Issue #51
News for the Neighborhood #51
Old Towne Property Old Towne Property
Homeowners Sheila and Chuck Walstead relax in their front yard on East Palm while daughter Soleil and son Levi peddle by on a classic Schwinn tandem bicycle. One of the few example of Streamline Moderne architecture in Orange County, the residence was built in 1938 by architect Bill Wolting.

More than two decades ago, Old Towne resident Chuck Walstead and his high-school sweetheart, Sheila, had an ongoing curiosity about the cool house on 1319 East Palm Avenue that was hidden behind the bushes in an overgrown yard. The private residence intrigued the couple so much, that one day in 1986 they decided to knock on the door and introduce themselves to the owner.

To their surprise, the man at the door turned out to be the architect himself, Bill Wolting, who built the home in 1938. Today, it remains one of the few examples of Streamline Moderne architecture in Orange County, a signature style related to the Art Deco movement of the ’30s.

“Bill was very kind and invited us in,” recounts Chuck. “We became friends because of our mutual interest in architecture, even though he was almost 70 years older than us. All the furniture in the house he built himself. Everything was mid-century, curved and wooden. Nothing in the home had really changed since the 1930s.”

Soon thereafter, the couple befriended Bill’s brother, a painter, who worried about his aging brother and asked them to check up on him from time to time to make sure he was okay. They kept in touch with the architect, and even invited him and his brother to their wedding. When the Wolting brothers failed to show up to the wedding, however, they became concerned. Come to find out that Bill had passed away unexpectedly the week before.

What happened next was a twist of fate that landed the couple in the house of their dreams.

“Bill’s brother informed us that it was Bill’s wish for us to have the house,” Chuck said. “We couldn’t believe it.”

Old Towne Property

The couple purchased this retro Hawaiiana rattan ensemble at Woody’s in Old Towne. Original hardwood flooring was installed in 1938 by architect Bill Wolting, who built the entire home himself using no power tools.

The only catch, however, was that the property had to go through probate. How would a young couple with little income afford the house they had fallen in love with years prior?

“To be honest, we were just starting out and could barely make our rent,” Chuck said. “Bill’s brother encouraged us to at least put a bid on the house, even though $140,000 was way beyond our means. When the attorney called to tell us we’d won the bid, we said to ourselves, ’uh, oh.’”

As luck would have it, Chuck’s father, who had done well with some investments at the time, came to the rescue with a down payment. The newlyweds moved into their new home, where they’ve lived for the last 25 years.

Originally totaling 938 square feet with two bedrooms, the home was just large enough for two people. Five years after they purchased the property, their first child was born, Soleil, followed by a son, Levi, 18 months later. The siblings shared a bedroom until they were 11 years old.

Forced to choose between remodeling the residence or moving, the Walsteads opted for the former, adding a master bedroom, dining room and extra bathroom to the back of the home.

“We built the addition in the back so it wouldn’t affect the street-view integrity of the house,” explains Chuck. “We designed it so that it blended with the aesthetics of the existing architecture.”

In the kitchen, vintage ’40s décor evokes a classic dinette feeling. Enthusiasts of Hawaiiana, the Walsteads pay homage to retro Polynesian themes in the living room, dining room and bedroom. A rattan furniture set came from Woody’s in the Plaza. Hawaiian flowers fill the home with a bounty of color and fragrance.

Old Towne Property

In the kitchen, a Big Chill refrigerator and Formica dining table blend with the home’s original cabinetry. The door on the left features a salvaged swimming pool light taken from Mario Marovic’s (owner of The District Lounge) pool that Chuck and his son Levi drained and skateboarded in together.

“Sheila has danced hula since the age of seven, and it’s a lifelong passion,” he said. “Our house is always full of Hawaiian flowers we get from a florist on Tustin and Seventeenth. We also enjoy collecting Hawaiian art and memorabilia.”

Both Chuck and Sheila work at their family-owned business that specializes in garage doors. Started by Chuck’s father in 1991, the company offers full-service design and installation of custom garage doors, catering to high-end homes in South Orange County.

“My father owned the company before me and now he’s my best employee,” Chuck said.

In his spare time, Chuck plays music in his sound studio that’s connected to the back of the house. Originally a workshop built by Bill, the studio is engineered for sound. Chuck’s punk rock roots come out when he sings lead vocals in his band, The Factory. He also plays washboard and harmonica in another punk band, The Schitz.

Living in Old Towne fulfills the couple’s active lifestyle, which includes biking around their neighborhood or going window- shopping at the Plaza.

Old Towne Property

Family and friends gather around the fire at son Levi’s 19th birthday party. “Our home is a family destination point,” chuck said. “From Thanksgiving to birthdays, my wife, Sheila, has the gift of hospitality. ”

“We like to ride our bikes to Café Lucca on Saturday morning for coffee and breakfast,” he said. “We try to go to the monthly Hootenanny at Moonlight Graham.”

For the Walsteads, their Streamline Moderne home on East Palm offers everything they ever could have imagined when they first knocked on the door of their soon-to-be friend, Bill Wolting.

“People find our home comfortable,” he said. “It’s casual and there’s really a great feeling inside. It’s a wonderful house for entertaining. Recently, we had 40 people over for Easter. Our friends love to come and visit.”

Published in the May/Jun 2012 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Karen Anderson, Photograph by Will Hare

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