We didn’t ask just anyone….Long Beach-based architect Jeff Jeannette has completed many stunning Southern California projects, and he graciously fielded our questions ranging from restoring Cliff May homes to retroactively judging tract homes:
For a homeowner wanting to complete a remodel or rehabilitation to their Eichler or Cliff May house, what are some of the challenges they will face?
Jeff Jeannette: The biggest challenge I have experienced remolding these homes centers around their post and beam connections as well as their wide roof spans. Today’s building codes don’t allow the beautiful, lightweight connections done during the Mid Century Era. Often, we’ll introduce steel members and creatively designed structural connections to marry today’s codes with the aesthetics of the original homes.
How about challenges for an older Craftsman home?
Our early Craftsman homes are equally challenging in the structural realm. The old wood wall studs used back in the day are physically different sizes than today’s standard wood making it difficult to integrate today’s materials. We work very closely with our engineers and plan creative solutions to keep the integrity of old homes. Detailing is key; copying existing details of the home into new spaces from moldings to window and door trims help make that addition look as if it were original to the home.
We occasionally see a trashed or mistreated Cliff May in Long Beach that would need serious gutting and rehabilitation (i.e. drywall removed, new plumbing, possibly new electrical, framing work to rotted rafter tails, etc). Given that the final costs will depend on the quality of finishes that the homeowner chooses, is there an average square foot price that can guide a homeowner with budget planning in terms of costs to factor in?
Preliminary Cost Estimates to rehab mistreated homes is nearly impossible to realize without knowing the scope of work required and the spaces involved. New construction is fairly easy to estimate however fixing old homes depends on the size of the home, the current electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems and the overall goals of the project. It’s best to invite an architect out to discuss the project scope up front. Most licensed professionals will understand the systems involved and be able to make recommendations for you or bring in a contractor who as experience with the style of home for more tighter budgeting purposes.
How will the average 1980-2000 era tract home in the U.S. be judged in the future?
I’m still looking for that crystal ball to tell the future! My feeling is they won’t stand the test of time and be that “iconic architectural masterpiece.” Often, these mass produced homes were built quickly and some developers cut corners to save costs. Their condition is based on how well the homeowner has cared for them. I’ve been in and out of many of those homes and typically our scope of work includes replacing insulation, plumbing, upgrading heating and cooling systems and electrical systems. The efficiencies of those homes is fairly low so bringing in new materials can make a sizeable difference in utility costs. Generally, the style of those homes were not very exciting as they were designed with construction costs rather than aesthetics in mind.
What’s the most exciting part of your job and is there ever a bad day in Design/Architecture?
Sure, we all have bad days on the job but for us they are generally few and far between. I love meeting with the people who will have the opportunity to enjoy the spaces we create. Seeing the smile on our client’s faces when they move into their new or newly remodeled home is a wonderful experience. Merging today’s technologies with yesterday’s architecture is also an exciting part of my career. Introducing Sustainable Design Concepts into an old home and transforming an inefficient home into a “Green Home” is a lot of fun. Designing homes is much like putting together a giant 3 dimensional puzzle; blending the design of spaces, aesthetics, and the physical needs of the family. There’s a challenge about it that I really enjoy.
Many thanks to Jeff Jeannette!
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