Modern Landscape Design

For this project I decided on a modern style landscape design to tie in with my modern architecture attribute. The clean lines and open spaces of my concrete work will create a contemporary outdoor space. I came up with a flowing design of terraced geometrical shapes, grid patterns in the concrete flat work, and the extensive use of unfinished cmu block to give an urban feel. I’m trying to create more of an extension from the house and outdoor living spaces rather than a traditional lawn and garden.

When constructing my modern privacy screens I continued the cmu block wall as a base and used galvanized Postmaster steel posts which then support the Cedar 1 x 8 boards. These posts are great, they are pre-drilled and will last for years. I kept the spacing at around 5 feet to keep the boards straight and I’ll stain them after they dry out in a few days.

The finishing touch will be all native, drought tolerant plants which I have carefully selected. Of course I ran sprinklers for very moderate watering  but the whole design will be almost maintenance free and save water.

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.

Ladyscaping

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We’re really wrapping things up at The Painted Lady, I built 300 feet of fencing as an ice breaker for the landscaping package. Over the past week or so I’ve been realizing what a huge yard we have! In order to provide a complete package to a buyer we always go the extra mile with fencing and decking when possible. In the rear I went with a dog eared cedar 6′ standard privacy fence and a 20′ wide driveway gate which will soon be solar & automated. I stained it with 2 coats of my favorite Redwood semi-transparent color from Behr Ultra, It really looks tropical and plays well with all the green tones in my color palette. Up front I built a classic Victorian picket fence and painted it the same Sherwin Williams Rockwood Green as my house trim color. I brought in some palm trees, 3 yards of river rock, 8 yards of mulch and 5 pallets of sod to give her the love she needed for so many years. The sod is from Hydro Scape, a better place than Home Depot and is called Medallion Bonsai Fescue. Notice that we also made the small rear deck off the master suite, got gutters installed and hand made a really cool period correct front porch decoration for the handrail. Once these decorative gingerbread features are all painted everything is really going to come together.

After we’re done outside its down to what I call the final “punch list” of random items inside. I’m pricing the house around $499,000 and we magically have a really nice buyer already lined up. She’s so excited and has been back multiple times and loves the house more than we do. I hope it works out for her, so we’ll see if a deal can be inked once we finish up. There’s nothing like this on the market and we’re offering a tremendous value for the money as usual, having it hit the open market if this buyer doesn’t materialize might also be a good thing. I have a local historian at SOHO (Save Our Heritage Organization) researching the history of the house as well, there might be a cool story to share when we find out who built her and what the original owners might have contributed to historic San Diego. Stay tuned for the dramatic final pictures and story of everything we did during the restoration to this 1909 Victorian Gingerbread.

Concrete Jungle

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What’s an urban restoration project like without adding just a tad more hardscape to blend in with the mass expanses of paved metropolitan living? There is always a danger of adding too much concrete and having your house look like a parking lot but I think I pulled it off and managed to give the new owners a place for 4 cars to park securely while also enhancing the landscaping design with the sweeping walkway around the side yard. After receiving multiple bids in the $5 – $7  per square foot range, I managed to pull off the 22 yard pour for just around $3.75/s.f.

There was a block wall that was cracked and leaning over out front so we formed and poured around it after some reinforcing with rebar. Once I crack off the forms we’ll give it a swipe with spec mix for a sanded stucco finish to match the foundation walls. I thought this was a good quick fix as opposed to demolishing everything and having someone stack a whole new block wall which technically would also have to be permitted with the City. Inside this week, we also stripped all the paint from the 100-year-old staircase after deciding it will look better in its natural redwood state rather than painting it with all the trims.

Landscaping Fun

 

As my hardwood floor guys got started sanding this week they kicked me out of the house so I was relegated to landscaping duty. I called my good bud Dan who’s always happy to give me a hand when he’s between projects so together we really got the neighbors talking. After finishing the fence project and multiple dump runs we finally got to the fun part of laying out the beds. I opted for river rock on this house for several reasons, one being that there are alot of neighborhood cats that evidently have claimed rights to my yard or possibly even get a kick out watching us wipe our feet off, so I didn’t want to make it easy on them with big new mulch beds. Additionally the river rock goes really good with our style home, in California we would have also mixed a few palms for a tropical bungalow feel but of course that’s not possible here in South Texas because palm trees wont survive the freezing winters. After then laying the 4 pallets of St. Augustine sod down Thursday, our welder showed up and installed another sizzle feature for the property, our solar powered automatic driveway gate. No electrical connections here, a solar panel on top of the gate charges the battery which operates the gate motor. This is such a cool feature and will pay off huge for potential buyers.

Always wanting to change things up a little, I decided to go light on my floor stain as recently we’ve done several rehabs with very dark wood floors. The issue with going with a light color is that it will show any past pet stains. My floor guys brought a new product that I wasn’t familiar with, Zinsser Wood Bleach. It comes in a 2 part kit and after following the instructions we watched the old stains bubble up and disappear. It seems to work killer except it took a bit of the red tone out of my red oak wood floor as well but he assures me that when he comes back down with the new stain he’ll be able to play with it a little and hide most of the variations. I cant wait to see the floors done, remember I put down all new wood in the kitchen and back through the addition so they should be gorgeous. The shower glass and appliances arrive next week pending floor completion, stay tuned for more fun!

Good Fences Make Great Neighbors

I’m getting close now so I’m feeling a bit relieved. Even with ongoing rain delays I’m making progress. I installed all the electrical fixtures and this time I spent a little more on Craftsman Style sconces for the porches. Really worth the extra money, check out Lumens.com for some killer stuff. The house numbers and mailbox are from Restoration Hardware again. I replaced the front door with an extra gem I’ve been holding onto after acquiring it from the Hat Trick House last year (some of these old bungalows come with 2 front doors and I always remove one to modernize the floorplan).  I’ll paint it my same brown color when I second coat the porch. This Pine, 6 panel, beveled glass door came from renowned San Antonio developer H.C. Thorman’s personal residence in Mahncke Park that we flipped, it was the first house he built there in 1900 and appropriately on Thorman Place. It looks right at home on our project and seals tighter than new with a modern threshold and new weatherstripping all around. A building envelope test will be coming our way shortly as part of new code changes this year in order to pass final inspections, so the house can’t be drafty.

The 2 ceiling fans on the porch are a nice added touch. Just makes you want to pull up some chairs and have a cold beverage. As you can see I am flying the” Tarrant Realty ~ Coming Soon” sign in the window, we’re getting some warm bites already. I’ve weeded the yard and we’ll be laying out some river rock beds and putting down sod this week while the floors get refinished. 

This door knob is older than you, unless you are 111 years old. It’s the original from our 1900 door that I refurbished. Note the modern weatherstripping, this thing shuts like an airplane door.

 

The tile job kicked my butt but was worth the effort. The hall bath was fairly easy but this master bath stand up shower and tub box seemed to go on for an eternity. I used white subway tile, river rock floor and a modern white/grey marble accent liner. The shower is tiled inside and out and all the way to the ceiling. Custom frameless glass for the door and picture window are on order from Thad Ziegler Glass. If you guys are flipping houses and not putting shower doors on your new showers at least give them a cheapo, so many times I see all this fancy tile work and expensive fixtures in a brand new bathroom with no shower door. It ranks right up there on my pet peeves list with no rods or build out in the walk in closet.  

The see thru fireplace in the master is my sizzle feature on this project, while the tub side of the fireplace is surrounded by white ceramic to match the bathroom, I chose white and grey marble for the master bedroom side. Very romantic to say the least and all with a flip of the switch. There is a direct line of sight from the master bed location through the fireplace, and to the spa tub and into the shower. It’s sure to keep the fire burning in the future owners love life.

 

Good fences make great neighbors. In this case we have really cool great neighbors already but its very common with the older neighborhoods not to have good fencing. Part of my business model with redeveloping these urban properties is not only to give the potential buyer a complete package but also make them feel safe living close to downtown. A 6 foot privacy fence and automatic driveway gate (coming soon) usually does the trick. Any attorney, doctor or young professional could feel safe here and these are our target clients. My friend and I rented a hydraulic auger and jackhammer and it still took us 2 days to dig the 20 holes for this section. Nothing comes easy in the South Texas heat. A menagerie of rocks, roots, glass, and ancient plumbing were thrown our way but nothing can get between a cowboy and building his fence.

Moving Forward Slowly, Holiday Delays

 I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thanks for checking out our house flipping blog this year and a special thanks to the 6000+ returning visitors who find our content interesting and have returned regularly. In this first full year with the website we received over 23,000 new visitors. It’s great to get the comments also; we enjoy the questions and feedback. 2009 was a great year for our company, especially with the success of our project “The Hat Trick House”. It was probably my favorite renovation to date and we set personal records in several areas on this house. In the process we also were able to buy the house right next door “The Neighbor’s House” and are 99% complete with that big rehab and looking forward to an early Spring 2010 sale. Our third and last big deal this year was the purchase of a house we’ve been after for years, “The Target House”. I’m all set roll into 2010 with this big historic renovation as we’ve already handled the demo and foundation leveling so stay tuned if you like house flipping and Craftsman style homes.

I’ve somehow managed to stay busy through the Holidays and have at least some sub contractors show up at Neighbor’s House. As you might have heard from Twitter, the first attempt at the floor refinishing was a bust. The guys had to re-sand them all down again after the stain and clear coat wouldn’t dry due to the weather conditions and did some weird stuff. They really know what they’re doing but I think he was just in a rush and trying to pull it off before Christmas so he could get his final payment. This put us back a week on having the Energy Star appliance package (all stainless of course) delivered but they finally came and wow, what a Cadillac the new Samsung refrigerator is. It’s a grand more than I usually spend but we required a counter depth model for this kitchen design to flow properly. Really nice. I also managed to do most of the landscaping while the floor crew kicked us out, I threw up about 150 feet of fence and brought in 4 yards of top soil, some river rock and 4 pallets of sod. With my energy efficient theme on this remodel I decided to use Bermuda Tiff turf grass instead of St Augustine as it requires way less water and holds up to this Texas heat in the summer. Of course I know all grass is dormant this time of year and arrives brown from the grass farms but it still sucks to put down brown sod and not to get that initial “new yard” look like the summer. The A/C guy stopped by and installed the compressor but the heat isn’t on yet until I can pass finals on Electrical, HVAC and Plumbing and then have the power company come out and set the new gas meter. I am doing a killer driveway gate again this time but this one will be automatic. Should have been installed “before Christmas, I promise” but hopefully it will come this week. Land of Manana here again in good ole SA as a lot of Hispanic workers go to Mexico from Christmas to New Years to be with family. A cool old guy stopped by this week from the area, an 87 year-old millionaire investor. He had heard of me through some local Realtors and came to introduce himself personally and see my work. Of course I love listening to seasoned pros, he told me of a land deal that netted him a million bucks in 3 months time. His parting words were: “There’s one out there for you”, very motivating.

The Final Countdown

We are in the home stretch and shooting for next weekend to be completely done with the Hat Trick House. Woot Woot! As you can see we’ve made great progress this week again completing all the landscaping while the floors were getting done inside.

Front

Back

We used 7 pallets of sod, 4 yards of river rock, 2 truck loads of topsoil, $600 in plants and a yard of black mulch after lining the beds out with the metal edging. All that’s left outside is to paint the front door.

Side

The hardwood floor refinishing is done now as well so we will install appliances tomorrow and get started on the shoe mouldings on the baseboards. The floors came out nice and dark, as we planned. In fact when they first started applying the dark walnut stain it wasn’t dark enough for my liking so I had the guys mix in some black pigment. They look dark and rich now and go well with my interior colors and oil rubbed bronze fixtures.

Floors

We’ve had numerous visitors this week and early inquiries from sign calls. Additionally the neighbor directly beside us put their house on the market Friday so everyone who pulls up to see their house of course sees our “coming soon” sign and walks over to take a gander. Although theirs is in a lower price range and not updated it has enabled us to get some traffic even though we are not in MLS yet. Everyone that’s seen our house has been blown away, one well-respected local realtor predicted that we’ll get $335k. Stay tuned.