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August 2008
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October 2008

Craftsman bungalow remodel in Salt Lake City

Front_porch_entry_after Renovation Design Group, a residential architecturel firm with offices in Seattle and Salt Lake City, transformed a very bland, ho-hum 1924 bungalow in Salt Lake City into a beautiful piece of livable art. This Craftsman-style bungalow remodel involved the entire house, from the landscaping and exterior finish to the addition of Craftsman detailing in every interior room. Some modern touches are a bit anti-Craftsman (odd inset ceilings, can lights, ceiling vents, non-Arts and Crafts cabinet detailing in the kitchen and a few other places, but they don't ruin it by any means.

Aaron and Carolyn weren’t in a rush to get started. They had lived in their 1924 Craftsman-style bungalow for about a decade and had made several small changes that kept the space livable. But while they knew they should probably do a major remodel, they were content to spend lots of time thinking about it but not much time working toward it.

“We knew from the time we moved in that we were going to remodel, but it was just the two of us, and it was hard to get motivated,” Carolyn says.

But when their daughter came along, they needed more room and they wanted to make the home safer for their child. So they knew the time had come to move from dreaming about a remodel to getting the work done. Their home was built by Carolyn’s grandfather, and it was the home in which her mother was raised. So there were plenty of sentimental reasons to keep the house while modernizing it for a growing family.

They engaged Renovation Design Group to help them figure out how to do that. Architect Annie Vernon, using her own ideas and those brought by the couple, took them through several options for updating their home. The couple decided on a plan they loved and moved forward. But after engineering evaluations, they could see that the original masonry walls would not meet code and would require extensive reengineering to make the remodel work. It would be an expensive process with no guarantees. So they had to make the painful decision to teardown grandpa’s house—an option they had not entertained. “It was a hard decision,” remembers Carolyn. But since reinforcing the old walls “just didn’t make sense” in the end, they went back to the drawing board and began planning for a tear-down and rebuild.

If they couldn’t keep the original house, they were definitely committed to keeping grandpa’s spirit. “We liked the style of the house, and if we were going to have to rebuild it, we wanted to keep the style,” says Carolyn. So with Annie’s help, they designed another craftsman bungalow. The original home had once had a large front porch, so they brought it back in the new design. They also kept thematic elements from the previous design and incorporated them into the new house, such as a half wall and pillars separating their living, dining room, and new craftsman bungalow kitchen, as well as lower ceilings in portions of the house to maintain the cozy cottage feel.

Aaron and Carolyn also salvaged materials from the old house and reused them in the new house. The moldings around the windows are either the exact wood used in the previous home or an exact replica. They also reused glass block for a living room window, adorned new doors with old knobs, and kept the fireplace mantel. And the exterior brick was meticulously preserved, cleaned, and re-laid.

photo courtesy of Renovation Design Group 

home improvement tips: how to get the most effective results for your money

regular contributor Joel McDonald forwards us this advice on how to ensure you get good value for your home-improvement dollar:

If you are a homeowner, you have probably thought about remodeling. If you are getting ready to sell, it could very well be the time to do a bit of remodeling, and increase the value. Home improvements can be expensive, so, of course, the average homeowner will try to get the nicest improvements done with the least cost. Saving money is a big consideration for most homeowners, but that certainly does not mean you want a cheap job.

The cost of investing in and maintaining real estate makes it a serious business. If you are not careful, you could over-invest, whether a project is for a single room, the roofing or landscaping, or the whole property. Hiring a legitimate professional is key to getting a good remodeling job done at the right price.

The Federal Trade Commission says that homeowners should be aware of the tricks of dishonest companies. The FTC warns about these warnings that your contractor might be trouble:

  • insists on the need for a quick commitment
  • asks for full payment up front
  • offers you a cheaper price for finding other clients
  • offers you a special price due to (how lucky you are!) having extra materials on hand
  • asks you to get the building permits
  • only accepts cash

Any of those circumstances could be a sign that you should run and get a different firm. Sometimes a bogus contractor will also try to get you to borrow from a lender that they know. At its worst, a loan scam could literally put you out of house and home.

Precautions to Take
There are several precautions you should take to keep from being taken advantage of. Interview potential contractors thoroughly. The FTC suggests that you ask how long they have been doing business, license details, and insurance offerings. Check with the city or county building office. Ask around. These things are not unlike the normal way you normally approach any big purchase or transaction.

Another important tip is asking for recent references. Not only should you get a list of references, but you should call and checkup on them. Ask these references about the quality of the job. Question them about whether there were last-minute costs, and other problems.

Terms of payment must be clear and agreed upon before the job is started. Some local laws set limits on how much higher the actual cost can be above the contract estimate. Check into the laws where your work will be performed.

This article was provided by Automated Homefinder, Colorado's Louisville real estate professionals.

historic homes for sale, September 2008

L_13138_g This week's historic home standouts:

  • recently modernized 1860 bungalow (?) in Batavia, Illinois: $299,000
  • 1916 Craftsman 2-story in Geneva, Illinois: $438,000
  • intricate & beautiful ultimate bungalow, c. 1918, in Bethlehem, New Hampshire: $402,900
  • unique 1928 Tudor/storybook in Geneva, Illinois: $1,795,000
  • Frnk Lloyd Wright 1911 Prairie bungalow in West Chicago, Illinois: $474,000
  • 1912 classic Prairie home in Danville, Illinois: $85,000
  • huge 1890 brick late Victorian mansion in Fitchburg, Massachusetts: $1,050,000
  • charming 1870 Mission Revival adobe in Santa Fe, New Mexico: $499,000
  • 1870s brick Queen Anne in Madison, Indiana: $599,000
  • 1920 renovated bungalow with beautiful built-ins in Highland, Illinois: $224,900
  • eclectic 1930 Craftsman stone / log / shingle cabin in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania: $189,500
  • enormous 1890 Tudor revival mansion (14 bedrooms, 9 baths, over 17000 square feet heated) in the Adirondacks: $1,750,000
  • gorgeous 1914 bungalow in San Pedro, California: $495,900
  • 1916 four-square brick Craftsman in Crawfordsville, Indiana: $154,000
  • 1917 "airplane" bungalow with great features in Whittier, California: $849,000

Harris Allen house for sale in Berkeley: $1.2 million

Picture_3 from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The tall, redwood clapboard house on Hilgard Avenue in the North Berkeley hills is an East Bay landmark in more ways than one.

First, it is a highly individual interpretation of the Arts and Crafts style by an architect known for his unique designs, Harris Allen. Second, the old redwood that rises majestically from the backyard can be seen from miles way, and is one of the tallest trees in Berkeley.

Now this home is on the market for the first time in 38 years.

The house was built in 1927 for Gladys Campbell, according to Berkeley building records. It was designed by Allen, an eclectic East Bay architect whose graceful homes throughout Berkeley and Marin County are noteworthy for their distinctive qualities. Although Allen often incorporated elements from various periods, his designs are not mere copies of past styles. read the full article here

Real estate agent Barbara Hopper is listing the house for its owner, Dorothy Nash Shack, who bought the house with her husband Dr. William Shack in 1970. Mrs. Shack was a school psychologist with the Oakland Public Schools for many years, and her husband was a professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley (and later dean of the graduate division).

See the listing for this 2,084 sq ft, 4/2 house (on a 4,750 sq ft lot) here. The agent has a virtual tour up where you can see some terrific shots of the interior, too; please check out the entire photo gallery - some of the interior architecture is especially interesting and the overall effect, when combined with the terrific views, is really impressive.

restoration & renovation booming in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Busines Journal tells us that old-home restoration in LA is a booming business, largely untouched by the problems that have hit home resellers and new home builders. Perhaps this is because more and more people are nesting - settling in to spend more years at homes they might have sold in previous years - and are taking renovation (and, in historical homes, restoration) much more seriously as long-term investments than they would have before. Flippers see restoration as something to be done cheaply, on the surface, for quick return; people who live in neighborhoods and care about their own quality of life and that of the area see it as an investment to be done right. Read Daniel Miller's full article:

Times are slow in the housing market, but it would be hard to tell by following Kevin Kuzma through a typical day.

The historic home restoration consultant is busy from early morning to evening, picking up raw materials, visiting construction sites, doing estimates and meeting with clients.

“It’s gotten busier and busier. I haven’t felt any slow down,” said Kuzma, whose Revival Arts Restoration business is based in his Angelino Heights home.

Ditto that for folks like Ron Radziner, principal at Los Angeles architecture firm Marmol Radziner and Associates, which specializes in restoration and new custom residential homes.

Or Charles Fisher, who has built a busy business helping owners of historic homes qualify for coveted tax breaks that can lower a state property tax bill by up to 80 percent.

Builders may be practically giving away homes in far-flung Los Angeles County subdivisions amid slow sales all around, but there’s one corner of the housing market that so far has been immune from it all.

Historic homes in architectural styles such as Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco have all grown in popularity in recent years. What’s more, an increased interest in famed 20th century architects has led to a blossoming of the cottage industry that services and sells historic homes by renowned figures such as Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright and John Lautner.

"the house that sausage built" on

Cmaidell07_ph11_0498977651 The San Francisco Chronicle's online edition,, has a nice story (and pictures, but I wish there were more see notes at bottom) of Bruce Aidells - of Aidells' chicken sausage fame - beautiful new A&C home. Read the entire article at (photo by Jeannie O'Connor)

It started innocently enough - Bruce Aidells bought some English Arts and Crafts furniture from an Oakland antiques dealer and designed his kitchen in Kensington around it. Then he began frequenting the House of Orange, an Alameda antique shop that specializes in Arts and Crafts. He might have stopped there, but a fateful invitation in 1996 to visit Berkeley's Thorsen House with an architecturally inclined friend introduced him to the architecture of Charles and Henry Greene, and he was instantly captivated. He befriended Ted Bosley, the curator of the Gamble House, a Greene and Greene house museum in Pasadena, as well as Jack Stumpf, the chief docent at the house, who, as it turned out, was also a sausage aficionado. Soon Aidells was getting the private tour of the Gamble house (whether bribes of bratwurst were involved is unknown). He began to want a Greene and Greene of his own, but realized that to build one properly would require a good deal of money, which he did not have at the time. He settled for immersing himself in Greene and Greene, buying books, visiting other houses and museums, and biding his time.

The opportunity came in 2002, when Aidells sold his interest in the eponymous sausage company he started in 1983. He figures the cost of the house came out to 322 miles of sausages. Finally having enough money in his pocket, he began looking for an architect who knew how to design a Greene and Greene-style house. He eventually settled on Greg Klein of John Malick and Associates, even though the company had never before designed a Greene and Greene house. But it was local, and Aidells felt they would be hands-on. Klein had long been a fan of the Greenes, and says, "Their work is unique, and most people think no one does that anymore."

Editor's note: thanks to reader Ann for noting that the architect's website has many more images of the house; Danielle, with John Malick & Associates, the folks who designed the house, also supplies us with this URL for photos by Healdsburg photographer Jeannie O'Connor.

win this home

Remarinraffle07_0499089235 Community Action Marin, that county's official anti-poverty agency, has lost much of its public budget due to a changing political climate and recent cuts. To make ends meet, they are selling $150 raffle tickets - with a prize of a $2 million home in San Rafael. Last year's winner chose to take cash instead, so the same house is up again this year. It's a 4-bedroom contemporary craftsman on a quarter-acre lot.

renovation finds: Bull Durham!

BulldurhamleoraMy cousin Leora was doing a bit of renovation in her Chicago bungalow and found that a previous owner had done some wood paneling - until now, covered by a newer wall - in deconstructed Bull Durham tobacco crates. Does anyone know if these are especially collectible to anyone?

What interesting objects or spaces have you found when remodeling or otherwise repairing your home?