Home & Garden

Think Sacramento feels like Iowa? They'd agree

Janet Carlson and John Bailey have restored their brick Curtis Park house on Monday April 16, 2018 in Sacramento , Calif. This dog-friendly house is going to be the featured home on the annual Curtis Park tour.
Janet Carlson and John Bailey have restored their brick Curtis Park house on Monday April 16, 2018 in Sacramento , Calif. This dog-friendly house is going to be the featured home on the annual Curtis Park tour. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

When John Bailey settled in Sacramento's Curtis Park, he felt right at home.

"I had been working in Chicago, but it was too big for me," said the native Iowan. "When I moved out here in 1977, Sacramento felt like Des Moines. It was more my size."

Four decades later, Sacramento still feels perfect to Bailey and his wife, Janet Carlson. A native of Minnesota, Carlson met Bailey on a hiking trail in Montana. When talk turned to where to make their future together, the decision was easy.

"Sacramento, of course," Carlson said.

Their Curtis Park home, purchased by Bailey in 1981, helped seal the deal. With a Midwestern ambiance of its own, the handsome brick house facing William Curtis Park made them both feel comfortable and never homesick.

That's been the longtime draw of their neighborhood, too, as countless transplants took root in Sacramento.

Next Saturday, April 28, Curtis Park celebrates that neighborhood feel during its 32nd annual home and garden tour. The Bailey-Carlson home will be a featured stop among five Craftsman and Tudor homes.

On tour day, the north end of the park will be filled with activity: Food trucks, live music, vendors, restoration experts and more. Along the tour route, the Capitol A's Model A Ford Club will display and parade several vintage vehicles.

Hosted by the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, the popular tour annually draws more than 1,000 patrons to a neighborhood of about 2,500 homes. Bailey is a former SCNA board member and president. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Sierra 2 Center for the Arts and Community.

"We were finally shamed into being on the tour," Bailey joked.

Patrons can't miss their home; as noted on the event's official poster, it's the house with the large golden retriever as official greeter.

Ricochet the dog loves having a home across from such a large park, noted Carlson. As far as the dog's concerned, the park is an extension of his front yard.

With mature trees and bloom-covered shrubs, their own garden has a park-like setting.

The city-size backyard packs year round color as well as comfortable spaces for entertaining. With the aid of trellises, every wall has something growing up: Climbing roses, clematis, trumpet vine, honeysuckle and more. Carlson espaliered fruit trees along the garage to squeeze more into the compact backyard.

"It's easier to grow things here," Carlson said. "My friends in Minnesota still have snow."

Built in 1927, the brick house is one of the oldest in its neighborhood. In a vintage aerial photo of Curtis Park, the home can be picked out easily; there's not much near it except the massive Union Pacific railroad yards.

"These were the worker houses," Bailey explained. "The railroad yard was the major employer. On the worker side of the park, the homes were all smaller; one-story on one-tenth acre lots. The larger, fancier houses for management were all on the other side of the park."

Via careful remodeling, Bailey and Carlson "grew" their little brick house into a larger home, too. From the exterior, the transformation looks seamless.

"We worked really hard to keep it all in style," Carlson explained. "We added a second story, but still kept the same feel throughout the house."

The addition increased their home from two bedrooms, one bath and 1,400 square feet to three bedrooms, three baths and almost 2,300 square feet. With a spiral staircase to the kitchen, the basement became a usable den, too.

Yet, it's almost impossible to tell where the old house ends and the new begins. That was the idea.

During the renovation, the former kitchen, breakfast nook and laundry room became one large open kitchen. Blue Marmoleum flooring contrasts nicely with tallow-yellow cabinets and granite tile countertops. Danish collector plates pick up the blue.

Oak floors and curved plaster walls blend the additions into the original first floor rooms. So do vintage French art deco Lightolier scones and ceiling fixtures that match the home's originals.

"That took some searching," Carlson said.

The couple also kept their original windows, which are all in working order with the lead glazing restored. Stained glass windows in the upstairs addition echo their style.

Almost every window has a view of the park. That includes the master bedroom, with a large picture window overlooking the green open space across the street.

"This is my favorite window in the whole house," Bailey said. "I can sit here, look out at the park and have a cup of coffee. It's a great way to start the day."

32nd annual Curtis Park Home and Garden Tour

  • Where: Start at north end of William Curtis Park, 26th Street and Donner Way, Sacramento
  • When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. next Saturday, April 28
  • Admission: $25 advance; $30 day of tour
  • Details: 916-452-3005, www.sierra2.org
  • Special free presentations: "Working Historic Windows: Tips of the Trade," with restoration specialist Tim White (1 p.m.); and tree care advice from certified arborist Dan Pskowski (2 p.m.).