Passersby often stop and gaze in wonder at Pat and Jane Qualey's richly detailed, mahogany-infused Craftsman home in West Los Angeles.
One visitor who toured the striking home said: "This house has been built by a Zen master."
"He just floated through the house," owner-builder Pat Qualey said of the awe-struck guest.
Qualey's home has the feel of one built a century ago, when the Craftsman style flourished in Pasadena, West Adams and other Southern California neighbor- hoods. With its thick wainscoting and handmade window frames and doors, the home gives visitors the sense of being transported back to the time when such houses were new.
Though it is technically a remodel, the home bears no resemblance to the 1,500-square-foot 1948 bungalow it was before its massive 1997-98 transformation. Pat Qualey's wife, Jane, a homemaker and mother, grew up in the three-bedroom, 1 3/4-bath house and inherited it after her mother died in 1985.
The Qualeys' inspiration came 10 years ago when they visited the Gamble House in Pasadena.
"That really impressed me," Pat Qualey says, adding that the architects of that house, Charles and Henry Greene, "really hit the nail on the head for a house that wraps around you." And for a man who describes himself as "a moody, melancholy type," as Pat Qualey does, the heavy dark wood is perfect.
From then on, the Qualeys wanted to remodel their own home in that style. The day came in the mid-1990s when they decided that their children Katelyn and Mackenzie, who had been sharing a bedroom, needed their own rooms.
Pat Qualey enlisted the design services of Kurt Beckmeyer of Beckmeyer, Carver Architects in South Pasadena, for whom he had worked before he became a builder.
Beckmeyer sketched 20 schematics showing how the house could be remodeled and enlarged. It could have one or two stories. The master bedroom could be upstairs or downstairs. A sketch showing a massive house overtaking most of the lot "was the first [design] to be thrown out," Pat Qualey says.
Eventually the couple decided to maintain roughly the same footprint, accented with a wide front porch with deep overhangs. The downstairs would feature the living room to the right of the front door, the dining room straight ahead and the kitchen to the left. The master suite would be toward the back on the ground floor. Upstairs would be Pat Qualey's office and bedrooms for the children.
Because remodeling involved the entire house, the family moved out during construction, into one bedroom at Qualey's mom's house.
For him, the months of construction between April 1997 and December 1998 were a glorious time. Living in one room "made our marriage better."
For Jane Qualey, who recalls the remodel as having taken 2 1/2 years instead of 19 months, the time away from home was more stressful.
Even so, the project was originally scheduled to be finished in May 1998, so the family was seven months late moving back home.
Pat Qualey, a general contractor, enjoys working as a fine craftsman and encouraging his crews to do likewise. "These guys loved it," he said of his carpenters. "Just give them a chance."
However, fine craftsmanship is a talent most homeowners can't afford. This type of remodel costs $400 to $500 per square foot, and standard remodels cost $200 per square foot. Typical new construction costs less.
The house "is the personification of Pat's personality," explains Allan Hanckel, the general manager of Pat Qualey's construction company.
"It's layer upon layer of detail," Jane Qualey agrees.
Such a preponderance of fine points could overwhelm a perfectionist like Pat Qualey. A lifelong friend gave him this suggestion: "The way to approach this thing is one piece at a time. You're never going to finish it, but you can't stop."
Jane Qualey made her contribution to the house by routing, sanding and staining the 5,000 or so exterior cedar shingles and painting much of the interior.
Though most of the wood in the house is mahogany, purchased new for the job, Pat Qualey tried to recycle as much of the original home's wood as possible. The kitchen cabinets, for instance, are milled from the original Douglas fir framing lumber, with the nails pulled out and termite-damaged pieces cut away. Because this wood was harvested more than 50 years ago, as is evident from the tight grain not seen in trees harvested more recently, it adds to the century-old ambience.
Once the family moved back in, Jane Qualey was able to enjoy spending the money her labor had saved on high-quality kitchen appliances and fixtures. She bought a Sub-Zero refrigerator, a 4-foot-wide Thermador range, a Kohler sink and polished nickel faucets.
Today, the house is still not finished. Lighting fixtures are missing here and there, as is the furniture that Pat Qualey will build for the living room and master bedroom. At night, he sits out on the front porch and sketches his ideas.
Barring a downturn in business, Pat Qualey figures they'll live in their new old-fashioned home until, as he says, "they pry my dead, stiff fingers off the doorknob."
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Project: Radically remodel and enlarge 1,500-square-foot 1948 bungalow into 2,700-square-foot Craftsman home.
Owners-Builder: Pat and Jane Qualey, NFD Construction, West Los Angeles, (310) 397-8975.
Architect: Kurt Beckmeyer, Beckmeyer, Carver Architects, South Pasadena, (626) 799-2277.
Lighting: Historic Lighting, Monrovia, (626) 303-4899.
Stonemason: Gerrardo Troncoso, Troncoso Masonry, Glendale, (818) 832-6311.
Hardwood floors: Steve Beyersdorff, Beyersdorff Hardwood Floors, Torrance, (310) 320-2228.
Landscaping: Gail Spears, Gail Spears Landscape Design, West Los Angeles, (310) 398-8895.
Duration: 19 months.
Cost: $190,000, not including the Qualeys' labor.
Kathy Price-Robinson is a freelance journalist who writes about home remodeling. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.