15 years ago we bought the ugly duckling house on the beautiful block. All we saw was the charm and potential of our little Victorian. Based on what little bit of research I’ve done, our house was probably built in the 1880s by two young Irish brothers named McElnay. The original footprint was a single story 4 room house. It probably didn’t have much of a kitchen, and the potty was out back. It was built simply in the style of the time, but simply at that time included plaster walls, beautiful wood trims and moldings, and high ceilings with ceiling medallions. Before we bought it, the house was added to and remodeled so that what was once a 900 square foot home with a wrap around porch grew to nearly 1800 square feet. Not big by today’s standards, but definitely big enough for us. Between 1880 and 2014 we believe that 4 families have lived in our house. First the McElnays, then the Brunner family, before us the Kahlers, and finally my family. The earliest photo I have of the house is above, from about 1935 when the Brunners owned the house. See the cobblestone street? Grandpa Brunner was apparently very proud of his roses and grew them in both the front and back gardens.
During and after WWII the house was subdivided and most of it was rented out to servicemen. We have found 3 different locations for kitchens during the course of our renovations. Grandma Brunner lived in the front bedroom at one point and used the closet for a kitchen (I presume her husband had died). Sometime during their tenure much of the wraparound porch was enclosed to create a sunroom on one side and a closet on the other.
But back to the ugly duckling part. When we bought the house everything was pink, the windows were all aluminum framed, the 12′ ceilings were dropped to 10′ and a step and wrought iron railing were added in the living room. The fireplace was gone (presuming there was one), there was vinyl flooring and shag carpet everywhere, and the beautiful wood trims had all been removed and replaced with 3″ flat oak trim. Apparently the family before us was enamored with the tract home style of the 60s, and I don’t mean the cool designs of people like Eichler. So over the course of 15 years we’ve moved a few walls, remodeled every room, updated systems, replaced windows and tried to fix what was ugly and broken.
The final room (and it’s really silly that it’s the final room since it’s the room we use the most) was the kitchen. We began that remodel in late 2011. I’d done a virtual remodel at least 2 dozen times (tearing down a wall in Autocad is much cheaper than it is in real life). We settled on a plan and our god-like general contractor came and executed it. Unfortunately my dad got ill mid-remodel and we took a bit of a hiatus before being able to finish. Last year Steve and I finally installed our tile backsplash to finish (well almost….I still need to add undercab lights) the project. Now I have a beautiful kitchen to go with the rest of our once again adorable Victorian home.
And I’m going to enter it into the This Old House reader remodel. Once I take some photos with something besides my iPhone, I’ll upload them. Suffice it to say there is no pink.
Keep in touch (and enjoy the California rain),