What they always wanted: a door

Special to The Times

Since buying their vintage Granada Hills bungalow in 1972, schoolteachers Mike and Jill Tovey have infused it with what she calls an "arts and crafts, country eclectic" style.

The couple placed an old-fashioned stove in the kitchen, installed claw-foot tubs in the bathrooms and adorned the walls with collectibles and old family photos.

But there was one thing the Toveys could not give their 1921 home without some major rethinking: a front entrance.

Previous owners added a rumpus room across the entire front of the house in 1959, so the original front door became an interior door that opened into the room. A side door off the driveway became the main access into the house.

The absence of a front door confused first-time visitors, who would pace in front of the rumpus room's picture windows yelling, "Jill! Jill! Where do I come in?"

After living in the house for nearly 30 years and raising two children there, the Toveys decided in late 2001 to hire professionals to craft a new entryway. The $120,000 project, which also turned the cheaply built rumpus room into an elegant living room and gave them a new office, family room and covered patio, took a year to complete.

Their first step was finding a contractor. After interviewing more than 20, they selected Northridge general contractor Warren Kreis, whom they had observed working on a friend's house. They liked that Kreis worked only on one project at a time, showed up when he said he would and stayed within budget.

When the Toveys asked him about doing their remodel, his first concern was who the architect would be. Since they didn't have one, Kreis suggested Kip Kelly of Nest Architecture in Los Angeles, who came over to look at the house.

Jill Tovey explained to Kelly that it was important the new addition blend in with the old. "We told him that we didn't want a '20s house with a '50s addition and a 2001 porch tacked on the front," she said. "We wanted the home to look like there had never been an addition."

After a brief tour of the house, Kelly surprised the couple when he immediately began making sketches. He proposed a new front porch with thick columns in rock bases that would be set into the right side of the family room. An antique front door the couple bought years ago because it matched their divided-light windows would fit perfectly, he said. Kelly also suggested that the new home office be attached to the other side of the rumpus room, separated by double French doors.

Inside the new front door, a roomy vestibule would lead straight ahead into a new family room converted from a covered patio. To the left, the vestibule would lead into the rumpus room. He suggested that the sloped wood ceiling of the rumpus room be retained and that insulation be added under the roofing material to make the room more comfortable.

The Toveys wanted to keep their favorite feature of the room -- a curved brick fireplace -- but they looked forward to replacing the room's green shag carpeting with hardwood flooring.

More ideas were discussed, and eventually the couple received the final plan for the remodel. Mike Tovey expected to see several large sheets of paper revealing every detail, but the whole plan was drawn on a single page. "Three thousand dollars for one piece of paper?" he recalled thinking at the time.

The sheet was sufficient, however, as the contractor and architect had worked together many times. "Warren will know what I mean," Kelly said. Kreis took the reins from that point and translated the plans into specific building documents for permit purposes.

The contractor also wrote out a five-page contract detailing every step of the work, and when each payment was due: $1,000 on signing the contract, $2,500 after receiving the plans, $7,500 after demolition, $10,800 after concrete form work and reinforcing steel, and so on.

The project also called for updating the plumbing, replacing the heating system and adding air conditioning. "Imagine," Jill Tovey said, "almost 30 years in the Valley and we never had air conditioning."

Kelly also sketched out a covered patio for the back of the house, outside the master bedroom, to replace a narrow tin overhang that used to bake in the summer sun. The sketch didn't look like much to the Toveys, but they were amazed as the patio began to take on weight and substance with columns set in rock bases matching those in the front.

As the couple expected, Kreis was on the job every day that he said he would be, and he let them know if he wouldn't be there. Kreis wanted to add baseboards and crown moldings wherever possible to match those in the 1920s part of the house. When the couple suggested getting vinyl windows to imitate the existing wood windows, he insisted on having custom wood windows made instead.

With the remodel nearly done, the exterior paint color needed to be chosen. The Toveys wanted a tan Dunn Edwards color called Chaparral, but Kreis recommended a darker shade. They decided to settle the issue by asking passersby which color they preferred. The vote went to Chaparral.

Although the contractor stuck to the budget, the Toveys added to the cost of the project by upgrading their faded stucco garage. "The house looked so good," Mike Tovey recalled. "We looked at the garage and said, 'Man, let's do something.' " They added siding, new windows and other improvements.

After living in the newly remodeled house for more than a year, Mike Tovey no longer begrudges paying $3,000 for a single piece of paper.

"Those architects," he said, "they have vision."

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Project at a glance

Scope: Major renovation and addition of an entry to a 1920s Granada Hills bungalow

Before remodel: 1,536 square feet

After remodel: 2,000 square feet

Duration: One year

Cost: $120,000

Contractor: Warren Kreis, Warren Kreis Construction, License #312189, Tarzana, (818) 882-2551.

Architect: Kip Kelly, AIA, Nest Architecture, Los Angeles, www.nestarchitecture.com, (310) 559-9900.

Kathy Price-Robinson is a freelance writer who has written about remodeling for 14 years. 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 kathyprice@aol.com or mail them to Real Estate Editor, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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