When Pierre Rademaker designs a logo, he usually begins simply, with pencil and paper. This appreciation for the human touch in all manner of design influenced his decision to restore the 1915 San Luis Obispo Craftsman home he shares with wife Terri.
The couple has always been enamored with the tree-lined, idyllic stretch of Mill Street.
“We had often gone out of our way to travel down it,” said Pierre. “When we saw the house for sale, we were pretty excited.”
They first found the home in 2002. Realizing it had some issues to overcome, Pierre sat down and made a sketch of his vision for it. Then they made an offer, moved in, and eventually began renovations.
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“Not being in a particular rush was an advantage, as it allowed us to live with the house for a while and make decisions slowly,” said Pierre. “As our research and understanding of the style progressed, we took on increasingly ambitious projects.”
Pierre is a versatile designer who works with everything from signage to living spaces. The couple’s previous home was a contemporary one of his design, but he had also renovated a 1915 Craftsman bungalow in Paso Robles for his sister. The goal for his own renovation was twofold.
“We wanted to make it true to history, but also livable today,” he said.
Over the years, renovations in the interest of modernization had obscured the home’s historic character. Layers of paint masked its origi- nal woodwork and the kitchen was completely revamped around the early 1960s.
Pierre took on some cosmetic fixes himself, such as interior painting. He also stripped paint from the original fir wainscoting and trim, finishing it simply with oil.
“It was done on and off, in spurts,” he said. “It’s kind of a zen thing, once you get into it.”
The couple got help with electrical work from Terri’s father, who is an electrician. They also contracted out jobs such as plumbing, replastering the exterior, rebuilding the porch, refinishing floors and rebuilding their brick and river rock chimney.
In the 1950s, a 10-foot addition was built onto the house. It is now an office for Terri, who is a retired speech pathologist with the County Office of Education. The couple added a second story atop the office in order to increase the size of the master bedroom and create a new master bath. The addition took the 1,630 square foot home to 1,895 (the original size was 1,360).
The kitchen was the only part of the house stripped to the studs and completely rebuilt.
“There was nothing left of the original kitchen, which in a way was a blessing because we didn’t feel guilty tearing it all down,” said Pierre.
They replaced its Tuscan style ceramic floor tile with hardwood. Sliding aluminum windows were removed and replaced with double-hung wood windows with float glass panes. Countertops, which were so generously proportioned that they impeded traffic flow, were returned to the 20-inch depth typical of the era. Doing so meant having to sink the dishwasher into the wall. Period-appropriate elements include inset drawer faces and cabinet doors, white subway tile walls, antique reproduction lighting, and reproduction plumbing fixtures.
The Rademakers took great pains to preserve original elements of the home. All of the old wood windows were removed, restored and reinstalled. When they removed windows to create their new master bedroom, they reused them in the bathroom. They also kept as much wood as possible during demolition to use in other areas of the home.
Whenever they added something new, they tried to choose period-appropriate materials. The exterior was replastered in the original texture. When replacing missing moldings, they had pieces hand-milled to match existing pieces. An original built-in buffet in the dining room, outfitted in the 1960s with shutters, was given new Craftsmanstyle doors with leaded glass inserts.
The couple shopped stores specializing in period reproduction items, such as Old California Lantern Company for exterior fixtures, and Rejuvenation for interior lighting.
The couple incorporated a few modern comforts that are also environmentally friendly. New clerestory windows over the stairwell allow light to stream downstairs. A tankless hot water system and added insulation augment the home’s energy-efficiency.
The couple’s furniture is a combination of old and new, including antiques and Craftsman-reproduction pieces. Their oak dining room table is a custom-built piece of Pierre’s design. The couple also has several items from Terri’s family, including her grandmother’s 1911 sewing table. Living in an old home is a new experience for the Rademakers, but they have happily made the adjustment.
“It’s quirky,” said Pierre. “It creaks occasionally. Some of the floors are not perfectly level. But it’s got a lot of character and we think it’s fabulous.”
Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.