Before & After: Uncovering a Hidden Gem

exp agg to terrazzo

So we have this house (the 1964 Eichler that I’ve been going on and on about) and it’s great and all, but there have been times when it has driven me crazy. Take the floors for instance – specifically, the entry foyer floor. When we bought this gem of a house, the entry floor looked awful. Forty years worth of dirt and grime had taken a toll on the exposed aggregate. Worse yet, imagine walking on it – in bare feet. Trust me, it wasn’t pleasant. And considering I’m a “no shoes in the house” kind of person who pretty much always walks around in bare feet when I’m indoors, I knew we had to do something. Our realtor told us to cover it with slate – a suggestion that made me want to scream, “This floor is special you twit!” Instead, I shook my head, rolled my eyes and ignored her. Seriously, those photographs up there at the top – those are “before” and “after” shots of the very floor I’m talking about. Any rational person should be able to see that covering this floor would have been a huge mistake.

This floor was a very deliberate choice – one that illustrates just how much thought the original architect put into designing this house.  Let’s look at the entry to see what I mean.

foyer before aftereichler foyer after

The original architect, John Brooks Boyd, designed this entry as a transition space. Clearly influenced by Japanese architecture, he intentionally blurred the line between indoors and out; an oversized sliding glass door is all that separates the two. Looking closely, you’ll notice that he extended the plane of one exterior wall (clad in dark chocolate colored wood siding) inside the house – quite literally, he brought the outside indoors. And lastly, the same beautiful exposed aggregate – pebbles from “Teri Beach” – specified for the walkways and patios on the outside of the house were also used to create the interior entry floor, once more blurring the line between outdoors and in. Unfortunately, when we purchased the house, this floor was a mess. Unlike the beautiful exterior hardscape, these pebbles were permanently stained.

eichler foyer demo

Besides forty years of accumulated dirt, demolition added another layer of grime.

foyer floor before

This is the threshold between the entry hallway (with the exposed aggregate) and one bedroom (no exposed aggregate) – after we removed the wall-to-wall carpet and hired an asbestos abatement company to remove the original floor tiles and mastic. No amount of scrubbing made even the tiniest dent in those stains. Nothing, not even muratic acid.

Determined to preserve the exposed pebbles, but equally determined to have a floor that was both easy to walk on and easy to clean, I began doing research. Before long, I realized it might be possible to grind down and diamond polish the exposed aggregate; and if we were successful, all three of my problems would be solved at once. Of the umpteen contractors I contacted, only one was willing to give my idea a shot (most said the job was “too small”). He agreed to try wet polishing a portion of the floor with a hand grinder, but made no promises. With that last bit in mind, we asked him to do his test on the floor of the coat closet – a location no one would see if things went poorly. Several hours later, the test was deemed a success, but with one catch. As thrilled as we all were with the initial results, our man on the job told us that he simply didn’t have the proper equipment to continue. We thanked him for his honesty, paid him for his time and effort, and began to look for new leads.

Eventually, we found a concrete resurfacing company that was willing to take on the job and they offered an idea as to how we might improve our chances for success; before grinding and diamond polishing the surface, they would apply a cementitious overlay to   fill in the gaps between the various pebbles – gaps that would otherwise result in a pitted surface. It worked!

foyer floor before afterfoyer floor closeup penny 1foyer floor closeup penny 2foyer floor closeup penny 3

The results aren’t perfect mind you; but tell me, please, what’s so great about perfect? “Perfect” doesn’t have patina. “Perfect” doesn’t have a story to tell. “Perfect” is boring.

floor closeup into LRfoyer floor closeup penny 4

foyer floor closeup penny 5foyer floor closeup penny 6 cat

This is most certainly not boring.

foyer floor closeup into BRfoyer floor terrazzo penny

Beautiful isn’t it? It looks just like terrazzo, because it is terrazzo.

foyer floor closeup penny 7

And now, my floor is lovely to look at, lovely to walk upon and a breeze to clean. Finally.

foyer kitchen after 1

The End.


12 thoughts on “Before & After: Uncovering a Hidden Gem

  1. Wow! I’ve always wanted exposed aggregate floors but I never though about the walking on them part. We too are a no shoe home (we make special exceptions on occasion) and this is both practical and beautiful! I would like to know if you sealed it with anything. I have young kids…need I say more?

    • Thank you! We actually decided to hold off on the sealer and haven’t had any problems in the four years since the floors were finished – no stains and no discoloration. We vacuum regularly and clean, when needed, with warm water and a tiny bit of dish soap.

  2. My wife and I just bought a 1964 Eichler in Orange County. The original aggregate is coming apart a little, but all there. I was hoping to save it, and this is great information!

  3. Carolyn,

    This floor reminds me the floors in my parents home in Argentina. I also like how you saved the outside patio. Cutting out the cracked parts was a great idea. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I want to say a great big THANK YOU and send a hug for all you’ve done to keep your lovely Eichler home alive – what you’ve done is incredibly valuable to the entire Eichler community. I just about cried over how you tried so hard (and succeeded!) to fix it up to what it was meant to be! And that stone design … I would have KILLED to have that floor in ANY home I lived in! Thank you again for saving and restoring your Eichler!

    I grew up in an Eichler as a child and while I live on the “wrong coast” now (ha ha) and will never make it home again, I’ve learned via the internet and thru a friend who still lives in my old neighborhood (in a rare 2 story Eichler on Beechnut Ct) that the current owners of my childhood home have also completed an artful restoration of very high standards. I want to write a letter to thank them but am worried they will think it’s weird. What do you think? How would you feel? Weird? Or pleased? Or both?

    • Thank YOU for such kind comments – it’s always lovely when someone takes the time to acknowledge our hard work in such a heartfelt way. It’s such a wonderful feeling! I’m certain the current owners of your childhood home would be thrilled to learn how thankful you are of their restoration efforts. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a compliment, right? You might also consider sharing a fond memory or photograph of the house from when you lived there. We were fortunate to meet our neighbors, Joan and Tag Mansour, who regaled us with stories and memories. We loved hearing how Joan managed to convince Mr. Eichler to move her laundry room from the second floor to the main level of their rare 2-story Eichler (the builder was famous for not allowing changes to be made to his plans) as well as how various houses on our street were affected by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake: Tag and Joan’s chimney fell and they found several empty whiskey bottles in the rubble! Which made them so nervous (naturally of course) that afterwards, they slept in the backyard (in a little tiny tent!) for two weeks! Meanwhile, our house suffered cracks in the largest fixed glass windows and the water in a neighbor’s in-ground pool swooshed up and then swooshed right back where it belonged! Best of all, we were utterly thrilled when Joan gave us an old photograph of our Eichler, shortly after construction was finished (which we gave to the new owners when we sold the house). So long story short … by all means, send a note to the owners of your childhood home – I’m sure they’d love it! And thank you again for your lovely comment!

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