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PARDON OUR DUST

This old thing? It's a fixer of their dreams

The 1918 Craftsman needs major mending. But there's nothing the couple would rather do.

September 12, 2004|Kathy Price-Robinson | Special to The Times

What happened to Arnie Koenig could be a cautionary tale for other spouses who get dragged along on historical-home tours.

One day he's imagining that he and his wife, Connie, might eventually buy an old home and fix it up.

The next day she's spelling out the choices: Oxnard or Pasadena?

"It happened so fast my head was spinning," Arnie said of last year's purchase of a dilapidated 1918 Craftsman in Oxnard that the couple are in the process of renovating.

"I watch too many old-house programs," admitted Connie, 53, a nurse. "It was my thing. Arnie just went along for the ride."

Though Arnie, a 58-year-old respiratory therapist, halfheartedly moved out of the couple's nearly new Agoura tract home to live in the rundown relic, his reluctance has since been transformed. He is now fully immersed in the countless hours of woodwork stripping and painting that most old-house renovations require.

"I've jumped on the bandwagon," Arnie said.

The home is one of 144 in the Henry T. Oxnard Historic District, a five-block-long area of F and G streets where homes from 1,000 to 5,000 square feet were built between 1900 and 1939.

As far as Connie can tell from her research of old property titles and phone books, their house was built in 1918 for a man named Charles Peverly and was used as a rooming house at some point. The Koenigs have a copy of a permit to change the house back into a single-family residence around 1940. Records show that there were only two more previous owners before the Koenigs bought the house for $479,000, winning out over several others who bid on it.

"They don't come up for sale very often," Connie said. "The people around here are really, really into their houses."

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow is 2,400 square feet, which includes a 600-square-foot addition, and sits on a quarter acre with a guesthouse. The floors of the main house were mostly carpeted, and when the carpet was pulled up, the couple found the original wood floors in good shape.

Many of the moldings and baseboards had been painted over, and Arnie hopes to reveal the natural tight-grain fir of the molding, room by room.

The kitchen was modernized in the 1970s, and the Koenigs hope to bring it back to an authentic period style.

But before interior improvements could be considered, the outside of the house cried out for immediate attention.

The once-white paint was gray, cracked and peeling. Many ornate corbels were gone. The covered porch was slowly being transformed by nature into an airy cabana where sunlight shone through to the deck.

The roof of the house was in bad shape, and the gutter system was clogged and in need of repair. Even the fences were wobbly. The couple got a call one night during escrow that one of the fences had blown over.

"We had to do the outside," Connie explained, "because if we didn't do the outside, it would fall down."

To find tradespeople to work on their old-fashioned house, they used an old-fashioned method -- word of mouth. Their real estate agent recommended roofer Brian Blanchard, the son of a friend. The roofer recommended his childhood friend, contractor Mitchell Bowman.

Repairing the exterior of the house was not a simple matter of making it look good. According to guidelines from the city for houses in the historic district, wood and other materials used in the repair should be "like for like" whenever possible, Bowman said. For instance, the boards used to repair the porch roof were vertical grain fir, to match the original. Redwood was used where the siding needed replacing. And when window glass needed to be replaced, reproduction antique glass was used.

The exterior repairs required three bids from the contractor: one to repair the beams of the front porch; one to repair siding, corbels, windows and other wood on the house; and a third bid for the painting. All that cost the Koenigs $56,500. An additional $11,000 was spent on a new roof and gutter repair, $7,000 on plumbing, $2,600 on new garage doors and openers, and $3,600 on fencing.

Although the Koenigs would later learn to enjoy the hands-on renovation of their home, Connie said "no way" to doing the initial big jobs themselves. Instead they figured it was better to pay professionals to do it. The major work was done during a four-month period between November 2003 and February.

For Connie, researching and choosing the appropriate paint colors was fun. She consulted a book called "Bungalow Colors," and referred to Sherwin Williams' historically correct paint selection. She ultimately decided on a sage green for the walls, a creamy yellow for the fascia and moldings and a brownish burgundy for the windows.

"She nailed it on the color," Bowman said.

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