Adding some Aloha | February 24, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - February 24, 2017

Adding some Aloha

Sharon Heights townhouse remodel infused with owner's love of Hawaii

by Susan Golovin

After Eric Brandenburg bought a dated, dark townhouse in the Sharon Heights neighborhood of Menlo Park, he proceeded with plans to convert it into a comfortable home for himself and his teen twins. This ultimately involved taking the place down to the studs. But the condominium's homeowners' association regulations meant the facade had to remain unchanged.

"The place was built in the early '80s when everything was a box with small rooms," said designer Judy Ross. "It was a challenge to open it up. We had to put in steel supports that go down 25 feet." Now the dramatic four-level home provides views that extend to San Francisco.

"Eric wanted to add a bedroom," Ross said. "Where you enter on the main level, there used to be a two-story atrium. We made it into a sitting area — they call it the Zen Spot — and positioned a bedroom above it." The "Zen spot" is so-called because it houses a waterfall wall of wavy, etched lava rock. Sapele mahogany floors unify the main level.

"Eric loves Hawaii, and so we incorporated water and wave imagery," Ross said. The granite ledge in front of the waterfall faces four swivel chairs and augments the seating. Large, acrylic-coated photos of Hawaiian flora help create a calm atmosphere where you can sit and gaze through the glass wall of folding doors that leads out to an adjacent deck.

An African Sapele mahogany burl structure, which houses kitchen cabinetry and a copper colored Rohl stainless steel sink, supports an elevated quartz counter/bar. This separates the kitchen from the Zen Spot, but maintains the open feel. Over this bar hang three dark bronze Holly Hunt fixtures.

"They cast a golden glow," Ross said, turning on the lights. "Notice that the bar is rounded, like a wave."

The Sepele burl also incorporates a wave pattern. The kitchen cabinets are figured ash, and the high-end appliances are stainless steel. "We sandblasted the glass on the cabinets because nobody's dishes are that pretty," Ross said.

The kitchen is open to the dining room, with its floor-to-ceiling northern views. Supported by an artistic metal base, the dining table is glass and thus does not detract from the view. It is surrounded by stamped suede Art Deco-style chairs and seats 12.

White wine is kept in a cooler in the kitchen. About 100 bottles of the owner's preferred quaff, red wine, are stored in a Jerusalem limestone-lined wine cellar. It adds depth and interest to a short corridor that houses a well-equipped mini-kitchen used when entertaining.

The nearby powder room features a dramatic wall of green quartzite with black veins. "We didn't want to interrupt the stone, so we put the mirror on the opposite wall over the birch cabinetry," Ross said. The mirror is framed in the same stone. The Italian sink and toilet are both ovate, with an off-white finish, and the sink is off-center, providing counter space.

The living room is down one-half level and has a view facing the glass wall near the Zen Spot. It opens to the wood deck, fenced by specially coated glass which resists staining. You can peer down into the living room through the curved stamped copper and stainless steel railing that undulates like a wave. The living room sofa is baby blue leather custom-made to hug the curves. It is backed with vertical indentations that lap the railing above.

"Eric loved the stone used in the computer science building at Stanford," Ross said. She sourced a similar limestone in Minnesota and used it for the curved hearth, which is axed for texture. It is complemented by the 2-by-18-inch polished Jerusalem limestone floor tiles. A half bath is tucked into a corner.

The railing continues up a half flight to the theater/guest room. Here, a red-leather Prada sofa converts into a bed. The flat-screen TV is positioned over a rectangular electric fireplace filled with cut-glass crystals that can be controlled to change color. The TV can be automatically lowered for easier viewing.

Up another half-flight and you arrive at the master bedroom and kids' bedrooms. The master claims the view. A custom-made Claro walnut bed by Sterling Woodcraft in San Carlos has attached wenge wood side tables. The bed's canopy is fitted with lights. "Eric wanted a TV, but he didn't want to ruin the view," says Ross. The solution is a TV which lives under the bed, but glides out and up at the flick of a switch. A window runs most of the length of the room, but to satisfy fire-code regulations they had to add a small casement window next to it.

The master bath features heavily veined Italian marble. It took 16 slabs to construct the 10-foot-by-7-foot steam shower. "The Dornbracht shower head is the largest I have ever seen," Ross said. Above the double sinks the ceiling was punched up to two stories and skylights were added. The nearby closet has an electric ladder which folds down to access the attic.

As you walk down the corridor which leads to the kids' rooms, you face a three-dimensional "Escher-like" tile pattern in the shared bathroom. This visually expands the space. Another half-bath gives both teens the room they need to get ready for school on time.

The son's newly created bedroom takes advantage of a loft area carved out of the roof space. His desk is located in the bottom part of the room and a staircase with a hammered stainless steel railing leads to the loft where he sleeps. A figured-ash tonsu chest of drawers framed in mahogany is tucked under the staircase. The daughter's room also makes the most of the space. Her desk and shelving are located in the closet, and a "mushroom" bouncy chair can be stored under the desk. Both rooms open to a side deck.

"Every room has something special," Ross said. Goal: Update townhouse and add a bedroom

Design challenge: Maintain stability when supports removed

Unexpected Problem: Timing — having deliverables on schedule

Time to complete: 16 months

Year house built: early 1980s

Size of home: 3,200 square feet (with added 420 square feet)

Budget: N/A

Building Contractor: Ted Wegner, Wegner Construction, Redwood City,

Designer: Judy Ross, Wegner Construction,

Susan Golovin is a freelance writer for the Weekly. She can be emailed at


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