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Sun Room Is the Cat's Meow

Airy addition off '50s living room offers expansive views

July 20, 1997|KATHY PRICE-ROBINSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Kathy Price-Robinson is a freelance writer who has written about remodeling for eight years

As any cat lover knows, our feline friends have refined tastes. So it is telling to note that Wheels, a long-haired black cat, has two favorite spots in Sally Mosher's Pasadena home.

One prime bird-watching post is on a table in the "great room," which Mosher added onto her house nine years ago. And Wheels' other--and now most favored--station is in the sun room, which Mosher added to her home late last year.

Mosher shares her kitty's preference for the airy sun room. It opens from the home's original living room and offers expansive views of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Mountains through large windows, which cover three sides. To give the bright room a grounded feeling, and to help it blend with the rest of the house, it has an open-beamed redwood ceiling and a red-tiled floor.

"This is the best space in the house," said Mosher, a lawyer and musician. "Whether you want to have morning coffee or curl up at night and watch PBS, this is the place to be.

"And like all good ideas, you wonder why you didn't do it sooner."

For Mosher, remodeling is almost a way of life. It began when she moved into the house in the 1960s with her late husband, Jim Mosher, an electrical engineer who had built the then-modern house in the '50s. At some point, the couple had to decide: Do we mow the house down and start over? Or do we fix it up?

The couple took the latter path, which Sally Mosher has continued on her own. Her first major project was adding the great room in 1988.

Mosher had heard of T.A. Russell Remodeling & Restoration in Glendora from a business partner who was known for being very fussy about details, costs and cleanliness.

After checking out the company thoroughly, Mosher met with its principals. Co-owner Bruce Mason brought a presentation book and a list of past clients. Eventually Mosher hired the company to build the room from her drawing. She was careful to replicate the sloped, redwood ceiling in the original part of the house.

Over the years, the construction company did a few more projects at the house, including turning a carport into an enclosed garage, adding security gates in the front and building a patio and lap pool.

In thinking about the sun room, Mosher was partly motivated by the deterioration of an old wooden deck where the room now stands. Another factor was that the great room had become a music room, filled with two harpsichords and a synthesizer.

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When Mosher decided to add the sun room, she called in Mason to begin the process. At the first meeting, Mosher didn't have a definite idea of what she wanted, other than lots of glass.

Mason hired Glendora architect Bob Carter, who drew up sketches of several possible room designs. Mosher's task was to point out what features she liked on each design, and these were then integrated into the final project.

A primary concern was designing a roof line on the sun room that would complement the original house and look, as Mosher put it, "like it was always there."

Mason agrees: "If you can look at a house and say, 'that's an addition,' then in the design phase they failed."

Although the cost of building the sun room was not cheap--$60,000--the original estimate was even higher. When Mosher asked that the price be brought down, the opening transom windows were removed, saving more than $15,000. The transom windows have fixed glass but, because glass doors on either side of the room open wide, there is plenty of airflow.

For both Mosher and the construction company, careful planning in the beginning was a key to success. As the company explained to her before the first project, changing orders during construction are what drive costs up and drag the building time out.

Mosher's experience with previous remodeling projects also helped this one go smoothly. She's familiar with building terminology, understands the cost of design and construction and can anticipate the order in which the work is done.

And, when ladders were up during the most recent construction, she climbed up on the roof six times. "Now," she said, using roofers' terminology, "I know why you would hot mop rather than torch a roof."

Once demolition and construction began, Mosher tried to be around the house as much as possible to make small decisions that weren't foreseen during planning stages. An example: The tile setter said Mosher could have a border of cut tile either near the opening into the house or on the far side of the room. She chose the latter.

The construction company's penchant for cleanliness made it easier for Mosher to be in her house during the project. Not only are the subcontractors--electricians, plumbers, tile setters, etc.--instructed to clean up after themselves, but the company often sends a worker to the site at the end of the day to vacuum and make sure protective plastic sheeting is hung between the project and the rest of the house.

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