The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.

Our home in Sunshine Estates is our dream house — but we almost didn’t get it.

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

The house was a three-minute drive from our parents’ homes, non-renovated, with a large backyard and had so much character. We quickly put in an offer and days passed before I got a crushing text from our real estate agent: the seller had gone with another offer. Though dismayed, we held onto some hope, and a few weeks later we heard the buyer backed out.

When we moved in, the house was filled with the previous resident’s items. We found diaries documenting her travels to France and Mexico, vintage photographs of her and her dogs, and volunteer tags from the nearby retirement home of Morningside Manor. Among the photographs, we found a newspaper cutout highlighting her and her sister as Jefferson High School students. We learned her name was Norma Chanel and her sister was Lorraine Chanel, a socialite and actress. Getting to know Norma this way, we sensed how much she loved this house and hosting people in it. We feel a strong connection to her and plan to cherish this house as much as she did.

Upon moving into their mid-century home two years ago, Alicia Ramirez and her husband, Jason Obadal, found stacks of photos and belongings of the late Norma Chanel in the shed in the backyard. 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 clerestory feature up top. The house has two bathrooms that have the traditional and iconic four-by-four-inch tiles, large built-ins, Electromode heaters that still work, and vibrantly colored sinks. Many of the medicine cabinets from this era had slots for disposing of razor blades, so if the wall is taken down, decades-old razorblades could be found in between the studs.

We are still in the process of restoring the house and are adamant that it never strays far from its original state. We don’t want to ever lose the groovy 1958 character that wooed us. Many projects that we’ve taken on in the house have been to enhance the original style, rather than turning 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 a DIY terrazzo, and will soon build booth seating in the dining nook.

We’ve decorated with items from our own extensive travels around Europe and quirky items, like a vintage vending machine. The backyard is home to our heavily used vegetable garden, compost, and rain collection system. The yard is massive, wild, and a beast to tame, but our dogs love it that way. We love to relax on the terracotta patio and dine al fresco when the weather is right.

Alicia Ramirez takes pride in her pollinator garden. She has a variety of plants and vegetables including lavender, Roma tomatoes, Pride of Barbados, olive trees, persimmons, basil and borage. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

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

A hilarious misunderstanding happened recently during a scheduled bulky item pickup in which we tossed out many items, including Halloween décor. Among the items was a wooden pallet that had “help me” written on it. A call to the police was made when a passerby saw it and became concerned. The misunderstanding was cleared up once it was confirmed it was a Halloween prop. It was an honest mistake and unfortunate situation, but we’re very thankful that our neighbors were looking out for us and the safety of the neighborhood. It makes us feel valued and cared for.

We chose Sunshine Estates to be near our families and for the house that we fell in love with. But there’s so much to love about our neighborhood. The restaurants are great, the shopping is great, and the neighbors are even greater. We are surrounded by people who care about the area and the people living in it.