Now that Julienne and Jay found their 1952 Zook in the sun-saturated San Gabriel Valley (part 1), then came the next step: renovation. The couple relates the twists and turns they tackled in the process of making the house their home.
Jay: “We figured that we should get everything done in one go, rather than spreading it out over several years. Our biggest mistake was in our initial choice of contractor: Although they came highly recommended, the electrical wiring they installed was not to code and could have burned our house down. The same went for much of the framing, the plumbing and the insulation. The low point of our remodel came when I was up on the roof in a driving rain, soaked to the skin at 4:00 in the morning trying to secure a 40’ tarp over holes in the roof, while Julienne ran around our living room emptying buckets and mopping up rainwater from the floor.”
Julienne: “We also consulted with an architect; he listened to what we wanted and, with the exception of a few extras that were good and innovative, he basically did what we told him to with the plans. We learned the hard way that a great architect needs to have a thorough understanding of building and construction to hold his own with the contractor. If we were to do this again, we would research the architect and the contractor extremely thoroughly.”
Jay: “Once we found Fleming Construction, who understood what we wanted to do to the house, the renovation went smoothly enough—albeit over-budget and a year behind schedule. In the garage, we removed the old door and replaced it with a 20’ span of four sliding glass doors to let in more light, laid down a level concrete floor and installed sea grass flooring on top of that. We insulated, drywalled and added overhead lighting, then had a special shelving unit built for my turntables and filled 70’ of IKEA shelving with my record albums.
“For the sleek-looking carport we had in mind, we searched L.A. for midcentury-style decorative concrete blocks to no avail. Finally we found some leftover from the Ocean’s Eleven remake; newly made and perfect for the look we wanted, the finished wall appears to have always been there. On the carport itself, we made sure to use steel poles set in a flush-beam roof. It looks totally right for the era, and we were very pleased with the results.”
Julienne: “Instead of updating the layout and tearing down a wall to make the kitchen a “great room,” we decided to keep the appliance placement and walls exactly as they were. We looked at changing it, but realized that Zook really knew what he was doing, and got it right the first time.
“I know that some people are total purists when it comes to owning a midcentury house, and we respect that. We personally preferred to think that, if the architect were building the house today, being something of a modernist he would have wanted to take advantage of all the great materials out there that one can use now—like CaesarStone for the countertops. We tried to select things that looked closer to that era, so we ripped out all the terracotta stone that, frankly, belonged in a Mediterranean home, and replaced it with terrazzo tile. And we made sure that the handles and the kitchen faucet, although new, look like they were from that earlier era, rather than just looking ‘modern.'”
Jay: “Incredibly, the original master bedroom with the best views in the house only had a smallish window and a rickety door overlooking the back yard. We called our helpful window and door guy, Monty at Ventsam in Sun Valley, to ask, ‘What is the biggest slider you can possibly make?’ He said, ‘Ten feet long and floor-to-ceiling.’ We said, ‘Go for it!’ Now we have a great view of the twinkling lights of the San Gabriel Valley.”