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Pardon Our Dust / A look inside a remodeling project.
Today's homeowners: Rick and Claudia Jones

Radical Redo

A couple enlarges and transforms the so-so kitchen in their upscale home with Old World styling and premium materials.


When Claudia Jones told her husband, Rick, that she'd like to take down the wallpaper in the kitchen of their Agoura home, he came back with a radical idea: "Why don't we just redo the whole kitchen?"

The concept was extreme because the house was not yet a decade old, hardly mature enough to need major remodeling. And, indeed, when the couple and their two small daughters moved into the new two-story home in 1988, Claudia regarded her new kitchen with its whitewashed cabinets and blue tile counters as "the biggest, grandest thing I could imagine."

But the ensuing decade wore badly on the kitchen, as the cabinets shed their whitewash, the particleboard drawers lost their fronts and the wooden floor buckled after a refrigerator leak. And as for the single-pane aluminum windows, they were substandard from the get-go.

"These are nice, big houses," Claudia said of her home and the other 349 in the up-scale tract. "But the quality of everything was horrible."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 20, 1999 Home Edition Southern California Living Part E Page 3 View Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Pardon Our Dust--A story in the May 13 SoCal Living section referred to a kitchen designed for a flat fee by Kitchen Studio, based in Los Angeles. Kitchen Studio sells Downsview Kitchens cabinets, and design work is typically part of the cabinet sale.

Plus, the size and layout of the kitchen cramped family life. The home computer, which Claudia, a teacher, wanted nearby so she could monitor its Internet use, was installed on a counter. And although the breakfast area seated four comfortably, the family had grown to five. Amie is now 15, Kristen, 12, and Aubrey, 6.

But while the decision to create a new kitchen was a no-brainer, the project's scope was not apparent. From Rick's perspective as owner of Construction Loan Co. in Northridge, a new kitchen would cost "maybe $10,000 to $20,000."

But because Rick's company deals mainly with very modest homes, he had never encountered a kitchen like the one Claudia envisioned. The first cabinet estimates, for instance, were for $52,000 and $58,000.

"When we went shopping, it was obvious it would cost more," Rick recalled. But his construction loan business was booming when talk of the remodel started in early 1996, and business was still good when work started in early 1997. By October 1997, when the project was completed, the couple had spent $125,000.

"This one just got away from me," Rick said. But he has no regret about "Claudia's kitchen."

"This is what Claudia wanted," he said. "I agreed with whatever she said." Claudia recalls the harmony during the remodel: "We agreed on everything. There were never any arguments."


What Claudia wanted was a kitchen with Old World styling, made of the highest quality materials she could find and, most of all, with enough space to let the Joneses "be a family." And since they intended to live in the house at least until 6-year-old Aubrey graduates from high school, the couple didn't worry about getting their remodeling money back when they sell. They simply wanted to enjoy living there.

For a year, Claudia and Rick researched the ingredients of their new kitchen, for which they acted as general contractors. They decided to push a side wall out 9 feet to expand the kitchen and to add a large walk-in pantry.

"Rick's thing was the pantry," Claudia recalled. "He wanted to [be able to] go to Costco and stock up."

While Rick's circle of subcontractors included the framer, electrician and plumber, he wasn't familiar with crafts people who did the kind of high-end cabinetry and finish work Claudia wanted. And just getting the kitchen designed was a challenge.

According to Claudia, many kitchen design shops told her they would design her kitchen only if she made a commitment to buy the high-end cabinets they sold. But Rick was convinced that cabinets of similar quality and styling could be custom made for much less money. Finally, the Joneses found a designer at the Kitchen Studio in Los Angeles who agreed to design the kitchen for a flat fee: $2,000.

The designer's plans included items Claudia specifically wanted--a stove top set in a William Ohs-type cabinet, a massive over-the-stove hood, a large island, a granite farm-style sink--as well as things she didn't know enough about to want, like an intricate overhead lighting system to illuminate distinct areas.

Once the kitchen was designed and construction was ready to begin, the couple put the existing refrigerator on the patio, the toaster oven in the laundry room and the dishwashing operation--sponge and soap--in the powder room, where it remained for the next eight months.

After the wall was moved out, the pantry constructed and new windows and French doors installed, the tile floor was laid. Leery of wood that can buckle, Claudia chose a sturdy tile.


For construction of the cabinets, which ended up costing less than half the price of the ritzier brands, the couple turned to the Yellow Pages to find Stephan Schwartz of Dynamic Cabinet Design in Chatsworth. Schwartz was a true artist, Claudia said, and he added some design touches of his own, like bull-nosed moldings, dovetailed joints in the drawers and sections of bead board.

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