Monday, November 8, 2010

The Clench Cottage

The Clench Cottage

When a Ventura couple set out to remodel their Midtown house, they turned to its architectural history for inspiration. The result—a revamped abode that stays true to its original time period—is a link to the past in a changing city.

By Lisa Snider—Photographs by Gaszton Gal

hen owners Ken and Karen Clench decided to add onto their 85-year-old Craftsman-inspired bungalow on Poli Street in Midtown Ventura, the 40-something couple readily admit they didn’t know what they were in for. Reflecting on the five-year project, Karen initially had trouble recalling just when the endeavor began.

“Things that are painful, you block out,” she says, adding, “It was supposed to be a four-month building project.”

Karen, a software and database developer, bought the house in 1994. She loved the original enclosed sun porch and the tasteful updates made by the previous owner, including granite counters in the kitchen. “I couldn’t afford the house,” she says, “But I wanted it.”

That early ‘90s remodel opened up the front room to create a vaulted ceiling. The addition of glass block windows around the marble fireplace created privacy while allowing natural light to filter in, and lends to the Art Deco feel of the space. The dining room has two original built-in china cabinets with glass fronts.

The original owners were Elwin and Mabel Pendergast, who in 1925 built what Karen figures was a Sears kit house. Their granddaughter came by one day with old photographs of the house, which now adorn the hallway.

Soon Karen met Ken, now an employee with the Oxnard Parks Department. They were married in 1998 and a few years later their daughter, Sarah, was born. A growing family meant growing needs, chief among them: space. With just 1,184 square feet and a single bathroom, they needed more room.

In 2004, the house was featured in the San Buenaventura Conservancy’s home look-in tour and was dubbed The Clench Cottage. Ken and Karen knew they were residing in a historical gem and decided the following year to proceed with a remodel that would give them more room while preserving the property’s roots and character. “We wanted the addition to look seamless,” says Ken, who had a hand in the house’s wood restorations.

Initially they planned to build upward, but a second story proved cost-prohibitive. “We had to pull back because of funding,” says Karen. After a couple years of design modifications with their architect, city planners approved their drawings in late 2007. More plan changes were made in late 2008, and in April of 2009, the nine-month construction of the 400-square-foot addition finally began.

The family had hoped to live in the house during construction, but their only bathroom was right where the new master bedroom would be. Karen and Sarah moved in with Ken’s mother nearby, and Ken stayed on to supervise construction. He convinced the builder to devise makeshift temporary plumbing. “The back of my shower was a piece of plywood,” he says. He even used the builder’s portable toilet. According to Karen, he was living like a caveman.

Meanwhile, Karen studied magazines like Sunset and the book Bungalow by Jane Powell to come up with the design inspirations for the bathrooms. She found the hexagonal tile pattern for the master bathroom— something Ken’s 80-year-old mother remembers from her childhood home—on the Internet, which also yielded bargains and historically significant materials. “I was a compulsive Craigslister!” admits Karen. The website led her to a nearby home where the owners were selling 1918 interior doors, which Ken turned into sliding closet doors for their master bedroom. Karen also used eBay, where she came across a lovely 1925 pale green sink for the powder room. And, after looking from New York to Ohio for the perfect deep-soaking bathtub for Sarah’s bathroom, Karen ended up finding an impressively-sized Art Deco tub right here in Ventura at Vick’s Plumbing.

Intent on putting his woodworking skills to work and recycling wherever possible, Ken turned a scrap from an old redwood water tank into a countertop for the new indoor laundry room. He also saved the house’s old Douglas fir studs so he could make what is now their master bathroom vanity.

The floors would be the last piece of the puzzle to tie everything in the house together. The master bedroom’s Brazilian cherry floors came from an old barn, built in 1925 on the local Vanoni farm. Ken bought a metal detector, took out the nails, and had each board re-milled.

The couple wanted to make sure the continuation of the Douglas fir floors from the front of the house to the where the new addition began was flawless, and Karen again struck Internet gold when she discovered Douglas fir floor boards on Craigslist. And here’s that date again: the floors were dated 1925—the year the house was built. Ken just shakes his head, looks at Karen, and smiles. “I know,” he says, “it is kind of freaky. It all worked out.”

Click here for the full story with photos as published October 2010 in Ventana Monthly magazine.