Honoring the old, making way for the new | March 23, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - March 23, 2012

Honoring the old, making way for the new

Mills College home tour offers glimpses into fixed-up homes in Palo Alto

by Carol Blitzer

If you only have time to visit one of the four houses on the Charming Cottages of Palo Alto tour this month, don't miss the home of Debbie Miller and Carol Nast.

What started as a 1928 Mediterranean home with rich cocobolo wide-plank flooring, outward-opening casement windows and dark-beamed ceilings, has been enhanced through a several-year remodeling project into a stunning home.

"We tried to keep the classic character of the house," Miller said, pointing to the rough-hewn front door and newly refinished floors. "I thought the house was beautiful, but nothing was done."

Miller has lived there since 1989, but she and Nast didn't start the renovation until 2008. Three different designs were drawn up before they settled on architect Robert Goldspink of Aptos and contractor Harrell Remodeling of Mountain View.

Much of the front remains the same, embellished by ironwork designed by Jolee Horne, a landscape designer in Mountain View. Horne designed (and HandCrafted Metals of Redwood City made) everything from the wisteria-adorned arched trellis in the front yard to the living-room fireplace screen, lamps, gate, the courtyard hearth and embellishment around a fountain.

Working with interior designer Olivia Boston, of Olivia's Order, San Francisco, Miller and Nast created a home that's thematically unified by color and style throughout.

"They wanted a Tuscan, Old World look," Boston said. That look is seen in the scrolled pattern in one wallpapered wall behind the bed in a downstairs bedroom, coordinated with matching fabric in the bed skirt. The twists and leaves reappear in much of the ironwork, or bathroom faucets, or shower tiles.

Colors segue from the russet living room through the Dijon dining room to the chamois master-bedroom suite. Coordinated flooring begins with the dark, tropical cocobolo in the entry and living room, moving into tile that resembles reclaimed brick in the kitchen and breakfast room.

Spaces are captured in intriguing ways: One-third of a closet was incorporated in an enlarged bathroom, which includes tile that closely resembles wood. What was once the entry to the kitchen is now a larder, complete with custom cabinetry by Segale Bros. with faux-front bins (that appear to contain pasta and grains). The ceiling is faced in brick.

Highlight of the kitchen is a gray marble backsplash with an inlaid leafy design in green.

The former garage and an adjoining studio apartment are now a reconfigured master suite, which includes a roomy bedroom, a walk-in closet and large bathroom with a huge free-standing tub and two vanities. And from the glass-walled shower, one can step out to the private patio (where the hot tub is), then out the gate to a second kitchen. That kitchen is designed for outdoor entertaining, with a long granite counter, Viking range and barbecue. Refreshments will be served there on tour days.

Because the lot is 200 feet deep, there was no problem constructing a new two-car garage at the rear.

French doors from the living room, dining room, breakfast area and master bedroom lead to a courtyard with a central fireplace, a second space for indoor-outdoor entertaining and just enjoying the outdoor view.

While keeping that Old-World charm, the owners wanted all the modern conveniences, including electricity to their new living-room chandelier (which was found in a hotel ballroom in Chicago). Amina stereo speakers are located behind the Sheetrock throughout the house, with sound coming from within the walls.

But some things didn't warrant changing at all: When paint was stripped off the original casement windows, they discovered bronze hardware.

This year's Charming Cottages of Palo Alto home tour is the 21st annual event sponsored by the Palo Alto Area Mills College Club. Proceeds from the tour benefit Mills College students from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Among the other three homes, you'll find:

* * a tower and a turret

* * a driveway made of recycled San Francisco cobblestones

* * a lot of attention to preserving original details, whether they're original glass, bricks in the furnace flue, floors or lighting fixtures

* * environmentally conscious efforts to improve energy conservation or use green-building techniques while updating homes.

Clearly, there's much to see on the tour, but if you want to limit your view to this one house, you'll still have to buy your ticket first. One hint to location: It's in Crescent Park.


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

What: Charming Cottages of Palo Alto

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31

Where: Four houses in Palo Alto

Cost: $35. Tickets are available via the website or at 204 Seale Ave., Palo Alto, on tour days.

Info: www.charmingcottages.org

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


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