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Old Charm Anew

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Matt Plaskoff describes his family’s Hidden Hills home as a “turn-of-the-century farmhouse,” but the vintage look came about at the turn of this century, not the last.

The home was a 1950s one-story ranch early in 2000 with a shake roof and 2,800 square feet of mostly uninteresting interior space.

Eleven months and $700,000 later, it was a two-story 5,800-square-foot farmhouse graced by an old-fashioned covered porch with a barn-style metal roof, second-story dormers and a charming cook’s kitchen with hand-distressed cabinets and a marble-covered island.

The creation of this dream home--so appealing that Plaskoff’s wife, Karry, 35, said she wants to live in it “forever"--actually began long before the couple bought the house eight years ago. Married in 1986, the couple owned and fixed up several homes before they figured out it wasn’t the house that mattered, but the neighborhood.

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Selling and leasing a home, the couple--whose twin daughters were toddlers at the time--waited “like vultures” to find a house in a desirable community.

An acquaintance tipped them off to a foreclosure in 1993 in the gated 540-home city of Hidden Hills, near the Ventura-Los Angeles County line.

“There was no way on Earth I thought I could get in here,” said Matt, 40, owner of a construction and remodeling company that had done jobs in the exclusive equestrian-oriented community.

The house had never been remodeled, and this suited the couple, who wanted to remodel it to their taste. Said Matt: “We were looking for something that hadn’t been messed up.”

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“Just so it wasn’t gross,” Karry said. “It was nice, but old.”

The Plaskoffs poured $600,000 into buying the house, a barn and one acre of land and put together an additional $25,000 for a cosmetic remodel--paint, carpet, appliances, shower doors, etc. Then they started dreaming up the “master plan.”

In two years, they would build a pool. Two years, after that, they would enlarge the family room, add a fireplace and extend the master bedroom. And in 2000, they would do a massive remodel.

Matt’s journal from 1996 shows the plan as it was detailed while the couple were on a weekend getaway in Cambria. Circles sketched on a floor plan indicated how the various spaces of the house would be arranged--the current living room would be sacrificed to a formal entryway and a grand stairway leading to the second floor where a catwalk would overlook the family room.

The children’s bedrooms and laundry room would be on one side of the second floor, with the master suite on the other.

The original footprint of the house would remain essentially the same, except for the addition of a large rec room, which was intended for long-term benefit. While the Plaskoffs’ daughters, now numbering three, are still young--Stephanie and Jessica are 11, Paige is 6--the day will surely come when they want to spend time with boys, and the couple would prefer that time is spent at the house. The rec room with a diner motif, pool table, foosball game, and soda fountain and big-screen entertainment center would be, Plaskoff thought, “a place boys would want to come to.”

The cost for the remodel was originally estimated at $300,000, but Plaskoff Construction did so well during the 1990s (reaching an annual volume of $9 million) that the eventual budget more than doubled.

On the couple’s 13th wedding anniversary, on March 14, 1999, Matt presented his wife with the finished plans. Before the transformation could begin, though, the plans had to be approved by the city of Hidden Hills and the Hidden Hills Community Assn., a process that Matt described as “intense” for its focus on the ratio of house to land, and the ratio between the square footage of the second story and the first.

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If he wasn’t a contractor, Matt said, he “would have been frustrated.” But the powers-that-be felt the house agreed with the neighborhood, which Matt characterized as “a ranchy-family-cozy-Americana-horsey thing.”

As the project progressed, the couple was able to skip one step: choosing a contractor. Not only would Tarzana-based Plaskoff Construction build the house, but Matt himself would act as project manager. There was “a little ego involved,” Matt said, when he chose to oversee the remodel rather than giving that job to one of his company superintendents. He said he thought: “Hey, I’m going to show these guys how to build a house.” Plus, he wanted the “sheer enjoyment” of being involved with every detail of building his house.

The family moved to a rented house during the nearly yearlong construction process. (The only walls that stayed intact were in the remodeled master bedroom, which would become the guestroom, and the remodeled family room.)

Although the couple designed the layout of the house, they relied on interior designer Judith Wilson for help with the interiors--choosing colors, cabinets, tile, knobs, faucets and myriad other materials.

The kitchen includes a farm-style sink, celadon-colored granite counters, a big Viking stove, Viking refrigerator, Viking warming drawer, two Miele dishwashers, a wall of pantry shelves and handmade cabinets. Karry chose to have the cabinets stained three shades--ivory along the wall, black on the island and brown for the rest.

As a 20-year-old bride, Karry said, she preferred “cutesy sets,” and considered it “maturing” to want a more eclectic grouping of colors. The designer gave her courage to choose rich colors for most of the home’s walls. “It’s paint,” Karry said. “You can repaint.”

Upstairs, the rooms reflect the family’s tastes. Jessica and Stephanie, who have always shared a room until this year, requested quite different styles.

Jessica chose walls decorated with lavender wainscoting, while sporty Stephanie got a maple gym-type floor and permission to shoot baskets with a Nerf ball. Little Paige has a picket-fence bed and a room full of dolls.

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The master suite includes an exercise room, a balcony overlooking the backyard, limestone counters and a large Jacuzzi-type tub where Karry watches “The Today Show” each morning on the built-in television. “My bedroom is my space.”

While the house turned out beautifully, Matt said the experience was “a real eye-opener” for him. He was always aware that homeowners were under pressure during a remodel, “but I didn’t realize how much,” he said. “The pressure of making decisions.”

From the experience, he offered three pieces of advice:

First, “get help so you can do what you do best.” By taking his focus off running his business for the year, he estimated he lost $200,000 net gain from lost sales. On the upside, he developed “such a large appreciation” for his project managers.

Second, work with a designer. “It’s hard for people to understand,” Matt said. “It’s expensive. It’s not tangible. [But] it’s so much smoother with a designer.” In this case, the designer not only helped with decisions, but supervised installation of tile and other materials to make sure it was done right. “I wouldn’t know how to do that,” Karry said.

And third, “don’t rush your project.” At one point he and Karry said: “Let’s take a few extra weeks or month to do this.”

Now that the remodel is complete--save for the circular driveway and front landscaping that will come later--the couple have virtually no regrets. Said Karry: “I don’t complain.”

Where the Money for the Project Was Spent

Demolition ... $21,272

Grading, excavation ... $2,450

Structural concrete ... $45,664

Walkways, patios, steps ... $3,000

Masonry, stucco ... $7,000

Framing lumber ... $56,060

Framing labor ... $81,239

Structural steel ... $20,840

Rough plumbing ... $20,000

Siding ... $30,000

Decking ... $11,050

Sheet metal roofing (4,000 square feet) ... $18,000

Rough electrical, TV, phone ... $13,759

Phone system ... $2,982

Audio, video ... $7,734

Central vacuum ... $1,624

Communication, satellite ... $2,703

Alarm ... $1,282

Sheet metal, gutters, downspouts ... $12,000

Roofing ... $20,000

Heating and air ... $15,000

Fireplace ... $2,610

Fireplace fronts ... $3,000

Insulation ... $4,383

Drywall/interior plaster ... $18,000

Scaffolding ... $1,000

Hood liner ... $1,500

Hardwood flooring ... $20,000

Interior and entry doors ... $8,500

Windows (French) ... $22,308

Garage doors, openers ... $3,925

Ceramic tile, labor ... $7,449

Ceramic tile, materials ... $5,000

Sealer ... $968

Stone slab, labor ... $3,460

Stone slab, materials ... $8,000

Door hanging ... $5,000

Stairway ... $6,872

Finish carpentry, labor ... $9,500

Finish carpentry, materials ... $6,000

Cabinets, installation ... $44,000

Cabinets, finishing ... $5,000

Painting, staining ... $30,000

Carpeting ... $10,000

Plumbing fixtures ... $16,000

Finish hardware ... $6,000

Appliances ... $16,000

Appliance installation ... $1,000

Mirrors ... $1,000

Shower doors ... $2,000

Weather, site protection ... $3,000

Temporary phone, power, toilet, etc. ... $2,500

Trash hauling and cleanup ... $8,000

Final professional cleanup ... $1,000

Subtotal (investment at cost) ... $676,634

Design ... $30,000

Total... $706,634

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Exclusions: Surveys, permits/city fees, toxic waste disposal, soils testing, DWP cost, deputy inspections, electrical fixtures, security systems.

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Source Book

Project: Transform one-story ranch in Hidden Hills into two-story, turn-of-the-century farmhouse.

Design and construction: Plaskoff Construction, Tarzana, (818) 654-2737, mpc@plaskoff .com, www.plaskoff.com.

Interior design: Judith Wilson, JWI Interiors, Sherman Oaks, (818) 789-5580.

Finish hardware and door knobs: Restoration Hardware, Woodland Hills, (818) 887-7013, and Deco Brass, Tarzana, (818) 345-5481.

Appliances: Dan Deffenbaugh, Servewell Appliances, Glendale, (818) 242-8881.

Plumbing fixtures: Valerie Hagan, Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood (310) 659-9168.

Eastern Pine flooring: Mike Dutko, Dutko Hardwood Floors, Manhattan Beach, (310) 546-3153.

Tile: California Art Tile, Los Angeles, (310) 659-2614; Creative Environments, Los Angeles, (310) 652-3713, and Walker Zanger, Sun Valley, (818) 504-0235.

Lighting fixtures: Laura Jacobs, Lantern Masters, Westlake Village, (818) 706-1990.

Holiday lighting: Decolight, Oak Park, (877) 332-6544.

Duration: 11 months

Cost: $700,000

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Kathy Price-Robinson writes about remodeling. She can be reached at www.kathyprice.com.

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Send Us Your Remodeling Tale

If you would like to have your remodeling project--large or small--considered for use in the Pardon Our Dust series, please send before and after photos (copies only, please; we cannot return the pictures) and a brief description of the project, including costs, to Real Estate Editor, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include a daytime phone number.


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