Laurence and Anantha Kancherla wanted to expand their Palo Alto midcentury home to accommodate their growing family. With two teenage boys, they needed more space, and they wanted to go all-electric. Seemed like a fairly easy project -- until they got started.
With the home situated in a flood zone, the duo discovered that they'd need to do their remodel in phases, or else be required to raise the home 6 feet. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires that a home be raised above the floodplain for remodels that cost 50% or more of the value of an existing home. Proceeding with smaller projects in phases would let them stay below that threshold, even though the total remodel ended up cost about 4% more.
And that was just the beginning of their challenges. The pandemic hit right as they planned to start construction, adding delays to the project.
Laurence Kancherla said they considered just selling at one point. After looking around, however, they concluded that it made more sense to stay put and transform the Midtown neighborhood house they'd lived in since 2014.
Phase I: A new kitchen, expanded living room and clerestory windows
Working with architect Tali Hardonag, they were set to begin Phase I in April 2020 and had even rented a nearby house for a year so they could move out during construction. The pandemic shutdown forced them to halt the project and cancel their plans to move into the rental. After a three-month delay (waiting for building permits from the city, lining up workers, etc.), the project got back on track. They found another rental, moved out and began their remodel.
"We didn't want to do a teardown," Kancherla said. They wanted to add space and improve the house by getting rid of gas, adding insulation and improving the flow.
In Phase I, they expanded the living room by pushing it out 6 feet and removing the fireplace. The slope of the roofline was transformed from a gable to a shed roof, Hardonag explained, which then enabled them to add clerestory windows to bring in more light.
A brand-new kitchen was added between the living room and the old garage, and the original kitchen became the fourth bedroom. A tiny office wedged between bedrooms now contains the laundry room, with a deep sink and IKEA cabinets. The former laundry closet is now part of a bedroom.
Mechanical infrastructure for heating water and the furnace, formerly near the dining room, was replaced with a heat pump air handler partly in the attic and outside (screened by walls of wood) and two tankless water heaters. That left space for an entry closet, as well as a wine closet facing the dining room. The original radiant floor heating system had long ago aged out of functionality, Hardonag added.
The new all-electric kitchen features a Bosch induction cooktop and dishwasher, Miele "speed oven" (microwave, convection, bake, broil) and a steam-combo oven, plus Thermador refrigerator and freezer columns. The counters and backsplash are quartzite.
Kancherla is especially happy with her new pullout tray from a usually inaccessible corner, and with the large island topped by black, honed granite where she can easily place a hot pot.
Phase II: A new media center, expanded bathroom and outdoor breezeway
After about nine months, the family was able to move back in. They waited about six months to tackle Phase II, which involved converting the old garage to a media/family room, refining the primary bedroom suite to include a much larger bathroom, walk-in closet, skylights and replacement of a small window with a huge patio sliding door. A single-car garage and an office were added to the front of the house, and a breezeway connects that wing to the new family room.
With Phase II nearly complete, the family found themselves facing yet another delay: The final city permit sign-off was postponed for weeks because the Porcelanosa black tile wall behind the bathtub couldn't be installed. Due to pandemic-related labor issues, the tile sat at the Port of Oakland waiting to be unloaded. The city finally gave the Kancherlas a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy that let them use the rest of the house, except the bathroom.
Today, one enters the home through a custom-made, glass-and-steel front door, that opens onto the breezeway connecting the new office and the family room. The central courtyard offers a space for morning coffee on Adirondack chairs, just outside the new kitchen.
"The landscaper did an amazing job tying everything together," Hardonag said.
Once the remodel was complete, that landscaper created a front space with a steel planter box and a screened area to hide the trash cans. Along the side is a row of lemon, mandarin and lime trees, ending with a bird-of-paradise. The backyard features artificial grass, along with drought-tolerant plantings, including fruitless olive trees. The patio offers plenty of space for a barbecue, table and benches and a seating area.
Goal of project:
Improve space and flow, add a bedroom and powder room, new kitchen, go all-electric
Pandemic shutdown caused delays in permitting, construction, materials; need to level floors because of sinking slabs
Year house built: 1955
Size of home, lot:
Before 1,400 sf, plus 340 sf garage, 3 BR, 2 BA; After 2,325 sf, plus 220 sf garage, 4 BR, 2.5 BA; on 6,500 sf lot
Time to complete:
About two years: Phase I -- 9 months; Phase II -- 10 months
More than $1M
Architect: Tali Hardonag, Palo Alto, 650-678-5941
Building contractor: Barrios, BWB Builders, Inc., San Jose, 408-287-4886
Cabinets, flooring: Cabinets and Design Studio, Palo Alto, 650-843-0901
Interior design: Lucile Glessner, Saratoga, 408-462-9987
Landscaping: Jared Vermeil Landscape Design, San Francisco, 415-522-1673
Lighting: Coast Lighting, Redwood City, 877-264-7089