Amazing home transformations

Get ideas for your own home or garden makeover

Paradise found

A young couple turns a condemned beach shack into their dream home

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  • Exposed beams ― from recycled wood ― and multiple storage spots are featured in the office.

    Paradise found

    Thomas J. Story

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Lessons learned

Budget constraints make creativity and flexibility essential. According to Joe and Kalli Rivers Altieri, the entire remodel cost approximately $1.05 per square foot ― “without my labor, but I’m cheap,” Joe says.

• Combine mass-market items with splurges. “We mixed Ikea and the Home Depot with more expensive purchases,” Joe says. “More modest materials sometimes work better, like the five-ply bamboo floors from Harmony Grove Company (818/550-0689). They’re more durable and much cheaper than oak floors, which I would have had to treat myself.” The slate in the bathrooms and mudroom came from Santa Monica’s Bourget Flagstone Co. (310/829-4010). “It cost a buck a square, and it’s easy for an amateur to lay because it’s intrinsically uneven.”

• Look for clever ways to recycle. Joe recommends saving materials from around the site. “I’m most proud of pulling the original rough-sawn Douglas fir siding off the house and carefully milling it for beams, doorjambs, trim, and all the baseboards. I also recycled scraps of beautiful black walnut from a previous job and used them for all the interior windowsills, and cedar from a shipping crate for the sliding bedroom and den doors,” he says.

• Maximize outdoor living space. “Given the modest size of our house, we wanted a gardenscape that flowed in and around the property,” Joe says. He created drainage on an almost flat lot by digging gravel-filled trenches. He built raised planters to organize succulents and tropicals into zones with distinct watering systems. “We picked one or two expensive plants, like our Japanese maple, and found cheaper young plants in place of mature expensive ones.”

• Know when to hire a pro. “Don’t stucco or drywall yourself ― someone else can do it better, cheaper, and faster!” Joe says. “Getting help framing the addition was the best money we spent. I painted the outside of the house myself. An electrician buddy gave me a lesson on how to install plugs and can lights. And I hired a neighbor’s kid to help me shovel dirt.”



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