Home & Garden

Charming house becomes a water-wise home. See how during this annual home tour

The newly redesigned Sacramento front yard of Kate Williams and Tom Gohring is irrigated with gray water from their washing machine. They will be participating in the Curtis Park Home and Garden Tour on Saturday, April 29.
The newly redesigned Sacramento front yard of Kate Williams and Tom Gohring is irrigated with gray water from their washing machine. They will be participating in the Curtis Park Home and Garden Tour on Saturday, April 29. rbyer@sacbee.com

Kate Williams and Tom Gohring both dedicated their careers to California water policy and conservation.

“We met over water – and a few drinks,” quipped Williams.

So, it’s no surprise the Sacramento couple made water saving a big part of their Curtis Park home.

In September, they converted the old front lawn into an enchanting garden full of coral bells under a sycamore and pink dogwoods – all fed by “gray water” from their washing machine. The former backyard lawn was turned into a shady retreat overlooking a water-wise rain garden.

Indoors, the 92-year-old Tudor home feels fresh and young while still maintaining its unique character and style. Oak floors and glass doorknobs gleam in abundant natural light brought in through floor-to-ceiling windows.

“One of the things I really like – the light,” Williams said. “We can see (the neighborhood) in both directions.”

Their inspirational garden makeover and home restoration will be featured Saturday, April 29, during the 31st annual Curtis Park home tour. Hosted by the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, this tour has become a celebration of the neighborhood’s unique architecture.

“It’s a fun day in Curtis Park,” said committee member Janice Calpo, noting more than 1,100 patrons took the tour last year. “At least half the people are from outside Curtis Park. This isn’t a designer showcase tour, but the work of the individual homeowners. They have these amazing historic homes, and they’ve kept them in the character of the neighborhood.”

Five homes and four gardens will be featured on this Curtis Park tour, which also includes a community festival in the park itself.

“We have good variety and overall representation of Curtis Park’s style,” Calpo said. “What we like this year is everything is so individual.”

That includes the Williams-Gohring house, a fairytale cottage a short walk from Sierra 2 Center. With its shingled roof and rounded entrance, it looks like hobbits or gingerbread people should live there. Instead, the historic house became the home to the couple and their blended family.

“When we married, we merged our families,” Williams said. “We have five daughters, all in their 20s.”

Now empty nesters, the couple expected to downsize when they bought this house almost five years ago.

“Instead, we have five bedrooms – and lots of room for guests,” Williams said. “(The house) doesn’t look that big from the outside, but we have plenty of space.”

Both do-it-yourselfers, they painstakingly restored their home to its original glory – and then some. Together, the couple tiled a bathroom and replaced worn-out fixtures. They painted bedrooms in pastel shades, pulled from vintage quilts made by Williams’ grandmother.

“Every time we upgraded, we tried to bring back the original style in each room,” Williams said. “A lot of it is subtle, like wide window sills under the new windows. We got all the door knobs back to glass.”

“What I like best is just the multiple spaces,” Gohring said. “No two rooms are the same; they’re all unique.”

The remodeled galley kitchen features marble-like quartz counters and loads of cabinets, painted steel blue and Swiss Coffee white. Worn-out linoleum was replaced by oak flooring to match the rest of the house.

“It had been remodeled once before; it was all dark oak and 1980s colors,” Williams said of the kitchen. “We ripped that all out, converted from electric to gas. But it still feels like it’s always been this way.”

Gohring, executive director of the Sacramento-based Water Forum, enjoys woodworking as a hobby and turned the garage into a wood shop. He created several clever touches to fit with their home’s restoration such as a bulletin board cover for an ugly electrical panel, divided pull-out kitchen drawers and built-in bookcases for the dining room. French doors join the master bedroom to the backyard.

“Everything used to be so dark,” he said. “Now, the house is filled with light.”

“The light is what I like the best,” Williams said. “I love how open the house feels.”

Williams, who recently retired, worked many years on water policy including creating water-wise demonstration gardens. She put that expertise to work in her own backyard.

“Once you start working with water, you’re always working with water,” Williams said. “I spent a lot of time on this backyard. It used to be all grass with a few trees.”

Now, it offers them more room to relax with a deck, hot tub and two seating areas. Said Gohring, “It’s become a great retreat. It gives us so much living space.”

After taking the home tour themselves, their house will now be part of this tradition.

“We really picked the right street in Curtis Park – and the right house,” Williams said. “We were looking for a charming house. Tom said he never knew what I meant. But we both agree now, we found one.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

31st annual Curtis Park home tour

What: Presented by Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, this popular tour draws hundreds to Curtis Park. In addition to the homes, a party in the park features Model A Fords, plein air artists, live music, food and more.

Where: Start at Curtis Park, 26th Street and Donner Way, Sacramento

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. next Saturday, April 29

Cost: $25 in advance; $30 tour day

Information: : www.Sierra2.org

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