RSS Feed for This PostCurrent Article

Mid Century Modern Renovation

My 1962 Leonard Drogin MCM is coming together.

Since my last blog post we totally transformed the outside of our Atomic Ranch House/Mid Century Modern project. I built a modern horizontal wood fence for the first time, it was way more labor intensive because the boards were all custom cut and had to be pre-drilled and screwed rather than using a nail gun. I used 1″x8″ cedar for the fence boards and 2″x2″ ledgers on my posts to secure them. I didn’t use pressure treated posts because I wanted to stain them to match the boards so the ends had to be treated before we set them. When I set the posts I also kept the span under 7 feet so the span wasn’t too long which would let the boards warp out. I sprayed a Behr semi-transparent fence stain in Natural color to seal the wood. Its looks great, kind of a modern style privacy screen rather than a fence and because the yard isn’t that big it provides privacy while still not making you feel boxed in. The fence is classy and sleek, the horizontal lines totally compliment the architecture I feel. After building the fence I had the stucco guy come back and do the retaining wall along the driveway to match the house as it was sticking out like a sore thumb after everything else looked so great.

Out front I had to terrace the yard a little because of the challenging hill we had to deal with. My favorite look with modern house design is the river rock combo with the Horse Tail plants. These are the reed type that I planted along the front of the garage and house. I added just one obligatory Queen Palm on an island to give a tad of privacy between the street and the front door.  Here’s another sizzle feature, check out this cool satellite shower head I put in both bathrooms. The spacey design looks like it belongs in orbit with my other light fixtures and I felt totally goes well with the MCM design.

I’m down to this final punch list of items that actually fit on one page so we are getting there. I should be close to on track for a March 30 completion as we are in week 10 right now for this rehab. There are still more fun things I’m adding so stay tuned, a couple more weeks and you’ll see all the bells and whistles. See the final finished pictures here.

Trackback URL

  1. 14 Comment(s)

  2. By John Doe on Mar 18, 2012 | Reply


    Again, great work! It looks like Mid Century Modern is progressing quite nicely.

    I was hoping to ask you about your formula under the “Analyzing a deal” Investing tip. You mention the offer you should look to submit on a potential project is ARV * 0.7 – development costs. I’m curious since moving back to CA if you feel like you’ve had to sacrifice any of the 30% margin that’s built into that equation. In the SF Bay Area for instance, I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find something close to the above formula – though it does seem like when good deals come around they’re closer to ARV * 0.8 – development costs.

    Any suggestions or thoughts you have on the matter would be greatly appreciated!


  3. By Hotel Del Lover on Mar 19, 2012 | Reply


    It looks gorgeous. Congratulations. I have been following you since I read about you on Jim the Realtor’s blog. I have begun looking forward to checking in on your blog each Sunday to get the update. I have learned so much. Thank you and thanks for making real estate and remodelling fun to watch.

    Hotel Del Lover

  4. By Tom on Mar 19, 2012 | Reply

    @ John, yes you are correct. If you strictly used the old 70 percent rule in California you would be hard pressed to obtain a consistent supply of deals. Its possible but not in volume with light carpet and paint rehabs. Most investors we see are settling for 10-15% in Southern California and maybe hitting 20% on a good day. Of course prices are higher here than other parts of the country so that helps, but it still doesn’t change your ROI. I don’t use the formula because my brain works more in relation to purchase price + repairs + selling costs then subtracted from ARV. It all comes down to how much you are willing to accept as a reward for your risk. If you can structure some 25% deals you are doing pretty good in California. There’s no golden rule because everyone might have a different tolerance for risk, and even at 10-15% the big guys do fine with high volume.

    @ Hotel Del Lover Thanks for the comments on the house, it has been a great project and I am having fun. Jim’s been a great friend and Realtor, his service and knowledge is top level so I enjoy working with him. A few years back he somehow found our blog while we were in Texas and mentioned us on his site. I had been looking at our web traffic and noticed a huge jump in traffic with hits from him so that’s how it all started. It was funny because I followed his site for info on the San Diego market because we were waiting to return as soon as things got better and I felt he was giving honest front line data. Its amazing how many loyal followers he has and we appreciated the spotlight. Thanks for visiting and glad you enjoy the stories!

  5. By Gleeson on Mar 19, 2012 | Reply

    Tom, that shower head is great and the house is coming along fast! You really have a good eye for design.

  6. By tj & the bear on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks for the new post, Tom!

  7. By Luis@wealthsteps on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Tom, this looks fantastic!

    Why would you go through the trouble of hand building this fence, why not go with standard 6′ privacy fence?

    If you don’t mind me asking, how much is this one going on the market for?

    I agree with Tom about the formula. It’s mostly a rule of thumb. I have had deals where I have walked away with 20% ROI and still did not meet that formula and this is here in GA where you can buy houses for $50k or less!

  8. By Tom on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    @Luis, this style fence is used more with modern home design so I thought it fir this property better than a standard 6′ fence. The backyard is kind of short so it gives the illusion of a larger space since you can see thru it. I built it myself because paying someone to do it would have cost 2-3k more plus I enjoy construction. As you know I actually do most of the work on these rehabs myself with a helper. The parts I sub out are: big framing, foundation, electrical, plumbing, hvac and roofing. I’ll sub out a drywall job too if its a full gut. House is looking great, wait until you see the final pics and thanks for the comments Luis. Will hopefully go on the market next Friday for $600k.

  9. By Luis@wealth-steps on Mar 24, 2012 | Reply

    Wow Tom, you are hitting it out of the park!

    I totally understand the DIY approach. I have met a few rehabbers here in Atlanta that truly enjoy doing the work. They would shoot themselves if they ever had to work a desk job and enjoy using their hands every day and building something themselves they can be proud off, so my hat off to all of you.

    However, I am not one of them! LOL I do not enjoy doing this work myself at all. I hire out everything and maybe do some finishing touches myself.

    But this is exactly what I like about this business, you can slice it and dice it in many ways and still works.

  10. By Mary on Mar 25, 2012 | Reply

    Tom, That is so smart that you would use the term “Atomic Ranch House”, because when my Dad (former owner) was alive he was working as a scientific programmer for the company now known as General Atomics. That job was what brought he and my Mom out to San Diego in the first place! I am so impressed that you had the vision to imagine the beauty your rehabilitation would bring. Good job!

  11. By Tom on Mar 25, 2012 | Reply

    Mary- That’s a huge coincidence! I’m pretty smart but I had no idea your dad, the original owner of our house worked at General Atomics. There is a cool magazine and website called Atomic Ranch, its dedicated to mid century homes and decor and I take inspiration from it so that’s why I used the term. I am almost done, hop you can come by. You sister was by this week. Have a good weekend!

  12. By halbert on Mar 30, 2012 | Reply

    Looks fantastic, Tom. I really like your fence: so pleasing and effective! Shame to let all this research stagnate! Hope you will find time to take on another MCM project.

  13. By Tom on Mar 31, 2012 | Reply

    me too Halbert. I’ll definitely be on the look out. I had some ideas along the way that I wasn’t able to execute that I can use on the next one too.

  14. By Jason on May 22, 2013 | Reply

    Looks amazing!

  15. By Jeff on Dec 10, 2014 | Reply

    Looks amazing. Do you know what brand and color stucco you used?

Post a Comment