Real Estate

No more boring boxes

Opportunistic leak leads to bathroom, kitchen overhauls

No one likes finding out their plumbing has major issues and needs to be ripped out. But after Doug and Teri Young discovered their downstairs half bath was leaking into the crawlspace of their Mountain View home, they decided to use it as a design opportunity.

Since the tiny bathroom shared flooring with their tired kitchen, the couple decided it was time to start over. The kitchen and bathroom were gutted and rebuilt.

Months after those tandem projects were done, Teri noticed a drip as she sat in the family room next to the kitchen while Doug was showering upstairs. Before they knew it, they were designing two new bathrooms.

Doug had never been completely happy with the old kitchen.

"I felt like we just had this wall of boxes," he says of the uniform, white-washed oak cabinets. "It was kind of boring."

Tile countertops and plain drywall didn't help liven things up. Doug envisioned cabinets of varying height to create visual interest. When they took down the dropped ceiling and discovered they had another foot-and-a-half to work with, the dramatic corner cabinets and tall vent hood for the stove could become a reality.

But with a kitchen that wasn't huge, and no plans to add square footage, they had to make some compromises. The old kitchen had a double oven, but they decided to skip that little-used luxury for a regular oven plus a convection microwave.

They loved the idea of having an island in the new kitchen, but there simply wasn't room. They thought about a peninsula, and made a mock-up with a card table and cardboard, and found that they didn't like walking around it every time they entered the kitchen.

Teri had wanted a desk or office nook where she could sit down and write, but there wasn't room for that, either. Instead, the designer conceived the idea of two pull-out flat surfaces where Teri can stand and write (with shelves above for stamps and pens) or lay out her cookbooks to select or follow recipes.

They learned that flexibility can be the key to a successful remodel.

"Instead of getting stuck on what you want," Doug says, "tell the designer 'here's what I want to do' and see what they come up with."

Teri took the lead when it came to the aesthetics of the kitchen and half bath. She wanted cabinets the color of a favorite jewelry box, so had custom cherry doors dyed to match. She worked with designer Susan Davis of Spectrum Fine Homes to establish a subtle theme of flowing water in the backsplash and the clear glass cabinet fronts. The panes in the cabinet doors evoke a rain-streaked window and some clear stone details on the backsplash echo that effect, creating a pleasing continuity with the garden waterfall just outside the kitchen door and bay windows.

When Teri and Doug started on the upstairs bathrooms about 18 months later, they took a "his-and-hers" approach: Doug got to make all the decisions about the master bath while Teri worked on the hall bath.

This made sense for them, Teri says, because she is an early riser and Doug is not. With her own bathroom away from their bed she could get ready for her day without disturbing him.

Doug says the master bathroom felt small, dark and cramped, even though it had a skylight. It had an uninteresting aluminum-frame shower and simple floor tiles.

For the new bathroom he chose a glass shower and a slate-colored, oblong, squarish bowl for the sink. Jemma Clark, the designer from Spectrum for the bathrooms, suggested marble for the floor but in a honed, instead of polished, finish for a modern but less formal feel.

Teri took a starkly modern approach with tiles in dark and light neutral tones. She also decided to punch out a section of wall between two studs behind the bathroom door for a jewelry cabinet.


Building contractor and designer: Spectrum Fine Homes, Mountain View, 650-960-2449

Goal of project:

Update original kitchen and bathrooms to have a lighter, more modern feel

Unanticipated issues:

Downstairs bathroom leak caused damage to a major beam below, which had to be replaced

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

2,200-sq-ft home on 6,600-sq-ft lot

Time to complete:

13 months total

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