Original features and furniture adorn Richard Friend-designed home

<strong>The 2,600-square-foot Mediterranean-style home at 901 East 37th St. will be on display for the California Heights Home and Garden Tour.</strong>

The 2,600-square-foot Mediterranean-style home at 901 East 37th St. will be on display for the California Heights Home and Garden Tour.

Rachael Rifkin
Staff Writer

Teachers Christine and Craig Bouma used to live down the street from the house they currently reside in, which gave them plenty of opportunities to admire the large 1936 Mediterranean-style house. When it finally came on the market a few years ago, they learned that the home was just as impressive inside as it was outside.
“We bought the home from the original family. We even have the original blueprints and specs,” said Christine, a fifth-grade teacher at Weaver Elementary in Los Alamitos. “The home was built for Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Gunn. The architect was James R. Friend, who went on to work with Richard Neutra to build the L.A. County Hall of Records. Friend also designed a building [the Pan-Pacific Fisheries cannery at the port] in Long Beach that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Christine discovered more about the original owners from neighbors.
“This family had a lot of money. I think they were in the shipping business. As I understand it, they had their first home built on Lewis in the 3500 block. It was a three bedroom-two bath home– really beautiful. It reminds me of this house in some ways,” said Christine. “They had a sunken living room and tiles flanking the stairs just like the inset tiles in our house. The Gunns built that house, and when their daughter got married they let the newlyweds live in it.”
The Gunns built the 2,600 square-foot Mediterranean-style house on 37th Street for themselves. When the Boumas bought the home, nearly all of the original features were still intact. They were also able to buy some of the Gunns’ furniture.
“When we bought the home, it was filled with the original furnishings. They just left it. There were lots of Chinese things, so I think Mr. Gunn traveled to Asia often,” said Christine.
There are original wood floors, mahogany interior doors and unique curved mahogany trim, and Gladding McBean tiles throughout the house. Most of the light fixtures are also original.
Magnesite was used at the front door entryway to look like castle-inspired travertine. The sunken living room has built-in shelves, beamed ceilings, and original curtains and fireplace screen/tools. The Gunns’ music cabinet still sits in the living room.
The Boumas ripped out the linoleum floors in the kitchen and left the pine subfloors below. Most of the furniture in the dining room and breakfast nook is original to the house, including the Grand Rapids Chair company buffet and the dining room table and chairs.
In the kitchen, there’s a 1952 O’Keefe and Merritt stove and garbage disposal door (with a trash can inside) that opens to the Spanish courtyard outside. There is also a restored bathroom, laundry chute, laundry room and redwood paneled office on the first floor.
The Spanish courtyard features a fire pit with a wood box and a separate grassy area. The back yard used to be significantly larger, but in 1949 they had a house built on the lot. The 1,000-square-foot house was probably built to rent out for extra income.
A spiral staircase leads to the second floor, three more bedrooms, and two more restored bathrooms. They have a small basement that houses a heater and offers some extra storage space. The Boumas’ two boys, Will, 7, and Henry, 5, share what previously was the recreation room. Most of the curtain rods and rings in the three second-floor bedrooms are unique to the house. The large master bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet look as if they are the result of an expansion but it was actually built that way at the Gunns’ request.
The Gunns lived in the home for at least 20 years before passing it on to their daughter and son-in-law, the Bakers. The Boumas bought it from the Bakers’ son, Don Baker.
“I talked to Don Baker on the phone, and he told me that he remembers sliding down the laundry chute when he was young. The neighbors who grew up across the street said the Gunns were known among the neighbors for two things,” said Christine. “One was their dislike of neighborhood children being on their lawn. Mrs. Gunn would yell at them from inside the house. And both the Gunns and the Bakers were known for elaborate, frequent and fun parties.”
Christine and Craig are happy to be living in the house they quietly coveted for years. “It’s a beautiful house with a rich history. We love it,” said Christine.

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