Our Ojai Fixer

Hola friends!!!  I’m sure you gathered by the post title – WE ARE MOVING TO OJAI!  WHAT!?!  I know.  I KNOW!  We sold our house in San Diego, and we were shopping for another when I happened to cruise up the coast mentally to my dream town, Ojai.  It’s the town I’ve been trying to get Lou to move to since we left LA in 2012.  Tucked into a valley surrounded by foothills and mountains, it’s a magical little place that has had my heart since I first visited during my time at college in Santa Barbara.   I spotted this house and sent the listing and a few others to Lou and our realtors, just asking WHAT IF?

I was absolutely SHOCKED when Lou’s response was that he liked this house, that we should go see it.  I was already pretty attached to the idea by the time our realtors got in touch with the seller’s realtor and was a bit gutted when they told us it had gone under contract within 2 days, and had multiple offers over asking.  California real estate is BANANAS you guys.  We decided to put in a strong backup offer just in case.  And the next day  we got word that the investor who had made the original offer had backed out and it was ours if we wanted it. (!!!!!!!!)  So just to recap, it was Wednesday when I threw out the idea of moving to Ojai and by noon on Thursday we were under contract for a house we’d never seen.  Craziness to the max.  HA!

That Sunday we drove up to Ojai to see the house, meet with contractors, have the house inspected and spend a little more time in Ojai to be sure we were making the right decision.  It didn’t take long for us to know that our instincts hadn’t failed us- we still love Ojai and the house was even better in person.  Well, the house is in crazy disrepair actually, but that’s what we’ve been looking for- a house we can make entirely our own.   And we see soooo much potential with this sweet little mid century ranch house.

Many of you know all of this, but just to recap…when I started this site in 2011 we lived in LA.  In 2012 we moved to Palm Springs to try out life in our favorite vacation town in a beautiful modern dream house.  After living there for 2 years we realized it wasn’t going to work being so far from the beach and friends, so in 2014 we moved to San Diego.  We looovvveee San Diego and the beautiful Spanish house we transformed in our time here.  BUT.  It’s expensive and we’ve had many many conversations about where we could go to have a slower pace of life while we raise Teo.  And so, Ojai is next.  In case you’re counting that makes it four towns in seven years.  OMG.  Hopefully we love life in Ojai as much as we think we will!  We’re ready to really settle into life and stop the chaos of moving.  We don’t regret any of the moves so far though, each has served us so well and it’s been a great adventure!  So if you’re considering trying out a new place to live I say go for it!  Life is short and there’s no way of knowing if something will work if you don’t try it!  Of course if you’re thinking 4 moves/towns in 7 years is legitimately INSANE, I kind of agree with you too.  HA!

So, are you excited to see more of this house and hear what we have planned?  You do know I’m going to be a sharing fool while we go through the renovation and design process, right?  It’s an absolute dream come true for us, to take something old and unlivable and give it a new lease on life!  We’ve got BIG plans for this place!  And I think it’s going to be sooo fun to share the renovation process with you all and hopefully inspire your own project houses!

Click through for a quick BEFORE home tour and read a bit about what I’m thinking going into the design process…

Let’s start with the basic house stats:

1571 sq ft, plus an extra large garage on an 8,700 sq ft lot

3 bedrooms, 3 baths

Built in 1960 and from what I can tell, mostly untouched since.  It will need all new systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, furnace), the pool will need to be re-plastered and new pool equipment installed.  There’s a crack in the slab that will need to be repaired.  We’ll sink a big chunk of our budget into things you won’t be able to see.  BUT, we’ll also be updating every single surface of it- so allllll of the fun stuff too!  Ok, now for the tour!

We’re hoping to vault the ceilings and take down all the walls in the living space to create an open floor plan, which will allow us to expand the kitchen and add a large island, and then divide up the rest of the space into dining/living spaces.  We’ll need an engineer to dig into the project and tell us what’s possible (anything is possible with enough money but when you start removing supporting walls you can run into expensive challenges so we may have to compromise in the end, but we’re hoping we can swing it!)

We love the giant sliders that go out to the backyard and the fireplace lines are classic and timeless (although the stone has to go for our purposes…more on that later!).  That popcorn ceiling though.  No bueno.

Beside the kitchen is a laundry area and a small bathroom that I forgot to photograph.  We’ll be reconfiguring that space and hopefully adding a bit of square footage from the garage to create a proper laundry room and a flex room.  I imagine the flex room will become either a playroom or an office space, depending on what we decide works best when it’s finished.  It will have a closet though so it could be called a bedroom, which is great for resale (not that we intend to sell it, but it’s good to always have that in the back of your mind when doing a project like this unless you’re 100% sure you’ll never want to sell it).

This bathroom is a challenge… it’s narrow and small, made worse by the large vanity.  I think we’re going to keep the footprint of it the same for budget reasons (it’s more expensive when you have to move plumbing around).  But we should be able to make it feel larger with some different design choices and modern updates.  The bathrooms are going to be as budget friendly as possible for us so that we can *hopefully* splurge on custom cabinets or really nice windows.  All of this is very TBD while we work out numbers but these are the things you have to think about when you’re renovating a house that needs EVERYTHING and you don’t want to overspend.

The bedrooms are very basic and for now our intentions are just to redo floors, windows, drywall, etc.  Nothing major happening in these two bedrooms.

The master bedroom has a funky vanity in it, and feels a bit small.  We’re going to add doors to the backyard and reconfigure the vanity area to create a walk in closet and expand the master bathroom.  There’s a strange amount of wasted space in this house- like the entire area behind the vanity.  You’d think that it would be a closet you’d access from the bathroom or something but it’s not.  Just drywalled air.  haha!

I think the words that came out of my mouth when I saw the master bath were OOOF.  And then Ay yay yay.  Its small and cramped and the layout is weird.  We’ll be reworking this while also trying to leave the footprint as close to possible so that we don’t have to move too much plumbing.  I can’t wait to see this transformed because I think it’s going to be incredible!

Doesn’t that pool look so inviting?!  Not yet.  But it will!  A replaster and some pool equipment and just add water it’ll be good to go!  We’ll have to cut back the sunflower garden and redo all of the landscaping.  The front exterior needs some serious tweaking as well and I have a plan in mind, but I’ll save that for down the road as well!

OK, that’s the house!  What do you think?  I wish I could do one of those Instagram story surveys to see how many of you think we’re bonkers.  Or maybe I don’t!  HA!  Either way, this is happening and we couldn’t be more excited!  I so hope you’ll enjoying following along in this adventure with us and if there’s anything specific you’d like to see or read about during this reno process… please chime in below!  XX- Sarah

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Reader Comments

  1. Lisa|

    This house is the perfect template for you to work your design magic! Can’t wait to see what you do with it. Congratulations!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      YES! I think so too! Thank you Lisa! I love that it’s so simple and we can really bring in design elements that will make it shine. Cannot wait to get it going and so happy you’ll be excited to see! 🙂

      Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      hahaha! Thank you Patty!!! I hope brave but not foolish. That’s what we’re going for! 🙂

      Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thank you so much Melissa!!! I am soooo excited to share this with you! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Lynne|

    I love your reason for moving, I want to do it too! We live in the San Francisco bay area and have a 3 bedroom one bath house, 1,000 sq. feet and that is worth about 1.5 million right now. Crazy right? My husband works here so we can’t move yet, but I really want to do what you’re doing and move some place slower and more peaceful.

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      That is BANANAS!!!!! San Francisco real estate always makes me feel better about the prices down here- and that fact is almost scary! But it will serve you so well when you’re ready to sell and move somewhere slower paced and more peaceful!!!! 🙂
      Thanks so much for following along, I hope this will inspire your own move one day! <3

      Reply
  3. Madeline Given|

    Ha! This is amazing! So excited to get our fixer upper on alongside you guys. We are from Santa Barbara, and closed on a house last month in Goleta (which, as you know, is a whole other world depending on who you ask 😂). We had to beat out SEVEN other offers the same weekend it went on the market and we were on vacation while it was all happening—CALIFORNIA IS SO NUTS. And ours is literally a 60’s time capsule too. Is that a Gaffers & Sattler stove? We just demo-ed the kitchen last weekend. Oooooooof! I need fireplace ideas! Ours is similar.
    Really excited for you guys and the big crazy, dream-chasing jump. I’ve always loved Ojai, but my husband isn’t on board. Yet 😉

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Madeline! Congratulations!!!!!!! I used to live in Santa Barbara so of course I’m familiar with Goleta! No matter what anyone says about it, the fact that there were 7 other offers on your house says SO MUCH MORE!!!!! haha!
      How fun that we’ll be doing a similar project at the same time!
      I’m not sure about the stove, I didn’t pay much attention to it.
      Are you living in it while you remodel? Or just getting started and moving in when it’s part way done?
      I think we’re doing smooth white stucco over the fireplace and a natural wood beam. Clean and modern. 🙂
      Thanks so much for the kind words and I really hope we can provide some inspiration for your own home as we go through this crazy process!!! 🙂 . And who knows, maybe this will help convince your husband that Ojai is the actual dream. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Matty|

    I was so confused by your post yesterday, why would you give up such a loving wonderful community of support. Now I get it! Enjoy the ride, can’t wait to follow the journey!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thanks Matty!!!! I know, it’s hard to understand (and it’s even harder to leave) but this is the best decision for our family and we’re embracing it fully! Thank you so much for following along!!!! <3

      Reply
  5. Emily|

    Ah best of luck! We recently gut- renovated a house in Charlotte (another crazy real estate market) and it’s quite an undertaking! Sucks pouring money into windows, foundation, hvac, insulation, even siding/roof but thankfully we’re super happy with how it turned out – it’s a small house but laid out so well now and we’d only make a couple of changes after living here for a year. Also, we’ve moved 7x in 8 years… only 3 were houses but we may be crazier than you!! Lol. Good luck and will look forward to seeing the progress!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      That’s amazing Emily!!! That is the thing that stresses me out the most- the worry that I’ll want to change things and the feeling that I have to make such big decisions and be committed to them for YEARS! So it’s comforting to hear that you are happy with yours!!!!
      It’s so true- so much of our budget is going into the things we can’t see- plumbing, electrical, hvac, etc. but in the end when the house is brand new and we don’t have to worry about anything it will be so worth it!
      hahahahaha I’m so happy to hear that there are other people moving around as much as we have!!!! Let’s all setttle down now though ok? ha!
      Thank you so much for the note and for following along! xx

      Reply
  6. shannon yauilla|

    LOVE IT!!! So so awesome and exciting!!! Cannot wait to see what y’all do!!! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thank you so much Shannon!!! I am so happy that you’re excited to see!!!!! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Amy|

    In my experience everyone thinks your crazy until they see the end result! Congratulations! I can’t wait to see the transformation!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      hahaha that is so true! It will be worth it all in the end, and the end WILL come. I keep reminding myself of that. 🙂 . Thank you so much for following along!!! xx

      Reply
  8. Sharda|

    The pool area is divine!!! I am living my Reno dream through you as I live in NZ and you just can’t find any cool do ups like that here! So excited to see what you do xx

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thank you Sharda! I LOVE NZ and would stomach living in whatever house if I could be there!!!! I’ll live vicariously through you as you do through me. HA! Thank you so much for following along! xx

      Reply
  9. maggie|

    “dry walled air!” lol That had me dying! So excited for you guys. And good for you for knowing exactly what you want. We are in process of looking at homes and a fixer upper is what we should do but i get anxiety about moving our two boys into a dingy or ill-kept place while certain renos are being taken care of. Any advice on that?! (Face palm) I’m overwhelmed by the whole home-buying process in general so I’ve got a lot of learning to do. Congrats to you 3 and the fur babies <3

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      hahahah! Glad you had a good laugh over that!
      I know- the challenge of a reno lies so much in what to do during it. We were SO lucky that the family who bought our home doesn’t need to move into it, so we were able to negotiate a lease back. We’ll be staying here in San Diego for a good chunk of the renovation and then hopefully only living in it for some finishing touches. HOPEFULLY. But you know what they said about the best laid plans…. Monkey covering eyes emoji. So we may very well move into a place that needs a lot and it may very well be absolute chaos. We shall see!!!!
      The home buying process is totally overwhelming! I’m happy that we had some experience under our belt before we lept into this project, so at least the process of selling and buying wasn’t a new experience and that made the whole idea of a fixer house much easier to get my head around.
      BUT I have to say this: the exact house you’re meant for WILL present itself and in the end everything WILL work out exactly as it’s meant to. So, have as much faith as you can in the process!!! Good luck to you and thank you so, SO much for following along Maggie!!!! xx

      Reply
  10. Summer|

    So fun! Welcome to Ojai! Just throwing this out there, in case you’re looking for contractor referrals. We’ve never hired him, but Johnny Johnson did a beautiful whole house remodel on our friends’ home in this same neighborhood. He installed an enormous accordion door/wall that took my breath away. This house is going to be so much fun to bring to life. Best wishes on your move!!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thank you so much Sumer!!!! Oh how I wish we could do an accordion door!!!! That is a dream! Maybe the next house. 🙂
      Are you in Ojai? If so please come say hello if you ever see us out and about!! xx

      Reply
  11. Maggie|

    Hi!
    I happened upon this blog and recognized the house immmediately! I grew up in This neighborhood and have been hoping SOMEONE would buy this place and fix it up. So excited for you. My sister lives around the corner and we have talked about what a shame it is that this place has sat in such disrepair. I don’t live in Ojai now, but I was born and raised just up the street. I visit often and can’t wait until October when I will visit my sister again and take a walk around the corner to see what you have done. Congratulations, Daly Ranch Estates, the name of the subdivision when I lived there, is a lovely place to live….you can almost touch the mountains where I spent my childhood hiking and getting into whatever mischief the day held. If I see you outside, maybe I’ll say Hi. I envy you as I would move back in a heatbeat if finances allowed.

    Best Wishes,
    Maggie Jewell

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      HI Maggie!!!!

      That’s AMAZING!!!!! What a small world! I love that about Ojai! We could not be more excited to embrace the small town life!
      Gosh I really hope we have it fixed up by October but don’t fret if you arrive and the outside is still a mess, you can trust that the inside is at least almost done! God willing! HA!

      Your note made me so happy! That is exactly the childhood we want for Teo and I am thrilled that was your experience!

      Please come say hello when you’re in town, and tell your sister we would love to meet her as well!!! Thank you so much for the note! XX

      Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thank you thank you!!! I’m so happy you’re excited to see! Thank you so much for following along! xx

      Reply
  12. Pascale|

    I can relate totally for we’ve made the same decision. We left Paris with time consuming and stressfull jobs, to raise our kids in Nice, on the French riviera. Realestate is still pretty expensive but we are so much closer to nature, sea and mountain, the kids just love it! I’m sure your house will be beautifull, I can’t wait to read all about your renovation. I like to think the result is important, but all the fun reside in the doing. So have fun!!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      OMG the French Riviera!!! You win!!!!! That sounds like heaven! Good for you!!!!!! That’s so amazing. Do you have a blog because I’d love to follow YOU!
      You are so right that the doing is a huge gift. I keep reminding myself when it feels stressful how insanely fortunate we are that we can do this and how fun it really is. Thank you so much for the note and following along! xx

      Reply
  13. Michael|

    I love Ojai. My partner grew up there and we visit family frequently. Best of luck. You’ll love it!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thank you Michael!!! It feels like such an idyllic place to raise our family and everyone we meet who grew up there says the most wonderful things about it. If you ever happen to see us out and about please do come up and say hello!!! xx

      Reply
  14. Amanda C|

    Congratulations! This is so wild, we’re moving to Ojai in August and couldn’t be happier or more excited.
    We’re still looking for our property but would love to know what contractor(s )you’re using in the event we take on a renovation too.
    Best of luck with everything! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      How exciting Amanda!!! Please come say hello if you ever see us out and about!!!

      Email me at hello@ahouseinthehills.com and I’ll send you a list of contractors (and they were all referrals from a trusted friend who grew up there, so it’s a realllly good list!) 🙂

      Happy house hunting!!!!

      Reply
  15. TC|

    I think it looks amazing! You might want to have a specialist look at the tiles in the bathroom though…they look like the 12×12 asbestos tiles we had in our fixer upper. We had to hire a guy who dealt with asbestos stuff to remove it. I can’t wait to see all the changes. 🙂

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thanks so much! Yes, we’re already assuming there’s asbestos throughout the place (the contractors pointed it out on the initial walk through) 🙂 But thank you so much for the heads up!!! XX

      Reply
  16. Lauren|

    This looks like an amazing project Sarah! We recently left San Diego as well. After selling our house in Ocean Beach we realized it was just too expensive to buy in any of the areas we wanted so we moved to North Carolina for a slower pace and more space! Good luck with the reno. Can’t wait to follow along!

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Ahhh! Congrats Lauren! We always talk about North and South Carolina as options should we ever bail on California. 🙂 . I hope you’re loving it! Thanks so much for the kind words, happy you’re excited about the project! 🙂

      Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thanks so much Abby! It had GREAT bones, in my humble opinion! I love simple. 🙂

      Reply
  17. Sharon|

    Hi… I bought a ranch that needed a ton of renovation last year, I have been working on making it reflect my own personal style over the past 7 months, I am nearing completion and it has been so worth it. I have to admit that the ranch you had in Palm Springs and having come from apartment living are the two reasons I wanted a ranch. The apartment living was tight and while I could have made it work I wanted more space, outdoor areas and a home of my own. The work I’ve put in has been so worth it, as I’m sure you know. Congrats on the new home for your beautiful little family. I’ve followed you for years and wish you such joy in this next venture.

    Reply
    • Sarah Yates|

      Thanks so much Sharon! That’s amazing that you’re also tackling a ranch house (my favorite style tied with my modern dreamhouse/treehouse) 🙂 . And I couldn’t be more thrilled that our Palm Springs home helped inspire your ranch house!!! It pays off in spades, the work put into a home I think. It makes me think of birds and how they build their beautiful nests twig by twig, with foraged bits of things to add to it- all to grow their babies in. It’s so sweet!!! Must be instinctual in us as well! 🙂 Thanks so much for following along all of these year and the kind words Sharon! xx

      Reply