The front porch of the Ray’s old bungalow turned out to be the most beloved and surprising treasures of their recently purchased home, says Gayle Ray, homeowner.
Gayle and Dale Ray never anticipated living in an historic home in Old Towne Orange, but that’s exactly what happened when the couple from Santa Clarita purchased a Craftsman-style bungalow on 181 North Center Street almost two years ago.
Wanting to be closer to their daughters who were attending college in Orange County and residing here, the Rays zeroed in on Old Towne at the suggestion of their realtor. Gayle admits they weren’t entirely familiar with the town prior to moving here.
“We liked the central location,” Gayle says. “Our realtor told us that if we had the money to renovate an older home, we’d be happy.”
Gayle saw this chandelier years ago in Architectural Digest and later found it in a local shop in their former hometown of Santa Clarita.
Dale and Gayle Ray enjoy a moment together on a comfy, old chair they had upholstered at J.C. Upholstery in Orange. Framed photos of the family surround them in the background.
Built by Peter and Elizabeth Johnson in 1913, the Ray’s single-story bungalow features a front-facing gable and clapboard siding, as well as a unique triangular element with crossties at the peak of the roofline. In 1928, the home passed from the Johnson family to Arthur and Eleanor Cannon, who were quite prominent in the community. A musician, Arthur taught piano lessons. His wife opened her own home décor store, The Eleanor Store, in their home in 1939.
In the mid-1940s, the bungalow changed hands to the Allen family. Glenn Allen served as mayor of Orange from 1950-51 and was also president of Orange Savings & Loan Association in later years. In the 1960s, Emma McNealy lived in the house until her passing a few years ago at age 90. That’s when her family put the house up for sale.
“We met several family members as the renovation was taking place and appreciated their interest in, and love of, the property,” Gayle says.
Pastels and bright colors take prominence in the living room. The coffee table came from an antique store in Santa Barbara, while original art pieces were purchased at an art auction they attended on their honeymoon.
For the most part, the home was in good structural condition when the Rays first moved in, except for the electrical and plumbing. The kitchen needed the most work and had to be gutted from the studs up. Removing the wall that divided the kitchen from the family room, the Rays created more space and light and also added flooring that matched the existing oak and Douglas fir in the rest of the house.
In the kitchen, a marble counter graces the cooking island, while matte-finish granite countertops complement the porcelain farmhouse sink. The original brick chimney still occupies a corner of the kitchen, and two original pillars still stand as remnants from either side of the old cabinets.
“The brick chimney was attached to a wood stove at one time,” says Gayle, who notes that other original elements in the house include the large bay window in the dining room and the chandelier that they relocated to the bedroom. Most of the wood floors in the house remain in pristine condition, mainly because they’d been covered in carpeting for so many years.
In the back room, the original fireplace received a facelift, while the existing windows, doors, mantle and ceiling beams remain intact. This room served as a “studio apartment” for the couple when they were renovating the rest of the house.
In renovating the home, the Rays sought the expertise of Karl Bonham, a general contractor from Orange specializing in historic homes. Richard Kohlwey of Costa Mesa crafted the custom cabinetry in the bathrooms and kitchen.
A woefully dated back room was added in the 1950s, replete with dark wood paneling and blue carpeting covering old Formica floors. The Rays installed wood-plank flooring, creating a country cabin feeling in the room, which is where they keep their piano.
Featuring a delightful color scheme and vintage decor, the tiffany-blue guest bedroom takes its inspiration from The Perfect Circle Cupcakery in Old Towne.
This beautiful guest bedroom is inspired by the décor at the Cupcakery in Old Towne. The bedroom now doubles as a nursery since the arrival of granddaughter Avery.
“The best part of the renovating process was being able to choose colors and to decorate,” says Gayle, who favors the cottage style. “Our decisions were affirmed when we received so many positive comments during the home tour.”
Shortly after they completed the renovations, the Rays were approached to be a part of last year’s Old Towne Orange Home Tour. The experience turned out to be positive and educational for the couple.
“The home tour was wonderful, and we got to meet a lot of people in the community,” Gayle says. “We learned a lot about our street, our neighborhood and how this little house was important to so many people. The woman who lived here previously, Emma McNealy, was super involved in the community and was a real sweetheart. She loved her gardens.”
Expanding on Emma’s gardens, the Rays added new brick walkways, a spa and a fire pit. The yard features a bounty of blooming florals, including calalillies, hydrangeas and camellias. Gayle also planted a wisteria tree over the archway in the backyard, as well as an apple tree, blueberry bush and miniature lemon tree.
A collection of glass jars on the kitchen window beckons fresh cuttings from the garden each week.
A wall fountain in the back patio creates tranquil sounds.
“Teddy” was a gift when the couple was dating.
Framed photo of their granddaughter the day she was born.
For their next project, the Rays plan to remove the wrought-iron pillars that had been added to the porch in recent years and replace them with replicas of the original pillars.
“We spend a lot of time on our porch with our baby granddaughter,” Gayle says. “In fact, shortly after we first moved in, we found out that our daughter and her husband were expecting their first baby, which made our move really special.
“We love living here,” she adds. “Being on the same street as the library, we see a lot of pedestrians and moms with strollers. The homespun community is really wonderful. It’s so different from where we used to live, and we so appreciate the down-home feel of our neighborhood and the Plaza.”
Written by Karen Anderson, photos provided by Will Hare