An architect’s timeless addition offers something for every member of the family.
By Catherine Warmerdam
Photography by Kat Alves
Architect: Ellis Architects
ARCHITECT SARAH ELLIS and her husband, Jason, were perfectly content in the 1,100-square-foot East Sacramento cottage that they had lovingly renovated over the years. But they were also mindful that daughters Ava, 11, and Ruby, 9, might appreciate more space of their own as they grew older. Thus began an extensive second-story remodel that added two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a boatload of classic charm to their 1927 home.
Adding square footage to a house is easy enough, but creating a new design that respects the original architecture, complements previous remodeling projects and functions well for a modern family takes some serious creativity. Ellis’ approach was to keep the color palette neutral, choose finishes and fixtures with a timeless appeal, and focus on amenities that never grow old, like vaulted ceilings and abundant natural light.
Where the residence was full of color prior to the remodel, it’s now a placid study in white and gray. Ellis skillfully employed textures, patterns and details in the tile, countertops and cabinets to give the new rooms their character. As she puts it, “I wanted to create a really timeless look that we’re going to like for a long time and that can easily accommodate changing preferences and tastes.”
She also carved out unique spaces—a play loft, a craft room, adjoined bedrooms—where the girls can create lifelong memories together. “This addition wasn’t just for us,” says Ellis. “It was really about our daughters having a special space to grow up in and have their friends over and feel comfortable in.”
A small craft room is where the sisters work on art projects, store backpacks and entertain friends. The walls, which are coated with dry-erase paint, are a wide-open canvas for the budding graffiti artists.
The girls’ bedrooms are adjoined via a tiny door. “They had shared a 9-by-12-foot room for their whole lives at that point, so the idea of giving them separate rooms was a huge change,” explains Ellis. “We wanted a way for them to feel connected.”
Ellis added thoughtful touches to the upstairs landing, a space that’s ignored in most homes. The loft, complete with a pulley for hoisting toys, is a favorite place for the girls to play. The Moorish-style railings are spans of laser-cut steel fabricated by Sacramento artist Marc Foster. The pattern complements the cement tile in the bathrooms, while the chandelier by Rico Espinet for Robert Abbey continues the theme.
In the master bedroom, foiled wallpaper adds interest to the room’s restrained palette. “We liked the idea of having this very simple space that had lots of natural light and light-colored walls,” says Ellis. “It has an almost ethereal feeling because you’re up there in the trees on the second story.” The wall-mounted reading lamps are by George Kovacs.
A corner fireplace brings visual and physical warmth to the family room. Textured black wallpaper by Graham & Brown mitigates the contrast between the television and the wall, ensuring that the screen doesn’t dominate the space. The multipurpose cantilevered bench built atop Ikea cabinetry is used for seating, storage and display.
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