Meandering horse trails are just part of the charm of living in an equestrian zone, despite owner Julie Balcom‘s assertion that her 1978 southern California tract home previously “didn’t even try to emulate an architectural style.” Julie and her husband Ken, both junior high school teachers, bought the worst house in the best neighborhood they could afford and use their summer breaks to tackle home improvement projects. That schedule works well, as their Alta Loma fixer-upper needed some major attention, and paying for someone else’s previous upgrades was not on the home-buying agenda. The family adores their quiet neighborhood with their two small children, and having renovated previously, they knew that they wanted the most rundown home in a great school district for the kids. When Julie’s mother first walked through the space, it was so out-of-date she begged them to run the other way.
Luckily they weren’t easily deterred, and with a tight budget, the family knew they would end up doing most of the work themselves. Before they moved in, they scrapped the popcorn ceilings, ripped out all the downstairs floors, and installed dog-claw-durable wood laminate. They replaced all the windows, which had vines growing through them and scaling the interior walls. They also replaced the whole kitchen and painted every room. This past summer, Julie and Ken renovated the downstairs bath, which was crumbling apart in their hands. The budget was unforgiving, so they selected inexpensive yet durable finishes. The clawfoot tub had been upstairs in their master bath, but given they live in earthquake territory, they decided to move it downstairs to replace the previous owners’ handmade stucco shower. They then painted the tub a dark green and installed maple drawer fronts made by Ken’s father on an IKEA vanity.
Of all these challenges, the toughest currently is the lack of a proper office. The teachers frequently leave stacks of papers to be graded on the dining room table, and the garage is invaded with curriculum binders and resources. They have a desk in the family room, but it’s not equipped to handle their daily needs. Julie’s biggest gripe is the carpeted stairs and upper floor, which keep getting bumped lower down their summer DIY list.
The family has homebody tendencies after long days at school, so it’s crucial they enjoy their residential surroundings. Overall, they wanted to create a bright, open space that would encourage their friends and family to stay a while. Modern-bohemian, southern California style seems to make everyone feel right at home. —Annie