below ground level, so we do not have to drag hoses across plants when we want to hand water or hose down a surface. It also bypasses the house system so we don't use softened water in the yard, which would kill the plants. Yes, I do get excited about really silly things. Thanks for noticing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Men of Lemon Street

You were expecting a hottie calendar, huh? Could work...their wives would have fits though. Anyway, there is no way we could do what we do here without the faithful help of some amazing people. And it will be our pleasure to continue teaming up with them until it is done, and then keep them coming back to fix it when the kids break it. You know its coming.

These guys are from Natural By Design. I know their names, but I get them mixed up, because I am terrible with names. But I can say that they absolutely rock. Professional, courteous, they do not play radios on the jobsite, they clean up after themselves, no cussing (that I know of) and always smiling and polite. When you wake up with these guys, and spend all day with them around, you better like them as people, and Jeff's crew are great people. Even if I cannot name them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Stone is Here!

It's not everyday that you start the morning with a truckful of gravel waking the neighbors (sorry folks). But bright and early the manly-men from Southwest Boulder arrived with their bright yellow truck full of "Graphite Gray".

The DG will crunch-crunch-crunch underfoot, a romantic sound Richard and I are both hooked on, nothing says old-house-garden better! Richard and I were out at the stoneyard Saturday, with Jeff and his crew. Most of the Natural by Design crew are talented masons, and watching them ogle the stone yard like kids in a candy shop made me wish we had 7 homes so we could get them to build projects with everything we loved out there. Southwest offered so much to choose from, and of course just loving something does not always work, the material has to fit the project. While the Owens would have used dirt paths and poured in place cement walkways, we were looking to add a little more "bang", while honoring the period.
In the end, we fell for an amazing stone, a form of bluestone in a green/brown mottled mix that Jeff had never seen before, and the stone people said is very rare. The stone is a type of sandstone, which makes it appropriate to the region, as a "it might have been done back then"...yeah, if the Owens family had unlimited resources....but artistic license is part of the old-house thing, as long as we do not do anything jarring. I have seen too many polished, rainbow granite countertops in otherwise lovely period kitchens. People, let the house tell you what it wants. Mine says "Feed me more money!" Glad to oblige, as long as the green stuff holds out.

Friday, April 10, 2009

World's Saddest Gardening Day

Today's post was promised to be landscaping, and we will get there. The photo is our beloved 'World's Best Cat" Otto, and his staff, Elizabeth, napping. Otto has been ill for many years, and this morning God called him home, where he can "fluff" Grammie and Grampie again. Jeff, the landscape god, (note the small G, there is only one Lord) was on site when we found Otto, and he had his guys dig a hole in the soon-to-be rose garden. We buried "Frito-Butt" where we can visit him. Elizabeth is out of town this weekend, so when she returns (we just ruined her vacation) she can choose a rose for Otto, and we will put it in with the roses we are transplanting from Richard's Mom's house. So it really will be a memory garden.

That said, here is the garden. It may be raw to you, but to us it is absolutely gorgeous! Having battled a mud-pit-construction-debris-dump for 4 years, seeing anything that may become a real garden is beyond exciting! This is the north area, between us and the bungalow courts next door. We are putting in a knot garden, companion planted for vegetables. DG will crunch underfoot along this path, and a fountain goes out in the elipse at the top of the photo, where the rose garden will be. Our iron swing goes under that pergola at the far end. The irrigation system is run from a computer, with its own weather station, which I will post about as soon as I understand it......

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

...and after....

Here is our baby, after the details were restored, the woodwork was repaired (lots and lots of nail holes from those shingles) and a paint job by Steve Goodyear's crew. Paint courtesy of Behr, they gave us the product in exchange for participating in a survey on how we liked it, and using photos of the house for future promotions. Garden by Jeff Smith, more on him next.....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Second Skin

Here is the house just before we bought it. I had plenty of time to take photos, we were in escrow for 14 months. Long story, essentially the halfway house tenants did not want to leave, and used every trick in the book to stay. In the small window, center, upper floor, (which is now our bedroom), is a cardboard cutout of Brittney Spears. You can guess at what the remaining decor was. The white siding is actually a secondary cladding surface. Hideous shingles put on in the 1940s, during the War years, as the house continued to serve as a boarding house. The shingles covered where doors were turned into windows or walls, to close off rooms. We have spent many long hours tracing those changes and putting the house back together.

As we removed the shingles (safety first, folks) we were able to uncover the details that workmen ripped off in their zeal to "modernize" the house. We find this pretty consistently, when a secondary cladding is layered on. Window frames, corbels, brackets, they all get shaved off, or in the case of vinyl the workers just go up and over it, which completely changes the dimensions. That is why a house covered in vinyl skin looks different, although you may be hard pressed to tell exactly why. Those architectural details not only define the style of the home, they provide movement, depth, and "articulation" to the facade. In short, they provide character, and when we remove them, or change them, we change the essence of what the house wants to be. In our case, we put them back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In the Beginning....

Welcome to the virtual tour of the Ward's famed and feared Money Pit, also known as the Historic Owens House, or Ward's Folly. We bought the place in October 2004, and the plaster dust has been flying ever since. I should have begun blogging back then, but just the act of making a sandwich in the primitive kitchen was a challenge. Throw in teenagers, a career, and volunteer work in what we laughingly call spare time, and no way was I going to take time to blog. Frankly, back then, if I had to actually stop and think about what we were doing long enough to document it, I would probably have opened my wrists. But now we are in the final stretch, after many, many projects, and more money than we ever imagined spending, we are down to the sexy stuff, and it is time to invite y'all in to our world.

I'll kick off with before and after photos, to date. The house was built in 1908, by James and Sarah Owens, who raised their 2 daughters here. The home was surrounded by orchards, running from our corner at Wilhelmina and Lemon, to Harbor Blvd and North Street. During the housing boom following World War 1, the family subdivided the property, creating the Owens and Jones Tract. Shortly after that the Owens parents and one daughter passed away, and the remaining daughter had left Anaheim. The house then went to a series of owners, and like many large homes, became a boarding house during the Depression. Each bedroom became an apartment, complete with the holes in our floorboards for "hot, cold, drain". In time the home was purchased by absentee landlords, who rented it to Frank Rose, who operated it as the Colonial Fellowship Halfway House for decades. Sad that the place that survived the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, and the Great Flood of 1938, saw its greatest destruction in the last few decades. But that is where our story begins. In the meantime, I will pull together the photos we have been shooting over time, and share the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of putting our beloved home back together again. Worth it? Yep, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Of course I would be divorced and childless, but I would still do it.