Thursday, December 18, 2014

Deer friends, we're "done"

Today was a big day. We're so close to being done with phase one and today we kind of had to be. We're refinancing the house to pay for the renovation and our bank, a month or so after we applied for the loan, informed us that they we're not going to fund the loan until phase one was finished. That news made things a little scary for a few weeks. Okay, a lot scary….

At exactly 8:30 this morning, the Bank of America appraiser returned to verify that we were, indeed, done. But were we really done?

When Dave, Scott, and the plumber left last night, at least two hours later than they usually leave, they were no way close to being done. Well, Dave and Scott were mostly done, but the plumber still had to complete the installation of the two water heaters in the BBQ room. And there was a lot to clean up.

Thankfully, Dave arrived this morning at 7. Shortly after, Mike and Adam appeared. The three of them quickly got to cleaning and by the time the appraiser arrived, the place was quite presentable. The appraiser assured us that the project only had to be "done enough." He took some exterior pictures, then photographed the BBQ room and guest house. He seemed content that we were where we needed to be, and after no more than 15 minutes on site, he shook our hands and drove away.

Dave left about an hour later. Then Mike left. Keith continued working on the water heaters and Adam vacuumed and mopped the floors. By noon, everyone was gone. So are we done? Apparently, done enough!

The electrical is, in fact, done.

The plumbing is, as of today, done.

The tile work is done except that we're getting a loud and obnoxious humming sound from the floor heating system in the BBQ room. Mark has been called and he assured Mike that it will get resolved soon.

The BBQ room still needs the refrigerator which we plan to purchase in January. The shelves still need to get installed. That, too, should happen in January. Other than that, it's done.

The guest house is done except for the shower door. That will probably happen in January, too.

There's still some touch-up painting to do. Yep, January.

So what to do now that the construction site is no longer a construction site? What to do with all this quiet? It's time to do some grading. That has to be done by January….

So, deer friends, it's time to take a break and enjoy the last few photos for a while. We're done, at least for now….

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Way They Were

Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?

This afternoon Chris emailed us the high resolution pictures of the early days of the Tombleson house, now our house, and they're too cool not to share. The first picture shows the exterior of the house which hasn't changed at all in 62 years except there's now a very large bougainvillea covering most of the brick wall to the left of the door.

The next photo shows the backyard and the waterfall cascading into the pool. The pool has been covered over with a deck for who knows how long. The oak tree is now mature and at least double in size. Looks like there were some Birds of Paradise planted around the tree. Seems appropriate.

Photos three through five show the living room. The furniture appears to be custom made and must have been very modern for its time. The television console is especially cool, with its ability to rotate the TV from the living room to the dining area. Look closely at the fireplace photo to see John Laughton's father's buffet cabinet in the dining room. Unfortunately, it's been modified and no longer has those very MCM pulls.

Then there's the kitchen. The oven and stove are kind of cool but the rest seems a bit more traditional than we expected. The bathroom, on the other hand, is exactly what we expected because it's pretty much the same today. The wall heater, mirrored vanity and shower door are gone, but the rest is still like it was six decades ago.

We saved the best for last. The bedroom! The Lucy and Ricky matching beds are so 50s. And check out the matching bedspreads, wall paper, curtains and chair cushion. Wow! Last summer, we replaced the large window with a slider which provides nice access to the back yard. Who knows? Maybe someday it'll provide access to the restored pool.

Okay, back to reality. Yesterday, the plumber was the only one on site and he installed the faucet and dishwasher in the BBQ room. He tried to install the electric, on-demand water heater below the sink  but it was too tall. So today, the Tombleson guys cut a hole for it and now it fits. Hopefully, the plumber will return tomorrow to finish the installation for it and the other heater in the half bath.

Dave and Adam spent most of the afternoon painting over the messes the tile guys made and removing all of the other piles of trash that have accumulated around the site over the last month or two. They brought their dump truck and hauled it all away. And we now have a guest house door that can be securely locked.

After the crew left, Jack was let outside and he curiously explored the back yard. It's a lot cleaner than it's been for a long time and the nearly blind guy appreciates that. And so do we.

Mike thinks we'll be done by Thursday. We'll see….

Saturday, December 13, 2014


It's the 13th of December, 12/13/14, and we are just days away from being done with the first phase of the renovation. To celebrate, we're posting 13 photos. And because the Internet doesn't have enough pictures of cats, we're starting and ending with the very photogenic Miss Zoya, full name: Zoya Bertoia. Her favorite chair? Our Bertoia Bird chair, of course, which is now safely stored in the garage down stairs. When phase one is done, the Bird chair will find its way back to the BBQ room which is off limits to the ever shedding purr machine.

The weather's been mostly wet this week and when the clouds clear we're getting some beautiful vistas of the hills turning green across the valley. This morning we woke up to another river of fog covering the Salinas Valley, one of our favorite things about living on Steinback Mountain.

Speaking of weather, in spite of the mostly cloudy and foggy days we've been having, surprisingly, we're still generating significant power from our new solar panels. Since the system went online at the end of October, we've produced 156 kW hours of energy which is 17% of our consumption. When the longer days and warmer days return, we're expecting to have a 12-month average of 50% and a 50% reduction in our utility bills. Sweeeeeet.

Since the last post, the folks from C. L. Frost came and installed the counters in the guest house and the BBQ room half bathrooms. Then they finished the backsplash in the guest house bath. Again, we're so impressed with the quality of work from these guys.

Friday, Keith from Della Mora plumbing showed up and started installing the fixtures for the two bathrooms. By the end of the day, he was able to install both toilets and most of the sink and shower hardware. Hopefully, he'll return Monday and complete the plumbing work.

Late Friday, like around 6 pm, Winnifred and Felipe from Glasswork by Design showed up to measure the guest house shower for the sliding door we want. They tried to talk us out of the Vigo model now on sale at Home Depot for 20% off ($932) and, instead, upgrade to a similar door made by Cardinal. That decision will depend on how much they quote us on their model and installation which we should know by Tuesday. As they were leaving, Felipe told Winnifred in Spanish that he'd done some plumbing work on our house a few years back. Winnifred translated that Felipe remembered the house was for sale at the time. Want to hear that story?

The right place (online) at the right time. How a redfin addiction turned a dream into reality.
For most of our 16 years together, we lived on campus in faculty and staff housing. In its former life, CSUMB was Fort Ord and when the University opened two decades ago, there was a lot of military officer housing available for CSUMB employees to either rent or buy at very affordable prices. The Monterey Bay area is one of California's more pricey places to live, so "subsidized" housing is a nice perk. At first we rented, and then we bought and renovated a two bedroom, 1 1/2 bath townhouse where we stayed for almost a decade. It was a cool place and we loved the one-banana commute to campus. But the bummer with faculty housing is that you have to sell it back to the University when you retire so we knew we would eventually have to move off campus. Originally, that's why we bought our house in Palm Springs, the place where we thought we'd retire. But that's another story….

So, when the real estate bubble hit, we started looking for another house. Our friends Patty and Peter who also lived on our street had recently moved to a nice 50s era neighborhood in Salinas. Peter was a Realtor and they had seen our desert house and knew of our love of MCM furniture and architecture. To make a very long story much shorter, within a few months we were living a few blocks away from them in a 50s ranch style house that was a bit boring but had lots of potential. It was a "short sale" that was anything but short. But although we immediately started fixing the place up, we didn't stop looking for other houses, ones with more MCM style. We found a few cool post and beam homes and even made offers on some but others always beat us to an accepted offer.

We, well at least one of us, had an addiction to the real estate website and one day came across a listing for the house we now own. But, five years ago, the asking price was over $750K and we had a very strict policy to never consider anything over $500K. But we could tell from the pictures, it was a unique and very cool house with authentic MCM character. And a million dollar view!

Then, one fateful Friday morning, the listing reappeared on redfin at $499K. We quickly called Peter. Peter quickly called the selling agent. She told Peter she was just about to take the listing down as she already had an accepted offer but she would be willing to have us look at the place that morning and she would take a back-up offer. We drove up to the site with Peter and fell in love with the place before we made it through the front door. Completely bummed that once again someone else beat us to a great MCM house, we decided to go ahead and put in a full price offer.

Monday morning Peter called. He said we should sit down for what he had to say. He then quickly explained something called a BPO (Brokers Price Opinion) which we learned often happens when a bank is selling a home about to go into foreclosure. Apparently, they invite three different realtors to each appraise the house with three different values: The highest price possible on a good day in a good market, the lowest price possible on a good day in an okay market, and what they think it's worth that day in the current market. So they did a BPO for the house and the nine values averaged out to $460K.

Are you sitting down? Peter then said the buyers with the accepted offer were not able to get financing so the house was ours. But, if we still wanted it, we had to sign new paperwork forcing us to buy the house for $39K less than we were willing to pay three days earlier. There was only one catch: We had to sell our house we'd only been in nine months and we had to sell it fast. Thanks to Peter, we sold it in two weeks and for $50K more than we paid for it. And that's how we landed on Steinback Mountain.

Saarinen, Eames, and Miss Bertoia…

"Okay, it's not a Bird chair, but it's nice and warm. And the green light matches my eyes…."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Doors and drawers!

The last few days we've seen a break in the rain but it's still been cloudy and foggy. Saturday evening we got a bit of a break in the clouds so we experimented with our first night time-lapse photography of a full moon rise (you can see the video at the end of this post). We set up the camera, tripod and laptop in the front yard and set the software to take a photo every ten seconds over a time span of 90 minutes. As you'll see in the video, we had some issues with condensation on the lens that made for some fuzzy moments, but in the end, it still turned out kind of cool. We'll need to experiment some more, obviously, before we can master the process.

We also got a bunch of photos emailed to us from Chris, the Tombleson's great grandson, who received the promised set from his great aunt. The photos are actually photos of photos and not the best quality so we're going to hold off on posting them until a week or so when Chris has them scanned and drops them by the house on a thumb drive. The photos show the kitchen, a bedroom, the living room, and the backyard. The living room photo shows some very cool MCM furniture! The image quality of the magazine article is decent so we'll include that in today's post. We spent way too many hours over the weekend online trying to track down our own copy of (California) Homes Illustrated but never found one. We'll keep trying…

Yesterday was very exciting as John and Gary both delivered the doors and drawers for the BBQ room and guest house cabinets. The guest house bathroom is too much of a mess to really appreciate the finished cabinets but the BBQ room looks pretty awesome.

Paco and Junior also installed the heating elements in the rest of the guest house yesterday, applying the overlaid mud before they left. Today they were the only ones on site and, as we write this, they've just finished laying the rest of the tile. Tomorrow they will return to grout and then all of the flooring for phase one should be done. Yep, done!

What's left to be done? The counters for the two bathrooms should be next. Then the plumbers can return to install the toilets, shower and sink hardware, and the water heaters. Then the shower doors get installed. And then? Could we possibly be finished?

As promised, here's the video of Saturday night's moonrise: