Real Estate

Phasing in a remodel

Updating for livability now, while planning for the future

by Kathy Cordova / photos by Dasja Dolan

It was a classic tale of love at first sight. As soon as she walked into the Menlo Park Eichler, Sandi knew it would make the perfect home for her family. She loved the neighborhood and the public schools were great. The home was located at the end of a cul-de-sac, on a flat lot with a big back yard surrounded by large trees.

But, as with most love stories, this one didn't come without issues.

The house was built in 1952 and had never been updated. The roof was leaky and the lack of insulation caused the home to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The kitchen was barely functioning and a big stonewall fireplace blocked the view to the back yard.

"The bones of the house were so good and we liked the basic concepts, but we knew we'd have to update it," says her husband, Jim.

They bought the house in 2008 and researched, planned and saved until they were ready to begin remodeling in November 2012. There was a lot of work that needed to be done right away, and several other desirable, but not urgent, changes.

"The goal was to make the house comfortable for them now and also look into future to see how we could remodel and expand the house to meet their ultimate goals later," says their architect, Judith Mattingly.

Mattingly created a master plan for three phases of remodeling, drafting drawings of each phase so that the owners could see how the house would look during each stage. The master plan was critical so that they could put the infrastructure in place during the first phase to support the changes in the subsequent phases.

"It's really important to any kind of phased planning like this to make sure that you can do phases two and three without tearing out what you did in phase one," Mattingly says. Sandi, Jim and their three children moved out during phase one, which lasted six months, but can remain in the house while the next two phases are completed.

The most noticeable parts of phase one included tearing down the stonewall fireplace and replacing it with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall and sliding doors, a complete kitchen renovation, installation of new hardwood floors in the living areas and new skylights. Infrastructure included a new roof, lots of new plumbing, new electrical, insulation and high-speed Ethernet cabling (Category 6) throughout house.

"The decisions about what to do during each phase were made based on budget and stages of life of the family. As the kids become teenagers, they would like them to have their own rooms, so phase two will add a master bedroom and a master bath at the opposite end of the home from the other bedrooms," Mattingly says. This phase will also create a larger entry, enclose the carport to make a garage with laundry facilities and add a door from the kitchen to the garage.

Most of the plumbing was put in place in phase one to support work in the subsequent phases. A cleverly designed kitchen cabinet on wheels will be moved to make room for the garage door.

Finally, phase three will add a guest room and expand the den and family room.

"We hear from friends that as the children become teenagers it will be important to have more space for them to have their friends over," Sandi says.

Although there are Eichler purists who go to great lengths and expense to keep all the original architectural details of their homes, Sandi and Jim aren't in that camp. "Functionality trumped appearances," Jim says.

For example, they decided to tear out the wood paneling in the bedrooms and Sheetrock over them and the ceiling in order to provide better insulation. They also abandoned the plan to re-install the radiant floor heating for which Eichlers are known.

"The combination of the valance heating (which runs along the ceiling beams) and the new insulation are working well," Jim adds.

Today the family loves the changes and they're hoping to enjoy them for a long, long time. "We plan to stay here forever," Sandi says.

This might be one love story that has a happy-ever-after ending.


Architect: Judith Mattingly, Mattingly Thaler Architecture, San Francisco, 415-431-2848

Contractor: Rich Mathers Construction, Inc., Los Altos, 650-941-8218

Goal of project: To remodel the Eichler in phases, making the most essential changes first, while laying the groundwork for future phases

Unanticipated issues: Replacing thin paneling with drywall and insulation in the bedrooms and hallway; rewiring house with Cat 6 cabling

Year house built: 1952

Size of home: 3 bd, 2 ba, about 1,700 sq ft, with 200-sq-ft bonus room

Size of lot: About 11,000 sq ft

Time to complete: Six months

Budget: $250,000

Freelance writer Kathy Cordova can be emailed at

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