Real Estate

Contemporary, yet cozy

Menlo Oaks remodel focuses on the modern family

Few surprises awaited Harbinder and Surinder Kang when they decided to remodel and expand their Menlo Oaks home -- after all, they had already done this four times before.

Trained as a radiation therapist, Surinder Kang ended up turning her penchant for design into a business, sdk design, after her three children were born. She and her husband, an engineer, spotted the little Spanish house that was just around the corner from their last project, a teardown.

Noting that the house had been a rental for years, "we saw the potential and that it didn't have to be torn down. ... I thought it would be nice to have a challenge and work with constraints," she says.

Those constraints ranged from a majestic oak in front of the house to a large courtyard in the middle. The home was pushed out on one side to create a cloak room, with plenty of hooks for family and guests, as well as storage; a full bathroom; and a study/guest room that overlooks that oak. The entry way was extended forward a few feet, and the old exterior, load-bearing wall became an art niche.

Today distinctive remnants of the original 1920s home remain: Coved corners and recessed ceilings were carefully saved, as were the old fireplaces, only now refaced with limestone.

The home is still built around a courtyard, but the kitchen sink and cabinets were flipped to the opposite wall and a NanaWall -- immense glass doors that fold in and out -- now opens the kitchen to the outdoors.

Noting that she and her husband "like the same aesthetic -- contemporary but still cozy," Kang worked with architect Ana Williamson to modernize and streamline their home. Several small spaces, formerly a laundry room and breakfast nook, were incorporated into a larger kitchen, with a central island. Materials and colors are kept simple, as well as "green": concrete on the island, white CaesarStone on the cooking/cleaning surfaces, back-painted glass for the backsplash. Cabinet doors are rift-cut white oak, custom-stained very dark. Floors are engineered: French oak over plywood, which Kang was assured, should last at least 30 years.

Kang chose a six-burner Wolf gas range, SubZero refrigerator/freezer and two upper Fisher Paykel dishwasher drawers (they're deeper when they're not stacked, she says). A microwave is hidden in the pantry.

Throughout the house, Kang has mixed old and new, with an old Persian carpet beneath a modern glass Ligne Roset table in the dining room, or antiques tucked into alcoves that break up the long bedroom-wing hallway.

Kang says the huge living room is why they bought the house. They removed walls that had been added to re-open the space. "We liked the grandness of the room," she says, adding, "We did not want this to be a showpiece room, so we put our TV here."

The fireplace, refaced in limestone, is now lit by gas, with flames dancing around ceramic balls. On either side of the fireplace, former "Juliet" balconies that allowed one to take only a step outside were replaced with a raised porch.

Each time the Kangs remodeled a home they created one that mirrored their growing family. This time, with three teenagers, they built the laundry room between the kids' rooms and the master-bedroom suite. Their son's bedroom was added to the front of the house and has its own bathroom. The girls' rooms are separated by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, with a bench in the shower. Each bathroom (and the laundry room) features small metallic, round tiles on the floor (what Kang calls a "contemporary version of Old World").

Throughout the home, the colors are cool and clean -- white, grays, very dark brown. Often a material is repeated: The rift-cut oak appears in the kitchen (stained dark) and the cloak room (clear), then again in the master bathroom (again dark). Square chrome pulls complement the faucets and handles in each bathroom; white CaesarStone reappears in the master bathroom.

Although they've moved every few years as they've completed their remodels -- although always in the same neighborhood -- the Kangs plan to stay here for awhile. And if the urge to remodel strikes again, it'll be both business and pleasure.


Architect: Ana Williamson, Menlo Park, 650-329-0577,

Design/build: sdk design consultants, Menlo Park, 650-380-4966

Landscape designer: Keith Willig Landscape Architecture and Construction, Menlo Park, 650-326-2294,

Goal of project:

Modernize, expand older home

Unexpected issues:

Had to replace more walls and foundation than expected because of poor construction

Year house built:

Original 1920s; extensive remodel 2009

Size of home, lot:

Added 1,200 sq ft to become 4,000 sq-ft-home on 2/3 acre

Time to complete:

11 months

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