Last year, Kris Gericke nearly passed up the 1901 Victorian in Old Towne Orange that she later bought and fixed up.
The reason? Purple paint, a lot of it and in two shades, covering the house and the garage in back. "I almost didn't go inside because of the color," said Gericke, 43, a pharmacist. "But my Realtor reminded me: 'It's just paint.' "
Once she stepped inside, though, Gericke's imagination fired up. She envisioned hardwood floors beneath the worn carpeting, sturdy plaster walls under the layers of wallpaper and beautiful tin ceilings under the gray acoustical panels.
Although the reality was less than she imagined, she got exactly what she wanted: a period house to restore.
The 2,000-square-footer -- with three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the first floor, plus a den and fourth bedroom in a converted attic -- is considered a folk Victorian by the Old Towne Orange Preservation Assn. The style refers to otherwise plain houses embellished with elements reminiscent of classic Queen Anne Victorians, such as elaborate porch railings, ornamental brackets under the eaves and patterned woodwork on the gable ends. These decorations proliferated between 1870 and 1910 when new machines such as jigsaws made them cheap, and railroads made them available.
Previous owners had tried to enhance the home's Victorian theme with flowery wallpapers -- pink in the bathrooms, yellow in the living room, maroon in the master and red with green stripes in another bedroom.
Gericke wanted to retain the home's period character, but she sought a more understated elegance. Her initial goals were modest: strip off the wallpaper, take out the carpeting and redo the kitchen. But a year and $95,000 later, "I have remodeled every room," she said.
When escrow closed on the $700,000 house in June 2005, she enlisted a friend and went to work. They removed the carpeting, peeled wallpaper off in nine rooms and took out a bookcase and built-in bed in the attic.
Gericke hired general contractor Craig Belmont to do the bulk of the reconstruction work, and subcontractors and local vendors to do the rest.
Summer 2005 saw priming and painting underway, plus work on the master bathroom and planning for the kitchen.
The kitchen was the biggest job, because the existing layout wasted space. One stretch of counter space was interrupted by an old stovepipe. One wall was broken up by a doorway leading into the master bedroom -- unnecessary because the bedroom also opens to the hallway. A built-in wine rack took up part of the breakfast nook. The sink was in the center island, and the stove was under the window, where flammable curtains were likely to hang.
To create a functional kitchen, Gericke had it gutted to the framing studs and rebuilt.
By September, she had pulled up six layers of linoleum. Gericke had been told by a flooring expert that the kitchen's original wood floor probably would not be salvageable, so she was delighted to find a sturdy, wide-plank wood floor beneath the linoleum. She wasn't so fortunate with floors in the master bedroom and bathroom, which had to be replaced.
Next she had a tall, narrow window in the kitchen replaced with French doors for access to the backyard and a flagstone patio she planned on having installed. Because the house is in the Old Towne Historic District, she had to get approval for the exterior change. The other repairs required only standard building permits.
Gericke and her dog, Pogo, moved into the house in October, though it was in a remodeling-induced state of chaos. The kitchen was still a work in progress, the master bath was torn apart, the upstairs den and stairs were getting new flooring and the living room and dining room walls were being replastered.
The kitchen took shape in November with installation of recessed lighting, period-look cabinets with rosette details to match the home's original moldings, gray quartz countertops, unusual Corian farm-style sink and massive stainless-steel stove with a built-in vent that rises with the flip of a switch.
The breakfast nook was furnished with pews, found on the Internet, that had been salvaged from an old church in the San Francisco Bay Area that survived the 1906 earthquake but collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Gericke's proudest accomplishments are the restored wood floors in the dining and living rooms, and the tin ceilings designed by Matthew Motamedi of Classic Ceilings in Fullerton.
It turns out there were treasures after all amid the crumbling ceilings: Two original metal medallions were restored and repositioned on the new tin.
After all the investment in the house, Gericke has not yet tackled the exterior color, though she may someday.
In the meantime, the purple has an upside for visitors.
"It's easy to find," she says.
General contractor: Craig Belmont, Belmont Builders, Costa Mesa, (714) 751-0324
Floor refinishing: Dependable Hardwood Floor Co., Westminster, (714) 585-1975
Appliances: CTS Home Appliance Center, Placentia, (714) 996-8240
Kitchen cabinets: Design Masters, Orange, (714) 633-1400
Tin ceilings painting and installation: Drew Hoffman, Hoffman Painting, Orange, (714) 771-3612
Tin ceilings supplier: Classic Ceilings, Fullerton, (714) 526-8062
Kathy Price-Robinson has written about remodeling for 16 years. She can be reached at www.kathyprice.com. If you would like to have your remodel considered for use in Pardon Our Dust, please send before and after images and a brief description of the project to Real Estate Editor, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.