Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I've been using a term lately that I picked up on one or more of the fora I frequent but I thought I would talk about it a bit - restovation. It's being used as a catch-all when a homeowner is doing some remodeling and he wants to be sensitive to the original architecture - a composit of Restoration and Renovation. Sort of the opposite of a remuddle (another meme indicating that a remodel done poorly, especially one that isn't sensitive to the building's intent or architecture) - I'll discuss both in regards to mid-century modern homes:

My take on a restovation is to make architectural changes that are close to the same or at least sensitive to the original builder's intent - basically to make alterations that either can't be detected, or to remove a poorly applied remodel by replacing or "fixing" with something that could have been part of the original builder's construction. When at all possible I try to keep original features and refurbish when necessary (at minimum a good cleaning does wonders - sometimes I'll try to fix fixtures and such or replace with something that's close). Of course there's varying degrees of restovation - some things that are missing simply can't be replaced and compromises have to be made, especially when fixing a bad remuddle. The trick here is to find replacements that aren't complicated - usually the simpler the better. The other trick to being successful is to use patience - that missing something or other could be waiting on the curb in your neighbor's trash a year from now.

In general a remuddle is any remodel that isn't sensitive to the architecture - like replacing the front door with some obnoxious Home Depot purchased beveled glass monstrosity or putting a bay window on the front of a modern house. Neither of these would have been part of the original mid-century modern design and only "muddles" the clean lines or hides that the house is modern. You'll see variations of this - the addition of shutters, ornate exterior sconce lighting, an added Bay window, the list goes on.

A good restovation would incorporate good, clean design changes, keeping elements that are both appropriate and still useful for the time we currently live in. I'm not at all opposed to updates, especially to the kitchens and bathrooms of mid-century modern homes - often the tile is cracked or otherwise rundown and defective, or the original cabinetry is failing and it's simpler to replace rather than repair - plus you can't beat the new cabinet hardware and storage doo-dads that are available now. The trick is to remain sensitive to the original house design and intent (French Provincial cabinets simply look ridiculous in these houses). When possible I like to keep the original kitchen provided it's in good shape and restorable - I'll discuss this more in future posts by showing effective methods of doing so.

A bad remuddle would have one or more of the following :
(I lifted this from the Lotta Living forum post "100 Ways to Screw Up Your Mid-Century Modern Home" with a couple of edits)

1) Adding a steeper roof on top of your flat or shallow pitched roof.
2) Ornate front door. (Etched glass windows)
3) Adding a second story.
4) Putting in a country kitchen.
5) Installing a white metal colonial style garage door in place of the original redwood sided door
6) Adding vinyl double hung replacement windows
7) Heading to Home Depot/Lowe's with home equity loan money in hand
8) Adding inappropriate window treatments i.e.-paned windows, decorative shutters, fancy storybook scrollwork/moldings.
9) Replacing your tar & gravel roof with Spanish tile.
10) Covering your tongue & groove ceiling and wood beams with sheetrock
11) Roof over the atrium and add desirable square footage
12) Putting a white picket OR Wrought Iron fence in the front yard (or ANYWHERE for that matter)
13) One word: Stucco
14) Two words: crown molding!
15) Three words: 70s wall paneling (unless your home was built in the 70's and it was already there)
16) Carriage lights
17) Slathering one color of paint over everything - double points if it's Peach, Pink or Yellow.
18 ) Painting over stone or brick
19) Replacing single pane glass in the glass end gables with plywood
20) Vinyl siding
21) Installing gaudy brass light fixtures.
22) Covering up glass or painting over it.
23) Replacing in slab ductwork with overhead ductwork (exception for low-homes in the flood plains!)
24) Enclosing the carport / Converting the garage into living space
25) Granite!!!!!!!!
26) Install over-sized "professional grade" appliances (Viking, Subzero) in small galley kitchen.
27) Covering poured terrazzo with Home-Depot ceramic tile
28) ANYTHING made out of bright, shiny brass
29) Tear it down to build a McMansion
30) Tearing out the original flat panel, flush faced kitchen cabinets and replacing them with fancy, ornate routed ones
31) Replacing original wood framed windows with aluminum framed sliding glass doors
32) Basin sinks / oversize tubs / Anything described as turning your bathroom into a "personal spa" or "retreat"
33) Installing inappropriately decorative house numbers.
34) Selling off all the one of a kind, original architect designed furniture and light fixtures because it "doesn't fit in"
35) Putting in grid windows
36) Installing a ceiling fan in a vaulted, exposed beam/t&g ceiling
37) Using a pick axe or jackhammer to remove original 8x8 linoleum tiles so one can install Home Depot terracotta pavers
38) Installing hardwood floors over a radiant heated concrete slab
39) Dutting down the fascia, removing original down spouts to install gutters.
40) 2hitewash the interior with white paint to make it feel larger
41) Marble!!!
42) STUPID DOOR HANDLES (ornate lever style)
43) Visual overload (too many elements)
44) Big Greek / Italian /Mediterranean columns added to the front (or inside). Also, gaudy statues and fountains containing cherubs, angels, naked people, The Virgin Mary etc,
45) Painting over unpainted exterior wood (instead of stain)
46) Collecting and displaying too many knick knacks in a 1200 sq ft MCM house:
47) Removing all signs of nature outside by putting concrete everywhere, thereby defeating the harmony between house and nature attitude of many modernists.
48) Sticking a mantle on a stone fireplace that isn't supposed to have one.
49) Putting a white lattice archway in the front yard walkway with flowers and vines growing all over it.
50) Plain ole' neglect...having a cool MCM home, and letting it go...chipping paint, rotted fascias, overgrown foliage etc...
51) Paint a redwood or pine tongue and groove ceiling
52) Covering beautiful terrazzo floors with nylon fiber wall to wall carpet to "update the place"
53) Installing an aluminum, free-standing patio
54) Popcorn ceilings
55) Installing the cable box right outside the front door
56) Putting in one of those one-piece molded plastic mailboxes on a post.
57) Fake brick exterior siding (There's a bunch of these on the Neutra tract homes near the Burbank Airport).
58) Compromising your principles.
59) Misunderstanding/confusing "Ranch House" with "Ranch Style" house thus recreating the Little House on the Prairie
60) A sweet barn style shed.
61) Lace curtains
62) Placing ANYTHING in or around the house from Hobby Lobby, Kirkland's, or credited to either Thomas Kinkade or Mary Englebreit.
63) Smothering the interior with cheesy wallpaper.
64) Removing perfect mahogany paneling so that it can be replaced with drywall (this also includes just covering it with drywall).
65) Saltillo Tiles
66) Adding onto the back, after all, all that glass makes a great room divider!
67) Never throwing anything away.
68) Adding exposed conduit, wire mold, or worse, exposed wiring to beams and columns of you post and beam home.
69) Buying a mid-century modern home and then normalizing it to make it look like any other home.
70) Round top windows! (double points on this one)
71) Raising up your slab on grade MCM home and adding a basement under it.
72) Replacing your vintage globe lights with too much cheesy low-voltage lighting.
73) Adding a shingle roof in place of a tar and gravel roof on a pitch that is too low for shingles. IT WILL LEAK!
74) Three or four masonry materials where one or two will do.
75) Invite 100 scooterist over to your house, with a live punk band, and 5 kegs of PBR (no, I haven't done this... yet)
76) Adding an addition not in the style and design of the home
77) Allowing termites to gobble it all up
78) Anything faux
79) Hire an architect who doesn't understand Modernism
81) Stained glass or beveled glass windows
82) Tiling over original magnasite deck... extra points for bad colorful folk art tile
83) Placing a Pink Flamingo in your Garden/Yard
84) Describing MCM houses as "retro"
85) Placing an A/C unit on the top of your roof
86) Refacing an original fireplace, let alone with a thin flagstone laminate
87) Installing arches or rounded corners in a room opening or between rooms
88) Turning the master bedroom into a den
89) Replace your garage door with a brick fireplace
90) Inappropriate furnishings?? (aka flowery couch with detailed, routed wood)
91) Adding brick driveway columns topped by gold stone lions
92) Building a circular turret on the front of the house
93) Adding lattice to the front to "improve the look and privacy"
94) Covering the metal columns with wood to make them look like more like classical columns.
95) Hanging seasonal flags (i.e. santa, the easter bunny) outside your entryway
96) French doors to patio
97) Sawing off the overhanging roof and beams
98) Covering up exposed beams so the house look like other conventional framed homes
99) Adding turned pickets to all railing for that "country French" look!
100) Looking over an untouched, near-pristine P&K home and then declaring , "It has such potential!"
101. Painting over original polished aluminum Nutone range hood and splash shield.
102. Removing original skylark boomerang formica countertops
103. Tearing out original award winning landscaping to plant box woods.
104. Planting boxwoods
105. Planting bradford pears
106. Yard ornamentation
107. Turning your front yard into a playground with playset and/or trampolene
108. Inappropriate landscape lighting
109. Hanging towels up in place of curtains
110. Non thoughtful placement of new thermostat
111. Inappropriate storm doors
112. Bad porch lights
113. Horrible door knockers
114. Fake stained glass inserts
115. Painting your concrete porch green
116. Satellite dishes
117. Less than thoughtful placement of the ac unit
118. White plastic lattice screens!
119. Shutters!...
120. Screwing down additional insulation onto your t&g wood roof deck with screws that are too long and pierce through to the inside.
121. Painting over birch (or any other wood) closets/paneling.
122. Let the realtor do it, so you don't have to
123. Installing a classical European wallpaper mural
124. Letting a real estate agent list a house as "desirable lot" and not even showing pictures of the MCM house.
125. Hiring a realtor who just doesn't get it

Here's a good article about 4 renovation trends that
should go away.

-- John

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bubbling Crude

Yesterday (10.10.09) Cindi called to tell me there was a large puddle in the middle of the yard. I came home to find water bubbling from the ground - since it was about 15 feet behind the meter I figured it was a leak in the galvanized water line - something we've been wanting to fix but there have always been other things more pressing. After a phone call with our friend Bruce Wilson (Master Plumber), he volunteered to come by today (Sunday) and help hook up a new line. I woke up early this morning and spent time moving things around in my shop where the water line ties in in the basement. I then ate a quick breakfast and went outside to start digging while Bruce purchased the fittings he'd need to complete the job. We decided to use Pex pipe - if you don't know about this stuff Google it - the stuff is amazing.

View from the Meter back to the front spigot

View from the spigot out to the street

I managed to get about 20 feet (total run about 70 feet) dug when Bruce got to the house - Cindi started digging from behind the meter so by the time Bruce had the meter dug up, all but about 15 feet remained to be dug in the middle. I think I started digging about 11, Bruce got here about 12 and we were done with all the hook ups by 4. After Bruce left I finished waterproofing the hole in the basement block and filled in next to the foundation. While the front was open I added a line for an external circuit so I can add an outlet to the front (not tied in yet). I also spread out any remaining dirt and raked up to get everything looking back to normal. It's been quite a day.

Starting my dig

About 25 feet out from the house - that's Bruce working on the meter in the background

-- John