For the Van Der Veen family of Eureka Renovators, a drastic career change from packing produce to renovating outdated homes was a prayer that ended in a self-made comeback story.
Michele Van Der Veen and her husband Ken, along with their daughter Victoria and two sons Austin and Landon, have turned what started in Sacramento as a smaller operation into a family legacy with over 100 home transformations to boot. With degrees in real estate and interior design, the family is hands-on with their remodels, from demolition to construction, analyzing design elements and integrating their signature “Gold Country” look into their projects.
Eureka Renovators (formerly iHeart Homes) started in the 1980’s, when Ken and Michele went on dates to view model homes in new housing developments, cultivating their shared love of homes and steering them down the path to college — Michele earning a degree in interior design and Ken in business, with a focus on real estate. “In the 90’s, there was a lot of growth going on down in Orange County where we were living,” Michele explained. “It was really exciting, and we were heading towards our goal of doing what we loved, working on houses.” When the economy tanked, the two changed focus to Ken processing organic fruits and after a series of complications from being sold over $1,000,000 of defective equipment ending in legal cases, their world changed. “We moved from our first custom home built in Placerville to North Carolina so I could pursue my riding career, as I have been an avid equestrian my entire life,” she continued. “To keep up with the packing demands for huge companies like Chiquita banana, we purchased new equipment which turned out to be bad and therefore entered into a mess of lawsuits. We lost everything- we had to completely start over, and we did that with flipping houses. When you lose everything and start over, it’s like crawling out of a hole…it’s a process that takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight, and you learn a lot on the way. What could have been tragic ended up opening all of these huge opportunities for us…we really know how to build from the ground up.”
“As equestrians, we would do anything to keep our horses, so we purchased 60 acres of raw land outside Dry Town, built another custom home and began flipping and rebuilding homes in Sacramento to work our way back,” Van Der Veen said. “Our first year, we flipped a couple of houses, the second twice as many and ten the third year, and more people started to hear about us. When we began doing remodels on our own in our backyard of Amador, Gold Country, we began to develop a look that was uniquely our own- a mix of the old western look like you see walking down historic Main Street Jackson with the new, modern/ country home-style appeal of the area.”
Since their start in 2012, Ken and Michele have since added their children (all Amador High School graduates) to the mix; handling the hands-on design, construction, real estate, interior design, receipts and finances between themselves. “Our kids grew up in a construction site and have lived in one their whole life- building is in their blood, so it was only natural for them to join the business. Right now, we’re working on two houses on Badger Street in Sutter Creek and another on Foothill Drive, which people have been calling the Joanna Gaines house. The structure on Foothill was an old gold miner’s shack built in the 1870’s, totally not up to code. I wanted to incorporate the historic elements and the feel of the area, and one day when I was walking around old Jackson looking at the buildings, it came to me what the look of Gold Country is and it’s sort of an eclectic look. People like the pioneers came from all over the world, coming into these towns and brought their traditions, skills and tastes with them. So we went all out using the materials you would have seen during the Gold Rush: took a shower and did it all in tumbled brick that is made to look old, repurposed old-growth wood found inside the house, added a batten board in the bathroom, and created this house with an eclectic look. It’s not easy to take a number of different looks and make a new look that works, and my daughter definitely helped me through the design elements! On the first day it was listed, we had four over-asking price offers, and people who aren’t even in the market are stopping by just to come see this house on Foothill.”
Eureka Renovators are constantly seeking larger projects and gaining a reputation among locals, in the Sacramento area and beyond. “Our work has been featured on Good Day Sacramento, in Cowboys and Indians Magazine, and recently in Think Realty Magazine, where I wrote about repurposing century-old materials to polish off a home with the historic flair.” Excitingly, Michele added that the family is speaking with a production company for their own TV show. “We are in contract with a production company, but it was put on hold due to Covid, so we’re taking it week by week. But what’s different about us is we are a family that has a comeback story and the world is in need of that, especially now. You just keep going and do what you do with passion.”
Their passion shows in their work…the little details can make that big of a difference, Michele learned. “You need to have confidence in your decisions, and as my daughter Victoria once said, ‘We have done so many of these and if it doesn’t look right, we’ll make it look right.’ So that’s what we do- we take risks, test the waters, take on a challenge. We’ve taken on this new design, the “Gold Country” look, and there is a big difference from when we first started to now in our look; but people love how we incorporate the historic elements with the new, so we always have some big project going on. It’s almost like a sickness, our dedication, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, it’s a constant search for inspiration and ideas…even if they come at 2 a.m.,” Van Der Veen laughed. “At one point, we had eight houses going at once, I mean, we’re always busy. It’s been great going back out on our own. Down the road, I would love to reconstruct a gold miner cabin on our ranch, which we call Grand View Ranch; complete with the redwood batten board, harvested old wood and corrugated metal roof from our remodels, and make the inside super cool with copper bathtubs and the whole Gold Country feel. The key is to fall in love with the whole look and make everything come together. Our new business is Events at Grand View Ranch - an old barn-style venue for weddings, events, etc- and use Grand View Ranch cabin to maybe rent out after Covid. It’s all a work in progress, and I’m always going in 1,000 directions at once- always looking outside the box, always looking for more houses, for the next best deal, how can we use this skill like buying an old run-down hotel in Amador and just doing our thing and giving it a new look…if there’s opportunity, I’m constantly looking.”
“It’s just so fun and exciting to do what we do,” Michele concluded, “and seeing the look on people’s faces and their reaction is my favorite thing- when their jaw drops and they are shocked to see the crazy things we do, and they can’t believe it’s the same house. I love hearing what people have to say, hearing their reactions and knowing that you created that, you think, I nailed it. Our family just pours our hearts and souls into our renovations, and work together to put a house back together and make it a home.”
Editors note: To read Michele’s article, Hidden Profits: Repurposing Materials to Polish a Century-Old Gem, featured in Think Realty Magazine, visit: online.flippingbook.com/view/900025/62. For more information about Eureka Renovators, or to view their complete library of before and after home renovation photos, visit their website at eurekarenovators.com.