Fresh details can enhance a property’s personality

#586 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 2009, Hills Newspapers

We’re getting a house ready to sell and are having a fine time doing it. It’s a bungalow sort of house built in the 1920s with oak floors and gumwood trims, and although the basics were attended to over the years, it’s been awhile since anything has been done decoratively.

The house is unoccupied and empty making work so much easier (we can send workers in very early morning and there are no furnishings that have to be moved or protected). We’ve made many visits, soaked up the atmosphere and taken photos before making detailed plans for overall freshness. We removed from the house layers of canvas awnings, draperies and glass curtains, plexiglass on some windows and bars on others.

Also a pair of seven foot tall holly bushes that stood on either side of a large front window as we found them too thorny and not at all graceful. Across the side driveway and attached to the side of the house a roofed carport had been added. We studied the exterior of the house, especially after the hollies and awnings had been removed and concluded that the carport was too heavy and wrong for the house. We talked with the owners about its limited usefulness and together we decided it should go.

The outside of the house which is stucco is being painted now: sandy brown body, creamy white and deep forest-green trim, dark bronze on the walk, steps and front porch. All of a sudden the lines are crisp and clean, the decorative recesses in the stucco are suddenly apparent and add real richness to the looks.

At the landscaper’s suggestion we went to AW Pottery in Oakland to look for a large pot to place on the way to the front door. What an experience that was. There are so many pots in this place, there is no possibility of seeing then all. Why, there must be entire acres of space with pots piled high in mazelike aisles that provide wiggle-through space only.

We were probably inside the warehouse for a couple of hours and maybe we saw a thousandth of the offerings. No, probably less. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer; I wanted to leave. “Come on Anet,” I said, “Let’s just take one. How about this one?”

She agreed, and we got it loaded into the car. We think it will be a great addition and to puntuate the way toward the house entrance.

On the inside of the house the oak floors were sanded but not stained dark. We like the light that the natural oak brings to the rooms. The gumwood in the main rooms we washed down removing the expected fingerprints and smudges of the past 80 years, then wiped on Howard’s Restor-A-Finish to cover small scratches.

We’ve made list upon list of tiny details that we’ve had fixed or replaced. Every interior door was made to latch properly when closed. A remote switch was added to control the overhead hall light so it can now be turned on and off at either end of the hall. Doors that scraped were planed so they swing free. Every window now opens, there are no broken window ropes and no cracked window glass.

Anet spent portions of many days devoted to light fixtures, figuring which were original and in keeping with the house, then selecting others through catalogs and online and ordering new. Light fixture selection is a complicated affair involving a match of holder to glass size, providing enough wattage for the intended space, and of course choosing appropriate style and finish.

She moved on to face plates for switches and outlets: plain plastic covers in many cases, bright polished nickel for the kitchen to match the shiny new sink faucet, aged brass finish for living and dining rooms, chrome in the bath. Furnace outlets were next, the existing lovely old heavy metal grates were cleaned and in some cases sprayed with metallic paint to cover dings and corrosion.

New quartz counters have been installed in the kitchen but the 1970s blond wood cabinets will stay. The counters are lovely, a soft nougat color. A gas line was run and new cooktop, dishwasher and sink, all stainless steel, have been installed.

The house isn’t complete yet; there’s more to come. Time from beginning work to first open house: 7 weeks.

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