Quaint to contemporary

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By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer  |  Photos by Luis Chavez

The small-town charm of Santa Paula can be felt most prominently in its downtown district. Main Street is lined with historic storefronts and could be mistaken for a movie set. (It has been used as a film location on more than one occasion.) On weekends, locals stroll its sidewalks, dining on the patios of charming cafes and enjoying its low-key ambience. On the side streets you’ll find lovely murals depicting the city’s history, as well as the Agriculture Museum, the Art Museum and an old-fashioned train depot. The Tudor Revival Glen Tavern Inn, established in 1911, tells the story of early 20th century California through its clientele: high society oil and citrus barons at first, giving way to gamblers, bootleggers and prostitutes during Prohibition and then luminaries of stage and screen (Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, John Wayne) during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

That charm extends to the area’s residential neighborhoods, which are filled with beautifully maintained Victorian and Craftsman homes — including one belonging to Barbara and Arthur Kroon.

The Kroon Craftsman was built in 1923, and from the outside has maintained that very distinctive style: overhanging eaves, columns supporting a porch roof, large window panes arranged in two-by-five grids. The entryway and living room also have that 1920s feel, with original hardwood floors, a fireplace and an arched alcove.

But go a little further in and you jump ahead about 100 years — thanks to a year-long remodeling effort begun in 2019.

New design for a new lifestyle

In 2003, when the Kroons took up residence, the 2000-square-foot three-bed, two-bath house had ample 1920s character: hardwood floors, stucco walls, lots of beige ceramic tile in the kitchen and bathrooms. Very typical for its time, but not very modern — and the kitchen always felt cramped.

A gentle nudge from a neighbor got the ball rolling.

“This whole thing started when our next door neighbor got her house painted and then came over and asked when we were going to get ours painted, too,” Barbara recalls. “It kind of shamed us into going forward with renovations that we had been saving for and planning and dreaming about for a decade.”

“Our neighbor sent her contractor over to do a house painting estimate, and that’s how we met Eber Canelas of Canelas Construction,” Barbara continued. “From there, the whole project just snowballed.”

Helping to usher the project along was Barbara’s brother, Bill Huntoon, a contractor who lives in El Segundo.

“He is a craftsman and a perfectionist and has very kindly been our free consultant,” she said. Arthur also has experience with construction — he designed and sold kitchens in his native Holland before moving to the U.S. — so “between the two of them, no architect was needed.”

Curb appeal

While the bedrooms and front living room remain untouched, the rest of the house got a significant update — including the front door.

“I knew I wanted a red door no matter what,” said Barbara.

That bright red contrasts beautifully with the butter yellow and creamy white paint of the house — a fresh, sunny change from the previous mustard color.

The side yard to the left, once nothing but dirt, is now a patio with table, lounge chairs, fire pit and even a swing — allowing the Kroons to take full advantage of the shadiest section of the lot.

The porch was redesigned as well. While the Craftsman columns and original windows remain, the porch itself was extended by nearly three feet, and tiled with dark gray slate. Once merely a way to access the house, it’s now a living space in its own right, with tables and chairs on either side where family and friends can gather (when it’s safe to do so) and enjoy the hustle and bustle of downtown in comfort.

Work on the porch was completed in early March, and the Kroons celebrated with a party just weeks before COVID-19 spurred sheltering-in-place orders.

“The last gathering we had . . . we had about 30 people over to christen the porch,” Barbara said.

Remarkably, these changes haven’t altered the 1920s appeal of the exterior, which remains in harmony with the old-fashioned feel of Downtown Santa Paula. The real time traveling takes place inside.

Into the gray

The modernization begins with the bathrooms. While their footprints remain small, fresh white paint, new fixtures and walk-in showers with glass doors have done a lot to update them for the 21st century. Mediterranean blue tiles in the showers bring a welcome pop of color.

The Kroons relied on a grayscale palette to take the bathrooms, kitchen and family room from quaint arts-and-crafts to contemporary cool.

This is felt most keenly in the kitchen, with its new quartz counters and white and gray cupboards replacing the dated ivory tile and brown cabinetry. Busting out the wall that separated kitchen and family room, the Kroons created a great room, opening things up and gaining a whole lot more space. Dual ovens, a large central island, a pantry with pull-out shelves and a separate bar have added functionality and ease. In addition, a newly constructed door in the ceiling has given them access to a large attic for storage.

The family room enjoys plenty of light from two large windows. The classic red brick of the fireplace is now gray stack stone to complement the rest of the house.

The Kroons are social people who, prior to the pandemic, entertained often. They anticipate getting a lot of use out of their larger, more conveniently designed kitchen.

“I can have two lasagnas going at the same time,” Barbara says of her ovens. “I can’t wait!”

Outdoors reimagined

A sliding glass door on the east side of the family room leads into the Kroons’ expansive backyard — which has received a dramatic facelift.

Previously, the yard was largely taken up by an above-ground pool that had the appearance of in-ground thanks to a surrounding deck. With two children (daughters Ruby, now 31, and Kelly, 20), the pool initially saw plenty of use, but eventually fell out of fashion. The deck wood began to rot as well, and in 2008 Arthur drained the pool and demolished the whole thing.

“There was always talk of doing something,” Barbara said.

As the Kroons finally embarked on that “something,” they redesigned more than half the property.

Today, there’s a two-level deck made of Brazilian ipe — a hardwood that’s naturally fire, bug and water resistant — leading to a beautiful new patio. The first landing (accessible from the sliding glass door) is a narrow deck with a set of table and chairs. A few steps down is the much larger deck, where chaise lounges and a very inviting whirlpool spa beckon. The brick walls surrounding the backyard have been topped with ipe fencing, making the entire area very private.

Sandstone pavers were used to create a large patio at ground level. With cushy seating, a stack stone fireplace and a table that seats eight, it’s the perfect outdoor party pad. There’s even a pull-down projector screen on the side of the garage, for summer movie nights.

When craving calm rather than company, a quiet spot behind the garage has been converted into a serene yoga garden.

Unlike the remodeled interior, where cool colors rule, the exterior is all about warmth: sandstone, sienna, chocolate brown. Gravel planters sparsely filled with succulents and painted rocks (a talent daughter Kelly discovered during the pandemic) surround the decks. Statues, fountains and colorful ceramic pots are tastefully arranged to capture the eye, soften, bring in a touch of vibrancy. Together with the surrounding hardscape, these elements create a space that is both comfortable and quietly elegant.

“We woke up to a dream”

No one anticipated that the extensive remodel would coincide in part with COVID-19. Barbara and Arthur were lucky enough to work from home, but found being confined to a house under construction far from pleasant. Eating out of the microwave and using a bathroom sink as a kitchen sink was a pain. There was the constant cacophony of sawing, hammering and power tools, with sawdust and debris everywhere — although Barbara gives props to the construction team.

“[Canelas] has been so great and cooperative and respectful of our space during the quarantine,” she said. “And we are all proud of the job he and his team have done. He has been a real professional.”

Now that the work is done, the Kroons’ beautiful new kitchen, gorgeous outdoor spaces and contemporary comforts are a continual joy, and have added over 800 square feet of usable space, plus an additional 1,500 square feet of storage.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Barbara admitted. “But we woke up to a dream.”