Avery common caveat to homeowners contemplating extensive remodeling is to avoid improving your house too much beyond the value of other houses in your neighborhood.
This may or may not be true--I believe people should follow their instincts in matters like this because home improvement rules are not necessarily handed down from a mountaintop on stone tablets--but the warning certainly doesn't apply to high value areas like Beverly Hills, the coastal communities and many hillside communities.
In localities like those, you would be hard pressed to spend too much on remodeling or even tearing down the old house and building a larger new one.
The Freeman house, on 25th Street, north of Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, is a case in point, according to architect R. Mark Fuote, principal of Arkineto Architects, 21515 Vanowen St., Canoga Park.
The owners of the 1,400-square-foot, 1930s-vintage ranch house liked the location, but they needed more space.
Fuote created a two-story post-Modern house that retains many of the Colonial styling elements of the original house--the wood siding, the roof shingles--while giving the owners "a flowing two-story environment in which simplicity of design and consistency within the general neighborhood were the primary aesthetic requirements."
Fuote preserved three of the original first-floor rooms in the process of adding the second floor. A new open-plan kitchen, dining and family area was added to the first floor.
Opposite the entrance and dividing the living and family areas is an elegant winding staircase that is the focal point of the transformed house. The stairs lead to a second-floor gallery where the bedrooms, sewing/laundry area and sun deck are located.
The cost for all this was less than $200,000, not bad considering that the house now has about 3,800 square feet. Too, with building lots increasing as much as $100,000 a year in the area, according to Fuote, it is even less extravagant.
A single-story house nearby, relatively free of remodeling, recently sold for more than $650,000, Fuote said.
A 1969 graduate of the University of Florida School of Architecture, Fuote became a registered architect in California (License 8148) in 1974. He has worked for several local firms, including Vito Cetta Associates, Santa Monica, and Arthur Erickson Architects, Los Angeles, and spent several years in West Germany in the 1970s with a number of architects. He founded his current firm in 1982.