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Santee Wrap-Up

This Santee project comes to a bittersweet end. It was 8 long weeks of renovation, we were hit with multiple rain delays, material mis-orders, and unexpected mishaps but we finally brought her over the finish line and it’s now active on the market and for sale, ready for a new family. $549,000 MLS#170009540. The previous owners sold this house direct to us As-Is and paid No Realtor Commissions or Closing Costs. We make it easy to Sell a San Diego House!

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This project got a new roof, stucco, windows, doors, complete paint, new kitchen, baths, flooring and landscaping.

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The kitchen came out really nice. We used the Grey Shaker cabinets again but this time with Oil Rubbed Bronze hardware. The Quartz countertops and zero-radius sink gave it a contemporary feel. My favorite is the reclaimed wood look kitchen floor tile.

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The high ceilings in the living room provide for a real refreshing feeling and the light cascades in from all angles with abundant windows bringing in the view to surrounding mountains.

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I continued the Grey Shaker cabinets into the bathroom as well. If you guys are painting your home in brown tones you are really behind the curve. Grey is the New Beige in Home Design and is really On Trend now.

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The Sputnik Has Landed

Ok I admit it, this is the fun part. Well, its actually all fun but once you get past walls and floors you get to put the small details that really bring your design together. I am proud to say that I haven’t bought any of the fixtures, plumbing or electrical, for our Mid-Century Modern renovation from the big box stores. With the exception of the tub and 2 Kohler toilets everything I researched and bought online. You can find great deals and usually get free shipping as well. At the end of the project I’ll do a list of where all the fixtures came from and how much they cost for future reference. You can see the brushed aluminum mid century hourglass shaped wall sconces in the kitchen, the 12″ white globe and of course the Sputnik pendant light. The kitchen cabinets are Abstrakt from Ikea, once the side panels and doors arrive these plain white boxes will transform into a futuristic flat panel high-gloss dark grey masterpiece. My new kitchen lay out is fabulous, it worked out to 24′ of linear counter top space plus a 7′ bar top and a stand up food pantry to boot. The sink wall itself is a 13′ straight shot of open counter.

Furthermore, the bedrooms received modern style brushed aluminum frosted glass closet doors. Not only do these tie into the frosted glass and aluminum outside but they are just plain cool. Accent lights inside the closet would have been keen but maybe we’ll do that on the next project. These doors were special order from Home Depot. I also got all the tile finished and set the Godmorgan high gloss grey floating vanities. On top I went with Kohler Vox square vessel sinks. I’ll do the Pure White Caesarstone counters that will contrast those dark cabinets well at the same time the kitchen counters get done.

One of the main features on my design to get the Mid-Century Modern look was this Amarr full view frosted glass and aluminum garage door. Cant you picture it softly lit up at night from inside the garage when you are having guests over? My electrician told me that it make the house look like a Ferrari should be parked in the garage. A very cool item for sure that I got a great hook up on from my neighbor who owns a garage door company. I also put a key pad outside so when you go bike riding or jogging you don’t have to bring your keys with you. You’ll notice that when we did the new stucco I added a 1″ wide horizontal aluminum channel that now ties in on the front of the garage.

The San Diego real estate market is hot right now. There’s virtually a shortage of good homes and all time low interest rates. You cant find a Mid Century Modern renovation anywhere like this for sale, so its safe to say I’m in a good position. Many home buyers will of course like the house but not even get the whole concept. The smaller, educated group who follow design trends and know how hot MCM is right now will certainly be willing to pay a premium for something like this already completely done. Stay tuned as we move into landscaping and more modern touches outside.

Black Subway & Clear Fir

All I have to say is go with your first instincts. I really wanted to do the backsplash in black ceramic 3″ x 6″ subway tile to match the absolute black granite countertops but white would have been a safer bet for resale. I came real close to chickening out and doing white, but am glad I took the chance and got to try something new in the kitchen.  I’m really happy with how it came out and I got the look I was going for. I’m planning on switching out the plugs, switches and cover plates to black as well. For me, the white grout and the square profile on the granite slabs really makes it.  Once I get the under cabinet lights in there going to be quite the neat reflection going on. I used the Domsjo Farmhouse apron sink from Ikea again, and as you regular blog followers know we’ve put them in all of our historic renovations. You cant beat the price at $299.

We shopped around this week for hardwood floor refinishers and ended up going with Geary Floors here in San Diego. They are charging $2.50/ s.f. for a pretty nice job. I found slightly less expensive prices but knew these guys do good work and its pretty important to me that we get a good job upstairs so I didn’t want to take any chances. You can see the 100-year-old Douglas Fir floors upstairs came out way better than I expected. I decided to not add any stain color and go “clear” with the refinishing job. The distressed look matches well with the house and adds a lot of character. This wood is the old 5″ wide long leaf style with standing grain. We are staining the stairs however to try and get them close to matching my hand scraped and distressed engineered wood floors downstairs. I’m officially now over budget, not bad considering the scope of work and the appliances are already paid for and standing by for delivery. Most of whats left now is outside which we plan on attacking this week. Stay tuned as we button her up and really add the missing small touches…

Countertop Envy

Another sweet milestone..On Saturday with the help of a friend we picked up and installed the granite and marble slab countertops in the kitchen and both baths. You can see in the pic I still need to install the backsplashes, but we got all the tops in and the bar top server on the kitchen pass-through. I went with Absolute Black for the kitchen to contrast the white cabinets. As a general design rule in rehabbing you always go dark, light, dark or the opposite in the kitchen meaning: dark floors, light cabinets then back to dark counters. The opposite would be light floors, dark wood cabinets then light colored counters. I think the black and white with grey walls looks real crisp and modern while still period sensitive, you can’t go wrong with this combo. Any future homeowner could switch out the wall colors and anything would still look good. Another flip tip to keep in mind is that you must have good lighting in the kitchen if you want to do black counters, but in this case we have under cabinet lights pre wired and with recessed lighting, abundant natural light and the pendants I’ll be hanging over the bar it won’t be an issue. Black counters can make a room look small as well but since I’ve opened everything up it works for me. I chose White Carrera Marble for the bathrooms, it looks a little more feminine and with the grey veining through it, ties in perfectly with our wall color. This is the first time I’ve used the white marble and I’m loving the way it looks. I cant wait to see it with the white sinks and chrome hardware.

I’ve received a lot of reader mail over the years asking about how I get my granite for so cheap. We started doing this method back in California, the granite industry has been revolutionized for people in the know. Yea, you can still pay $40/s.f. to the big dogs in town or mid $30’s to the big box stores for granite slab but this method gets er’ done for under $12.00 per square foot. These 8′ x 24″ slabs are pre-fabricated in China where labor is cheap and then shipped to the states. The material still comes from all around the world but it’s sent to China to get cut down, polished and bull nosed. For an 8 foot section I am paying $160.00. That’s $10/ square foot, then add a couple more bucks for materials and it still ends up pretty inexpensive.

Ask around for “pre fabricated” or “pre bullnosed” granite slabs. They always come from China. When we first moved to San Antonio you couldn’t get them here so we’d drive to Houston to pick then up. Here in San Antonio the company who carries them is called Builders Mark . They have about 30 colors in stock to pick from as well as bar tops, peninsulas, backsplashes and islands. You still have to put them in yourself, maybe I’ll do a “how to” video for the DIY’ers out there one day. They sell to the public but also give contractor discounts. Real stone slab counters boost the resale value of your rehab, along with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops are top of the wish list for homebuyers in today’s market.

Choosing Cabinetry

Kent Moore Cabinets delivered our millwork package this week and boy do the cabinets look good. I put a lot of weight on what goes in my projects these days. These cabinets are solid wood construction, full custom sizing meaning there are no filler pieces and the doors are Shaker style with a full overlay (3 still missing in pic).  The drawers are full extension with ball bearing glides and euro hinges for the doors. I chose their color Snow Drift so it comes very close to matching my Sherwin Williams Snowbound trim color. The cabinets are installed in the entire house so everything matches the kitchen including utility room cabinets, bath linen, bath vanities and even a head knocker cabinet above the toilet in the water closet. Like most house flippers I used to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and pick out some random bath vanities but this is really the right way to do a remodel. Having all your millworks match and being able to special order bath vanities that are 35 inches high really puts your remodel in another class. These new style bath vanities are kitchen height so you don’t have to bend way over to brush your teeth. The 42″ upper kitchen cabinets also have crown molding as well, it really plays well under the existing crown. After the truck delivers, you get an install crew that handles everything in 1 day, then followed up by a service rep who adjusts all the doors and touches anything up. Additionally, you get a 2 year transferable warranty on all the cabinetry to give to the buyer so this is also a great feature for a rehab. The entire package on this house was $7000. I’m really happy with Kent Moore, I’ll be bummed when I cant use them when we get back to San Diego. If you are in Texas and want to step your game up, call Melvin at KMC and tell him Tom sent you.

If you’ve been following our blog for a while you’ll be getting Deja Vu right about now. As you know we are big fans of, and love the Ikea Farmhouse Sink called Domsjo. For the price at $299 you cant beat it,  compare elsewhere for $1000. Some people call them apron sinks due to the big white front band that stays visible after install.  Additionally, it really goes well with the Arts and Crafts style homes we’ve been remodeling and it’s so big that if you have small kids it can double as a bathtub. Here in the 7th largest city San Antonio, they don’t have an Ikea so we have to drive up to the hipper Austin to get them. Maybe if it was called El Ikea they would have one down here. Before making the trek, we always check availability online to see if they have stock. I was struck with a mild panic attack when my favorite Swedish item didn’t appear on their website. We called and found out that in fact there were 7 left so I was relieved to say the least. This sink will work with a standard 36″ base cabinet after a little simple modification. Here’s an instructional video on How To Install Ikea Farm House Domsjo Sink in standard non Ikea cabinets.

Paint, Cabinets and Granite

The “Neighbor’s House” is now painted inside minus some small touch ups. Additionally I got the cabinets in and countertops installed this week. I buy the pre-bullnosed granite slabs fabricated in China and with the help of a friend we put them in ourselves saving big money. It ends up costing me $12.00/s.f. for what everyone else charges $50/s.f. for. I intended to post a “how to install granite countertops” video for everyone but my memory card was full yesterday when we were installing so I had to settle for a few single images. Maybe next time I’ll get to film the install for everyone as it’s really not that hard to do. As you can see we also dropped in the farmhouse sink from Ikea. It’s easy to retrofit any 36” sink base cabinet to accept it, you just have to do some measuring and cutting. All the tile is done and the glass company came and measured for the frameless heavy glass door for the master shower. All that’s left now are some small projects before I can get the floors refinished after the holiday weekend. I’ll be going really dark again on the stain since the floors got such great reviews on our last project next door. The concrete guys are showing up weather permitting this week to start on the driveway. The house itself should be done soon but we still have the landscaping and light renovation of the rear guesthouse to do before the project is complete. Last week we bought another historic house for a big renovation, we close on it this Wednesday so at that time we’ll get over there and do a walk through video to show you what we have planned. Stay tuned and Happy Holidays!

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Taking Care of Business

I had a big week on the project. Monday morning I dragged the whole family up to Ikea in Austin to buy the cool farmhouse sink for $299. After getting back I went and picked up 6 pre bull-nosed granite slabs and with the help of a friend we got all the countertops installed by 11 pm. This is the way to do your granite counters for about $10/s.f. I used the color Verde Butterfly this time. I had to alter my sink base cabinet to accept the farmhouse sink from Ikea but with some simple cutting out on the front and back it fit perfectly. I also got all the bathroom sinks and faucets in and the hot water heater installed. The A/C guy finally showed up and installed the condenser so we can call in for HVAC final inspection this week. We started sanding the hardwood floors Friday and I was pleased to see that most of the problem areas are disappearing. Once we come back with the dark Walnut stain they should end up looking fantastic. The wrought iron driveway gate is also installed now and adds a great touch. The floor refinishing guys will work through next week, while I switch gears to the landscape. My “Coming Soon” sign is in the yard now so stay tuned.

“Hurry Up and Finish So We Can Make Another Offer”

This is what the potential buyer told me Friday when he stopped by during my cabinet install. It’s the same couple that wrote the great offer a few weeks back. First time I’ve ever heard anyone say this, he’s really not shy to let me know how bad he wants it. They really love the house so I hope they get it. I passed final electrical inspection Tuesday so now we are waiting on CPS to drop the power to the new meter loop. I finished the fence, it ended up being a 4-day project with my helper and a total of 210 feet of dog-eared cedar with a rear, locking gate on the alley. Because all the cedar started to look a little “fency” I decided to go with a wrought iron driveway gate so I had my guy come and measure on Friday. After the fence I jumped right into the 30’ x 12’ rear deck project, only 2 days total to build the 360 square feet with a sweet bench to boot. When the pressure treated wood dries out for a week or so I can put some stain on it.

Deck

The cabinets arrived Thursday so I got right into hanging the boxes and vanities as well as topping out the plumbing. All that’s left for the cabinets are a few filler pieces, glass and the crown molding. The simple Shaker style with square lines really goes with the house and the wine rack adds a nice touch. All in all, I am really pleased with how my kitchen design turned out. The next major items to tackle on my list are granite slab counters for kitchen and baths, hardwood floor refinishing and A/C final inspection. I am ready to get this one done, it’s been fun but I’m feeling a little burned out from the final big push.

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One more week until the Grand Opening of the $74.4 Million dollar Museum Reach section of the River Walk Extension Project. Here’s a great video containing a sneak peek of the new River Walk Museum Reach area and the artwork incorporated. Thousands of people are expected to be milling around down there next Saturday. We are planning a family stroll Sunday morning.

Land Of Manana

When my wife and I first moved to San Antonio 2 years ago an insurance agent told us the city’s nickname was “Land Of Mañana.” We’ve found this to be totally true, it seems most workers are satisfied to poke along and only do what’s necessary to keep their family fed and stay semi-busy. Oh, I’ll just finish it tomorrow seems to be the consensus. Since the cost of living is low here there’s really no sense of urgency to get anything done. Although we do most of the rehab work ourselves there are still sub contractors who we depend on and recently we’ve had our pace slowed down a bit.

The foundation guys disappeared for a week after there was a water leak under the house and things got a little muddy. You can’t lift the house to level it if it’s muddy because the hydraulic jacks will sink on you. I had the meter off but it turns out it was faulty so some water was getting by even though it didn’t show it. I had SAWS come out for free and replace the water meter so we are all dry now and the guys finally got the house level and are almost done.

Ikea Kitchen Planner

The design of the kitchen cabinet layout is complete thanks again to our Swedish friend’s website. Last time we wrote that we had some people email us and ask who our Swedish friend is…for all of you who don’t get that joke our friend is Ikea! Yuk yuk yuk. The design required us to remove the 3 existing kitchen windows and put one back in with a new location so it’s centered over where the sink will be.

Kitchen Framing

I finished the entire interior framing this week so the new laundry room, hot water heater closet, refrigerator cubby, food pantry, hallways and relocated doorways are all complete. I also patched the wood floors with Red Oak in the areas where I opened up interior walls. Once the floors are refinished you won’t be able to see the patched areas.

Patching Wood Floors

We are ready to start on the master suite room addition this week. To prepare for the room addition I had to get a 60-foot pecan tree taken down and then grind the stump down. I got a great deal from some guys to take down the tree but once again they only seemed to want to work half days and spread out a one-day job to 4 days. Getting rock bottom prices from subs is a key to our success but sometimes it slows you down a bit. The room addition is 29 feet long so I also had CPS Energy come out and move the gas meter from the rear of the house 30 feet back in the yard. This only cost about $200, which I though was surprisingly cheap. They kind of have you over a barrel when it comes to moving their equipment so they could really charge what they want. CPS is really easy to work with here in SA. They even came out for free when we dropped the big tree and took down the power feed to the house to make it easier and safer.

Getting Close

Monday started off great this week, we got another house under contract and opened escrow. (More on that later.) We’ve been getting a lot of sign calls on this house though and thought we were getting an offer but the lady who had been coming by during the rehab backed out because she bought something else. This week I put all the Frigidaire appliances in that I bought at Lowe’s. I used a stainless steel high-end digital dishwasher with the buttons on top, a 6-burner gas stove, professional series microwave/convection oven and side-by-side fridge with water and ice in the door. I also put on all the cabinet handles and installed the lazy susans in the corner base cabinets. The kitchen looks killer and is now complete! Additionally, we passed the electrical final inspection on Tuesday. All I am missing is the final on the HVAC, which should happen this week.

Craftsman Bungalow Kitchen Staging

I also put down a pallet and a half of sod in the front yard and laid out the flowerbeds, using white limestone chop rock as a border. The front porch was concrete and very cracked and uneven as you could see from previous pictures. The area by the front door is what I concentrate on the most when it comes to attention to detail. Buyers make up their mind if they like the house as they stand there while the agent fumbles with the lockbox trying to get in. I always make sure that as you look around while standing there, you can’t see any flaws. This is why I decided to build a wood front porch cap over the existing concrete slab porch. I shot down some treated studs and laid long leaf pine tongue and groove, which is historically correct for this house. After a light sanding I used oil based stain and then came back with Cabot’s satin Spar oil base varnish in 2 coats. The finished hardwood porch looks incredible and once I add the final touch by hanging the swing our curb appeal will be done.

My wife and I worked on the bathroom all day Saturday. We hung the mirror, towel bar, tp holder, did some touch up painting and installed the tub faucet and a cool rain showerhead. The bathroom is almost finished as well now, just a few punch list items left.

The rear of the house is almost done minus some general lawn clean up which I’ll do this week. I stained the deck today with a Redwood Tone oil base to protect it from the elements. I usually take Sunday off but since we are in the home stretch I decided to knock off one big item from our to-do list this morning but don’t worry, I still made it home in time to barbeque some hot wings and go for a swim in the pool. My self-imposed deadline is Friday to have the house done and get it in MLS for the weekend. I still have a big punch list of small stuff but should be able to get it all done this week.

Sage Green Kitchen!

We got the A/C roughed in this week, it has all new ducts and we relocated the furnace up into the attic. After a couple of tries we also nailed down the paint color for the kitchen. It’s a Benjamin Moore color called Spring Valley but we went to Home Depot and had them match it in Behr because we would never pay $50 for a gallon of paint. As we said before, we really want to do something different with this house since it’s a 1920s bungalow. By using green in the kitchen it gives it a more authentic 20’s feel and the color turned out exactly as we’d hoped. We went with the white cabinets that have some glass front doors and fluted lines. We got most of the upper cabinets hung on the wall and started on the lowers as you can see in the picture, it’s starting to look really cool. Keep in mind that we’re going to refinish the original long leaf pine floors in the kitchen. We’re thinking of using black granite on the countertops and stainless appliances. White appliances would probably look really good and more period-correct but most buyers today are still looking for stainless.

We’ve noticed a lot of return visitors to this site so thanks for checking it out.

My Swedish Friend

After taking exact measurements of the kitchen space and window locations, I went to my Swedish friend’s website to get an easy look in 3-D at how my kitchen would look. We were able to play around with different configurations until we got the best use of our space. Since cabinet boxes come in standard sizes this tool is a good way to lay out your options whether you end up buying the cabinets from there or not.