Aloha From Hell

Have you ever looked back at the ‘before’ photos from a house project and immediately thought “What the hell were we thinking, taking this on?!” Well that’s exactly what happened to me this week, when I randomly discovered a few ghastly shots taken during the month we moved into the Retro Ranch.

My original vision of turning this half-acre hell into our own private midcentury tropical oasis was obviously stronger than my common sense. Because if I saw the original property listing now, I’d scream “Run! Run away!” to my husband, and yank out the power cord on the laptop.

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Original Retro Ranch listing photo, August 2014

Mod-Colored Glasses

When we toured the house in August 2014, I don’t quite remember the property looking quite so apocalyptic. We were clearly viewing this original, one-owner, 1965 ranch through mod-colored glasses. But according to the photos, the reality was that we had a rotting ramshackle fence edging a backyard of dirt, a field of weeds, a dying Japanese maple, massively overgrown apple trees and grape vines, and a crumbling concrete patio. Little did we know, this lovely Grapes of Wrath vignette also came with possum, skunks, moles, snakes, hornets, bees, wasps, yellow-jackets, ants, termites, and spiders so big they could carry my Chihuahua away. My back still aches just thinking about the unending assortment of prison-labor landscape projects that were the Crisco-based icing on our retro-renovation rum cake.

Bette Davis captures the essence of our move-in weekend photos perfectly with her famous 1949 movie line: “What a DUMP.” 

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November 2014

Nevertheless, here we are 3 years later, sipping hibiscus tea under the fringe umbrella on our Polynesian Patio, enjoying lush, manicured views while listening to the peaceful rustle of palm fronds and the ting-ting-ting of shell wind chimes in the breeze. Ahhh….

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August 2017

So in light of the fact that we are nearing the end of our third summer at the Retro Ranch, I thought it would be fun to share our original scorched-earth ‘before’ photos and our tropical-transformation ‘after’ shots–with the caveat that I am not recommending this type of DIY backyard renovation unless you are glutton for punishment like us. But we sure dig the swell finished product. Mahalo!

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