Honoring one's elders | May 24, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - May 24, 2013

Honoring one's elders

Palo Alto Stanford Heritage (PAST) recognizes significant remodels, restorations

by Carol Blitzer / photos Katie Brigham

It would have been much easier to simply tear down the 1909 Craftsman that caught Azar Lohrasbpour's eye as she was taking a shortcut through Crescent Park to work one day in 2008.

At least that's what close to 20 architects and builders advised her.

Instead, she chose the builder who understood her vision for the home that reminded her of the similarly aged red brick house where she grew up in Tehran.

Lohrasbpour's efforts will be honored this weekend with a Palo Alto Stanford Heritage (PAST) Preservation Award for residential restoration and addition. Her home was cited as "an extraordinary example of neighborhood preservation" for replicating "the original 1909 design, footprint, room layout, woodwork and unusual brick siding."

Working with architect Charles Brown and Joe Bettencourt of Straightline Construction, Lohrasbpour spent close to two years figuring out what to do with the home that was badly damaged in the '89 earthquake and sported sloping floors. And then construction, which involved taking the house down to the studs, took another year.

Today much of the interior resembles the original with its coved ceilings and five-light windows. The front door was rebuilt in fir — twice — ultimately with the window in the correct place.

"The biggest challenge was the hand-chiseled bricks," Lohrasbpour said, explaining that she had 5,000 bricks salvaged from a nearby home when the owners didn't want them. These were added to the 8,000 bricks at her house; each had to be removed one-by-one by hand to avoid breaking them, then cleaned of 100 years' worth of ivy, stored and eventually reinstalled to today's code. Restoration of the bricks alone ran $45,000.

Some of those hand-chiseled bricks appear inside, surrounding the now furnace-grade, gas-burning living-room fireplace, which is topped by a fir mantel.

Moldings were replicated throughout the home, and old oak flooring was replaced with mahogany. The old narrow stairway leading up to the attic bedrooms was moved to the front of the house and widened. The china cabinet was rebuilt with the five-light windows incorporated.

"I tried to keep the feel of the house with the small windows, fir doors. Nothing is painted," Lohrasbpour said. And not a scrap of carpeting was added.

The enlarged kitchen now incorporates the back porch. Lohrasbpour's only regret in the updated room is that water tends to splash in her farmer's sink, but wearing an apron solves that.

The upstairs bedrooms were enlarged and the roof raised in back, so people can actually stand upright.

Even the bathrooms reflect the Craftsman era, with white subway tile and black diamond insets in the small floor tiles. The tap "looks old, but you can use one hand" to turn the water on, she said.

Lohrasbpour isn't quite finished with her home, which she says was designed so she can live there forever. Next is rebuilding the detached garage and finishing the landscaping.

And, although she spent more than she planned, she's very happy with the outcome.

"This house will be here long after I'm gone," she said.

Also recognized for residential restoration and renovation was the Sunbonnet House at 1061 Bryant St., Palo Alto (Hans Baldauf, architect). Built in 1899 and on Palo Alto's Historic Inventory, it was noted as "an outstanding example of the Bay Area Arts and Crafts movement."

In the "institutional restoration and remodel" category, two buildings were cited: the Palo Alto Art Center at 1313 Newell Road, which was built in 1951 (Mark Cavagnero Associates, architect), and Hoover Pavilion at 211 Quarry Road, which was built from 1931 to 1939 ((Tom Eliot Fisch, architect).

Two "commercial rehabilitations" receiving awards are the Thompson Bakery at 206-210 Homer Ave., built in 1907, and the Thompson Bakery at 212-214 Homer Ave., which was built in 1927 (Lippert & Lippert Design, architect).

Dave Weinstein, author of "Signature Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area," will be the featured speaker at the PAST awards event, with the topic "What's Modern about Bay Area Modern Architecture."

In addition, 11 homes built in 1913 will receive their centennial plaques and another six older homes will be recognized.


For more Home and Real Estate news, visit www.paloaltoonline.com/real_estate.

What: 18th Annual Celebration of Preservation Month

When: Sunday, May 19, 1 p.m.

Where: Palo Alto Woman's Club, 475 Homer Ave., Palo Alto

Cost: Free

Info: www.pastheritage.org

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at cblitzer@paweekly.com.


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