Home & Garden

Sierra Oaks home features touches from a master craftsman and loving father

A family home built “to be loved and lived in”

Elaine Myer, 82, still lives in the house that her father built for she and her husband, Roy, in the 1960s.
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Elaine Myer, 82, still lives in the house that her father built for she and her husband, Roy, in the 1960s.

Elaine Myer grew up in homes her father, Peter Pellegrini, built.

Her family’s home was on 55th Street, and, after she married Roy Myer, they moved into the duplex her father built on M Street.

In 1965, Elaine and Roy Myer, both teachers in Sacramento City Unified School District, decided it was time to buy their own home. They toured the model homes in College Greens. A conversation with the salesman almost dashed their hopes of home ownership. He told them they couldn’t qualify for a $25,000 loan because Elaine’s income would not be counted. Why? Because she was of childbearing age, a physician’s certificate declaring her unable to bear children would be required for her income to be included.

When they left College Greens, they crossed the American River. Elaine said, “Let’s go down American River Drive and look at larger, prettier and more expensive houses we can’t afford.”

They found two lots for sale on the first street they turned on and decided to buy the smaller one (.26 acres). Elaine’s father, then a retired carpenter, offered to build their dream home.

The couple had saved up enough money to pay for house plans but decided an architect would be too costly. Instead, they hired a draftsman to draw up the plans. Pellegrini, a “green” builder long before the term was coined, criticized the placement of the kitchen on the southwest side. That’s where the house would naturally get the hottest. He suggested it be placed on the cooler northeast section of the house. No one listened to that suggestion, which would have saved them a bundle on their air conditioning bills.

The lot acquired and the plans in place, the couple faced their biggest hurdle. How would they pay for the house itself? They didn’t get a conventional bank loan. Pellegrini financed their future dwelling at 4 percent interest.

The three-bedroom and two-and-a-half bath home broke ground in 1966. Pellegrini took charge while Roy and Elaine taught. Occasionally they got to “help.” Once, Roy, an excellent musician with a great sense of humor, decided to help with the patio roof. He fell off. Luckily, he was uninjured. Pellegrini said, “Roy, get your guitar and play some music.” He did and the two sang songs while Pellegrini continued shaking the roof.

Elaine took her turn by hammering in floorboards in the front bedroom. The nails went in a bit too freely because Elaine was not hitting the framing boards beneath. Rather than waste the nails by ripping them out from above and discarding them, Pellegrini got under the house and carefully hammered each one up and out to be reused later.

Naturally frugal and a great recycler, Pellegrini went to Old Sacramento to get 8-foot railroad ties. These were used as floorboards under the family room floor.

“You’re going to have a good, solid foundation,” Pellegrini told Elaine.

Preparation was key for any project. Straightening nails, cleaning bricks and preparing the wood were major tasks Pellegrini took on before putting anything together. Skilled and brilliant, he could prepare used materials making them as good as new.

Pellegrini finished the Myers’ dream home in 1967. Careful budgeting and a bit of penny pinching enabled the responsible couple to repay Pellegrini in full within five years. The same two people who couldn’t qualify for a tract house were now the proud owners of a one-of-a-kind masterpiece in Sierra Oaks.

Over the years, changes were made to floors, and bathrooms were remodeled. A notable upgrade came in the leaded glass windows they added. Four were collected from antique shops and one, which needed repairs, belonged to Pellegrini. Each had a dramatic effect on the room to which it was added.

A tour inside the 1,980-square-foot home reveals a sunken living room attached to a formal dining room. Elaine’s mother’s dining table, chairs and hutch prove to be both functional and an aesthetically pleasing tribute to her mother’s fine taste.

The bedroom that occupies the northeast and shadiest corner has been converted into an office with a fabulous view of most of the cul-de-sac. Elaine, now 82 years old, enjoys watching the activity on the street and sidewalks: children playing, neighbors visiting and gardeners caring for various front yards.

A second bedroom is prepared and ready for any overnight guests.

The master bedroom and bath boasts two wall closets, a sliding glass door leading out to the pool and a walk-in shower. Above the shower is the restored leaded glass window from Pellegrini’s garage. Roy and Elaine replaced missing glass before having the leaded glass window encased between two clear glass windowpanes. Its simple flowered design and plenty of near-white glass allow an abundance of light into the room.

A short walk down the hallway reveals a number of paintings and photos. Many of the paintings featuring intense, vivid colors were painted by Roy. His paintings dot nearly every room in the house assuring his presence is always felt.

Sitting in the den, one is comforted by the view of clear blue water from the pool. The view is captured between the wood-framed glass door panels that line the far wall.

The den opens up to a large kitchen and another dining area. Counter space faces the backyard in addition to the area around the appliances. The original white cupboards have been replaced by those of honey walnut. The granite countertops have a unique metal trim embossed with fruit. The motif is repeated in a large metal fruit carving embedded in the granite tile behind the stove.

Three dramatic leaded glass panels create a large kitchen window. The predominance of pink in the glass influenced the selection and coloring of the granite, tile flooring and cabinet wood stain. The overall feeling is one of warmth.

From every window, Elaine can peruse her garden and see that plants transplanted from her mother’s yard continue to thrive in her own.

Originally landscaped as a Japanese garden, the front courtyard offers shady serenity and a perfect place to sit and read. The remaining rock structure represents a waterfall and the original Japanese maple still flourishes. The azaleas that her mother, Emma, started still bloom in the front brick planter. Elaine has recently added rhododendrons, peonies, ferns and shade seeking plants.

The backyard features a rectangular swimming pool promising respite from Sacramento’s intense summer heat. The covered patio provides shade as one gazes out at the lovely assortment of blooms including geraniums, euryops, gerberas, shastas, roses, princess flowers, clematis, naked ladies, azaleas and camellias. Yellow-leafed shrubs, mirror plants and crepe myrtle trees round out the cornucopia of plant life that brightens the yard. Her signature hummingbird collection is on full display on the porch.

In the house that love built, Elaine offers a hug to all who enter. Roy and Elaine entertained many with his musical medleys and sing-alongs at their dinner parties and social gatherings. The music died when Roy died in 2008, but Elaine continues to entertain. She chooses to live the life of a merry widow who loves her home and sharing it with her friends.