When Nora Sandoval first stepped into this house in 1997, lockers lined the entry way, desks were scattered through the living room and baby cribs lined the library. Surely this wasn’t a house for sale, she thought. In fact, though, it was a home for some 16 teenaged unwed mothers run by the Volunteers of America.
It was time for this 1912 home originally owned by a dentist and his wife and their six children to revert to a single family. But with stenciled rattles painted up the stairway and each bedroom painted in a flower theme (daisy, rose and violet) it needed a lot of work.
Still, said Nora, a Realtor with the Sereno Group, “when I came in here, I felt good karma. There was a lot of love in this house.”
Over the past 13 years, Sandoval and her husband, Adobe executive Digby Horner, and their now-grown son, Matthew, made it their own. Digby did most of the detail work himself, including stripping hinges, and adorned the ceilings throughout the home with his collections of antique light fixtures and shades. They splurged on Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper for the living room, which hadn’t been produced by the Benicia manufacturer since it ran the 17-color paper for singer Linda Ronstadt 11 years earlier.
A century-old pool table from Pennsylvania adds gravitas to the room. The couple recently finished a major kitchen remodel, adding a sunny breakfast room with a beadboard ceiling they had milled to match the original laundry room walls.
Upstairs, the house has what appears to be twin master bedrooms connected by a walk-through closet. The couple is waiting to finish the front landscaping until they determine whether their efforts to save the oak tree out front are successful.
For years after they moved in, people would leave bags of baby clothes and diapers on their front porch. When the mailman left soap samples, he would stuff 20 through the mail slot.
“This house has wrapped its arms around a lot of people,” Nora said, “and now we’re wrapping our arms around this house.”
The couple readied the house for the Rose Garden Homes Tour, benefitting St. Martin of Tours school. Hill’s Flowers providing the floral arrangements.
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