Paul Sommers ducked out of work at Warner Bros. to check out the house his wife, Julie, had called him about. It was during a torrential rainstorm and the traffic was typically hideous on his drive from Burbank to the foothills of La Cañada, California. But the listing realtor was taking offers the next morning and it was now or never.
“I saw the front of the house and thought it was really interesting,” Paul says. “I hopped the fence, came around back and looked through the sliders. By then our realtor was there. I said, ‘We’ll make an offer.’ She asked if I wanted to go inside. I ran through the house for three minutes and jumped in the car and went back to work.”
They got the house; then the real production began.
Paul, a director of photography and Steadicam operator, was going on hiatus and the plan was to get the house done and the family, which includes 6-year-old twin daughters, moved in before his job ramped up again. This meant there was not time for backordered materials or contractors to flake out. That’s when the Sommerses’ methodical, organized, some (julie) would say anal-retentive skills sets kicked in.
Julie, previously a film coordinator, opens up her hefty production bag to show the day-by-day notes on what needed to get done on both this and their existing house in Eagle Rock, which they were readying for sale. “Measure all windows and doors, demo begins, the roof comes off, flooring arrives, moving day,” she selectively reads. “There was about four weeks of preproduction,” Paul recalls, putting the project into the couple’s lexicon.
“We’d been attracted to the post-and-beam, midcentury modern, low-slung ranch look,” Julie says. “When I saw the house I thought, Wow! This needs a lot of work but it could be really cool when we’re done/ We needed to look past the ‘80s wallpaper and the dingy carpeting to see its great bones.”
The 2,400-square-foot A-frame atrium ranch was built by Webster Wiley, a local developer of some 300 area homes. In six weeks the couple put on a new roof, replaced the exterior doors and windows, upgraded from hollow-core to solid-core birch veneer interior doors and laid bamboo floors throughout, except in the kitchen and baths. They also gutted the kitchen, upgraded the electrical and plumbing systems, painted inside and out, and in the atrium, relocated a garage door to make room for a koi pond.
The home renovation didn’t stop there
You’d think Paul and Julie were in over their heads but apparently, their laundry list of projects wasn’t enough. Find out what home venture—which would cost $100,000—they add on their to-do list in Part 2!