Eastside Home: Stripping the stucco away reveals the charm of a Highland Park cottage

After and before photos courtesy Paul Lacques

While searching for a Highland Park home, Paul Lacques and Victoria Jacobs came upon a 1924 house that seemed to have been stripped of nearly all of its old charm and character. The wood siding and been covered in a layer of grey stucco; the wood windows had been replaced with small, aluminum sliders and the interior resembled a “bad 1970s house,” said Lacques.  One of the few reminders of the home’s vintage charm was a pair of slender front porch columns.  But the couple went ahead and purchased the property in 2009 and launched an extensive renovation that – not too surprisingly – took longer – and cost about $80,000 to complete.  “I told people we’d be moving in by March. I was right, but it was March a year later,” said Lacques.

After more than a year of work – including stripping away the stucco, gutting the interior and shopping for salvage on Craigslist – the couple transformed the Strickland Avenue house into a classic 1920s bungalow painted a custom palate of green, red and cream. Click on the link below for a Q&A with Jacobs.

Describe some of the major work you did.  Looks like your removed the stucco in some sections, correct?
Yes, a buddy and I removed the stucco ourselves, on the entire house. It was quite a workout, took us a couple of weeks. We then did extensive repair to the siding, which was in good shape–1924 novelty siding is much thicker and stronger than the new stuff–but needed much filling of cracks and re-attaching to the studs, some replacement with new siding. I also removed the old paint and painted the house myself–it’s the one skill I used to do professionally–so it looks like a new old house.

De-stucco underway

We also got all salvaged period or near period doors, which I stripped, sanded, filled, painted; this also took a fair amount of time. And we demoed the inside of the house ourselves, pulled down old lath and plaster (unfortunately it had to come down, was in bad shape) and drywall, got it ready for the drywallers.

We hired carpenters to move one wall, repair bad joists, and raise one ceiling, and install double paned windows that look period; We were the contractors ourselves, did all the paperwork, hired plasterers, tilers, etc. Any gruntwork, I did it.

What did you do inside?
Basically gutted the place, down to studs. Everything period had been removed. It looked like a bad 1970’s house on the inside. My wife Victoria scoured Craigslist and various salvage yards/antique malls/swap meets for light fixtures, bathtubs and sinks, hardware, two windows, got great stuff (I could take photos of that if you like);
she also found some great vintage tiles for bathrooms and kitchens, and we mixed these with new vintage style tiles from an old still active factory [B&W Tile] in Gardena. We also got old oak flooring from a couple in Burbank who for some inexplicable reason were tearing up their 1947 floors to put in engineered flooring, and got the rest on Craigslist.

We used remnant soapstone pieces for the kitchen, and got remnant Pennsylvania Bluestone flagstone remnants from a yard in Malibu. We consistently lucked out in the salvage/remnants department.

The interior was gutted to the studs.

What would you have done differently and why OR what was an important skill or lesson learned from this experience?
I think we made very few mistakes, mostly because we hired a fantastic guy, Greg Johns, to subcontract carpentry work, and he became our house guru, incredibly generous with time and advice. We’re good friends now. The mistakes were mostly timing, doing a couple of things out of order, but pretty minor.

Can you recommend any local  suppliers, craftspeople or services you used?
Greg Johns, of course, invaluable, Erick Sanchez and his crew do great and affordable drywalling, tiling, etc. We hired a guy named Jacob (I don’t have his last name in my phone, but I could get you the info) to do some concrete work, a French drain, and laying flagstones in our patio area. Fantastic work, his crew is super cool and unbelievably hard working. And so inexpensive I was worried about how he was making money!

Craigslist is something you can’t imagine not existing, and there are a number of salvage yards/vintage materials warehouses and shops, a long list, I’d recommend Googling Los Angeles salvage house materials.

Davis Lumber has a great inventory of vintage finishing details in addition to lumber–the only place to find new novelty siding that I’m aware of. Home Depot is a place you will visit three times a week whether you want to or not. And I’m a big Dunn Edwards paint fan, I don’t think anything else comes close. The True Value on Fair Oaks in Pasadena does have a very good paint department with good brands.

What are the names of the colors you used on the exterior?
They were both custom colors we mixed ourselves (see photo).

Patio before renovation

New wood doors, pavers and paint.

Recommended Supplier & Services:

  • Davis Lumber
  • B & W Tile
  • Greg Johns (carpentry subcontractor)  (626) 353-4899
  • Erick Sanchez (drywall) (323) 533 2740
  • Jacob (concrete guy) (818) 621 0635
  • Don’t Blame Us: Neither the homeowners or The Eastsider guarantee the services or products mentioned in this article.

Eastside Home is looking for the Before-and-After stories and photos from residents who have made over their bungalows, condos, apartments and lofts after a months-long renovation or a week-end of painting and clutter clearing. Send your stories and photos to hello@theEastsiderLA.com


  1. fantastic…makes me want to pursue the business of home renovation!

  2. My goodness that is one happy house now. Simply exquisite work.

  3. Just curious, did the 80K include updated electrical and plumbing?

  4. Wow. Amazing transformation. I’m surprised it wasn’t a LOT more than $80K.

  5. Beautiful work and a great contribution to historic restoration and preservation!

  6. I’m calling these guys right now for work that needs to be done in my house!

  7. A lot of homes with wood siding in my neighborhood were covered with stucco at some time. I wonder what the point of it was. There must have been a good reason for it, perhaps based on economic considerations and differing aesthetic expectations of how a house should look.

    In any case, the stucco seems to have preserved the wood underneath. Amazing.

    • door to door stucco sales men. I am not kidding; I remember them comming to the house I lived in as a kid trying to tell my parents that if the stuccoed our 1906 very run down victoren home, we would “fit in” that we would “become Americans” thank god my parents did not fall for this.

      • Salesman. “become Americans” Maybe. I just figured it was because that most of the houses were substandard to begin with. Many working class people who live here can’t afford the constant upkeep that wood requires. Plus aesthetically speaking the majority who live here are from non American places, where stucco is more appealing to them. Highland park will never be Pasadena. Thank god. I think it was and still is a cost issue.

  8. Case closed: gentrification rocks

  9. How about more pix — especially of the inside of the house?

  10. The house looks a hundred times better “after”, just sayin’

  11. more pictures please!!!!!!

  12. Really? That’s hilarious. Although stucco is pretty low maintenance, I’m too am glad your parents told them to take a hike.

  13. Thanks, all!

    Our neighbors who’ve lived on the street for decades told us the house was stuccoed in the late 1980’s. If only they’d held out! Pulling down the stucco was quite arduous, our buddy Shawn and I pounded away for three weeks. Thanks, Shawn! The first time we smacked the stucco with wrecking hammers, nothing happened, nor on the following swings. Finally I threw my whole weight into the swing and made a small crack. We worked out a method of breaking the walls into round sections and pulling sections down. (We have quite a few more photos if there’s a way to post.) I’d be happy to show people how to pull down stucco, too. It’s a gamble, you don’t know what the siding underneath will look like.

    • Paul: AMAZING work!! we would LOVE more detail and pictures on how to pull down stucco. You are my inspiration!! more pics please!! 🙂

  14. What a splendid and heartwarming story! So deserving of all the positive comments and accolades. It’s the ultimate “old house has good bones” piece. It just needed the right owners to restore and enhance the hidden beauty.

  15. Looks beautiful! Makes me wonder what’s beneath my stucco…

  16. Lovely – custom mixing the paint a nice touch.

    Original cost to build 1924 maybe $5000 tops? Sears or similar would sell kits – with prob 4-6 months of construction? $65,000 in today’s dollars – ah the good old days…

  17. What a great job you guys did! There’s nothing nicer in the neighborhood than seeing a ugly stucco job turned back into a beautiful little house.

  18. Yes yes yes! A million times yes!!! We need more of this level of pride in home ownership around our historically rich neighborhoods in NELA!!

  19. It looks great! Beautiful colors. I hope some of the flippers working on older homes would take note of the three color paint job and period appropriate windows in the front.

    We just removed the asbestos siding from our 1908 bungalow in Highland Park. Numerous contractors told us there was no way the wood underneath would be salvageable and we should budget for new siding but after lots of scraping and sanding it ended up that almost all of is was in good condition. I’d say 95% of it was saved. So if anyone is contemplating it for their home, don’t be too afraid of what lurks underneath. My only regret is that we didn’t do it years ago.

  20. Simple beautiful!!


    Now if only people would please stop putting up these DAFT ‘modern’ shoe boxes
    into these historic neighborhoods.

  22. @Amy
    Can’t wait to see some photos!!

  23. Stucco was used on most homes that the wood was cracking and missing. Some homes needed it and some didn’t,it’s really a low maintenance project then having wood exposed to sunlight and at times rain. Give it about 10 years then show us the house again,this little charm will not be as shining.

  24. Nice job on the remodel.

    I do hope that y’all used LEAD SAFE demolition practices to protect your neighbors (and neighbor’s children) from lead dust.

  25. What a beautiful renovation. That poor house must have been crying inside. We just started looking in Highland Park for a small craftsman. I can’t believe how torn up these houses are in the lower price range. And what is the deal with so many of these houses converting from those large windows into the small windows like in the first pictures up above with the bars on it???? Was the theme at some point in time, lets make the houses look like prison cells?

  26. That is a beautiful job. Congrats on restoring not only your home, but a part of the city to something beautiful. We are in escrow of an 1887 built folk victorian in Lincoln Heights and hope to do as good a job. What was your experience with HPOZ like? And if possible, can you post of email more pics? Before/after inspiration!

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