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Remodel is a family affair

Grunow Construction doesn’t just believe in historic home restoration: It’s doing it.

The well-known, family-run La Jolla firm is just putting the finishing touches on a 65-year-old, single-family home at 515 Bonair St. that it has spent the past year, and about $350,000, painstakingly remodeling.

The residence has had only one previous owner.

For Grunow patriarch Thomas and son Dan, it’s been a labor of love, much of which was furnished by the late Mrs. Grunow, Alanna, who did much of the interior decorating.

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An eBay and consignment shopper, Alanna searched incessantly to find period antiques matching the home and leaving her indelible stamp on it.

“When you go over there and look at the light fixtures,” Tom said, “you go, ‘Wow, some of these really are old. They were taken out of houses and resold on eBay.’”

Polishing the dated dwelling their family bought as an investment to return it to its former glory was quite an undertaking. But it was one the family felt compelled to do.

“I like these old cottages and feel like they’re an asset to the community,” said Tom Grunow, a La Jolla Historical Society board member. “I’ve watched more and more people rip them down and build big, two-story square boxes. That trend’s a shame.”

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The Grunows resolved to be trendsetters, not followers. So they began reviving the old home, refitting it for a new modern era. “You’re keeping the same bones,” Dan Grunow said, “but building new windows and electrical systems, doing an old home in the old style to meet the needs of a new young family.”

Transforming an old home and making it modern and functional was the Grunows’ task. Their goal: Do it right. The refit began with a re-evaluation of the project’s scope. They decided to make it larger, adding 454 square feet to the existing 1,704. Most importantly, they had to revamp its floor plan.

“It had no master bedroom,” Tom Grunow said, “and the living room was about half the size (then) and it didn’t have a fireplace, and we wanted to add a porch to keep the front of the house more appealing and keep the ‘cottagey’ style.”

The Grunows enlisted the services of La Jolla architect Siavash Khajezadeh of Design Lead to help them with the design articulation. His advice: Keep it in proper scale.

“Everybody’s trying to maximize square footage on these small lots,” he said, “which destroys everything. You have to be careful what you’re doing so you don’t destroy the neighborhood.”

Another hallmark of the Grunows’ refit of the home was in how they reused its original materials.

“We took the old oak flooring up and patched it in,” Tom Grunow said. “We took all the window frames out and then repapered the house and moved windows around and reinstalled the window frames with insulating thermal glass.”

What’s been done to 515 Bonair St. drew rave reviews from Noel Lloyd, who grew up there and participated in the project by videotaping work on weekends.

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“You can still recognize the old house, but it looks more warm and inviting,” she said. “They’ve increased the size of the rooms, and it’s a more open experience. It was real therapeutic for me. It was hard for me to let go of it but … it’s like the phoenix rising out of the ashes.”

Dan Grunow will always remember the project as a family affair.

“It was my mom and dad’s vision keeping the house in a certain theme,” he said. “It was definitely fun being part of that.”

“Reinventing older homes could be a new trend,” Tom Grunow said. “There are a lot of empty-nesters, just two people in big houses. They come by and see this and go, ‘This is just the kind of project I would like to be downscaled into.’ ”