A seamless remodel
Second chance for a dream home
by Kathy Schrenk / photos by Cherie Cordellos
The indoor/outdoor great room features plenty of windows.
Francine Gani had barely finished remodeling her lovely Old Palo Alto Colonial near Walter Hays Elementary School when the house kitty-corner from hers went up for sale.
Gani had always loved the place: a grand Tudor with a lot twice the size of her quarter-acre. She was hesitant to take a look at the place, since she knew she'd want to remodel to make it her own, and she'd just finished a huge project.
But she took the plunge, largely to get the additional privacy the huge back garden and pool would offer. Fortunately, she had had great experiences with the contractors that worked on her first remodel, so she called them all up and told them to get ready to work on her five-bedroom, five-bath purchase.
"At one point I was wondering, what did I get myself into? But it's over and it turned out very well," she says.
The 80-year-old home had great bones but needed more light and some contemporary upgrades. Original wood beams in the living room and dining room had been painted over, so those were stripped and restored. An alcove with windows all around was added to the living room to provide a special space for Gani's beloved grand piano.
One of the biggest challenges of the remodel was brightening the interior, architect Carl Hesse says. "Some of those old houses tend to be dark inside with few windows or small windows, and we were able to brighten the house without compromising the historic nature," he adds.
From the outside, it's hard to tell where the 80-year-old house ends and the addition begins.
The house was designed, as many in the neighborhood were, by Birge Clark, whom Hesse calls the most famous local architect next to Joseph Eichler. This means the house is on the city's list of historic structures, so Hesse and Gani had to get city approval for some of the changes, such as the windows.
Since the remodel included an addition -- basically a lengthening of the house toward the side street -- it was also important to blend the addition to the existing house, especially at the roof line, Hesse says. Today it's not obvious from the inside or outside where the new construction begins and the old house ends.
For Gani, one of the main goals of the remodel was to get her "dream kitchen." All the usual accoutrements of a new, high-end kitchen are there -- granite countertops, a warming drawer, an island with a microwave built-in. (Actually, there are two islands.) There is also a full-size freezer next to the full-size fridge to store the food for her frequent entertaining, as well as for her 14-year-old son. Then there's the "butler pantry" with the wine cooler, which stores bottles close at hand after they come out of the wine cellar.
The great room, dining room and mudroom have lots of windows and doors that lead to the back yard, giving the house an indoor-outdoor feel. Just outside the great room is a shaded breakfast nook.
The dream kitchen includes high-end touches, from the granite countertops to two islands.
On one side of the pool is an understated garden that is richly fragrant with lantana. On the other side is a grouping of plants meant to look and smell lovely while also hiding pool equipment. Next to the garage is a series of raised beds for nurturing vegetable plants.
While Gani was gutting and redoing the kitchen, she updated the bathrooms as well. The bathroom in the huge new master suite features a sauna, free-standing tub and more granite countertops. Metallic accent tiles in the floor are a perfect complement to the bathroom hardware and even the original iron support beams in the living room (which look decorative, but which Gani found out are actually structural).
Gani is thrilled with the end result and Hesse is proud of the accomplishment. "It really preserves a lot of the old details and historic esthetic while at the same time being very up-to-date as far as its infrastructure," he says.
Architect: Carl Hesse & Jason Conoway, square three design studios, Palo Alto, 650-326-3860 ext. 111
General contractor: Steve Farrell, Farrell Co., Los Altos, 650-949-2564
Landscape architect: Carolyn Ordonez, Menlo Park, 650-326-6590
Landscape contractor: Modern Landscaping, Inc., Campbell, 408-371-4477
The original wood beams in the living room were stripped and restored, and windows added for more light.
Goal of project: Turn smallish kitchen and adjacent bed and bathroom into large greatroom with top-of-the-line kitchen, family room and entertainment area
Unexpected problems: Kerosene tank buried in back yard caused delays and increased cost, along with EPA involvement
Year house built: 1920s
Size of house: About 3,900 sq. ft. before remodel; about 5,100 sq. ft. after
Size of lot: Half acre
Time to complete: 1 year