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Displaced Owners of Restored Home Wouldn’t Do It Again

Dennis and Patty Thomas, owners of this year’s Whittier Design House, want everyone to know they are not getting a free ride.

The Thomases, who own the house being restored by the Whittier Historical Society, have spent about $200,000 repairing the quake damage, some of it covered by insurance. They installed new oak floors, a new foundation and redesigned the kitchen.

Earthquake damage forced the Thomases and their 6-year-old son out of the home in October, 1987. For three months, the family lived at the Whittier Hilton while work was completed on a one-bedroom guest house behind their Painter Avenue home. Most of their furnishings remain in storage.

The Thomases planned to live in the guest house a few months while basic repairs were completed, then return to the main house. But signing a contract to allow their home to become the Design House meant they would stay in the guest house until June 9.

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The couple admit they underestimated the hardship involved in the project.

Without a Kitchen

For more than a year, the Thomases have been without a kitchen, cooking meals in a microwave or on a barbecue and washing dishes in the bathroom. (City ordinances prohibit kitchens in guest houses.)

But the last straw came this week, when the Historical Society told the Thomases they would have to pay $40 a plate to attend tonight’s opening dinner on the terrace visible from their guest house living room.

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“That’s a slap in the face,” said Dennis Thomas.

Virginia Boles, chairwoman of the Design House project, said everyone, even Boles herself, is paying to attend the opening night dinner.

In retrospect, Patty Thomas said the family should have moved back into the house and tackled earthquake repairs a little at a time.

“I wouldn’t do this again,” she said. “Ever.”

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