Home & Garden

Vintage urban cottage grows up into a handsome home

When they were searching for what could be their dream home, Rodd and Amy Kelsey spotted a little two-bedroom cottage with potential near McKinley Park.

It wasn’t the house itself that drew their attention, it was the garage.

“It had already been remodeled with this great bonus room (upstairs),” Amy Kelsey recalled. “It’s one reason we bought the house. It allowed us to save the money we would be spending on renting a place (while remodeling). We could live there while we worked on the house.”

And work they did. While cozy upstairs in the 200-square-foot garage space turned studio apartment, the couple and their contractors’ crews spent more than seven months transforming the former little house into a perfect space for cooking, entertaining and comfortable living in East Sacramento.

The results of their project are a featured stop on Sunday’s recently renamed Urban Renaissance Tour. Formerly the East Sacramento Home Remodeling Tour, the event switched to the new name because it allows for more flexibility in locations, say organizers, while keeping true to the tour’s spirit – showing modern potential in older homes.

Organized by the Friends of East Sacramento, the tour will showcase five examples in Sacramento’s Fabulous Forties and McKinley Park neighborhoods. With the name change, the tour also features its first newly built East Sacramento house, not a remodel.

“The tour shows what you can do while staying true to the neighborhood,” said Lisa Schmidt of Friends of East Sacramento. “It’s really quite nice how these homes fit into their older neighborhoods but still have all the modern amenities.”

For the Kelseys, it may have been easier to start from scratch, but they loved their East Sacramento neighborhood.

It’s close to her work; she’s a cardiac surgery physician’s assistant at nearby Mercy General Hospital. And it’s on the Pacific Flyway. An expert on bird and wildlife habitat, he’s a lead scientist and conservation biologist with The Nature Conservancy.

“The thing we like most is what we couldn’t build (elsewhere) – the neighborhood,” Amy Kelsey said. “And the house now is exactly what we need.”

For the remodel, the couple assembled a team of professionals: designer Ted Smith, contractor Susan Prang, cabinet maker Dan Buttner and landscaper Gary Kernick.

“Susan is the one who brought this home to our attention (for the tour),” Schmidt said. “She told us (during the remodel) that it was going to be fabulous, and she was right.”

Originally built in 1923, the house started as one story with only one bath to go with its two small bedrooms. In the remodel, it grew from 1,217 square feet to 2,075 with three bedrooms and 21/2 baths. To gain all that space, the Kelseys added a second story that blended with the home’s craftsman architecture.

“Obviously, we wanted it to fit into the neighborhood,” Amy Kelsey said. “We didn’t want a McMansion. Most brand-new homes start at 3,000 square feet.”

Sunday’s tour includes before-and-after photos of the transformation.

“They’re pretty dramatic,” Schmidt said. “People really love it.”

Said Kelsey, “People can’t really appreciate it until they see it.”

The kitchen had been a “rabbit warren” of small spaces, she said. There were cupboards, a pantry, a laundry room and a breakfast nook, but no real room for serious cooking and entertaining. During the remodel, the expanded kitchen became the heart of the new design.

“We’re both professional winemakers, too,” Kelsey said. “We love to do nice tastings and entertain, but we never had enough space.”

With walls removed, those small spaces joined together in a handsome new layout, anchored by an 81/2-foot white-veined Carrera marble island.

“It’s great for baking,” Kelsey said of the marble. “You see marble in old kitchens in Europe, and it’s lasted for 100 years. It took a really long time to find the right slab.”

Honed black granite covers surrounding counters, creating lots of workspace. Stainless steel appliances including a Sub-Zero refrigerator and 36-inch Wolf range equip this professional-grade kitchen with room for a crowd. Black walnut shelving contrasts with bright white cabinets and gray subway tile.

Among the extras: A built-in pot-filler faucet above the stove.

“I actually thought this would be one of those things that would be more for show but I now use it all the time,” Kelsey said. “It’s great for pasta.”

A Dutch-style back door opens up onto a remodeled patio and pocket garden, filled with hops, tomatoes and herbs.

“It’s perfect size for us,” Kelsey said of her backyard. “It’s easy to maintain – there’s no lawn –and it’s a great place to hang out.”

Throughout the house, dark acacia wood flooring picks up the black walnut accents added during the remodel.

“We wanted wide plank flooring and we were going to use white oak, but it was three times more expensive,” Kelsey said. “The (acacia) decision was made by budget, but we’re very happy with it.”

While remodeling, the Kelseys found extra space for their wine passion.

“Since we make wine, we needed a place to put it,” Amy Kelsey said. “While the builder was framing (the new kitchen and stairwell), we could see this space and we thought, ‘Could we use this for wine?’”

Near the center of the house, that odd-sized cubbyhole became a temperature-controlled cellar with room for more than 1,000 bottles.

“I like to come in here when it’s really hot,” Kelsey said. “It’s always nice and cool.”

Every time she walks into any room, Kelsey remembers how much she loves her new-old home, she said with a smile. “After seven months in that studio apartment, it really made us appreciate it.”