Real Estate

Moving on up

Second-story space transformed into elegant master suite

A modern aesthetic, abundance of light, exposed wood edges and quirky elements attracted the new owners to their Midtown Palo Alto home.

"We have circular window frames here and there, and none of the rooms is in a rectangular shape," the homeowner said.

However, while the unique style pleased and the size was fine, the interior layout left something to be desired. The house had two bathrooms, three bedrooms and an office but the location of the master suite on the ground floor, away from the rest of the bedrooms upstairs, was too isolated.

Furthermore, the home, built in 1951 and remodeled in 1999, had a double-height living room with a catwalk -- not the most practical use of space, nor very energy efficient. They turned to designer Ayesha Sikandar to help them convert the home into a more family-friendly environment that would better suit their needs.

Simply adding on extra rooms wasn't an option. The existing structure was already nearly maxed out on space, as per zoning regulations. And though Sikandar said the contemporary home already stands out among its more traditional Mediterranean and ranch-style neighbors, they had to be sure the remodel would not have a drastic effect on the exterior of the house nor on the neighborhood character.

"We had to build in the existing footprint of the house," Sikandar said.

They decided the best way to maximize space would be to cut the living room off at one story, thus creating a new master-bedroom area above it and converting the office into a luxurious master bathroom and walk-in closet. The ground-floor master suite could then become a guest room.

The goal for the master bedroom was to comfortably fit a king-size bed and incorporate the existing catwalk and access to an attic. Several large windows let in plenty of natural light and the homeowner said she also appreciates the spacious new closet.

For Sikandar, though, the most interesting project was the bathroom.

One of the features the homeowners had always liked about the home was its unusual curved wall, extending from the front door to the back of the house, on both stories. That same curve added both challenge and inspiration to the designing of the new master bath. The contractors, led by Pavel Kantor, carefully placed small, white glass tiles separated by dramatic metal strips horizontally against the curved wall. They installed an elegant shower and marble bathtub with a shape reminiscent of a boat, perfect for a relaxing soak. Three tall windows facing the street were waterproofed and fitted with frosted glass, for privacy, while two others facing the neighbors were removed entirely.

In keeping with the couple's preference for a clean minimalist style, a neutral color scheme was maintained throughout. Gray concrete floors were added, plus a wall-mounted double vanity featuring white porcelain sinks, man-made quartz countertops and streamlined cabinets of gray oak.

Construction aside, the most difficult part of the project was being able to get started in the first place.

"Getting approval from the city was a big challenge. We hit some bumps," Sikandar said, including mix-ups and staffing changes. It took nearly a year for the family to be able to move in.

In order to add square footage to the property, a special home-improvement exception was needed, which is not easy to qualify for. They had to make their case not only to the city but to their neighbors and took pains to insure that the redesign would blend seamlessly.

All the time and effort was worth it, the homeowner said.

"We are very happy with the outcome. Most importantly, the remodeled part of the house fits well with the tone of the rest of the house."

Resources:

Designer: Ayesha Sikandar, MA Dimensions, San Mateo, 650-578-9732

Contractor: Progress Builders, Pavel Kantor, San Jose

Goal of project:

Create an upstairs master suite by converting double-height living room and second-story den

Unanticipated issues:

Needed to get special home-improvement exception from city to add square footage

Year house built:

1951; previous remodel in 1999

Time to complete:

3-4 mos. of construction; design to move-in took almost a year

Karla Kane is a freelance writer at Embarcadero Media.

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