Vintage Flip: Restoring a 1920 Hillside Bungalow in Echo Park, California

Jessie and Tina Rodriguez purchase a distressed home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park with hopes of restoring it for a tidy profit. The restoration includes uncovering the home's original wood exterior, creating a more contemporary floor plan, adding a second bath, rebuilding a guest house and refurbishing an authentic 1920s vintage gas stove.

Hillside Bungalow With a Million Dollar View

An updated exterior, full interior remodel, expanded patio and new deck helped Jessie and Tina realize a profit of around $194,000 on this property. As seen here on the newly refurbished guest house, a bold color palette of dark charcoal with mustard-yellow trim gives the home a distinctive look that's well suited to the eclectic vibe of this revitalizing LA neighborhood.


The home was built in 1920, had two bedrooms, two baths, sat on a large lot and was about 1500 square feet. Jessie and Tina purchased the property for $499,000 with plans to invest about $150,000 in upgrades. Prior to the renovation the house was in serious disrepair and was badly lacking in both privacy and curb appeal. It was covered in metal siding, had a non-original add-on porch overhang and the landscaping was badly overgrown.


As seen with the structure next door, a number of the neighborhood's vintage homes have been torn down and replaced by new construction. For this home, though, Tina and Jessie were determined to retain and restore the original architecture while still updating the home to appeal to contemporary buyers. For the front exterior they added a privacy wall and extended the patio forward for a large but private outdoor space. For the open house, Tina staged the home to emphasize the its potential for indoor/outdoor living.


A second structure on the property had been vacant for more than 40 years and, as seen here, was badly deteriorated. If salvageable, however, it could serve as a guest house or rental unit — potentially escalating the home's overall value. 


The guest house was in such bad shape that saving it meant taking it down to the studs and essentially rebuilding it. The only major original feature retained was the original hardwood flooring which was restored and refinished. A wood deck was added at the rear of the main house, providing an outdoor space that takes advantage of the home's amazing view of the LA skyline. 

Behind the Scenes

Jessie and Tina were excited to find the original wood siding intact once the metal siding was removed. "I'm so glad we're saving this bungalow and keeping it era-specific," said Tina. The total renovation budget for the property included $70,000 for the main house, $50,000 for rebuilding the guest house and $30,000 for refurbishing the exterior and adding the back deck.

Behind the Scenes

Jessie applies a dark stain to custom windows made for the living room on the main house. The staining for all new woodwork was carefully matched for a unified look.

Behind the Scenes

Tina shops for hex tiles in pastel colors for a period-specific look in the restored kitchen. Though the original kitchen tile was not salvageable, Tina used the original kitchen design, including color palette and materials, for inspiration. "The tilework that was in this kitchen was classic 1920s," she said. "I want to use the hexagon tile and all the colors that were here — green, yellow, black, and white. They're so authentic to the time period."


The kitchen was in rough shape and required a full-fledged remodel.


Because the kitchen was small, Tina and Jessie went with a simple L-shaped layout. They used basic cabinets, white for the upper and black for the lower; both in high-gloss finish. The white hex-tile backsplash helps create a retro look that references the era in which the home was built.


The original kitchen tile unfortunately could not be salvaged, but Jessie and Tina did find some unused vintage tile stored in the guest house and they were able to incorporate that elsewhere in the remodel. They also discovered some old some black-and-white photos that showed the main house from years earlier and they were able to use those to help guide the renovation.


The old range was replaced with this vintage Vulcan "Smoothtop" gas range that Jessie and Tina discovered in the guest house. The piece was fully refurbished by antique renovation specialist Jimmy Rodriquez. Fixtures were re-chromed and damaged porcelain repaired. The unit is now fully functional and includes an enclosed warming shelf.

Living Room, BEFORE

Prior to the renovation, the interior spaces had a mix of styles, but little that was original. Tina and Jessie wanted to restore the home in a manner that was true to its history and give the entire home a cohesive look.

Living Room, AFTER

Hardwood floors and custom windows with dark wood frames help return the living room to a more classic style.

Living Room, AFTER

Removal of the wall between the kitchen and living room left a stairwell exposed. Jessie and Tina installed a custom floor-to-ceiling shelf unit which functions as a partition as well as a design element. The shelves are unpainted wood and the metal supports were hand welded and powder-coated in black.


One design challenge was the single bathroom on the main floor. In the original floor plan, guests would have to use the bathroom off the master bedroom. 


The modified floorplan incorporated the addition of a half-bath as well as a full remodel of this en suite master bath.

Master Suite, BEFORE

The master bedroom, prior to the renovation, was drab and dated with dark wood paneling and worn-out carpeting.

Master Suite, AFTER

The space is brightened and transformed with hardwood floors in a light finish, white walls, upgraded lighting and a sliding door for the remodeled master bath.

Value in Vintage

Jessie and Tina purchased the hillside bungalow for just under $500,000 and the final renovation costs were $157,000. They put the house on the market for $899,000 and, after three days on the market got an offer for $950,000. A successful closing would bring a profit of around $194,000.

Flip Happy

If you enjoyed this Vintage Flip makeover, you might also like this one, also from Jessie and Tina: 
A Ranch House Reno in Rancho Cucamonga

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