Dana and Elaine Ditmore once owned a small cottage in Cambria which, year by year, was becoming too cozy.
“Our grandkid population was growing by leaps and bounds,” noted Elaine.
When that population reached 19, the semi-retired couple began searching for larger digs. They originally had their heart set on something in a Craftsman style, within walking distance to downtown San Luis Obispo. But on a whim, their real estate agent took them on a quick tour of a stately Victorian known as the Crocker House.
The approximately 3,800-squarefoot-home is a classic, highly ornamented Queen Anne Victorian. Built in 1901, it is one of the few local homes of the era that was designed by a professional architect.
“We’ve never lived in an historic home, but we walked into that house and absolutely fell in love,” said Elaine.
Features original to the home included a French copper kitchen sink, intricate carved wood fretwork, birdseye maple living room fireplace, and a marble sink with ornate goldplated brass handles in the one original bathroom.
“It had relatively new plumbing and new wiring. Other than dated décor, it was in really good shape,” said Elaine.
The only major remodeling project was the kitchen.
“It was built in the 1970s and none of the appliances worked,” said Elaine.
They expanded the small kitchen slightly by borrowing space from the adjoining eating area. With the help of Les McDonald Construction, they rebuilt the room in a welcoming, farmhouse style with beadboard paneling, warm red cabinets and a repeating rooster motif.
Three of the home’s four bathrooms were built in the 1970s in a then-modern style. The Ditmores gave them a fresh look with new vintage-style fixtures.
The couple took great pains to preserve anything original to the home. They removed all 1970s wallpaper and repainted, but kept the old anaglypta wallpaper in the dining room that resembles embossed metal. The original windows were rebuilt rather than replaced to preserve the old glass. The woodwork in the living and dining rooms was simply cleaned and oiled.
The couple discovered in their research that the house was always carpeted. Still, they decided to remove the carpeting in the downstairs and refinish the Douglas fir floors beneath. In the foyer, they replaced worn linoleum tiles with intricately patterned Arts and Craftsstyle tiles to satisfy their fondness for Craftsman design. The color of the tile inspired the palette for the exterior of the house.
Even the landscaping was designed with history in mind, preserving plants that date to the early years of the home.
The home was intended to be a hub for family activities, so they passed on fussy Victorian frills.
“I didn’t try to decorate to the period but just what I thought complemented the house and hopefully made it welcoming and comfortable,” said Elaine.
Along with newer, traditional-style furnishings are family heirlooms and antiques. The kitchen table is over 100 years old. The dining room furniture and one set of bedroom furniture belonged to Dana’s grandmother. In one bathroom Elaine hung 150-year-old Italian lace panels that she purchased in a Telluride antique store and kept in storage for four years.
“I bought them because I loved them, and I was happy to finally find a place for them,” she said.
Still, the house is far from a museum. The Ditmores maintain a relaxed attitude when entertaining family and friends. They have hosted around 40 people for Thanksgiving dinner, including their 19 grandchildren. Last Thanksgiving’s festivities included a marshmallow fight.
“We’re just a big, loud, noisy, happy family and the house is agreat place for that,” said Elaine.