By Bonnie Nicholls | Special to SDUN
Editor’s note: This story was paid for and provided by the South Park Business Group, producers of the Old House Fair. In its 15th year, the Old House Fair bills itself as “where to go when your contractor’s been dead for 75 years.” It is at this event where San Diegans can meet with experts, craftsmen and services that specialize in the unique demands of older homes. Over 70 exhibitors’ booths will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 15th, arrayed along 30th and Beech Streets in South Park.
Over 70 exhibitors’ booths will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 15th, arrayed along 30th and Beech Streets in South Park.
Anyone who has lived through a renovation project knows it often equals dust and inconvenience. But in the case of an old home, it also means restoring a structure to its former glory. And that means getting the right people for the job.
Owning an old house is almost like a religion, according to Anne Steinberger, who lives with her husband, Bob, in a 1910 Craftsman they’ve been restoring since 2004. It’s something that you believe in.
The Steinbergers are clearly strong believers. Their two-story, 2,800 square-foot home on Granada Ave. is the second Craftsman they have renovated in South Park. The first is among the five homes on the Historic Home Tour of this year’s Old House Fair on June 15th. The Steinbergers learned with their first home that “you don’t get handymen,” Bob said. “You want true craftsmen. You’re going to pay more, but hopefully the result is going to be a lot better.”
Not only that, but “you want people who are familiar with the neighborhood and understand old houses. You want someone who gets it.” The Steinbergers have made many of those connections with people they have met at the Old House Fair. This year they are both supporting the event as docents in the Historic Home Tour home they restored a few years ago.
Getting experienced and knowledgeable contractors is particularly important in order to register your home under the Mills Act, as the Steinbergers did. The Mills Act provides a break on property taxes to encourage homeowners to preserve their home as a historical property.
During the year-long application process, the Steinbergers learned that the original owners, Henry and Emma Neustadt of Chicago, never lived in the house they built as a spec house. Another surprising fact: All the owners up to 1956 were women. After that, it became the home of different families over the years.
Two of their biggest renovation projects were the new roof and the new exterior paint job. The roof took an entire year, and because their home is registered as a historical property, it had to be restored as such, shingle by cedar shake shingle. The roofer also replaced the siding and redid the front porch.
Next came the paint job, a five-month process handled by Artistic Brush. The Steinbergers selected Raz+Majette Designs to pick out the five colors: gold, white, green, brick red, and blue. All of the colors had to be permitted.
Raz+Majette also selected the interior paint colors, nine in all, as well as chose the color and fabric of the window coverings and seat cushions. Anne herself sewed the window coverings, finishing the last one just before opening their home as part of the 2005 Old House Fair Tour.
Other projects included ripping out the old, brown carpet on the stairs and second floor and putting in new flooring, redoing the bathroom upstairs when they discovered water damage from a leaky tub, having Authentic Fireplaces rebuild the firebox in their fireplace, and getting new concrete poured for the front walkway.
But much of the house remains as they found it, including lovely wood paneling, trim and beams.
In the dining room, plate rails adorn the walls, and Anne decorated them with plates purchased at the Stickley Museum in New Jersey. (The Stickley brothers originated the Mission Oak design of furniture often seen in Craftsman homes.) Many of the light fixtures are original, as are the push-button light switches. The high ceilings and original single-pane, wavy-glass windows can make for chilly evenings, but Anne said that when the family congregates in the living room, lights a fire and closes the pocket door to the foyer, it’s quite cozy and they don’t need to turn on the heater. Even adding the window coverings helped insulate the room, she said.
“It’s a great space to come home to every day,” Bob said, as he sat in a room they call the parlor. Wood columns separate it from the living room, while still keeping an open floor plan.
“This room is my favorite,” he continued, describing the ideal scenario – a fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine, and an iPad or a book to read.
Bob suggested to anyone thinking of buying an old house that “depending on what your budget is, you need to make sure you understand the condition the house is in when you buy it.” A house could have crumbling foundation or faulty electrical or any number of problems. “Go in with your eyes wide open.”
Still, renovation is part of the deal when you own an old house. “You have to love that that’s your house,” Anne said. And work with people who know what they’re doing.
The Old House Fair Program & Resource Guide, a 48-page booklet provided free of charge at the event, includes a guide to the resources available at the event, including contact information on all the exhibitors, contractors, artists and services exhibiting on June 15th. For more information visit theoldhousefair.com or call 619-233-6679.