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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, March 28, 2003

Affordable charm Affordable charm (March 28, 2003)

House tour puts emphasis on the possible

by Carol Blitzer

It's not often that a 1950s tract home makes a house tour. But Leila Lyons' Barret and Hilp home in the Crescent Park Addition is a highlight of this year's "Charming Cottages of Palo Alto" 2003 House Tour, April 4 and 5.

Lyons' home is one of five on the tour, which is sponsored by the Palo Alto Area Mills College Club. The tour benefits students at Mills College, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

What sets this annual tour apart from other "showhouse" events is its focus on remodels that real people can accomplish - of course, with help from professionals. Ticket holders will receive a map to the homes, as well as information on the architects, interior designers, contractors and landscapers who participated in the remodels. Guests may begin the tour at any of the five homes. No photography is allowed, and be prepared to remove your shoes at the door.

If you begin at the Lyons home, located near Duveneck School, you will quickly realize you're in no run-of-the-mill house. Lyons, who owns Lyons Limited Antique Prints in Town & Country Village, worked with Palo Alto architect David Easton to push up the ceiling in the flat living room, move the fireplace to an interior wall and re-orient the front door - all with the idea of opening up the living room space and creating a showplace for her eclectic art and china collections.

Lyons had traveled extensively with her (late) husband, Charles, a Stanford University drama professor, and collected many artifacts from the Far East. One of her goals in remodeling the typical three-bedroom, two-bath house was to create quarters where she could live comfortably with her beautiful things in a pared-down space, enjoy the outdoors, as well as entertain.

To accomplish this, one bedroom and a bath were sacrificed to create a large, flexible kitchen/family room space. Instead of a narrow, galley kitchen, the new space features a large island that houses a Wolf cook top, complete with grill and cutting board. Gas for the cook top was piped in through the ceiling, then disguised by wood-faced columns flanking the cooking area.

The cherry wood island is large enough to double as an eating area, as well as space to spread out and work on projects, according to Dana Conley, Lyons' future daughter-in-law. The counter is of Florentine marble, buffed to remove the shine, and the floor is a coordinating Italian terra cotta tile.

Today a sofa sits in the middle of the family room, facing an entertainment area. But when guests come to graze, it easily can be pushed to the side wall and swapped with a long table, which doubles as a desk.

The kitchen, library, bedroom and living room all open via French doors to the outdoor area, which is connected by a patio made of bricks recycled from an old road in Charleston, S.C. Both the trellis and the wood fence were stained to look like they've been there forever.

"There's more of a sense of creating space in a small area. I use the garden as an extended room," Lyons said.

By pushing out the walls under the eaves and reconfiguring interior space, the whole house grew 200 feet to about 1,800 square feet, according to Lyons.

The goal of the house tour is to offer examples of homes "that people can live in, where remodeling has been done within the average homeowner's budget," noted Jane King, a spokesperson for the Palo Alto Area Mills College Club.

The other homes on the tour include:

** a Spanish-style home built in 1938, featuring a kitchen with green lava stone counters, a garden room with a fan made of fishing rods, and an added bath with a large corner shower;

** a 64-year-old home that showcases collections of netsukes, block prints and wall coverings. The home has an expanded family room with bleached oak cabinets and a garden view, as well as a new master bathroom upstairs;

** a remodeled former auto-body shop, which evolved into an art studio, then a residence. The master bath features a pair of soaking tubs, and the master bedroom has views of a rose garden;

** a colorfully updated home with walls in Bermuda blue, Siamese pink, periwinkle, yellow and green. Living spaces for both adults and children include a casual TV room and exercise area leading to a sauna, exterior pool and slate patio, as well as an office/crafts room and upstairs, a master bedroom with a private deck.

Carol Blitzer can be reached at [email protected]
Resources: Architect: David Easton, 927 Moreno Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 494-8733 Interior designer: Janet Wasson, Wasson II, Palo Alto; (650) 326-8374 Contractor: Universal Developing, Belmont; (650) 591-7667 Landscape architect: Katsy Swan, Palo Alto; (650) 321-6001

What: Charming Cottages of Palo Alto 2003 House Tour When: Friday, April 4, and Saturday, April 5, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: Five homes in Palo Alto Tickets: $30 at the door, 438 Chaucer St., Palo Alto. A map will be provided of the five homes at that time. Info: Call (650) 368-5798.


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