Where I live: Sunshine Estates

The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region by highlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week, a local resident invites us in and shares what makes their neighborhood special. Have we ever been to your neighborhood? Contact us to share your story.

Our home at Sunshine Estates is our dream home, but we almost didn’t have it.

My husband, Jason, and I grew up in the Jefferson area and were determined to stay. We toured 26 homes from fall 2018 through spring 2019 until we found the perfect fit at Sunshine Estates, a sanctuary of 1950s mid-century modern homes nestled between Jefferson High School and Wonderland of the Americas, or as the locals still call it, “Carrefour”.

The house was a three minute drive from our parent’s house, unrenovated, with a large back yard and had so much character. We quickly made an offer and days went by before I received a scathing text from our real estate agent that the seller had left with another offer. Although appalled, we held on to some hope, and a few weeks later we heard the buyer withdraw.

When we moved in, the house was filled with the former resident’s belongings. We found journals documenting her travels to France and Mexico, vintage photographs of her and her dogs, and volunteer tags from nearby Morningside Manor retirement home. Among the photographs, we found a newspaper clipping showcasing her and her sister as students of Jefferson High School. We learned that her name is Norma Chanel and that her sister is Lorraine Chanel, a socialite and actress. By getting to know Norma in this way, we felt how much she loved this house and hosting people there. We feel a strong connection to her and plan to cherish this home as much as she did.

When moving into their mid-century home two years ago, Alicia Ramirez and her husband, Jason Obadal, found stacks of Norma Chanel fireworks photos and effects in the backyard shed. Credit: Bria Woods/San Antonio Report

The focal point of the house is the interior planter, which is surrounded by a brick wall with a skylight at the top. The home features two bathrooms that have the traditional and iconic four-by-four inch tiles, large built-ins, still-functioning Electromode heaters, and brightly colored sinks. Many medicine cabinets of this era had slots to dispose of razor blades, so if the wall is torn down, decades-old razor blades could be found between the studs.

We are still in the process of restoring the house and are adamant that it will never stray from its original state. We never want to lose the groovy 1958 character that seduced us. Many of the projects we have undertaken around the house have been to improve on the original style, rather than turn it into a builder grade renovation. When we bought the house, the kitchen floor was a grimy concrete mess, but we have redone the kitchen floor in DIY terrazzo and will soon be building banquettes in the dining area.

We decorated with items from our own travels through Europe and quirky items, like a vintage vending machine. The back yard is home to our much used vegetable garden, compost and rain collection system. The yard is huge, wild and a beast to tame, but our dogs love it that way. We like to relax on the terracotta terrace and dine al fresco when the weather permits.

Alicia Ramirez is proud of her pollinator garden. It has a variety of plants and vegetables including lavender, Roma tomatoes, Barbadian pride, olive trees, persimmons, basil and borage. Credit: Bria Woods/San Antonio Report

If we’re not home, you can catch us having a taco nearby Mi Sierra Jalisco, standing in line at Hot Donuts, playing basketball at Joe Ward Community Center, grabbing an empanada from Bedoy’s Bakery, vying for mini-golf at Cool Crest, or grabbing the latest snacks from Jefferson Bodega.

A hilarious misunderstanding happened during a scheduled large item pickup recently where we threw lots of items including Halloween decorations. Among the items was a wooden pallet with “help me” written on it. A call for the police was made when a passerby saw him and became concerned. The misunderstanding was cleared up once it was confirmed that it was a Halloween prop. It was an honest mistake and an unfortunate situation, but we are so grateful that our neighbors watched over us and kept the neighborhood safe. It makes us feel valued and cared for.

We chose Sunshine Estates for being close to our families and for the home we fell in love with. But there’s so much to love about our neighborhood. The restaurants are great, the shops are great, and the neighbors are even greater. We are surrounded by people who care about the region and the people who live there.

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