Real Estate

Honoring an older home

New kitchen looks like it fits right in

Soon after their children were born, Andrea and Jon Ward started thinking about making their 1940s Marcus Stedman-designed home more practical and livable.

When they purchased the Palo Alto home in 1998, they were drawn to the Stedman details, from the ironwork banister to the wood-beamed ceilings and klinker bricks. They had no desire to tamper with the home's essential charm.

But Andrea, who loves to cook and bake, found herself entertaining with a kitchen barely big enough for the kids to drop their backpacks and dash out.

"It was the worst kitchen ... more like a back hall," says Nancy Van Natta, who designed the expanded version, along with a new mud room, powder room and a reconfigured master suite upstairs.

"We would never spend time on this level," Ward says, as she described the multi-level structure with living room, small dining room, tiny kitchen on the main level, three bedrooms and two baths upstairs, and a family room, office and guest bedroom downstairs.

"Now we do," she adds.

The living room, with its signature Stedman features, is untouched. But the new kitchen is twice as large, extending into the side yard. The angled shape was determined by setback requirements on the corner lot: When they realized they'd have to lop off one corner to meet the setback rules, Van Natta suggested lopping off another to create an octagonal shape. That led to adding wooden beams to the ceiling, mimicking the living-room/dining-room treatment.

"You wouldn't know this was not part of the original house," Ward says.

Keeping in tune with the home's style didn't mean they had to say no to modern appliances. Today Ward cooks on a LaCornue five-burner range that includes a special simmer burner and a large burner in the middle ideal for cooking large pots of pasta. One of the ovens is both convection or conventional, the second is purely convection.

Because the ovens are smaller, the food comes out juicier, Ward says.

And because she really loves cooking, she chose a third oven, wall-mounted -- a Viking Professional with a glass door. "I have used all three ovens at the same time," she says.

The center of the kitchen is a large granite-topped island made of distressed honey pine -- a perfect space for making jam or for cooking together -- with a round prep sink positioned directly across from that pasta burner. The pasta pot fits perfectly in the sink.

Most of the storage in the kitchen is in lower cabinets, with wide pull-out drawers where plates and pots are conveniently stacked. A tall pull-out pantry next to the refrigerator is accessible from two sides. Next to the stove is a spice drawer and an upper cabinet with cooking oils.

Van Natta designed the kitchen in work zones. "You can have more than one cook and not bump into each other," she says, noting that it's "so much more scientific than when built."

She and Ward worked together to locate just the right tiles to complement the rest of the house. Stedman was fond of heavy, textured tiles, and they found a curvy, concrete tile for the mudroom, which lets people come in from the outdoor pool to the powder room without destroying the floor.

Upstairs the bedrooms were reconfigured to create a master suite, as well as a bathroom shared by the two children that now opens from the hallway.

Instead of adding two sinks for the master bathroom, Van Natta found a long trough sink with two sets of faucets.

Ward wanted her bathroom to have some fun elements, so she chose a waterfall spout for the tub and a capiz-shell chandelier above.

A tricky part of the design was creating a vanity in the master bathroom that disguises the first-floor powder room ceiling jutting into the room.

"The house was put together like a jigsaw (puzzle)," contractor Rich Sargent says. But solving that problem -- as well as the setback issue was part of what earned the project a platinum NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) award for a kitchen addition/remodel over $120,000 in 2011 and Contractor of the Year for Sargent.

"We took the setback issue and turned it into a nice feature," he says.

"The house feels much more balanced," Ward says, "which helps make it feel like it's always been like that."


Contractor: Rich Sargent, Sargent Construction, Burlingame, 650-949-4009

Designer: Nancy Van Natta, nancy van natta associates, San Rafael, 415-456-3078

Plumbing supply: Diane Steves, Decorative Plumbing Supply, San Carlos, 650-592-3337

Appliances: Atherton Appliance & Kitchens, 695 Veterans Blvd., Redwood City, 650-369-1794

Goal of project:

Enlarge kitchen, create master suite

Unanticipated issues:

Setback requirements created "cut corners"

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

Went from 2,500 sq ft to 2,800 sq ft on a .25-acre lot

Time to complete:

7 months (plus 7+ months to design)

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