Real Estate

A Tudor with trade-offs

More light, better flow, new master bath but smaller closets

When Tom Kramer would visit his mother, and later his sister-in-law, in the Old Palo Alto Tudor, he would sometimes imagine what he and his wife Sue would change, if the house were theirs.

The Kramers bought the home in 2012 and soon started thinking for real.

They came up with three main goals for their remodel: more light, a master bathroom and a kitchen that fit better into the way they lived.

The old kitchen "was a beautiful kitchen, just not the one we wanted," Tom says, adding that they directly recycled all the cabinets, counters and appliances by giving them away to a contractor.

"Demolition was a total win-win," his wife agrees.

Once gutted, there was still a wall separating the kitchen from the dining area. Without that wall, there was room for a long, U-shaped kitchen with a combination of custom-made and Ikea cabinets, a KitchenAid induction cooktop and oven, and a separate island that houses the oven along with deep, pull-out drawers.

"I'm the put-away guy," Tom says, so he wanted the dishwasher located not only near the sink but close to the storage drawers that house the crockery.

Tom credits Sue with taking the plates and bowls along when checking out the new dishwasher, making sure they'd all fit perfectly.

And a bonus is having a deep, stainless-steel sink: "It lets us create the illusion of clean," he says.

There's seating for eight around the bar created by overhanging the cement-colored Cambria quartz counter over the maple cabinets.

"We wanted to incorporate indoor/outdoor," Tom says, pointing out the four-panel Kolbe accordion door that leads to the deck outside. That custom-built door cost a whopping $12,000 -- but it helped meet goal No. 1: Bring in more light.

Additional kitchen light now comes from a row of skylights along the sloping roof, which replaced side windows.

When they discovered they could vent the basement-based furnace out a side wall, they ended up gaining enough space on the upstairs landing to create a whole new room. Adding two more skylights and a peaked roof gave them plenty of space for an office and future study space for the kids.

The original upstairs had three bedrooms and one large, but badly designed bathroom.

By incorporating walk-in closets from two of the bedrooms, they were able to capture enough space to create a small, but very effective master bathroom. Closets were then carved out of wasted space under the eaves.

"We have less closet space than before, but that's a tradeoff," Tom says. And there are two full-height closets downstairs, he adds.

When looking through the large skylight in the master-bathroom shower, the eye catches the blue sky and green trees, continuing to the green sea-glass tiles.

"(The skylight) makes a small bathroom feel quite a bit larger," he says. And an oversized pocket door also helps.

The old bathroom had "the biggest waste of space in the whole house," according to Sue.

So, they moved the washer/dryer into a closet upstairs, next to the redone bathroom, which now boasts Ikea's Godmorgon cabinetry and a 55-inch double molded sink with four roll-out drawers.

In addition to the kitchen and two bathrooms, the Kramers updated all the old knob-and-tube electrical connections, replaced most of the interior doors and fully insulated the home.

The family was away for the first couple of months of construction, but spent the next four months living in the guest room downstairs and the garage, using the one functional bathroom (without a door). Dishes were washed in the shower or at family and friends' homes.

"We didn't think it would be nearly as hard to live here. ... We were planning to barbecue," Sue says, but the deck became a construction zone with nails, plywood and power tools and a backyard covered "in dust and muck."

While the project took significantly longer than they'd hoped, they attribute that to "scope creep" -- with no regrets.

Goal of project:

Bring in light, add a master bathroom, transform the kitchen, create a mudroom

Unanticipated issues:

Wished had rented second storage unit, instead of putting furniture in child's bedroom

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

About 2,300 sq ft on a 5,250-sq-ft lot

Time to complete:

About six months


Architect: Kirsten Harrison, Menlo Park, 415-999-6513

Building contractor: GL Perry Construction, San Jose, 408-287-3779

Cabinets: Birchwood Cabinets, Sonora, 209-532-1417

Painting: Almaden Valley Painting, 408-398-4717

Tile: Francisco Tile, San Jose, 408-227-3896

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