The Long Road Home

Earthquakes couldn’t shake their resolve. Torrential storms didn’t dampen their spirits. For Ken and Charlie Kipps, a remodeling odyssey in East Ventura has been a true labor of love.

By Leslie Westbrook

Photos by Gary and Pierre Silva.

“A lot of folks have toys: condos in Aspen, RVs,” says Ventura native Ken Kipp. “We have this house. We love it here, and we love entertaining.” Ken and his wife, Charlie, are thankful now, but they had no idea of the challenges that lay ahead in 1996 when they purchased their dream home in the hills of East Ventura.

From day one, they were sold on the view—a compelling panorama that strikes anyone visiting the remodeled three-bedroom, four-bath house. And the two-acre lot was tempting as well. Unfortunately, they discovered first-hand what lay beneath the surface of those two acres, thanks to a series of major winter storms and an earthquake. The remodeling odyssey that awaited them in the coming years would have overwhelmed most couples. But the Kipps aren’t your average couple.

The contemporary home’s clean styling (left) belies years of hard work.

Hard work and perseverance, not to mention a lot of creative thinking and suggestions from family, friends, and professionals, helped them realize their vision, which remains a work in progress 12 years later. “We knew we wanted to stay in Ventura, and we wanted a house that represents the region’s lifestyle,” says Ken, a third generation resident of Ventura County.

No stranger to challenges, the former Ventura County Deputy Chief and his lovely wife (the couple met while they were both working for the Sheriff’s Department) took on the project with gusto. Their house odyssey began in March 1996, when they immediately began demo work on the hill. It was a year of heavy storms on the West Coast. “We were completely exposed,” Ken recalls. On several occasions they were up all night pumping water. They rebuilt the hillside using a D4 Tractor to repack the soil, and re-landscaped over an acre with drought tolerant deep rooting plants. Charlie’s scrapbook from the time period is aptly named “The Deck from Hell.”

The Kipps' home is the kind of place everyone enjoys, including their oenophile retriever, Sophie Belle.

The large patio, now used for entertaining, was once a pool. But that had to be demolished after suffering a large crack during the earthquake of 1994. Guests enjoying a margarita and the view from the rebuilt bench steps—complete with a fiber optic system that illuminates the stairs at night—have no idea that the area once consisted of huge cavities between the fascia wall and the pool interior. To stabilize the hillside, they used some unique building techniques suggested by Ken’s dad, a retired Navy Seabee: “He told me that when he was in Alaska building landing strips on the tundra, they put down big sheets of Styrofoam with a sand base to support the weight, and put concrete over the top. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do that here?’ Charlie looked at me like I was crazy … and then she said, ‘That could work.’”

Ten huge blocks of Styrofoam were used to fill the pool and cavities, taking up volume. Next came the sand, and then the six-inch concrete deck, reinforced with rebar, saving the Kipps “a ton of money,” as well as a ton of weight on the hill.

They may have saved money filling in the pool, but then there was the new roof, new electrical, plumbing, Wi-Fi, and hardware to deal with. Two new concrete and landscaped side yards were created to evacuate any water away from foundation. “Then we got to the remodel,” laughs Charlie, “a year and a half ago.” The remodel—which included going down to the studs, new floors, drywall, paint, lighting, ceilings, windows, and fixtures—was completed in just four months. The couple also rebuilt the existing bar in the living room and added all new furniture and appliances.

At night, the ocean view gives way to a spectacular Ventura County electric show.

To assist with the interior decorating and remodel, they enlisted Shirley Carpenter of Magnolia Interiors. “We asked for her help not only because we liked what she did in other projects, but her taste is excellent and she has sub-contractors that have worked with her for a long time and know how she does things,” says Charlie. “I had a ton of pictures, and we had certain ideas about what we wanted in the way of furniture, design, built-ins, colors, and styles. Shirley had the resources.”

Still, the house is not finished; the list seems to grow even as the Kipps check off completed projects. Some would say it’s the house from hell. Ken rattles off a list of chores-to-do: a new driveway, garage doors, a small deck with a Jacuzzi off the back bedroom. Enough to rattle any homeowner. But for the Kipps it’s a true labor of love. As Ken puts it, “We saw the great potential and looked beyond all the warts.” ­



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