The house-for-sale ad read: “old Hollywood dinosaur.”
“That was perfect for us; we wanted something untouched,” says Bob Johnson, who met his future wife when “she moved into the apartments where I lived – our doors faced each other.”
“He was literally ‘the boy next door,'” Jennifer laughs.
The couple says they “discovered their creativity and caught that old house bug” when they bought their first small bungalow in Lakewood Heights after they were married. Now, they hope to turn their Tudor dream home in the Hollywood Santa Monica Conservation District into their permanent residence by restoring the existing structure and finishing out the attic as a master suite and children’s game room.
“We’re looking forward to starting our family,” Bob says. “I think we’ll be great parents… playing sports with the kids… that long-term thing.”
“That’s part of the plan,” Jennifer says, “the renovation and all. I don’t want to be cramped. There are so many things are important to how we want to live – and we’d like get it done now before we have small children running around.”
The family plan for Home Sweet Home has included a cash course in learning how to live in a conservation district, where historic structures are protected in very specific ways.
“We had to go down to the city… we had trouble,” recalls Bob, with a rueful shake of his head.
Jennifer continues: “We didn’t realize – we were restoring our stained glass, and so we just took it all out and boarded up the windows. And then! We had nasty notes and letters and phone calls…”
“We were like: What’s going on?” says Bob, who explains that they quickly learned that homeowners in the district aren’t allowed to remove original stained glass from the front of the historic structures. Once the Johnsons obtained the necessary paperwork, and once the distraught neighbors knew they were restoring the fragile artifacts that were literally being held together with packing tape, all was well.
“We love our neighbors and our neighborhood,” Bob says.
“We can’t imagine having any other neighbors now,” Jennifer says. “We can’t say enough good things about them. We’ve become great friends.”
“But for awhile there, we thought we are going to Stained Glass Jail,” Bob says.
The Johnsons have come a long way since the beginning of the renovation. The home will be one of half a dozen on the neighborhood’s annual tour held the last weekend in April.
“I was kind of uncomfortable with the whole idea of being on tour,” Jennifer says. “We have so much left to do – it’s hard to let people come through your house before you’re finished. They (the tour committee) are billing it as ‘in process’ and, baby, it’s gonna be ‘in process,'” she laughs.
“But the fact that people on the tour can see our ‘Phase I’ and then come back next year and see the progress… maybe they’ll realize that anybody can do this step by step, if they take their time and not be intimidated.”
Bob says: “A home isn’t something you have to put together and do immediately. Have an idea, and then let the idea change. Find something, make sure what you want, and then put it in place.”
The Johnsons were willing to contribute to the tour since they are big fans of the effort to preserve historic portions of our neighborhood, and both have strong feelings about the past.
“It’s funny, the most sentimental things in the home to me are the ones that were originally here,” Jennifer says. “I love things that tell a story, that have a meaning behind them, that came from somewhere memorable. I just really appreciate history.”
The couple, which own and run a mortgage company, say that making a home together is also their creative outlet.
“We’re not artists, but this home has really been our palette,” Jennifer says.
“It’s our hobby and what we enjoy doing – something that’s not for anyone else, just ourselves. We love to walk in and look at beauty.”
Bob says: “We kind of want to be jealous of every room and not know which one to sit in.”
“We don’t want to have a favorite,” she agrees.
Bob says that making all that beauty happen takes a lot of time and thought. In fact, he doesn’t come right out and say that his wife is “picky” but…
“I really want exactly what I want,” admits Jennifer, laughing. “I decorate at a snail’s pace… I want to be ‘in love’ with everything I pick. And if I have to wait for it, then that’s OK. It’ll be worth it.
“We’re planning on being here for a long time.”
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