It takes courage to buy a sagging house. Yet some proverbial “good bones” did exist in a South Carthay 1934 Spanish Colonial home. They just needed to be reset.
“The house was cockeyed — it was a wreck,” said Tom Greer, who with wife Stephanie bought the three-bedroom home in 2011 for $1.15 million. They recently sold the property for $2.55 million.
Poor drainage caused a sunken foundation at the rear of the home, and other structural problems included a tilted floor and ceiling, as well as seismic damage within fireplaces. Along with underpinning the home, support beams were added and the chimneys rebuilt.
Renovations totaling $750,000 and completed in 2012 transformed the disaster into a fetching “echo of the home’s period,” Greer said. Modernizations included smart looks and amenities such as expanded closets, new French windows and a spacious gym carved from a detached garage.
The home is set in a Historical Preservation Overlay Zone, a designation that mandates city approval for changes to exterior elements and landscaping.
“Working with them was fantastic,” said designer Abeer Sweis, who consulted with the officials on landscape choices, repair and replacement of windows, new light fixtures and stained-glass repair, among other improvements.
The couple and Sweis were first entranced by the living room’s handsome vaulted ceiling, the dining room’s coffered ceiling and the home’s many wood features, now restored.
“It was really cut up, closed off — dark and dingy,” said Sweis, a founder and design partner with Santa Monica-based SweisKloss. “It smelled old; it felt old.”
Changes to the layout included removing two walls between the den and kitchen. Now, a liberal sweep of space flows to an outdoor dining terrace. A nearly 18-foot arch frames the kitchen thanks to a new structural beam.
The back of the house was reconfigured to include a master bedroom’s new en suite bathroom and walk-in closet. A new powder room was created from a storage area, adding a third bathroom to the home.
A vintage telephone niche in the hallway was removed to achieve an optimal layout — a necessary but “regrettable” choice, Greer said.
Among other improvements: reconstructed period doorway arches, addition of dark wood doors with Spanish details and installation of terra cotta Saltillo-tile flooring throughout much of the house.
The owners banished the more-recent past, removing can-shaped track lighting “straight out of the ’70s” from the living room’s curved beams.
An expanded hallway skylight brought in needed light. Another brightening touch: New iron sconces by Unique Iron Lighting frame the fireplace and add a dash of Spanish romance.
The Greers offset the home’s dark wood by painting custom kitchen cabinetry a bracing blue-green (Benjamin Moore’s Mountain Laurel), a hue repeated on window and door frames. Kitchen counters are white quartz with a rippled texture (Eurostone’s Thyme finish).
Greer said a previous landscaper left massive, incongruous mounds in the backyard that blocked drainage, contributing to the foundation damage.
The mounds were leveled in favor of gravel, drought-tolerant dymondia and olive and jacaranda trees. A new drainage system funnels water to an underground pit for natural filtering to the water table.