Real Estate

Way more than a room with a view

Remodel achieved curb appeal, truly usable spaces, plus major landscape redo

Seashell-shaped sinks. A sunken living room. A dark room on the upper level. On a hill, but with no view.

"It was a disaster. ... No one had trimmed the yard for 30 years," says the homeowner of a large Sharon Heights home that's been reconfigured for today's living.

For starters, the home had no curb appeal, since all one saw from the street were the three-car garage and two heritage oak trees.

With nearly 3,600 square feet, the five-bedroom home was oddly configured for a family. The house was built along a hill, in three tiers, with public spaces on the main floor, two bedrooms upstairs (along with some odd, dark rooms) and three bedrooms down a level.

"Not ideal if you have two kids," the owner says.

"It was a little labyrinth, a convoluted plan," interior designer Rise Krag says.

The young couple with a 4-year-old and a baby on the way wanted to cluster the bedrooms together. Working with architect John Stewart, they soon had a plan to locate the master-bedroom suite (with side-by-side walk-in closets and a bathroom) upstairs, as well as two bedrooms with a Jack-and-Jill bathroom between.

The architect pared down the garages to two and created a welcoming entry, with Calstone Quarry Stone pavers winding up to the front door.

But the worst part of the old house was the kitchen, the owner says, which was a narrow galley with a small single-paned window.

Today it's double the size, with a large granite-topped island in the center, quartzite counters with marble backsplash along the walls. Appliances include a Wolf range and double ovens.

"We don't cook at all," the owner says, since both work long hours. But the kitchen is still "the most-used room" in the house, he adds. And his mom enjoys preparing food when she visits.

Two stools sit at one end of the island for quick bites. The kitchen is actually flanked by two eating areas: a nook on one side and a more formal dining room on the other.

The living room is no longer sunken, and the beamed ceiling rises two stories. Krag, who started out designing a new kitchen and ended up recommending architect Stewart as the job expanded, says the couple was inspired by her designs on her website.

Soon they had a two-way fireplace that faces both the dining room and the living room.

"The sunken thing bothered the wife," Krag says, "so we unsunk it. The fireplace has become much more of a focal point."

Rounding out the main floor is a home office, a powder room and laundry area.

The lower level was left mainly untouched and still has a seashell sink, next to a large playroom and three bedrooms.

Where before the landscape was more of a "jungle," to quote the homeowner, today a former stairway to nowhere has been transformed into a double-waterfall element. A paved patio connects to a grassy area below with a matching paved walkway.

When the dining-room ceiling was lowered, a space for a deck off the master room was created. Today a play structure can be viewed from this deck.

Construction wasn't a slam dunk: Sharon Heights is known for its marshy soil, and many homes suffer from foundation problems. To deal with that, the owners sunk 11 piers, designed to be dug 24 feet deep. When the first one took days to dig, they had a soils expert reassess the bedrock. Turns out, they were on solid sandstone and only needed to dig 3 to 6 feet for the rest of the piers.

"We tore the top two levels off and we stayed in the bottom for nine months," the owner says. "Living there was very helpful, but miserable. We spotted so many things that were wrong. It saved a ton of time and worry" to be on the scene daily, he adds.

One happy surprise for the couple was discovery that once the brush and old growth was removed, they actually have a Bay view.

Goal of project:

Completely reconfigure house, make entry more visible, double size of kitchen

Unanticipated issues/regrets:

Didn't replace all shingles

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

5-BR, 4.5-BA remodeled to 6-BR, 3.5 BA

Time to complete:

6 mo. planning, 9 mo. construction, 3 mo. landscaping


Architect: John Stewart, San Carlos, 650-591-8283

Interior designer: Rise Krag, Menlo Park, 650-854-9090

Landscape architect: Bruce MacDonald, Bruce MacDonald Landscape Architecture, Inc., Danville, 925-855-0352

Stone materials: Graniterock Design Center, Cupertino, 408-996-4501

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