Friday, February 21, 2003

A turret fronting the kitchen at left and the square jutting entrance are part of this Wilhemina Rise home's charm.

This new old house

Brad Adams and Megan York
undertake a renovation with
an eye to the past

By Ruby Mata-Viti

At the start of 2003, Brad Adams and Megan York of Wilhelmina Rise had two life-altering projects on their hands, both with looming deadlines, one of which they had no control over.

The baby, all 7 pounds, 10 ounces of him, "came sooner than we expected," said Adams. "He wasn't supposed to arrive for a couple more weeks."

Rather than halt the other project, a second-floor addition to the couple's 1925 Victorian-style home, Adams accelerated it.

"Be careful, it's like an obstacle course in here," he said, as he stepped over rolls of carpeting and panels of unused wood flooring during a tour of the first level while newborn Lincoln and his mom rested in the newly built second story.

"We're used to this," he said. "We've been living in the home since the construction began."

A friend presented a sketch of the home, top, as a gift to owners Brad Adams and Megan York before the second floor was added.

The husband and wife have lived in Hawaii for less than a decade and appreciate architecture characteristic of old Hawaii and the personality these homes lend to their neighborhoods. It's apparent from shelves of vinyl albums, 1940s pinup art and a 1950s dinette table that their love for objects of the past isn't restricted to the home's exterior.

Raising the house's roof to accommodate their growing family was not as challenging as their desire to keep the integrity and character of its facade intact.

"I didn't want (the house) to be one of those you see and say, 'There's another cute house someone bought and ruined,'" said Adams.

It helped that York is a planner with Group 70 International Inc. architectural firm. Colleagues put them in touch with Marc Munden, of Munden Design and Build, who drew up the plans, and Daniel Nakano, a builder who solidified them.

Once the team was in place, all the couple needed was perseverance, understanding loan officers, a flexible budget and a baby who would adhere to a doctor-imposed deadline. Three out of four isn't bad.

York stands with their son Lincoln in the new addition near one of five doors she and Adams picked up for $100 from a teardown. Vintage glass doorknobs from flea markets and estate sales were used upstairs to match the original glass knobs on the first floor.

MUNDEN AND NAKANO understood the couple's vision. Perched on an upslope and privy to an encompassing view of Diamond Head, it's one of the few homes on a stretch of winding street that's not half termite-eaten or that hasn't been demolished and replaced with a modular box, or butchered by a hodgepodge of additions.

Munden describes the house as "not quite a gingerbread style," with a hint of Victorian. The home has two distinct features: the turret near the kitchen and a square jutting at the entrance. "It had some nice cut to it," he said, referring especially to its sloped roof.

Most homes built before World War II had steep rooflines, said Munden. Homes built after the war had only slightly sloped roofs, which he attributed to economy ("you use less material") and craftsmanship ("carpenters weren't as skilled in that after the war").

"My idea of an addition is to make it look as though it was always there, no matter what the style of house," he said. That means every detail of the addition, from the windows to roofline to new deck, needs to match the original structure.

Munden attained a building permit classifying the couple as owner/builders. "It's a homestead thing, left over from the covered-wagon days. You have the right as an owner to be the general contractor of your own private property," he said.

In this way, family and friends can help without involving a general contractor. Most who go this route do so to save money, he said, but sometimes end up making costly mistakes, so he warns homeowners to do their research.

Brad Adams and Megan York replaced all the fluorescent tube lighting in their 1925 home with fixtures they bought from garage sales and the like. What they couldn't find here, they bought from Internet Web sites selling vintage reproductions. "But we like to go with the real deal as much as possible," said Adams, shown at top with Rooster, the family pet.

ONE WAY THE couple cut costs is by occupying the home during construction. "Most would have them move out while the work is being done," said Nakano, who was hoisting a ladder to inspect the partially built deck, "but since they had no family here, they would have had to rent."

Nakano, part owner of DSN Builders, built the new roof over the existing one, and when he deemed the home watertight and weatherproof, tore out the old.

For months the two were crammed into a living space consisting of two first-floor bedrooms, a bathroom and the kitchen, which was their only access into the home. "But the whole time the roof was being built, we were never exposed to the elements," said Adams.

The 1,100-square-foot home, which they bought in 1998, had only four owners since 1925. The last, who owned the home for 20 years, "modernized" it with fluorescent tube lighting, thick wall-to-wall shag carpet "with grease all over it, and multiple colored walls," said Brad. It had minimal termite damage but "was pretty run down."

That gave them reason to haggle and buy it for $280,000. When they knew a baby was on its way, they considered selling and trading up, but real estate agents and loan officers advised them to extend, said York. They had just enough equity in the home to refinance and renovate.

Now spindle bannisters of jatoba wood -- "to match the flooring" -- lead to the new two-bedroom, one-bath second floor where York had just put Lincoln to sleep. French doors in the master bedroom open up to a commanding view.

They don't know how much over budget they'll run for the 650-square-foot addition "because it's not done yet," Adams said, "but we figured at the onset it would cost about $50,000 to $65,000."

The claw-foot tub, was bought at a yard sale for $25.

ALTHOUGH THE home's new look retains its 1920s facade, the added space follows building codes. Some deck railings of older homes have horizontal bars, which is now against regulation.

"It's dangerous for children," said Nakano. "The bars are like ladder steps."

However, the new railing with its vertical bars doesn't detract from the look.

There were setbacks along the way. There was a problem securing matching cedar siding not stocked locally. Many time-consuming phone calls later, Adams tracked down a mainland outlet that had it.

"Then the dock strike hit and that stalled us," he said.

Although he knew his persistence to get the matching siding would add to their already increasing costs, "it had to be done right."

"We didn't have to get the siding, or the hardwood floors; we could have gone with laminate, and no one would know the difference. But we would know."

They offset the cost by tackling some work themselves, such as painting and installing flooring, which they did with the help of a neighborhood friend.

Brad has had the dinette table, since he was an undergraduate at the University of Kansas.

ADAM'S JOB AT Hickam Air Force base as a forensic anthropologist brought the couple, who met at the University of Tennessee, to Oahu in the mid-'90s. The job takes him away for two to three months every year, combing places abroad for clues of MIAs to retrieve for lab identification.

It's a sharp contrast to the couple's hobby, involving a more lighthearted hunt for antiques and collectibles from the '20s to '50s. The pastime also saved them money on refurbishing their home.

Adams points to the second-story doors bought from a teardown in Kalihi that advertised "Everything must go."

"We asked if it included the doors, and the owner said, 'Yeah, I guess.'"

One hundred dollars later, they were five doors richer. Chrome and black enamel kitchen drawer pulls from the '50s were won off an eBay auction. The clawfoot porcelain tub in the downstairs bathroom was picked up for $25.

The original owner of the pedestal sink in the upstairs bath, snagged for $5, used it for a birdbath in his yard.

"We go to garage sales, flea markets and estate sales just about every weekend," Adams said, then paused reflectively. "Well, we used to before the baby came."

They'll wait for the dust to settle, he said with a smile, to see whether they can still fit it in as frequently.

Brad Adams installed hardwood flooring himself with the help of friends to cut costs. The Bozo the Clown pedal car, bought for $100 from an antique store in Knoxville, Tenn., sits like a sculpture in the baby's room against the reddish brown jatoba wood.

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