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In love with the Valentine House

Lynne Siodmak’s passion for restoration (and the environment) show

By Saundra Sorenson

The Valentine House. Photo by Stephen Schafer

“The garage caught my eye,” Lynne Siodmak says when explaining why she decided to purchase the Valentine House, a Crafstman-style home in downtown Ventura. One glance at the rest of the house – now painted in varying hues of greens and rusts inspired by the colors of a manzanita bush – and it seems natural that anyone with an artistic flair would be attracted to such a home. Built as a family home by Harry S. Valentine, an influential local landholder, the structure is an attractive mishmash of turn-of-the-century Asian, American and Spanish mission-style details. Siodmak is only the third person to own the house, built in 1915. The two previous owners, including the Valentine family, held it for 45 years each. Long obsessed with the Valentine House, Siodmak once put in a standing offer to buy the fixer-upper from its previous owners. But it wasn’t until four years ago when a for-sale sign appeared in the front yard that she was able to realize her vision. With two smaller home restorations under her belt, Siodmak felt well-equipped to tackle such an expansive project. (She was forced to live in a rebuilt ’65 Airstream trailer for most of the process.) As Siodmak tells the story of her home’s restoration process, her romantic tale becomes less a do-it-yourself dream and more reminiscent of the film The Money Pit. On the day Siodmak, a textile designer for Patagonia, first rode past the house en route to work, she saw that the garage was nearly dilapidated, with an ecclectic mix of windows and a coat of paint that quite literally dated back to the early 20th century. Siodmak said the garage struck her as antique but the house itself was “ill.” The rafters were rotting and the entire foundation was collapsing. The endeavor tested Siodmak’s personal aesthetic philosophy, which leans towards the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, or the “beauty of aging, weathering, imperfection.” “It was a ruin,” she admits. But Siodmak believes that homes can heal themselves and that even a nearly uninhabitable structure can be brought back from the brink of death. The South Pasadena native, who grew up in a modern home, has come to appreciate the history inherent in a century-old house. And, as the only Ventura resident with an Oriental Craftsman (a Craftsman with the occasional Japanese flourish, as seen in the house’s eaves) she felt that there was a lot about he house worth saving. Siodmak kept every odd Craftsman detail intact, which called for more than a little compromise. (Finding a refrigerator much smaller than today’s norm, for example). In return she boasts of owning a Murphy bed and her very own billiard room, a testament to Valentine’s passion for leisure time. The room now holds Siodmak’s weaving loom.

“It’s been so closed up for so long. It breathes now,” Siodmak says with enthusiasm.

For all the care she’s put into preserving the place’s integrity, Siodmak has made a few upgrades in the structure’s environmental profile. She was committed to reusing every piece of serviceable hardware or lumber within the house, which meant a year’s worth of stripping wood. She installed an on-demand water heater and insulated the entire place with recycled denim. (It may come as no surprise that Siodmak now serves on the board of the Green Building Council of Ventura County).

Even her couches are salvaged: the wooden benches, now luxuriously cushioned, were found in the Patagonia parking lot. Despite her coworker’s nay-saying, Siodmak managed to create a matching set that isn’t merely shabby chic (with a new coat of red paint and a friend’s ingenuity). It now seems the most natural choice in this home.

But the happy marriage of history and sustainability didn’t come cheap. “I ran out of money at one point – that’s why it took two years.” Siodmak shrugs. “I’m an artist. I’m not a very good business person.”

Now transformed into Siodmak’s personal haven, the Valentine House also gives shelter to several other newly arrived Patagonia employees. Even with the Murphy bed, her home is currently at capacity with five boarders.

02-01-2007

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