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San Clemente Journal

From Cottage to Family Home, Job Well Done

Mar 27, 2017 01:18PM ● By Joan Ray

Juli Kahanamoku and her husband, Rudy Atencio remodeled their house over a period of 17 years.

by Joan Ray 

In 1989 Juli Kahanamoku and her husband, Rudy Atencio were renting a house in Presidential Heights, driving down Avenida Santa Margarita almost daily, taking their daughter, Kiana and their son, Kaleo, to Concordia school  on weekdays and going to San Onofre and Trestles to surf on weekends. Santa Margarita is an attractive street with a mix of beach cottages, larger homes and a few apartments. Juli and Rudy particularly admired the cute cottages.
Eventually the couple decided to buy a home of their own, and then, as though a genie were granting their wish, a “for sale” sign appeared in front of a home they’d admired. Rudy wanted to buy it on the spot, but Juli insisted they needed do some shopping before making such a momentous decision. In 1994, after months of shopping, they bought the cottage. 
Built in the ‘40s, it had about 1,300 sq. ft., two bedrooms and one bath – a testing ground for a family of four. Laughing, Juli said it built the children’s character, having to learn timing and sharing so young. 
True to their heritage – Juli’s uncle is the famous Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion, and father of modern surfing Duke Kahanamoku and Rudy, a member of the local Juaneño band Mission Indian tribe, whose territory included San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. His uncle, Harry Boessler grew up within yards of their home and attended a school built on the nearby beach - living near the ocean was a priority. 
“This is a dream location,” Rudy said. “You can change a home’s size, but not its proximity.”
The backyard, which flooded in a rain, was the first project. They leveled it and added drainage, tropical landscaping and a Tiki bar. Next they installed all new windows and doors, and replaced one wall with a bay window and a seating/storage area. In 2000, Rudy remodeled the mudroom, making the front into a half-bath, adding a laundry room behind. 
Major remodeling began in early 2009, when the children were grown and Juli, who had promotions at Union Bank leading to a position at their Los Angeles headquarters, also had a housing allowance for an apartment, where she stayed most weeknights. Rudy, whose business, Island Style Heating and Air Conditioning is local, had the house to himself weekdays. So he and his son demolished the front half of the house, and Rudy lived in the back, sometimes having to climb over a wall to get to the next room. Juli drew a floor plan of the new house and Iain Buchan of Buchan Engineering Structures converted her vision into engineering plans under city guidelines. The city’s building permit was issued in July, 2009.
Except for the drywall, Rudy did most of the work himself. Not wanting to accrue any additional debt, he paid cash for materials and the workmen he did hire. Juli also had health issues during this period that took a substantial portion of their time, energy, attention and finances. Rudy said he worked hard trying to stay focused on the remodel. 
“I felt a lot of pressure to get it finished. Friends would drive by and ask when it would be completed and why it was taking so long. However our neighbors were very supportive during the years of construction.”
Fortunately, while on the job for his company, Rudy met Billy Jewell of William Jewell Cabinets, who worked with him to complete the project. 
“He was meticulous, a perfectionist who stuck with the project and kept me on my toes. If I cut a board 1/16 of an inch off he would make me do it over.” 
In January of 2016 the city signed off on the construction. The home now had a second floor, three bedrooms, three baths, a beautiful open kitchen, dining room, living room area and measured about 2,300 sq. ft. They spent the next year on cosmetics - completing the interior, and dressing up the front yard with landscaping and a new wall. Nearing the 8th anniversary of their remodeling efforts they are contemplating the finishing touches on the back yard and are enjoying the fruits of their labor. 
Now, when friends drive by, they say, “That’s a job well done.”