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Hacienda Makeover in the Oakland Hills

by Lisa Schliff

Gone are the grille-work gates in the living room and the goldfish pond in the front garden. But the attractive hacienda-style house in the Oakland hills still stands eighty years after it was built and seventy-nine years after it was featured in Sunset Magazine’s March 1927 issue.

The house was designed in 1926 by Williams & Wastell Architects, whose other early work is a 20th century Spanish Revival-style ranch entered in the National Register of Historic Places. In the Oakland hills house, the architects included a plethora of decorative wrought-iron rails and grates, arches, rounded towers, and even a cylindrical entry room that echoes. Exterior and interior stairs splay out in concentric curved steps and wind gently from the first to the second floor. They combined this miniature castle with what were then modernized construction techniques and conveniences of the 1920’s.

This is the house that the present homeowners bought in 1994. In 2005, they decided to remodel what was by now a deteriorating glory with outdated features. Even though the landscape flourished and gave the house a forested backdrop, time took its toll on the man-made materials. There was one small bathroom downstairs with a leaking shower stall for the family to share and none upstairs. The kitchen’s ancient appliances and cabinets were crowded together and offered minimal storage and inconvenient spacing. The dining room floor, once splendid with Spanish motif linoleum tile, was faded and torn. The homeowners and their two children were living in the past in their lovely old hacienda.

In May of 2005 they handed approved plans over to remodeling contractor Steve Schliff of On The Beam Remodeling to add an upstairs bathroom, closets and split level stairway connected to the master bedroom, and remodel the kitchen, dining room, and breakfast nook. Their aim was to expand living space, replace existing worn surfaces, and completely upgrade and reconfigure the kitchen. At the same time, they wanted to retain the flavor of the royal Spanish architecture that already existed throughout the home.

The major work involved three projects: converting the upstairs porch off the master bedroom into a master bathroom, and gutting and remodeling the kitchen and dining room. Other touches such as hidden track lights along the living room ceiling beams and a fireplace in the bedroom were added as the project unfolded.

The bathroom remodel features extraordinarily beautiful granite slab vanity counters, shower stall and bathtub surround and splash. The floor tiles are 18″ x 18″ travertine. The homeowners carefully selected 3″ x 6″ floral feature tile from Ann Sacks to harmonize with the Spanish flavor of the original tiles around the fireplace hearth surround downstairs. A subtle symphony of motifs appears throughout the house with this level of attention to finish details.

Floral feature tiles from Country Floors appear again in the kitchen running above the counters along the backsplash. The range hood sports a floral ornamentation bead custom molded by Michael Casey Ornamental Plaster. Kitchen counters are stunning Madura Gold granite, a blend of blazing orange and soft earth tones.

The homeowners discovered chandelier light fixtures at Restoration Hardware for the kitchen ceiling that harken back to the Mission days of yore. The corkscrew wrought iron bars match those on the original chandeliers hanging in the dining room, entry and breakfast nook. On The Beam Remodeling added recessed lighting to modernize and spotlight the work stations.

Another example of blending old and new can be seen in the master bathroom door hardware. The contractor saved and installed the original Spanish-style door handles into a new opaque glass panel door and made sure that they worked smoothly with the new Schlage lock (see photo). Function and style now interlace gracefully throughout the newly renovated hacienda home. It is a style that echoes from our historically Spanish-influenced past.