Friends told couple Monika Kafka and Tom Borsellino that their furnishings were so midcentury and fresh, they should move back to California. And after searching and searching for the next MCM home to set their sights on, Tom found it: A beautiful Eichler (part 1)! But the reno project that would follow was far from beautiful.
When Borsellino toured the house, there was carpet throughout and outdated Asian-theme decor; an escrow inspection revealed that about 40% of the house had termite damage. The original kitchen cabinets were painted a sickly harvest gold, and his first inclination was to rip them out. Then there were the bathrooms.
“Joseph Eichler didn’t think out the baths in these houses,” Borsellino says, “so I have no problem making changes. They ran the same mahogany paneling from the bedroom into the bath and tiled right on top of it. Of course they were all full of dry rot and termite damage by now.”
On the plus side, the roof was only four years old. But as the crew who began the work while the couple was birthing babies and packing for a cross-country move was
to discover, this reno was a Pandora’s Box: It turned out that 95% of the walls, posts or beams had termite or water damage.
“The guys working on it could not believe that the house was still standing,” Kafka relates. “The tar and gravel roof was another surprise: We thought we could live with it but because there was no insulation, it would be 105° outside and 108° inside.” Switching to an insulating foam roof allowed them to install additional lighting and operable sky- lights, and cool off the house 15 to 20 degrees.
In addition to rotted structural members, 90 percent of the grooved Eichler siding needed replacing and, while the walls were open, the couple opted to insulate and ground the electrical system. Inside, some of the original mahogany paneling had faded or was beyond repair; Borsellino used a combination of Watco Golden Oak and Fruitwood stains with some orange universal colorant mixed in to match new pieces to the existing. In the kitchen, they painted the cabinets black and found they liked the room just fine.
From Ruination to Reno
What will run out first on this Eichler revivial—time or money? Check back in for part 3 of this story to find out why landscape architects refused to take calls on this project!