Eye Sore House

Years ago, before I really got too far in real estate, I was looking at moving to Humboldt permanently. I got a list of houses, a tolerable real estate agent, and a letter of preapproval for a small housing loan. I began my hunt, but sadly, I never actually bought a house. What I did get was an education on what to look for in houses. One house that I adored was on a nice street, but it looked like a small, dirty, black hole. The fence was falling down. The house needed paint. A broken down truck was parked in the front like a cancer. In short, in what was really a great neighborhood, this house was a blight. Neighbors probably drove by cursing it and grumbling how it was dragging house prices down in their area.

Why did I like it? Because, with a bit of work, in that nice neighborhood, that disgusting house would have doubled its money in months and I would have become an instant hero to my neighbors as I cleaned up and took care of the plague house. In short, from a first time buyer with a limited loan, I would have become a homeowner with a boat load of equity in a house in a good neighborhood with happy, friendly neighbors. What more could I ask for?

This house brought back that memory.

MLS ID#: 238573

I noticed it slouching in the MLS looking as if it was doomed to become another cheap, shabby shack that would house druggies and gang bangers. Someday, its tired porch lamented to me, I will feature in a drug raid as handcuffed people and sobbing children are hauled out my front door. I then went over to check where it is on a map, half expecting it to be in the worst neighborhood in Eureka, but was a bit surprised to find it in a homey area of Myrtletown. This is quite simply THE find of the MLS for the month, if not the year. It is a tiny gold nugget that is presently covered in mud and just needs a bit of cleaning up. It’s in a nice, middle class neighborhood, close to shopping, and it is the worst house on the street, bar none.

Clean-up and Major Structural Work

 

  • The first thing to do is obviously take down that fence so that a huge dumpster can be dropped off so that demo work can begin on that porch. I would take extra care of the vine over the front gate arch so that I can use it later. I have always wanted a lovely arch leading to my front door with a green vine growing over it, so I would take care to preserve it.
  • The porch has to leave. It is an eye sore, a structural mess, and it is shading the front windows. Seeing that there is a lovely tree to the side providing shade already, this porch needs to go away. I would consider bringing it back in a more limited for later,(You know I love a porch to party on with my neighbors!) but for not, it’s got to go.
  • I would also strip off the siding of this house. It goes beyond just needing new paint since the siding doesn’t match. I rather like the horizontal siding, but the change-up to vertical siding just makes my head ache. Small clutter gathering area also needs to be checked for dry rot and can later be expanded into a nice area to entertain in.
  • The roof, from what I can see, looks to be in excellent condition but I would still have a roofing expert take a quick look just to be certain. This is usually part of escrow, so this small detail is little more than a quick peek.
  • To make renovations easier, I would open up the alley access in back as well to allow materials to be dropped off. It’s going to make a mess of the back yard, but I’ll deal with that later.
  • Inside, I would seriously consider where that kitchen is. It looks a bit off, which makes me suspicious that at sometime or another, someone got the idea to renovate and did a bad job. That wall in front of the sink is my main point of suspicion. Someone, I believe, took out a window there. Perhaps it was a matter of dry rot of the old window, but I am guessing that it was covered over. I would punch a window through to lighten this area. I admit that I have been in houses that someone poorly designed so that the kitchen had no window, but those are a rarity. I would of course have a nice garden window put in so my seedlings for the vegetable garden could have a early start.
  • About here is a good time to share another small story with you. At one time, I would have been completely intimidated by the offhand addition of a window.  I imagined the terror of tearing into a wall, saws, electrical wires, horror, horror, and then I watched a man renovate a house I was renting. I noticed something about a bit of dry rot by the kitchen window and offhandedly mentioned it to him in passing. He shrugged, said no problem, and then took whifty little saw, tore out the window and replaced it in less than an hour. Oh, I thought, how easy. Needless to say, I really don’t have that problem anymore, so if I want a garden window above my sink (which I do), I’ll put a garden window above my sink.                                                                             
  • Since I am tearing things apart, those counter tops should go away too. I rather like the rustic wood of the cabinets but see no sign of a dishwasher. This would have to be dealt with. I can’t live without a dishwasher. No one wants to see me live without a dishwasher either, so for the sake of humanity, it’s a priority. I am also not entirely sure what is going on with the cabinets over to the right side. The listing says there is a gas stove, but since I cannot see one, I will assume (probably a mistake to do so, but I like to err on the side of caution) that it is older and needs to be replaced. If it’s good, I think I will still donate or recycle it since I want an upgrade anyway.
  • Before I leave the kitchen, I would also seriously consider expanding the back window (if I am right about the layout of this place). This window can also be seen in the backyard photo. There is no need for it to remain so tiny. I would expand it so, if needed, I could take a peek out back to see if the kids are getting into their usual mischief. It would also make a lovely backdrop for the kitchen table/booth I want in there.
  • Since I am talking windows, all windows would have to be evaluated for weather tightness. This house has a lot of deferred maintenance which might indicate the windows are old and out of date. It would be worth the price hit up front to not have the heating bill later, as well as the colds and sniffles from drafty windows.
  • The next thing to do is the paneling. Why, I have to wonder, do so many of the houses in Humboldt have paneling? Why, God, why? What wrong did Humboldt do to deserve such horror? Well, I could tell you, but that would be a completely different blog. The paneling, wherever it exists in the house needs to be removed and replaced with drywall, except behind the wood burning stove. I would probably put concrete backer board there since I would like to keep that stove but update it to a more modern configuration. After researching the clean, no-surround look that I put in the house in Manila, I believe that it is due to using concrete backer instead of plain drywall. Since space is at a premium in this house, even the tiny but of room that surround and bulky wood stove are costing is too much.
  • I will also point out here that the carpet and flooring that is glimpsed at in the kitchen/dining room, needs to be removed. I can also bet the bathroom’s flooring is likewise miserable and needing a vacation at a recycling plant or something. Remember folks, when renovating, there are actual recycle programs for building materials. Don’t rush to toss stuff in a dumpster that could easily be recycled with a bit of preparation and thought. 
  • I like the idea of a ceiling fan in the living room, but will probably want a more up to date one than the 80’s throwback that is pictured, so it should leave to a local thrift store.
  • Before I head off, there is the mystery room that seems to have both square lights and cheap shop lights. I’ll keep the inset square lights, but the shop lights need to be removed. Personally, I would also evaluate the inset lights for ambiance and probably end up removing those too, to put in canister lights along the edges of the room.`
  • The last bit of trouble I will get into is the basement. The house, as it is, is a two bedroom with this extra room in the basement of about 394 sq feet. Personally, I see a master bedroom here with a door opening to the back yard. With nearly 400 sq feet of room, I think I could sacrifice a few feet for a closet and a master bath. I would double check the plumbing in the main bath, and while doing that, add in the new master bath’s plumbing and location.
  • Since there are no pictures of the bathroom, I am assuming (again) that it is probably your basic dull bath with a insert tub-shower, a bland vanity, and bland toilet. I would strip those out now too. I like luxurious baths and the same old- same old just won’t cut it. If I am wrong and the bath is a horror, stripping it out is probably a blessing.

Interior and Exterior

  • First, it looks like it’s had a bit of a rough time, so it’s time for it to get a vacation and a bit of fun for all. For the exterior, I would first add a deck on the back. I would sweep the deck from one side of the house to the other in the back and have a nice spot for a hot tub. I still like the idea of a hot tub that can be rolled out of the way for a season, so all I really need to do is plan where I most likely will have it and make sure there is an electric outlet for it in that location. If I am correct in the house’s layout, the left window on the back before that weird alcove is the dining room. The kitchen should be that windowless area that looks a bit off kilter and lopsided. Below that is the clutter area that might be part of the basement or even the whole basement depending on how creative the real estate agent was being in the description.  I would use that weird alcove to my advantage and put a doorway in from the kitchen to the proposed back deck. The deck could then be accessed easily and add a bit of pizzazz to the sad back yard. It would also add, with a bit of planning, a small sheltered sitting area off the new master bedroom. I would probably make the deck floor a bit more sturdy than normal to allow for this ceiling effect. I could then enclose the area below with glass and add a concrete covered by wood plank flooring to make a quiet get away for tired parents. 
  • Now that the porch is gone (to the joyous cries from the neighbors) a nice porch can now be constructed in its place. Seeing that this house has a few old fashion bones to it, I think a slightly Victorian style porch could be added. While I want it to sit under during rainstorms (one of my favorite things to do) I would hesitate to make it too big. I see a small porch big enough for two chairs with a bit of gingerbreading in the corners for interest. The porch has from what I can see a step up, so this should flow very nicely from garden to porch to house. I also noted a nice brick path leading up to the porch which should be preserved and perhaps expanded on, but more on that in a few.
  • I like the color blue, but on this house, it’s just too dark. Since I tore off the siding, I think I will replace it with all horizontal siding. First though, I would do a complete house wrap and add ridged foam sheathing to improve the house’s insulation and weather proofing. Over that, I would put insulated vinyl siding. This is a bit more expensive than normal siding, but it adds more insulation to the house, which should cut down on heating bills. It also looks pretty good in the upper end of the price range. I would avoid the lower end though, since it looks nasty, and instead go for a nice, clean yellow that has a tiny bit of overlap to the siding instead of the plank look that looks a bit cheap and dowdy. For trim, I would go with a plain white. For an accent color for the interior trim of windows and the tiny bit of gingerbread, I would go with a nice sapphire blue.
    • I should also point out that these choices are actually rather “green”. While the siding’s PVC isn’t wonderful, it beats out quite a few other choices in the carbon footprint area. If at anytime I chose to remove the siding, I could recycle the siding which is a big plus. Admittedly, some dioxin is produced during its creation, but seeing its lifespan (30-50 years), its ability to cut down on heating costs (thus reducing strain on nonrenewable resources) and its smaller carbon footprint than many other siding options (except perhaps wood which brings up a whole bunch of other concerns about deforestation), I find this to be well within my green limits.
  • Now, inside should be a nice clean slate to start the renovation and I will start with the wood burning stove. I love that they have this, but find that for a 1200 sq foot house (or there abouts) its taking up too much space.  Instead, I would put in the modern and playful Oracle stove by B. Dequet. I adore this stove and with a concrete wall behind it, I would let it strut its stuff against a nicely textured wall and a small tile footing which can be echoed in the kitchen floor that is nearby.
  • For the interior walls, I would use Chandelier Sparkle by Glidden Paint over an orange peel texture. For the door trim, baseboards, and window sills, I would do a semi-gloss Arctic White (again by Glidden). The warm yellow tones will help a lot during dreary, cold, rainy days and add a tiny hint of fun to the house. Since I have brought it up, I’d add a long 10” wide shelf along the upper wall above the pass-through from the dining room and the kitchen. In the corner where the walls meet, I would cut a hole through so there is a circular hole about 8” in diameter from the dining area to the living room. On the other side of the wall, I would again run a shelf along the doorway. Why? Because curious kitties like to keep track of their servants and a run along the top of these two rooms would keep them busy and perhaps out from underfoot. A cat tree in the corner by the stove would provide a nice sleeping spot as well as access to the walkway.
    • If right now you are picturing a beautiful wood stove with a clunky cat tree with its clumsy carpeted tubes and boxes, you should have more faith and go check out the Lotus Cat Tree in Petco. This will delight both kitten and connoisseur with its minimalist lines and comfy perches. Hey, I want to make this house fun, not ugly. The two are not exclusive with a bit of work.
  • I would further extend the cat run down halls and into bedrooms. As the owner of a cat that will bang on the door like a cop in a reality TV show going for a crack dealer if I have the nerve to keep her out, having a way for kitten to get into the room while giving me and my husband privacy from the kids is a dream that I want to have come true. An 8” hole in a wall well above kid range is perfect. I can live with the ambush fantasies my cats will all have and a few more artistic cat trees in bedrooms might minimize the pouncing. I could also put in cat passages at floor level for elderly kittens who don’t want to climb up or fall off the perches.
  • In this house, I want durable floors but I also want carpet. I would look for a textured carpet that has a low plush and a rubberized backing. I might end up over in the world of commercial carpets (Don’t mock them until you see them. Some are quite pretty, though admittedly most aren’t.) but I would also take a look at some of the lines of pet friendly carpets that are both highly stain resistant and have extra protection for easy cleanup of pet and kid inspired messes. For this house, I would go with a slightly darker carpet than usual. I like the Lynngate Nutmeg carpet from Martha Stewart for pattern and color, but would have to explore to see if it comes in a nice pet friendly backing. In the kitchen and bathrooms, I would go with a nice stone like tile such as American Olean’s Kendal Slate Carlisle Black Glazed Porcelain Floor Tile. It’s a bit slate like, but the tile would be easier to keep clean and much flatter than natural stone. It also has a nice color pattern that will go well with the natural wood cabinets that I kept. I also liked Style Selections’ Sedona Slate Cedar tile quite a bit. I would have to see them in person at Lowes to decide on which I would choose.
  • Going into the main bath, I will assume it had to be gutted. That’s fine and good if all that can really be salvaged out of it is the toilet and maybe not even that. Seeing that space is probably minimal, I will bow to convention and do a bath/shower combo. This doesn’t mean I have to suffer though. Go take a peek at an Eagle Bath WS-501 Steam Shower Enclosure with Whirlpool Combo and tell me that my family will be suffering. There is the normal tub size and then there is the beautiful corner size to make sure that I can have plenty of splashy fun no matter what that bathroom looks like. Mind you, I could have the corner one downstairs in the master bath and the smaller one upstairs in the guest bath and get the best of both worlds. This is rather modern though, so to keep up the trend, I’d get a nicely modernistic toilet such as the EAGO WD332 Modern Wall Mounted Dual Flush White Ceramic Toilet, and a nice modern sink but there are so many to choose from. I am leaning towards the Swirl Sink at http://decozilla.com/2013/02/modern-bathroom-sinks/, but am also leaning towards the Fish type Ceramic Sink. Perhaps the nautilus shaped one for the main bath and the fish one for the master bath? Oh, there are just too many good choices and take a look at that black and white bathroom. I adore it. Someday, perhaps, I will find a house that will be worthy of that.
  • To maintain the ambiance, I would keep the walls simple. I might consider Glidden’s Light Champagne for the walls in a semi-gloss to keep that ultra modern feel. White baseboards and incidental trim would set it off very nicely without calling undo attention to the fact that the wall colors just changed. The Light Champagne complements the Chandelier Sparkle, so I won’t have to worry about a badly planned color shift. I’ve been in too many homes that the owners heard that painting rooms different colors was in and didn’t take into consideration that not all colors go well together. A bit of playing with paint chips and advanced planning could cure so many ills…
  • The kitchen is the last of the interior list of things to do. It’s got potential now that there is a window over the sink. By the way, if I am wrong and that’s an interior wall, the solution is simple enough; instead of a real window, install a fake one using glass brick and a built in light that will shine from under or over the bricks. This will add light to the area and give the illusion of the outdoors to an interior spot. Another thought would be to place a custom fish tank above the sink, perhaps, since it is in the kitchen and there are all those cabinets to hide equipment, a small saltwater aquarium would fit nicely in there as well as give a extra perk to another room 
    • The first thing would be to deal with that lighting. Canister lights would be required. I hate cheap overhead lights and that’s all this has. I’d say six canister lights with lights under the sink cabinets and under the lower cabinets to provide workspace illumination. I’d probably do a copper back splash to keep up the tones from the tile with a slate countertop. (I do love those!) I would seriously consider adding a pantry cabinet if there is room on the wall where the light switch is located. I’m not sure what that weird white thing could be, maybe a microwave cart, but it should leave. I could at this time also have any repair work done to the cabinets that would be needed and install my dishwasher.
      • I’d like a Bosch Integra 800 Plus for a dishwasher. I have dealt with a cheapie dishwasher and miss the cleaning power of a Bosch. Honestly, I don’t like washing dishes, so why would I want to wash my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Isn’t that a waste of time? A dishwasher is called a dishwasher because it is supposed to wash the dishes, not add more work to an already busy schedule.
    • For the sink, I would probably go with an under-mount sink in a dark composite to match the slate counters I am already drooling over. I would like to try for the effect of the sink and the countertop being all made of the same material. I would then choose a nice modernistic faucet in a dark metal. I did find a rather funky faucet that looked like a piece of ribbon that went straight up, folded in half, then swept over the sink, but the site was an annoying one that you had to give your life details to look at their things, so I opted out. Let’s just say there are some spectacularly fun and interesting faucet options out there.
    • I would also at this time put in a breakfast nook table/booth with built in benches in the same color as the cabinets with a slate top table. I’d have to have custom cushions made, most likely in seasonal colors (I’m odd like that. I change my house theme for each season, so those cushions would have to be in at least four different colors and patterns.), but the small effort will be an easy clean up with a nook that I could settle into and read during sleepy days. I would also take a moment to add a nice chandelier light to this area for an extra pop.
    • Ah, the stove. Oh, I think I must have a Wolf range for this house with a nice large Sub-Zero refrigerator. I know, I know, it’s pricey as heck, but it would look so lovely. I also cooed a bit at the La Cournue in black or grey for an embarrassingly long time, but I stand firm. I must have the Wolf and Sub-Zero!  If there isn’t room, I can always blast out the living room. I spend most of my time in the kitchen anyway it seems, so who needs a living room?

Landscaping

Now, outside is ready to have amazing things done to it. I’ve already added a deck and a parent get-away, so now on to the business of prettying things up so the neighbors won’t make little gestures when they pass by the house as if warding off the evil eye. Quaint is the word to shoot for. There is mature landscaping that needs a bit of a trim, a vine that will cover a walkway arch, and a beautifully aged brick path to make my job easier.

  • First, let’s do the back yard. It’s pretty basic. It looks like a thousand other yards of busy people with a lawn that is good enough, a few odd things that the owner hoped to get to sooner or later, and a few plants to try and add a bit of cheer. So without further ado, I would hire someone to roto-till the whole mess down and smooth it out. The grass that is there will provide a fine organic fertilizer for the yard to come.  I would probably wait until the late fall to do this so that I could have a few tons (and I mean it literally) of mulch, manure (Preferably horse but cow would be okay if I couldn’t find a willing horse owner to donate manure. They are generally enthusiastic about the prospect of someone hauling away all the horse waste, so this probably won’t be too much of a bother.), and topsoil to make this a bit more welcoming to future plants. There is alley access, so I won’t have to deal with hauling all this from the front of the house. With the ground leveled and tilled, I would plant mock oranges around the deck pilings. Seeing that I upgraded the floor of the deck, I might consider putting in a storage area under the non-parental side, but I’d have to check the headroom before I committed. No matter though, it needs a few tall tree-bushes to hide the underpinnings of the whole thing.
  • You will notice that I haven’t mentioned the fence yet. This isn’t a mistake. I don’t want to deal with that until the major shifting and hauling are finished. However, once done, I would replace the whole thing with redwood fencing. I don’t think I would play too much with it though since the neighbors have probably been traumatized enough. A simple redwood fence, with perhaps a nice decorative (but simple) top will suffice.  The fence in the front would need replacing too. I think a simple chain link fence would be best with roses clambering along it and an archway over the front walk with a locking gate to keep wandering toddlers in. I would make the arch taller than the present one so people won’t feel they have to duck to walk through. Though it isn’t shown, the neighbors to the left and the driveway of that house are a bit of a muddle. I would fix this if possible by dividing things with a nice 6’ wood fence with a foot to a foot and a half decorative topper. There is alley access in the back of the property and this could be turned into the primary parking for the house, leaving street parking for guests and more room for play area in the front yard. House access would be up the stairs to the deck, but the car is out of the way and a little exercise (and a few moments to make sure the deck steps won’t become slippery in rain) is good for the soul.
  • I like the idea of adding a garage to this house in the back and opening the front yard up for play space. The chicken coop can be built at the same time as the garage with the added bonus of being able to use any scrap from the garage to make a good solid, wind-proof coop. Bunnies and vegetable garden area can take up a lot of the rest of the yard space. Believe it or not, a nicely planned veggie garden can be exquisite, with the addition of having late fall and winter foraging for curious and entertaining chickens, it can become a year round interest as each season marches past. I think a house-like garage would fit nicely back there and still be worth looking at since it’s going to be up close to the house. I would also paint it to match the house with yellow siding and white trim.
  • I would level the front yard and add mulch and organics(perhaps let the roto-tiller man deal with that too) but keep that lovely walk safe. Any other walkway will need to go away. I am going to want hydrangeas over to the right of the yard where the right side of the house steps back and gardenias under the front windows. I adore the white hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ (H.arborescens ‘Annabelle’) I would also have white lilac bushes/trees (Syringa vulgaris) on either side of the front porch.
  • The side yard by the neighbors where I put the tall wood fence will need a concrete slab to control weeds and it may just have enough space to store the garbage bins and a few tools. I would look into making a small overhang here just for that purpose.
  • Along the front fence line, I would go wild with climbing roses. I think I might continue the theme and find a few shy white roses. I am wildly in love with ‘Madame Hardy’, or ‘Félicité Hardy’ damask roses. These are so amazingly lovely that I would cherish them for each blossom they put out. I don’t know however if they would like to live in that shady area though, but I hope they would do well. If they don’t, I would promptly go find the Alba rose. I’ve seen these beauties clamber over fences enthusiastically.
  • The yard, after being plowed under, fertilized with horse pucks, and mulched would be replanted with either bent grass or white clover. I am actually leaning towards the clover. It is low maintenance and quite prolific. I also like the idea of bent grass. It’s the stuff of golf courses and can with proper maintenance be quite durable and soft. I really dislike some of the more popular grasses since they leave cut marks and scratches on my skin. Clover and bent grass are both very soft.
  • The last step would be to simply put a small BBQ area at the side of the house. I would rather have this at the back to be honest, and probably would have a BBQ there, but I would like the option of having a lawn/porch party and have an area where the BBQ could be rolled out to for some quick hot dog grilling.

So, goodbye sad, little eyesore, and hello bright, cheery, happy house. There is now a front yard for kids and pets to frolic in and a living room with an exquisitely beautiful, wood burning stove to both catch the eyes and keep the house warm. Perches for cats to prowl about the house, a kitchen with the latest luxuries and a cozy booth to curl into during rainy days, a deck with a hot tub, a rampaging veggie paradise, a parent hideaway, and a cute little garage are also present.  At the end of the remodel, this house which is presently in the bargain basement, would be worth double, if not triple the investment I would put into it (except for the stove and the fridge, but those would probably come with me so I could worship them in other locations.)

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