Real Estate

Simply modern design for 1929 colonial

Renovation brings home up to date without startling streetscape

No pulls interrupt the simple lines in the new kitchen of a remodeled 1929 colonial, with its Aran modular cabinets, dark-gray Silestone island and Zaneen Blow light fixtures. The only touch of color is in the window shades. Photo by Cherie Cordellos.

Mili Sarrazin has a definite instinct when it comes to houses with potential. So when she spotted the 1929 traditional colonial in Old Palo Alto, she knew right away how she wanted to transform it.

After all, she and her husband, Hugo, had done this three times before, twice in Montreal, Canada and again in Dallas, Texas.

"It was in live-in condition with a dated kitchen," she said. The home had been renovated in the 1980s. Also, a family room had been tacked onto the back in the '70s followed by a second-story master-suite addition over it, said Carl Hesse, the architect from square three design studios in Palo Alto who took on the project. What started as a makeover of the kitchen and dining room quickly extended to the whole house.

The exterior remains largely the same, with its white-painted shingles and side entrance. Removing the shutters and punching up the entry with a red door helped evolve the home to what Hesse calls a "modern colonial."

In the living room, "We pulled off the ornate molding with a traditional profile and changed to flat stock. We stripped it down to the studs, added insulation, built-in bookshelves," he said.

Other touches include replacing the wood-burning fireplace with a gas burner, surrounded by pale gray Caesarstone framed with dark gray Silestone. The wide-planked oak flooring is stained dark to camouflage the nails.

"It makes it feel more special and unexpected," Sarrazin said, contrasting with the blond flooring in the rest of the home.

A dining area is off to one side, with a popular Italian-glass hanging light fixture, Logico by Artemide. Surf wall sconces also are by Artemide.

"I wanted a modern kitchen," Sarrazin said, and European Cabinets provided the Italian modular Aran cabinets used in the kitchen as well as in the butler's pantry and family room.

Simplicity is the driving theme, from the stark white cabinets with integrated pulls to the subtle, built-in desk with floor-to-ceiling cabinet that hides office supplies. Next comes the breakfast area, with room for cereal, tea, coffee, a toaster and coffee maker.

A large, dark gray Silestone-topped island sports four bar stools that team with the nearby chairs around the marble-topped pedestal table. A large Zaneen Blow light fixture hangs above the table, with three matching mini-pedestal lights over the island.

The only splash of color is in the red fabric window shades, which coordinate with the family room's egg-shaped chairs.

Simplicity is achieved in the bathrooms by using wall-hung toilets and wall-mounted faucets, white quartz counters and taupe tile flooring.

The traditional wooden banister leading to the second floor was replaced with a modular railing that uses stainless-steel tubing. Hesse designed the wooden console table in the foyer.

Upstairs, one turns right to enter the children's wing, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. A wall between the bedrooms was moved to create more balanced space, and a window removed to make more room for the bed. There are no dressers; instead the closets have built-in drawers and hanging spaces.

Turning left, one enters the adult quarters through a sliding door. First comes a home office, followed by the master bedroom suite. The only furniture in the bedroom is the bed, two nightstands and a bench.

The vaulted ceiling with tongue-and-groove planks was reworked to be centered in the room.

The large master bathroom features frosted glass shower walls, a huge white tub and a toilet hidden behind parallel frosted glass walls. A night light was installed under the wall-hung cabinets along the opposite wall.

Completing the suite is a large, walk-in closet with plenty of built-ins.

Between the two bedroom wings is a huge linen closet and a laundry room.

The house is sited on a very deep lot. Much of the hardscape is concrete paving, with plantings along the sides. At the very back of the property is a huge oak tree with a nearby fire pit surrounded by red Loll furniture, made from recycled plastic bottles.

Part of the redesign eliminated a rear balcony and added a covered porch, offering protection from the sun for both the eating area outside and the family room inside.

The Sarrazin family of four remained on site during the entire construction, living in a small guest house attached to the garage. "We had minimal stuff, but you get used to it," Sarrazin said.

In the end, she can't think of anything she would have done differently, except that eventually she'd like to have the guest house mimic the main house in style.

Freelance writer Carol Blitzer can be emailed at


Goal of project: Modernizing kitchen and family room evolved to streamlining whole house

Year house built: 1929

Size of home, lot: 3,100 square feet on 9,147-square-foot lot

Time to complete: About 10 months

Architect: Carl Hesse, square three design studios, Palo Alto, 650-326-3860,

Building contractor: Cassady Monsen, Construction Services, Saratoga, 650-773-8402,

Cabinets: Robert Berkovich, European Cabinets & Design Studios, Palo Alto, 650-843-0901, (kitchen, butler's pantry, family room); Dave Gill, Roth Wood Products, San Jose, 408-723-8888, (3.5 bathrooms, laundry room, living room wall cabinets)

Landscape designer: Jim Redman, Elements Landscape, Menlo Park, 650-847-1252,

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