A Land Park Sanctuary

Project scope: Second story addition

Construction completed: Spring 2005

General contractor: Mills Builders

Location: Sacramento, California

Features of interest:

  • 21st century façade improvement integrates 1950s home into its 1930s neighborhood.
  • No change to first floor footprint.
  • Sightlines through rooms to exterior for maximum light infiltration and perception of space.
  • Second floor nestled within roof reduces visual bulk, respects neighbors and neighborhood scale: A useful design approach in meeting “daylighting” zoning requirements.

This project was one of my first, and was designed and built under the auspices of Michael Frank Malinowski, AIA.

This home began as a one-story, 1950s-era house, built in the Sacramento neighborhood of Land Park, known for it’s ‘20s and ‘30s-era cozy Tudor cottages, Spanish “villas”, and Craftsman gems. My practical goal was to add a master suite as well as a small office, and by so doing create a house that provided a more private—and spacious—sanctuary for the homeowners.

The aesthetic goal, along with these practical considerations, was to create a home that reflected the neighborhood’s pre-war heritage: the home should look as if it were built at the neighborhood’s inception. There were challenges to this in the front façade, especially. The garage, as was typical for the early 1950’s, was prominent and projecting, whereas a 1930’s home would almost always have had the garage detached and at the back of the lot. As budget did not allow a major overhaul to the site, we kept the garage where it was, but gave it a different character by the removal of the low hip roof in place of a cottage-style gable w/ attic window. This is an example a basic remodel tenet: if you can’t hide something, make it a feature.

As we did not want a towering structure on this narrow lot (only 50’ wide), we found that nestling the second floor within the steep roof planes which rested on the first floor’s plate, with a few gable dormers for more area and light, allowed us plenty of space yet kept the façade demure, comfortable, and welcoming.

Sightlines are an essential feature of this floor plan layout: Alignments are window, door, window, so that you can stand at one point along this line and see through one or two rooms to windows beyond, in either direction. The practical effect this has is to bring in the most amount of light possible, especially in small spaces: entrances to rooms are aligned with windows so that the light not only fills the room it’s in but continues into the rooms or hall beyond. The psychological effect this has is to make the space appear to have much more volume than it actually has. This, in combination with a view to the outside, which relaxes the eye, and incorporates the interior with the trees and sky beyond, tends to create a peaceful environment, where flow seems unencumbered by the brick-a-brack of daily life.

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