A classic car enthusiast, Erik is pictured in his colorful garage that he decorated with vintage signs. “A friend made me the neon sign on the wall,” says Erik. “I designed it to look like a sign that I would have had if I owned a garage in the 1950s.”

When looking for a home to buy in Old Towne Orange, Erik Skovseth was drawn to the 1928 Mediterranean-Revival on South Parker Street. The Tuscany-style architecture of the two-story residence reminded him of Italy, where he studied abroad during college. The vintage appeal of the home’s interior also inspired the 28-year-old prospective homeowner, who recognized a diamond-in-the-rough when he saw it.

After purchasing the home four years ago, the Fullerton native set about renovating the aging property, transforming it into a showplace that reflects his love of cooking, entertaining, landscaping, baseball, classic cars and more.

“This is a bachelor pad,” says Erik. “I love to entertain, and when I get to cook for people, even more so. I have two smokers, one of which is a natural log smoker. I love to smoke meat and fish and invite my friends over for gatherings. I built a horseshoe court and a cornhole game in the back and added an old-school picnic table. Every last space has a purpose. My vision for the backyard was for it to be a fun, entertaining place where people want to be.”

Erik Skovseth’s 1928 Mediterranean-Revival home on South Parker Street showcases beautiful landscaping designed by Erik, who earned his degree in landscape architecture from Cal Poly. After Erik purchased the aging house four years ago, he removed the awing that previously obscured the original window. “When I took down the awning, people would stop in the front yard and ask if I installed the beautiful window,” he said.

A graduate of landscape architecture at Cal Poly, Erik has put his design skills to good use to create the impressive landscaping. In the front yard, Boston ivy covers the porte cochere, offering a “tunnel of green” when one arrives at the property. A certified arborist, Erik trained the guava, peach and apricot trees to grow into an archway over the driveway. Hydrangeas, roses and boysenberries bring splashes of color to the premises previously barren and riddled with weeds.

“I wanted the front yard to remind me of Italy,” recalls Erik. “In keeping with the era of the home, I chose not to use anything that wouldn’t have been used in the 1920s. The landscaping palette here is an ‘old plant’ palette. Every year, I grow sunflowers.”

In the backyard, Erik paid homage to his favorite sport, baseball, creating a fence reminiscent of an outfield fence at an old ballpark. He replicated nostalgic advertising images from the 1930s, drawing most everything himself. The project took nine months to complete.

Erik chose the exterior paint colors of his 1928 Mediterranean-Revival home to match buildings he saw in Italy when he studied abroad. The town he lived in grew olives, red-wine grapes and sunflowers. Every year he plants sunflowers.

The built-in bar in the dining room is original to the house, as are the wall sconces. The light above the dining table is a rare slipshade from the 1920s that needed re-wiring. The 1930s-era buffet complements the Drexel mid-century table and chairs, which Erik had reupholstered in orange tweed.

When renovating the kitchen, Erik installed accents and materials appropriate to the era, including a red jewel light switch for the basement door to remind him when the light is still on.

A collector of classic cars, Erik built a new, two-car garage that is oriented exactly where the original garage would have been (it burned down in the 1960s). He won the “Good Neighbor Award” from the Old Towne Preservation Association in recognition of a new structure that fits a historic motif. To authenticate the look, Erik used materials reminiscent of the times, such as 2x4 rough-sawn lumber and antique windows salvaged from a 1930s home. Hanging from the ceiling are several porcelain “China-hat” lights from the 1940s that came from a warehouse in Downey built during World War II.

Inside the garage, Erik displays his collection of vintage street signs, as well as a vintage Coke machine and 1940-era government-issued workbenches from the Boeing factory in Long Beach.

“Cars are my thing; my love affair in life,” he says. “I saved money and put the garage together two years ago. I have enough room in the garage for a workshop and two cars, including my 18.3-foot 1959 Pontiac Bonneville. The garage is tucked in the back away from the street. I like to look at my ballpark fence while I’m working.”

Erik renovated the bathrooms in the colors of his great aunt’s home in Los Angeles, which is located next to The Original Farmers Market. Nostalgic yellow and black tile comprise the downstairs bathroom, while greens and black highlight the upstairs bathroom.

The living room features hand-painted built-in display cabinets that pay homage to Erik’s love of cooking, fishing, baseball and classic cars. The landing for the stairs allows for head room into the basement. Erik installed a beautiful inlay into the wood landing that depicts a compass.

For Erik, it took a lot of work and physical labor to renovate the three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot home. Fortunately, his experience in construction provided him with the necessary skills, having previously worked on some midcentury-modern renovations such as a David Hyun house built in 1967.

He began by replacing the roof, fixing the plumbing, repairing the plaster walls and refinishing the original oak and Douglas fir floors. While the “bones” of the home were structurally sound, the interior was in dire need of restoration. Some of the plaster in the bathrooms, for example, was so damaged it crumbled in his hands.

“There were doors just hanging off the hinges,” recalls Erik. “I had to redo the door moldings, handles and light fixtures, too. The walls had at least 20 layers of paint on them, but amazingly, the original trim in the dining room and living room had been untouched all those years. It had been hand painted to look exactly like wood grain. It’s beautiful. There’s also a unique textured pattern original to the walls, which is why I decided not to remove the plaster to add insulation. The house, unfortunately, got really hot in the summer, so I splurged this year and put in central air on both floors.”

Erik’s favorite spaces on the property are his garage and backyard. Before he purchased the house, the only thing in the backyard was the Chinese Elm.

Erik built a large vegetable garden featuring raised beds that currently contain basil, rosemary, grapes, tomatoes, onions and three different types of chili peppers.

Erik’s bathroom renovations are particularly impressive. Featuring a nostalgic color combination of yellows, mint green and blacks, the bathrooms replicate the fun and character of a vintage bathroom design. Erik sourced a company in Gardena (B&W Tile) that still makes tiles from molds authentic to the 1920s, including corner trims, bullnose pieces and quarter-inch liner for the backsplash. The installation was so complex it took 21 days for his tile vendor to complete.

Every last architectural detail is addressed, down to the door handles and knobs.

“I special-ordered all of the handles, crystal knobs and drawer pulls to match the few original ones still scattered throughout the house,” says Erik. “My mom bought them for me as a present.”

It took Erik nine months to complete his backyard fence, which evokes the look of a classic baseball-field fence. Erik drew and painted the vintage ads himself. The sailor image was painted by an artist friend.

“I’ve wanted to live in Old Towne since I was a kid,” says Erik, a native of Fullerton. “We used to volunteer at the Orange Interntional Street Fair at the Sons of Norway booth, where we sold the iconic Viking helmets.”

In the kitchen, Erik converted the breakfast nook into a pantry for more storage space. The old cabinets were so beat up he couldn’t save them, so he replaced them with shaker cabinets to replicate the old style. He used walnut butcher-block for the counter tops and added schoolhouse light fixtures from Victor Lighting in Old Towne.

“I feel honored to be the steward of this house for now,” says Erik. “All of the decisions I’ve made I feel are what’s best for the legacy of the house. I didn’t change any of the walls, for example. Everything is as 1920s as I could make it. It definitely has an old-timey vibe.”

Article Published in the
Sep / Oct 17 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Karen Anderson Photos by Jeanine Hill
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