Restoration - how far do you go?

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Restoration - how far do you go?

Postby modernhopeful » Fri Nov 12, 2004 7:31 am

As I progress on my house, almost every decision comes down to "how far do I want, need, or should go?" For example, Sid's - there are confusing opinions of the right way to do something. Another example is the recent post about mid-century modern railings, where "PreserveLA" said: "...in the absence of having an original design, you may not want to install a new railing that someone might mistake for being original. To do so would be to risk creating a false sense of history."

I see people complain about horrors their homes former owners committed, and I don't want to make the same mistakes. Although I think I have great taste and respect for the time period and architecture, I remain worried that I'm making mistakes by choosing the wrong method or process, or having a tradesperson who doesn't have the same respect for the place as I do.

Where is my users manual!

Simple things, like keeping my bathtub which was original, don't worry me near as much as the gaping hole where there was a sink!

I'm interested in what everyone thinks of as their personal guiding principal for restoration, or if you have found any great advisors or resources to help guide you...

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restoration

Postby ValleyModern » Fri Nov 12, 2004 10:02 am

I think that your responsibility to restore in part depends upon the historical significance of the property. A home by John Lautner, perhaps, might call for a painstaking restoration, while for a Palmer & Krisel home in a tract of one hundred others, such a restoration might not be as important. In Los Angeles, with housing being such a valuable commodity, tracts of architect-designed homes must still serve the masses as they were originally intended to do. One of my personal missions is to try and help the modern home buyer address his/her needs in a way that is respectful to the architecture of the home. If technology will allow me to have no window coverings on the huge expanses of glass in my home while not frying the interior and also shutting out the sound of planes overhead, then I will certainly replace the windows in my home without changing their appearance, as opposed to restoring the originals. I would discourage anyone from removing original cabinetry, changing the floor-plan, painting stained surfaces etc, but understand that people want modern appliances, new flooring, or an alternative to worn Formica. In fact, I feel that some respectful modernization of architect-designed tract homes actually works toward the cause of preservation, as it helps to retain the homes usefulness and relevance, which would hopefully keep them standing and largely unaltered. That being said, I think it’s great to see someone take all the time, money and care to restore a lesser-known as though it were a Lautner. Anyone who can, should do it.

Craig Terrien
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Postby KevInBoots » Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:48 am

I struggle with a lot of the same issues. My 1963 house has some great mid-century modern elements, but it wasn't designed by anyone special, and much of it was done in a fairly generic manner. This was not an 'amazing house' the day it was built, so for me the key is trying to emphasize the parts that are right, and put some modernist love into the other parts.

In my case (using the stair rail example), I'd actually love to be able to make changes that are so good and true that people might think they were original to the house. My house isn't remotely historical, so I don't worry about creating a false sense of history. I worry more about being internally consistent with the design esthetic.

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Restoration

Postby Josquin » Fri Nov 12, 2004 3:51 pm

The first question that comes to my mind, when I think of restoration, is whether or not the restoration creates a better house both aesthetically and for living. My house originally had a small galley kitchen in the center of a living/dining area. The kitchen was designed so only one person could work in the space. It was closed off from both the living and dining area with only a counter height pass through. Before I purchased this house the original kitchen was removed to the dining area to create one large open dining/kitchen/living space. This arrangement works really well on a daily basis and for family gatherings or parties. I used to live in a 1920's farm house with a small enclosed kitchen. Everyone would gather in the kitchen making it nearly impossible to cook. I firmly believe in a more open kitchen that communicates with the rest of the living areas. The time of cloistered housewives is over. I will never restore the original kitchen, but I will remove the country oak cabinetry and the white tile counters and backsplash in the current kitchen and try to restore the look of the original unadorned mahogany cabinetry in keeping with the original aesthetics of the house. What is with the white tile counter tops? I see them all the time and they are impossible to keep clean, if you do any cooking.

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Postby modernhopeful » Sat Nov 13, 2004 12:16 am


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Postby KevInBoots » Sat Nov 13, 2004 11:18 am


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Postby modernhopeful » Sun Nov 14, 2004 12:18 pm

I think the idea of living in there a year before anything major is a good one for both the house and my checkbook! In fact it might be an necessity!

It's odd - there were once a good number of these homes on Denny Ave. (between Oxnard and Victory) in North Hollywood, but driving down the street today you wouldn't know it because so many of them have been remodeled out of existence. I'm not sure pedigree is the best word to describe what this house has - because it was designed as part of a little community of small (940 Sq. Ft.) homes and is usually overlooked by Neutra fans. The porch on the side was turned into a laundry room that I KNOW is going away, it throws the proportions of the house off. The front facade now does not suggest anything interesting - but the back facade, with a strip of windows from one side to the other, is pure Neutra. Neutra built by a tract home builder in 1943, that is.

For me, it was the most amazing thing I could ever have purchased for under $400,000, which is why I keep pointing people to Noho - there were nice, interesting houses (not ones by name architects but nice flat roofed mid century homes) for next to nothing coming on the market each week in August when I was looking.

That message about not doing something in the railings of that home that would be mispercieved as original struck a chord with me because most of my plans for the house involve adding in custom built in furniture. I like the idea of giving this house the Neutra touches it didn't get when it was built because it was a tract home. But now I wonder if that is a mistake?

Well, I'm painting today. The bathroom was just too far gone (and was a 1960's era remodel) to want to live with. The holes in the walls were a problem ;-) I'm getting excited because it's looking great. Thank you all for help - I think this has been one of the best guides I've had for how to approach things!

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Postby morbank » Sun Nov 14, 2004 1:43 pm

I have similar issues as you, being a newer owner of an Eichler. This house was never remodeled by the original owner and we bought it in a stage of originality that was starting to fail.
There definitely is much to consider when thinking about restoration, renovation, or remodeling. I think there are places in the house where restoration may be a better choice to renovation, an vice versa. For example, we had an original kitchen with the exception of a new dishwasher. We kept it original and plan to keep that way as long as possible. Of course now living here over a year I cannot tell you how much I hate electric stovetops!!! If we plan to improve the kitchen at some point we will most likely renovate, which in my mind, means resurfacing existing cabinetry and replacing sink with similar. However, the floor was another situation. There was 1900 sq. ft of vinyl composition tile that wreaked of dog piss from the padding and carpet that was placed over it. It was all cracked around the entire perimeter from carpet tacks. There was no way to save it. However, it did not make sense to us to replace it with the same, mainly because we had had vct tile before and with children and dogs it wasn't an easy floor to maintain. We opted to pour a thin concrete layer over the existing slab (which was stained and cracked). I don't think that Eichler and his architects would have ever envisioned concrete floors in a tract house like this, but to us it was a way to renovate without little effect to the house. If it was ever sold again, anyone could come right in and slap down some VCT tile. That's no consolation to our neighbors whose Eichler has a 70's brick kitchen that looks like it came from Round Table Pizza. Another issue for us is the wall that separates our family room and kitchen from the dining room and living room. It's great to keep young kids rounded up in the family room, as I suspect was the intention of the architects. However, we've now seen a number of Eichlers where the wall has been partially or entirely removed and the houses look FANTASTIC, airy, twice as large. If we plan to live here another 18 years until our children are out of the house, then I wonder why I have to be so concerned about historical preservation. It's not like I'm adding victorian moulding to the house. But then again tearing down a wall is a huge remodel. I'm sure you can relate to these dilemnas!
I think there are different degrees of restoration and renovation that is appropriate to each house. And remember that you have to live in it, so make it something you can enjoy above all else. And regarding the railing issue, if the original rail is falling apart and you replace it, you will have to adhere to today's codes (the rails must be closer together now) so you won't even be able to provide a "false sense of history."
Good luck!!

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Let your house tell you...

Postby sid » Sun Nov 14, 2004 3:56 pm

Yes, the jury is still out on my house; therefore, I will err on the side of caution. Having said that, I recently contracted with a Santa Monica modern/minimalist architect and he couldn't believe how pristine the lines of the house were and that nothing structural strayed from the posts and beams. To him the house has the scent of A. Quincy Jones, however, the builder is Dean Thomas who is nowhere to be found to confirm our notion. Anyway, my architect gave me a boost with his analysis of the house!

Back to my texture coat question and the gist of the original posting, I will replace the siding and there will not be a spec or sign of the texture coat, or that it was ever applied. I must admit that I have slept better at night knowing that I am this committed, and no it's not cheap, but just seems right - IN THIS CASE.

It's funny though, as noted in Joe's reply, I am taking liberties in the bathroom. I'm glad that makes sense to the guys who really know what their talking about.

In case anyone is interested, I just had my mahogany kitchen cabinets "restored" and the guy who did it blew me away with his ability to make my kitchen look like a model home from 1960. And no, I will not be replacing the formica counter tops.

I know I'm going on, so I'll close with this. After living in this house for just over a year I become more amazed at the simplicity of its design and I want to preserve it's integrity and enjoy it's lovely flow. I guess the best advice I could give is to wait awhile before making any changes and think it through, ask others and let the house tell you what your next move should be...

SID

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Postby modernhopeful » Mon Nov 15, 2004 7:37 am


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I did a drive by

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Last edited by modfan on Tue Nov 16, 2004 10:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby L.A.kevin » Tue Nov 16, 2004 8:17 am


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modernhopeful's Neutra

Postby SDR » Tue Nov 16, 2004 10:31 am


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Postby carter » Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:52 am


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Neutra Remodel

Postby Josquin » Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:40 pm

There is a drawing and photo in Hines' Neutra book of the house. If I remember correctly, the chimney was on the side of the house near the patio. [/img]

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Postby L.A.kevin » Thu Nov 18, 2004 11:32 am

I looked up the houses in my Lamprecht's Neutra Complete Works, and found the Progressive Builder's homes. Is this one of those houses?

Kevin

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m's Neutra

Postby SDR » Thu Nov 18, 2004 11:49 am

modernhopeful -- It should be possible to determine where the chimney was originally (if it has been moved) by looking at the roof framing and sheathing -- do you have access to the "overhead"? You could certainly be excused from re-relocating it, if the present location works for you. . .

After looking at other Neutra fireplaces (have your neighbors given you a peek at any unaltered interiors?) you could determine the possibility of sheathing the existing brick with a "normalized" rectangular form, in wood-framed drywall if that meets code, or plastered masonry. Of course, you probably feel like getting a little plastered yourself, with the thought of all this work! Code for fireplaces here is "no combustible material within 12 inches of the fireplace opening" which explains the often-seen exposed brickwork surround.

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again

Postby SDR » Thu Nov 18, 2004 12:13 pm

Just reviewed your photos -- boy, I sure love that big piece of obscure glass in the bathroom! Are the ceiling slots in the back "porch" a light feature? If not, maybe the outer edge of that ceiling is a candidate for a full-length flush light fixture, as found in more than a few of his buildings. . .
Looking again at the chimney, one solution to the irregular shape (if you dislike it) is to continue the largest dimension straight to the ceiling with courses of similar brick, back-cutting the lowest course as necessary to sit atop the present first "step" of the corbeled section. The irregularities in the existing brick -- almost a clinker-brick, a la Arts & Crafts work? -- could be filled and sculpted with a material like Bondo (if the masons don't have something preferable) after thoroughly stripping paint as necessary. The final result will be a painted surface, of course. . .

SDR

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Postby Joe » Thu Nov 18, 2004 11:43 pm


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Serulnic

Postby SDR » Fri Nov 19, 2004 9:17 am


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Postby SDR » Fri Nov 19, 2004 10:49 am


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did a drive-by

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Postby modernhopeful » Fri Nov 19, 2004 6:04 pm


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Hooray

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Re: Restoration - how far do you go?

Postby PreserveLA » Fri Nov 19, 2004 9:35 pm

News, Information & More at http://www.preservela.com !


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