Real Estate

It's what's inside that counts

Updating a townhouse in a Neoclassical style

Living in a townhouse has its conveniences, but homeowner's-association procedures and regulations can sometimes make renovations and construction challenging for the residents. Karen and Seth Shostak, who own a contemporary townhouse in Mountain View's Cuernavaca neighborhood, were able to dramatically revamp the look of their master bedroom suite on the interior (including window changes) without needing to perform exterior construction.

After living in the two-story, three-bedroom 2,400 square-foot home for 22 years, the Shostaks determined it was time to spruce up their ho-hum second-floor bedroom and bathroom (they made some design changes to the first floor around nine years ago).

"Our goal was simply to update and upgrade the rooms," Karen Shostak says.

Los Altos contractor Ilona Lindauer was recommended by a friend who gave her a glowing review, and plans were made to give the suite a classy, space-efficient makeover with continental touches.

"We decided to redo the room in a Neoclassical style, which means inspired by Greek and Roman themes," Shostak says. "Both my husband and I like the style very much for its elegance. We've traveled in Europe and admired the old buildings there."

The Shostaks focused on big improvements to walls and floors, with additional design changes to the bathroom.

The aging carpet in both rooms was removed and a hardwood floor of red oak with a satin finish put in the bedroom. Porcelain tile made to resemble travertine marble, a favorite building material in Europe, was chosen for the floor of the master bath.

"The accent tiles have sort of a leaf motif but very subtle," Shostak says.

Custom wooden cabinetry, complete with brown and cream satin finishes, arches, nooks and stylized shapes and theme details, was an important addition for both rooms.

"There are so many little details. It's really a feast for the eyes," Lindauer says.

Lindauer and the Shostaks worked together to choose a color scheme that would suit the new style and decided on a palette of soft blues and greens. Shostak compares them to the hues seen in Britain's Wedgwood china designs (appropriate for the Neoclassical feel).

In addition to aesthetics, a major priority was making the most of the space in both rooms.

"We wanted to make it feel more spacious so we've added a lot of functional storage and much better lighting," Lindauer says.

To make better use of the bedroom, an unused fireplace was blocked off.

Recessed "layered" lighting (lights embedded within ceilings and walls) was added to give a softer, more sophisticated look, with task and ambient lights throughout.

To maximize space in the bathroom, Lindauer removed the large Roman tub and replaced it with a double shower. The previously existing bathroom window, which needed to stay to conform to HOA regulations, was transformed to protect privacy, Lindauer says.

"We tiled it in and made it an extension of the seat in the shower. Quite a nifty look."

"Storage is always an issue so with the custom cabinets we've added lots of drawer space and convenient niches," Shostak says.

The project was not without challenges. To get the new pieces and materials up to the second floor, Lindauer had to have the handrails of the curving stairway removed and carefully ease the items upstairs. And in the process of the renovations, the Shostaks made the dismaying discovery of wet, rotting insulation, symptomatic of a leaky roof, which was then replaced.

"That ended up being a good thing," Shostak said, since the roof discovery was made before more damage to the house occurred.

The project lasted from February through July, and the Shostaks had to camp out downstairs while construction was underway, but they say it was most definitely worth it for the end results.

Shostak names the master bathroom as her now-favorite room.

"It's just a joy to use it, like being in a luxury hotel," she says. "It's just very well done."


Building contractor: Ilona Lindauer, IKB, Los Altos, 650-941-4384,

Goal of project:

To update and upgrade master bed and bathrooms

Unanticipated issues:

Discovering wet insulation made a roof replacement necessary; a curved staircase made getting materials upstairs tricky.

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

2,400 sq. ft.

Time to complete:

Five months



What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,650 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 15 comments | 2,521 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,478 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,057 views

Is racism also a local problem?
By Diana Diamond | 31 comments | 874 views


Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More