Mid-Century Modern Before/After Video

Here’s the full before and after slideshow of our Mid-Century Modern remodel, (6 minutes) Hope you enjoy!

MCM Out of This Galaxy

My Mid-Century Modern renovation is done and truly is out of this world! 2 days ahead of the construction schedule and it came out just as nice as my conceptual design. This extensive rehab took just over 11 weeks to complete and went as smooth as Astro butter. You can see I added the final modern features out front like the frosted front door and horizontal wood panel with the house numbers illuminated by the up/down cylinder sconce. A matching stainless steel mailbox and doorbell finished it off and tied everything together with the full-view Amarr garage door. Here are the after photos of our “1962 Leonard Drogin” Mid-Century Modern San Diego ranch house in all its glory. Hope you enjoyed the project, its now listed for sale MLS# 120016356 for $599,000 and ready for a new buyer to bring in some Eames chairs, put on some Sinatra and roll over the drink cart for some Martinis. Open House this weekend Saturday and Sunday from 12-3. 4841 Sparks Avenue San Diego, CA 92110. Buyers without agent representation call Green Button Homes LLC @ (619) 565-7475 for a showing.

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.

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.

Wet Paint

It was time to give the exterior of our MCM project some love this week to catch it up to the inside. We spent a day prepping the wood trim and then I sprayed it with primer and finally 2 shades of grey paint. Most of the house is stucco except for the t&g eaves and wood trim around the front windows and garage, its nice to see all of the old colors go away. I wanted to paint everything first before the stucco color coat so there would be no possibility of over spraying it and minimize taping stuff off. This house was in really good shape and with all the wood we replaced it really was a breeze to prep for paint.

The stucco guys came on Friday right behind us and color coated the whole house. I decided against the white stucco and want to stay with modern shades of grey so I picked Cloud Grey stucco color. After it dried, it ended up being a little too close to the rest of my trim colors so I think next week we’ll go back with a darker grey to accent the beams and rafter tails which will give me more dimension. Since we are painting ourselves its really no big deal to make changes on the fly, its sometimes really hard to get it right without putting colors up to see how they look together. I had big plans on getting the kitchen put together now then jumping outside and doing the fence while we waited for our countertops to get fabricated, but Ikea is having a 20% off sale that starts Friday so I’ll be saving $1,000 by waiting until Friday morning to buy the cabinets. It looks like now we’ll stay outside all week and do the fence, weather permitting. The garage door gets installed Tuesday and we’ll probably put the front door on right after that too, to get the full new frosted affect. My electrician is also coming back this week to put in all the fixtures and trim everything out. A little change in the order of doing things but as long as we keep busy knocking out big stuff we’ll get there soon.

Modern Glass Tile and Renewable Bamboo Floors

Finally some fun stuff is going in the house. To stay in the Mid Century Modern theme I did mosaic in the master shower, but an updated spin on what was there originally. Glass mosaic tile is really hot right now for MCM house design and there are fun new retro patterns available if you search. After looking around at my local tile stores nothing really fit the bill because I wanted this new trendy, spacey-looking random pattern.  You definitely wont see these materials in any other rehabs locally. I found this glass mosaic in LA for $5.99/sf so I drove up and bought everything this week. I’m using another new product for grout on the glass called Star Glass, its actually recycled crushed glass in a urethane base. It’s a flexible, non-cement, non-porous grout and wont ever fade or stain. It’s real expensive and was primarily reserved for commercial applications until recently discovered by interior designers. Its translucent and reflective and seems to disappear when applied to glass tiles instead of contrasting heavily like even a normal white grout would do. Using glass tile like this is great, what I don’t like anymore is seeing when just a glass mosaic 4″ strip is used as a shower or tub surround accent liner. Look at some of my older bathroom remodels if you don’t know what I’m referring to!

In the hall bath above I went with a frosted 3×6 glass tile but set it in a stacked pattern which looks more modern than subway pattern. I ran it all the way up to my new vaulted ceiling lid for a more expansive feel in what is really a modest bathroom size. I also laid a 12×24 charcoal grey porcelain tile for both bathroom floors which is very popular in modern bathroom design right now. This grey will go with anything and basically just disappear when the bathrooms are done and all the chrome hardware goes in. I set the floors butt-joint also to look cleaner and eliminate grout lines. The glass mosaic in the master also has grey in it so it tied in perfectly. The floating vanities you’ll see go in soon are also high gloss grey.

We also got started installing the hardwood floors. I wanted to go with Bamboo for this house for its durable nature and the fact that’s its 100% renewable and considered a Green building product by LEED standards. Bamboo is harvested every 5-6 years while normal trees in a forest take 40-60 years to mature. This product is also of the newer version of Bamboos that has been stranded and carbonized. You don’t see the old cheap style bamboo pattern and there is no wear layer, its the same material all the way through. I bought it at Simple Floors for $3.15 s.f. and decided on paying a sub contractor another $2/sf to install it to speed up my project. This Bamboo requires glue down installation because its so hard that you will bend nails trying to nail it. The color I found is as close to my cedar ceilings as possible, and I laid it the long way to match the tongue and groove ceiling direction.  The white walls are totally working now that I’ve obtained so much warmth and color from the surrounding natural materials.

Cedar Crossroads

Right on track we are moving into the interior paint job on our Mid Century Modern renovation. Up top on the Cedar tongue and groove ceiling, I was at a crossroads this week with regards to what product I should use on it after all that work sandblasting it raw. Cedar is a soft wood with natural tannins in it, so any oil based poly or urethane would certainly make the wood darker which I didn’t want to do. There were many options such as linseed oil, wood wax, polyurethane, acrylic sealer, Danish oil, etc. Also some thick poly’s will yellow over time and darken the wood. I ended up using Satin Deft Acrylic Wood Finish from Home Depot. I sampled this product also in semi-gloss and gloss but it came out a little hazy for my liking. I couldn’t spray the Deft Finish and get enough penetration so it had to be applied thick with a roller and then back brushed in order to get into the open grains.

It came out really good, highlighting the natural color and grains and doesn’t look too plastic-like or shiny. The walls are also now in primer with Glidden PVA drywall primer. We are applying it with a 1/4″ nap roller and then sanding between coats in order to keep our smooth texture and not add roller stipple.  On the walls I’m going with Decorator White by Behr this time in flat for the whole house, except I’ll switch the sheen to satin in the kitchen and bathrooms.  With my wood ceilings and floors there’s no chance of the house looking too sterile with the white walls. Next up we’ll be spraying all the interior doors and trims with the color Sherwin Williams Snowbound in semi-gloss. The beams in the house now have the first coat of Behr Olive Leaf in satin on them as you can see. The dark green next to the natural reddish Cedar is really contrasting and looks dramatic and especially period correct.

My new stucco guy came this week to do all the patching around my aluminum windows and doors we put in as well as scratch and brown coat the front of the garage where we covered the existing paneling. After 2 days of showing up after 9 am by himself, he finally brought in a helper and they knocked it out. I look to hire sub contractors who are there at 7:30, bust ass all day like we do, and not drag it out. There are really 2 kinds of contractors out there, the hard working, taking care of business hungry guys and then the ones that seem to drag everything out and want to make small talk with you all day.

When he opened his air compressor line to bleed out the tank on my new driveway I almost lost it. You guys who have air compressors know that the air inside the tank is usually oily and rusty and will stain anything it drains out on. There is a job site etiquette that most guys follow but this guy clearly doesn’t see the big picture. When I called him out on it he mumbled something about it being a “flip” to one of my workers, as if that puts my job in a different category of service from him. Don’t get me wrong we have fun at work but I don’t think I’ll be using this guy again no matter how good the price or end product is. This year I am really concentrating at building the best team possible which will make my business run smoother for the future. It’s a continual battle, first you find sub contractors and then you start switching them out for better ones. Like anything else, the good sub contractors are always busy. The B grade ones will usually be the guys you find first.

Don’t forget to tune into my interview on Blog Talk Radio Monday night at 8 PM PST hosted by Jim The Realtor. You guys can actually call in to the show using the 1-800 number if you aren’t too shy or type me house flipping and design questions live. If you miss it we’ll have a podcast available after the show. Here’s a link to listen live tomorrow night:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/jim-the-realtor/2012/02/14/tom-tarrant-on-btr-with-jim-the-realtor

MCM Window Shopping

I’m really excited about the Milgard aluminum windows I picked out for this house and have to say I’ve removed tons of aluminum windows but this is the first time I’ve ever put them In. They are a modern energy efficient version of what we took out. With my right hand man Barney, we got them all installed including the 6 foot and 8 foot patio doors in a day and a half. These are new construction windows meaning you have to break the stucco back to install them using nailing fins. Putting them in is easy but the most important part is getting new flashing behind the old felt paper and using Jiffy Seal around them for a good seal. When breaking out your old ones try not to damage the wire mesh or felt paper. There’s a lot of guys flipping houses in San Diego and throwing in retrofit or vinyl lip windows. Believe me, you don’t want to put in vinyl retrofit windows, they will not hold air and warp in less than 10 years. I know because I have them in my house!

For our Mid Century project I wanted to get the stream-lined modern minimalist look so the aluminum was a clear choice. I wanted to use a mixture of casement and awning windows on this project so the master bedroom window was a perfect candidate to replace the old huge slider with a fixed window and 2 casements on the sides. I was able to put together a custom front window also with an awning on the bottom and slider on the top as seen here. I almost went with a really cool look – triple awning on the front, but thought there might not be enough air flow on those hot San Diego summer nights with no A/C so I played it functionally safe and put sliders in the secondary bedrooms as well. Since we are re-stuccoing the whole house I also took this opportunity to break out and replace all the old crawl space vents as you can see at the bottom of the top picture.

After price shopping around at 4 places I ended up getting the best deal at Home Depot. These are special order windows and take 3-4 weeks to arrive so you want to order them as soon as possible so they don’t slow your project down. For orders over $2500 you can request special pricing from the Home Depot Bid Room. Just ask to do so at the Millworks or Contractors desk. In my case they knocked off another 14% and with no delivery charge I ended up paying about $3600 for all the windows including a 6 foot and 8 foot patio door. These windows are of course low E and dual pane. The patio doors were a little more tricky because the frames come in 4 pieces but easy for anyone to do and they installed like a dream. They shut so good it sounds like an airplane door.

I tried out a new drywall patching crew this time and am super happy with the results. They cut out everything square, patched all my Swiss cheese holes from running the mechanicals, and then skim coated the entire house with a new 90% smooth texture. They also had to redo some of the window and door returns from our install, so it was nice to have them there fixing stuff as we were putting in the windows. The inside is ready for paint now, everything is really going smooth with this house. I’m off to the recycle yard with the old aluminum windows now for a nice bonus check for helping the environment!

MCM Mechanicals

We are staying pretty much on track at the Mid Century Modern renovation, this week we updated and changed around the mechanicals of the house to fit our new design. After my old plumber didn’t show up, I moved on and hired a new guy which really handled business. To prep the exterior for the new stucco job we also had the house sand blasted. You cant put new stucco over paint. I always find it best to do this before you put your new windows in if possible so you don’t accidentally blast them too! Next up for this week is put the new windows and rear sliders in, patch all the drywall and then we’ll be ready for interior paint and tile. We’ve had several interested buyers already stopping by, just wait until they see the dramatic change that will soon take place!

Real First Week MCM

This was the real first week inside our MCM renovation now that the concrete guys are out of the way. The first thing I did was to get my roofer started, it turned out to be a little larger job than anticipated, 3 layers of tear off instead of what I thought was only 2. I put a GAF lifetime roof on and used a lighter color, Birchwood this time. Its going to go well with my grey tones on the exterior. While the roof was getting done we also finally did the demo inside.

During the week I also did some minor framing changes as previously discussed. An opening between the kitchen and living room was the most dramatic but from a functional standpoint the bathroom changes were probably more important. Both bath doors got enlarged and moved over to accommodate larger vanities and I ended up vaulting the hall bath lid to give a larger feel. The wall between the hall bath and the utility room also got moved over 6 inches to make enough room for the tub with the new door opening location. I also changed all the rotten sub floors in the wet locations. All this is stuff that you’ll never see but its really more important than the nice stuff that covers it up. The electrician and plumber also got started roughing in the new mechanical upgrades, a new 200 amp service and the water heater relocation to the garage to make more room for the kitchen cabinetry.

Primarily, to get the ceilings ready for my new stain I had my sandblasting guy, who normally does exteriors for stucco prep, come and blast the tongue and groove cedar and exposed beams. They came out killer now as you can see. I’m still pretty sure I’m going to go with a transparent green stain but I’ll do a test area and see how it looks. Its so clean now even just a clear coat would be cool but it might look too “rustic mountain cabin” for my taste..

Over in South Park we had the big time survey done by Mike Curren for the site plan. This survey measures your lot by satellites down to the fraction of the inch and he marks the property lines. He also established the benchmark for grade for use on the building plan elevations. This way there is no question when we go to submit plans to the City. After playing with several floorplan options this week it became apparent we have to go 2-story to get the square footage I need as well as a garage. We also got the necessary Soils Report performed this week. I had to have a hole dug 2′x3′ and 4′ deep. Then we hired Soiltesters to come out and do the test. I was worried that because of the canyon location and slope of the lot that we could have had fill in some areas which would cause us to use deeper footings, but as it turns out the fill is only 18″ deep. The soil report will call for the new footing to be at least 12″ into native soils, which are the sandstone that is redish in appearance. You can see in the hole I dug where the soil changes color about 18″ down. This guy looks like a soil tester doesn’t he? We are still working on the floorplan, I’ll share the preliminary version as soon as we get close. Finally we get to build a house for ourselves! Thanks for following!

Mid Century Modern Concrete

Well I wish I had some images of cool flat panel cabinets, modern fixtures, new hardwood floors, glass tile back-splashes and shiny new objects but first things first. Normally, I do the concrete flat work last but since its part of the structural scope of this job I wanted to get it out of the way so when I get inside and start patching I know nothing is going to move.

We removed the entire garage floor, driveway and even part of the City sidewalk due to the Pepper tree roots. Once the floor was out we fixed 6 cracks in the stem wall and then removed 6″ of soil to make room for the new thicker slab. First we laid down plastic sheeting for moisture and then 6″ of clean sand to prevent possible expanding soils to pop up the new floor later. Finally we doweled #4 rebar into the existing house foundation, stem wall and all perimeter concrete flat work securing it with epoxy. It took 25 yards of the best 2500 psi big rock concrete you can buy and 6 finishers but we completed the pour in one day.

The big exterior load bearing beam was also rotten from water damage. Looking around the neighborhood at the same floor plan houses, a lot of homeowners just added a post and cut the long beam off. I wanted to really retain the original look of the house so we rebuilt it as it was originally done. I’m probably the only one on the block that has it back correctly now. This beam was a 4″x12″x26′ and weighed 400 pounds. It only cost 200 bucks and was easy to replace once we broke the stucco and supported the roof with a temporary wall. Windows, exterior doors and garage door are all on special order. The new roof is coming next, believe it or not I haven’t even done demo yet inside, stay tuned we’ll eventually get to the shiny new objects!

Ready for Blast Off!

Here’s the house design I came up with for my new Mid-Century Modern project. As you can see I’m breathing some modern life into the great house while leaving the original lines untouched. All these materials I’m adding really play well with the space-age architecture of the 1960’s and should hit a young, hip & sophisticated buyer perfectly. I love this style house, American culture was obsessed with space travel in the 1960’s and it showed through in a lot of house and furniture design. Some of the interior fixtures like the Sputnik Light I’m considering look like something out of George Jetson’s house. My big change to the facade is the tongue and groove Cedar siding that I’m strategically placing in the center, the stained Cedar warms up the stark white modern stucco and sterile aluminum windows and garage door, while still following the horizontal planes of the original architecture. I’m going frosted glass on the front door with a little more matching wood on the frame to tie it in. The house numbers and front porch lights will also be brushed aluminum to add a nice finishing modern touch.

I did a walk through video also to show the scope of work. Evidently we’ve started to develop a little bit of a following here in San Diego for our home remodeling, 2 interested parties have already emerged and showed interest in buying this home when its completed. As we get in the home stretch anyone is welcome to come see it before it hits the market. Demo started today on the garage floor and driveway, stay tuned and follow along as we get into some Mid-Century Modern fun for 2012. Happy New Year!

New Mid-Century Modern Project

Here we go again, I picked up this killer house right in our neighborhood of Bay Park this week. It’s a 1962 4 bedroom, 2 bath 1650 s.f. with attached 2 car garage. It’s literally less than a mile from my house and untouched nor updated, the architecture is perfect for a Mid-Century Modern renovation. M.C.M. is becoming very popular and you don’t see many people doing them, so its going to be fun as well breaking out from our normal material choices and trying a whole new look for this project. The house is in a great area and on a culdesac, the only negative is that there is a huge private school & play ground right over the rear fence. I’m just going to have to find that buyer who works all day and loves the house so much they look past it.

Some of the ideas I have so far are all new aluminum windows and rear sliders from Milgard, they actually look real modern and I’ll use a mix of casement and awning windows where egress permits. Kinda funny, this will be the first time I actually put aluminum windows in, and don’t take them out. The front door will be frosted glass and the main facade feature will be an Amarr aluminum commercial style garage door with frosted glass panels as well. Both bathrooms will get fully gutted and have floating vanities. In the all new kitchen I’ll be opening the wall with a peninsula between the living room, for a long bar top and the new sink and dishwasher location.  That back wall where the sink is now, will be a clean wall of sleek euro style cabinets with a gas range in the middle and stainless vent hood, with no visible microwave. I’m seeing the frosted glass backslash looking killer here as well, as much as I dislike glass accent tile. Besides opening the wall up between the kitchen and living room and taking off a few interior doors, there’s not really any big floor plan changes as I want to also stay in period and these gems have wide open spaces and great flow anyway. I’m thinking an under mount sink, possibly something other than granite for the counters, and bamboo floors throughout the whole house with no carpet. I’ll probably keep the walls white inside and do another dark warm color on the beams, really similar to how it currently looks. Outside I’m thinking of sophisticated shades of gray with a light body color. I’m doing all of this on a pretty tight budget so I cant get too crazy. The kitchen will be flipped from my usual style, with warm wood cabinets and light counter tops.

The architecture of mid-century modern is marked by discipline. The house has such killer style, I’ll play off the original architectural theme of continuous planes of materials and keep everything clean and minimalist. The wide open spaces, big overhangs, exposed beams and tongue and groove ceilings are really going to look neat once its got all new cosmetics. The driveway and garage floor have severe cracks from the nearby Pepper tree so I’ll have to cut it down and re-pour the entire garage floor and part of the driveway and it’s also time for a new roof as well. Escrow closes before New Years so stay tuned for some fun Mid-Century Modern fun!

Mid Century Modern Making a Splash

One things for sure, in every city across America you’ll find an abundance of 50’s ranch houses in great established neighborhoods and San Diego is no different. The post war Ranch style house is know for its sprawling lay out and horizontal orientation with the street, usually being single story and having an attached 2 car garage as this was the first decade where families actually had 2 cars. Low profile roof lines and fairly open floorplans are also indicative of this time period as are huge overhanging eaves and exposed beams. Sliding glass doors leading to outdoor patios were first introduced in this era as well. Looking at these homes makes you realize how perfect these traits align themselves with todays homebuyer, even 50 years later.  

Recently its become very popular to put the modern twist on these homes. Being in San Diego now I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the Craftsman Bungalow affair we had in Texas but with what I’m seeing done to these 1945-1968 Ranchers its looking pretty fun. You’ve got the large rooms, open beams and open floorplan. To get the modern element into the exterior all you need are aluminum windows, smooth stucco and some natural elements such as stained redwood or teak. These style homes already typically have minimal exterior ornamentation. Metal windows, dark wood and frosted glass, Bam. You got it. I really like this house a friend showed me this week during our property hunt, I’m so excited about this design style I think I’ll try my hand if I land a rancher. The interiors are semi-minimalist but Modern with clean lines, high end finishes and trendy material choices, no travertine here. Formica countertops were also introduced during this period but there’s a variety of other new materials of course that mimic the clean, smooth look for counters.    

Hopefully I’ll find the right house to transform into a Mid Century Modern project, were making tons of offers. REO’s, short sales, traditional equity sales and to private party non-mls stuff. Somethings bound to stick soon, stay tuned.