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'60s Home Grows on Them

After looking for a new house, the Dickersons decided to remodel. Six months of planning, five months of construction, one child and $125,000 later they had what they wanted.

June 29, 1997|KATHY PRICE-ROBINSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Kathy Price-Robinson is a freelance writer who has written about remodeling for eight years

When Theresa and Randy Dickerson bought their Tustin home in 1987, two bedrooms, one bathroom and a den seemed plenty big enough.

But when son Mitchel came along in 1992, and a few years later second son Keenan was expected, the house suddenly felt cramped. Plus, it was not charming. "Squatly" is how Theresa described it.

"We had talked off and on. Should we move? Should we add on?" said Randy, 34, a controller for a printing company. But quotes from a few builders revealed that it would cost $50,000 to add just one room.

"It was like, God, we're not going to get anything out of it," said Theresa, 35, a landscape architect.

Finally the couple decided: Let's buy a better house. They put their home on the market for $200,000--it was advertised by the Realtor as a "secluded cutie"--and hunted down their dream home.

Seventy-eight houses later, the couple realized the impossibility of finding what they sought: "We wanted a new house in an old neighborhood," Theresa said, adding that new homes in their price range were on "postage stamp-sized lots with five-foot setbacks."

And in established neighborhoods, the houses were 15, 20 or 25 years old, needing serious updating.

Eventually, they decided to stay and remodel. On the plus side, the house shares the lot with a grand old pine tree, is situated at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac replete with friendly neighbors, sits just blocks from where Theresa grew up, has hardwood floors reminiscent of her childhood home and is in an excellent school district. And the couple knew well their home's limitations.

"When you live in a house for a while, you know how you use it," Theresa explained. "You know where you need more space."

To begin, the couple bought books on kitchens, baths and remodeling. After reading up, they hired a Tustin architect, Cecil Carney, who worked near Theresa's office, and they put their initial plans out to bid to several contractors. When the contractor they liked the best, Louie Mogabgab of Tustin, came in with a high price, they asked him to lower it. He did, dropping his profit margin from 20% to 18%, saying, "We want to do this job. We'll work with you to fit your budget."

After six months of intensive planning, five months of construction--while the couple stayed in a two-bedroom apartment, gave birth to one child and potty trained the other--and a $125,000 investment, the couple moved back into their nearly new house late last year.


While the foundation, wood floors and a few walls remained untouched, most everything else changed, and 575 square feet of living space were added.

Outside, the house took on a Cape Cod look with blue window frames and divided light windows. The old vertical wood siding and plaster were replaced with light blue horizontal Masonite siding with a wood grain.

The nearly flat rock roof was removed, which allowed the walls and ceilings to be raised, and a new, steeper roof was installed and covered with asphalt tiles that are guaranteed for 40 years. Plus, the steeper roof helped balance the house with the bulk of the pine tree, which once dwarfed the "squatly" house.

The drab front door was replaced with a white-painted mahogany door with side lights. The entryway was widened in grand fashion.

In the living room, the formerly flat ceiling is now highly pitched. A wall of windows and sliding glass doors now lead out to the backyard. Before, that wall contained windows only and the backyard was accessible only from a side door. Marble was affixed over the original brick of the fireplace.

The ceiling was also raised in the master bedroom and a luxurious master bath was added, with double sinks, tile counters and a separate bathtub and shower. Randy especially likes the device that keeps the shower water pressure consistent when the toilet is flushed. "I'd do that again and again and again," he said.

A new den-office was added on the opposite side of the house from the bedrooms, and the former den was converted into Keenan's bedroom. By building a closet in the den--at their contractor's suggestion and with thoughts toward flexible use for resale value--a niche was created to relocate the washer and dryer out of the garage. Because the new room was built in a spot bordered by the original living room and garage, it doesn't look tacked on. "We wanted people to say, 'Well, where did you add on?' " Theresa said.

Most walls were reframed and/or replastered and re-drywalled. During that time, Randy nurtured his passion for music by stringing speaker wire through the walls and installing built-in speakers in most rooms. He was helped by Theresa's dad, Walt Wands, a retired electrical engineer from Scottsdale, Ariz.

Wands also suggested multiple-switch panels in the bathrooms that control the lights, fans, heat and overhead night lights.

"Isn't that cool?" Theresa asked.

But it's the kitchen that transformed most dramatically and gives the couple daily satisfaction.

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