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Home & Garden Design
Publication Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An illusion of space
An Eichler remodel that keeps with the spirit

by Megan Wong / photos by Bernie Flather

With three kids, two German shepherds, a cat and a cockatiel, Bernie and Gabrielle Flather's four-bedroom Eichler home was bursting at the seams. The one-story house didn't even have a garage -- only a carport. As a patch-through, the family rented a storage unit and made seasonal runs to swap out stuff. Clearly, they needed more space.

The new kitchen features black granite counters, English sycamore cabinets and natural light pouring in through a three-paneled skylight.


Lifting the built-in wooden cabinets off the floor by a few inches gives the impression of suspension and lightness.


Budget-wise, moving to a larger house in Palo Alto was out of the question. Plus, they liked their neighbors and proximity to quality schools. So the Flathers chose to redesign their '50s-era home to meet their contemporary storage needs.

"With our busy lives, it's so important to have a place for everything and eliminate all the junk," Gabrielle says.

To accomplish this, the Flathers completely remodeled the living-room and kitchen area at the front of the house, turned the carport into a garage lined with tall storage cabinets, and added a mudroom with cubbies and drawers for the kids' gear.

They consulted architect Akira Kurihara to design a solution that externally stayed true to the Eichler look of the neighborhood, but that would also accommodate their modern lifestyle.

Clean design and a neutral palette extends into the newly remodeled bathroom.

"There are some redesigns that border on tract houses," Kurihara says. "I was adamant about maintaining the Eichler spirit, keeping the simplicity and the main slope of the roof plan."

They raised the roof by a few feet over the living room and kitchen, and installed generous skylights and windows near the ceiling to let in as much natural light as possible.

The goal was to create an illusion of more space than there actually is. One technique Kurihara used to this effect was a partial wall between the kitchen and living room, which lets light and air move freely above while still providing a barrier between rooms. Even naturally heavy objects like the eight-foot built-in wooden cabinets in the living room were lifted off the floor by a few inches, to give the impression of suspension and lightness.

In addition, the Flathers chose a light color-palette for their walls that would enhance the airy, expansive feel of the rooms.

The kitchen was outfitted with a black granite-topped island as well as English sycamore cabinets loaded with storage space. The three-paneled skylight allows natural light to flood the room, even on cloudy days.

Windows near the raised ceiling let in as much natural light as possible.

In addition to overhauling the common areas, the Flathers enclosed their former carport to create a one-car garage, as well as a small project-room for the kids.

Just off the garage is a mudroom, outfitted with overhead cubbies and a bench full of drawers -- the perfect place to strip off jackets, shoes and sports gear before entering the house.

The Flathers, who run BG Flather Construction, are thrilled with their finished product. "When everything has a place, you just have more energy. You save time in the long run," Gabrielle says. "There's even a home for the dirty cleats."


Architect: Akira Kurihara, 1 Canyon Road, Berkeley, 510-590-0000

Building contractor: BG Flather Construction, Inc., Palo Alto, 650-329-1700

Landscape designer: Ken Schoppet Landscape Architecture, Los Altos, 650-941-7247



Dry rot discovered in the 50-year-old Eichler triggered a complete re-do of both bathrooms.

Goal of project/design challenge: Make a modest Eichler home handle the storage demands of modern life, without adding a ton of square footage
Unexpected problems/hidden costs: Dry rot discovered in walls triggered a remodel of both bathrooms.
Year house built: mid-1950s
Size of lot: 6,900 sq. ft.
Size of home: Before 2,300 sq. ft.; after 2,700 sq. ft.
Time to complete: 9 months
Budget: $400,000

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