Text by Lisa McEwen | Photos by Frank Miramontes, DMI Agency
hile millions of Americans were quarantined this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, many were forced to reflect on a simpler way of life, a time with few errands or activities and a renewed focus on fulfilling basic needs.
Yet Janelle and Bill Bland’s historic home in the Beverly Glen neighborhood offers everyday reminders of a calmer lifestyle, from a back porch milk door to the ingenious design of an original floor-to-ceiling-length shutter window that allows cool morning and evening breezes to fill the family room.
For the Blands, purchasing the home, which was constructed in 1938, was the perfect step for the next chapter in their lives, a logical choice as their three children grow up and pursue their own interests.
They were also looking for something completely new from an architectural standpoint.
“We wanted something different,” Bill said of their decision to move from their previous home in the Oak Meadows neighborhood at Shirk and Walnut avenues. “And we wanted it to have character.”
Thus, they focused their search on two coveted, historic Visalia neighborhoods — Green Acres and Beverly Glen.
When the home on Beverly Drive came on the market, the longtime Visalia couple knew that they had found their forever home not only because it fulfilled their desire to downsize, but also because it has a basement, a rare feature in California homes.
Although the home was full of storage boxes during their initial tour, the couple saw its potential and turned it into a space that honors Bill’s West Virginia roots. “It’s an added bonus that we never thought we would have,” said Janelle, a Redwood High School graduate.
The decision to purchase the home was solidified when they signed escrow papers on their 27th wedding anniversary.
Keeping the Character
Sitting down to an hour-long interview on a gray couch in the family room with several family pets (including canine Ruby, who quickly settled in for a nap on this writer’s lap), the couple easily shared the story of the home’s extensive remodel and why this 2,200-square-foot abode has earned the moniker of their “Hollywood Bungalow.”
Moving here, the couple shaved 800 square feet off their previous living quarters, and reduced their yard maintenance from one-half to one-third of an acre — still enough to keep them busy and family members comfortable during extended visits. But less responsibility translates to more time for Janelle and Bill to enjoy this new phase of life.
Maintaining the home’s Mid-Century Modern charm came foremost during an extensive remodel, which lasted about five months and was completed by Brandon Ford Construction of Visalia.
“The home definitely needed a face-lift,” Bill said. “We liked its age, but some of it needed to be re-done.”
That included a complete electrical upgrade to bring the home up to code, appliances and cabinetry in the kitchen and laundry room, fresh paint throughout, upgrades to the bathrooms, including new tile and accessories, and refinishing the gorgeous original red oak floors.
They kept as many “period” items as possible, including glass door knobs, all interior doors, some light fixtures and their personal favorite, a small original wall heater in the master bathroom that kicks out warmth in the cold winter months. Anything new that was added, whether a sconce or countertop, was selected to maintain a historical aesthetic balanced with modern day convenience.
Walking through the four-bedroom, two-bathroom home, the couple pointed out several features that they immediately fell in love with, including the comparatively tiny cedar-lined closets, which came with built-in shoe racks for maximizing storage space. Moving from their previous home required the couple to purge many possessions, as older homes generally do not have as much storage space as modern day construction.
A full bath in the hallway is petite yet functional and tastefully updated with new tile. The low-level, original bathtub is perfect for their four grandchildren, who visit for several weeks a year.
A set of no-handrail stairs leads guests down to the basement. (Watch your head!)
This is the spot where all members of the family like to hang out, especially during holidays, when extended family gathers to celebrate. It features a comfortable couch and television, and the ever-cool climate is perfect for storing wine in the storage boxes their carpenter made. (Daughter Zoey keeps them well supplied as an employee of Paso Robles-based Daou Winery.)
Bill added barnwood paneling to the walls for “some sweat equity,” he said with a smile.
The space is also full of fun mementos of Bill’s passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and his home state of West Virginia.
Here in the basement, Janelle was also thrilled to point out additional storage space that is utilized for board games and toys for their grandchildren. “As a mom, this is really important,” she said.
Back upstairs, guests can see the cute milk door in the laundry room, as well as the updated galley kitchen that is naturally bright and airy thanks to two skylights. As with most extensive remodels, peeling back layers reveals work done in previous years and Bill said they had to drill through four layers of drywall to install the kitchen’s new canned lighting.
Entertaining is fun when the house is full as one can be in the kitchen and easily interact with the crowd due to the adjacent dining room and step-down family room.
From the kitchen, guests can also catch a glimpse of the spacious master suite with sliding doors that look out to the pool and backyard. It also has an “efficient” bathroom, as Bill describes it (which, even though tiny, includes their favorite wall heater), as well as tastefully selected new furniture with lots of drawers for additional storage space.
The couple’s son, Zachary, known as their “artist in residence,” just finished a piece for a large wall in their room. Janelle said that after two years of searching for just the right piece, they needed to look no further than their own son’s creativity for finding a way to perfectly complete the space. It depicts the sun and moon, and is inscribed with the words “Vivet” and “Amare,” Latin for Live by the Sun and Love by the Moon.
Bill also manages his business, the transportation brokerage firm Freedom Freight and Logistics, from a home office just off the garage. More mementos line the walls there, revealing his past president role with Visalia Breakfast Rotary and his proud service from age 19-26 in the United States Marines. He also serves as chairman of the Southern Region Hearing Board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Together, they volunteer their time with Young Life.
Janelle and Bill met in 1990 on a beach in Barbados, where Janelle was on vacation following graduation from Long Beach State University, and Bill was in the Marines aboard a Navy ship on a “Round the World” journey. It pulled into port and their love story began.
The fun-loving, outdoor-oriented couple love their backyard as much as their house, so a complete remodel was in order there also. A new fence separates the sweeping front yard with extensive street frontage from the backyard, providing privacy and an aesthetically pleasing addition to both sides of the property. Bill added that neighbors were overjoyed when the old grapestake fence came down and was replaced with one that adheres to the Mid-Century Modern look.
Bill loves signs (be sure to look for the neon “Open” sign behind his 14-foot concrete bar) and used some of the old grapestakes to fashion a large letter B to adorn the new fence. The backyard is designed for entertaining and relaxation, with plenty of seating areas around the original pool, all protected under the canopy of several mature trees, including oak and fragrant eucalyptus. White lights are strung throughout the yard, making evenings an ideal time to gather.
Bill loves to cook and barbecue, and can often be found behind the bar making breakfast, lunch or dinner for guests. He keeps all of his utensils in a rolling tool box, which turns out to be a great conversation piece during parties.
After two years and plenty of work, Janelle said they are finally reaping the rewards of their vision.
“We are just now getting to the point of enjoying it all with friends and family,” she said.
They are also enjoying the fruits of their quarantine labor: Their coronavirus garden is beginning to produce delicious tomatoes, squash, zucchini and eggplant, and they’ve also planted fig, lemon and avocado trees. A sunbathing pad, with two perfectly situated lounge chairs, sit atop a brick retaining wall.
At the end of our interview, Janelle and Bill agreed that their home is exactly what they were looking for.
“It was important for us to not go too small,” Janelle said, noting that some of their friends downsized too much. In addition, she said the home’s location is ideal for taking bike rides through downtown Visalia.
“It is very neighborly here,” she said. “We love walking the shady streets with our dogs.”
All of those activities are great reminders to take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.