Real Estate

Updating a mid-century 'modern'

New homeowners wanted light, storage space and easy access to the outdoors

The couple had barely committed to relocating to California from New York in 2012 when they spotted a Brown & Kaufman home, just begging for a redo.

The three-bedroom, two-bath home met their basic prerequisites, but it had hardly been updated since it was erected in Palo Alto's Adobe Meadow neighborhood in the mid-'50s. So they contacted a recommended architect and queried whether they could get what they really wanted.

Despite the chopped-up spaces and dark wood, the wife says they thought they could brighten the space up.

"It had potential," she says.

Today, instead of several small rooms, one enters and immediately can view the new office, dining area, kitchen and living room. The large fireplace, which opens to both living room and office, is no longer a huge presence, surrounded by massive cabinets.

"The fireplace does a nice job of separating function without closing off the room," says architect John Klopf, adding that "All the (eliminated) walls were nonstructural."

Brown & Kaufman mid-century homes are similar to Eichlers, with their mainly one-story layouts, post-and-beam ceilings and openness to the outdoors. The big difference is their crawl space which came in handy for relocating the new furnace. And the insulated foam roof was able to cover the new wiring, so nothing unsightly extends above the roof.

Since both husband and wife cook and bake, the kitchen design was very important.

"We wanted an open kitchen with lots of storage space," the wife says.

They chose Sub-Zero ("My parents had one for 20 years with no problems," she says) and Wolf appliances for their refrigerator, ovens, cooktop and wine cooler, along with a Bosch dishwasher. Lightly mottled Quartzite tops the continuous-grain walnut cabinets that are stained a medium brown-gray.

The neutral color scheme continues throughout the house, with dashes of bright color adding interest with a yellow Sodaglass kitchen backsplash, red cabinets in the master bathroom and yellow in the second bathroom. Yellow stools by Ligne Roset march along the kitchen island.

The house was completely re-wired, and recessed, square cams were added to the kitchen and living-room ceilings. Strip LED lighting was used behind molding high up on the bedroom walls.

The wife perused for ideas, as well as other sites such as for lighting inspiration.

They settled on a Broadway Linear Crystal Chandelier, with strands of multi-shaped crystal wound around a central fixture. The strands can easily be removed for cleaning, then repositioned in a new way.

"We wanted something different for the dining room, and this was unique," she says.

For the living-room fan, they just wanted something that didn't stick out; they found an acrylic overhead fan that subs well for air conditioning, she adds.

Another request to the architect was designing a walk-in closet for the master bedroom, along with built-in dressers in the former closet and tall, deep shelving in lieu of night stands. The biggest challenge was finding a secure sliding-glass door that leads to the back yard. They ended up with a fiberglass compression door that cannot be opened from the exterior.

Both bathrooms feature Daltile tile from the linen collection -- with darker gray in the master and taupe in the second bathroom -- and CaesarStone "Blizzard" counters. Wall-mounted spigots in the master bath keep the look modern and simple.

The couple ended up with everything they wanted, down to the coat closet in the office.


Architect: Klopf Architecture Project Team (John Klopf, AIA, Jackie Detamore, AIA, Angela Todorova), San Francisco, 415-287-4225

Building contractor: Kevin Slagle Design Build

Cabinets: Antonio Chavez, Hand Crafted Cabinets, Santa Clara, 408-971-2616

Landscape: Jim Redmond, Elements Landscape Inc., Menlo Park, 650-847-1252

Goal of project: Open up spaces, bring in more light

Unanticipated issues: Wanted to cut garage in half and reclaim space for house; city would not allow

Year house built: 1955

Size of home, lot: 1,450-sq-ft home on 6,500-sq-ft lot

Time to complete: About six months

Budget: $250,000

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