Better Than Ever


Better Than Ever by Sacramento Magazine

Oh, those great East Sac neighborhoods and their cute little bungalows. You fall in love with them. The neighborhoods first. And then the homes. Those cozy rooms, quaint china hutches, ceramic tile counters and floors, the oh-so-predictable daddy-o patios out in the backyard. Love, love, love. Well, until you start thinking about actually moving in. Then, cozy may start to feel a little cramped and quaint, just a bit too yesteryear. The patio? Uh-oh. And the original ceramic tile? Not really the best choice, especially if function is your deal. But when you’ve got vision, like Amy and Rodd Kelsey did, you go ahead and buy the two-bedroom, one-bath charmer near McKinley Park because you see the potential, and your knowledgeable house designer says the house is sound enough to take a second story. And that keeps you going through seven months, give or take, of a redesign, gut and remodel until you’re in love, love, love again. “We pinch ourselves all the time about how happy we are to live here,” Amy says about the transformation of her home from vintage bungalow to modern Craftsman, a style that fits seamlessly into the neighborhood. “We did not want the house to stick out as not original, and we didn’t want people to drive down the street and go, ‘Oh, wow, that’s a remodel.’” After all the dust settled and Amy and Rodd moved in, Amy says they felt like they were on vacation and that they’d have to pack up and go home someday. “But we are home,” she says. “And it’s just the best feeling.”

What the Kelseys started with: A one-story, 1,217-square-foot bungalow, circa 1923, with vintage layout, a couple of closets, a plain-Jane deck and patch of grass out back. The home’s previous owners built the garage with living quarters. That sold Amy and Rodd. They lived there during the reconstruction.

General contractor and interior designer: Susan Vannatter Prang, Creative Eye Design + Build. Vannatter Prang, a seasoned LEED contractor and green builder, works throughout Sacramento and has a showroom in Roseville.

House design: Ted Smith, Ted Smith Design, Sacramento

Garden renovation: Gary Kernick, Change of Seasons, Sacramento

What’s the house like now? “It looks original, but it’s really a new house,” says Vannatter Prang. There are now two stories with 2,075 square feet, an open, open, open floor plan, a two-stage stairway to a guest room, master suite and laundry room upstairs, storage galore, a kitchen pantry, a temperature-controlled room for beer and wine (Amy and Rodd brew and bottle their own), a kitchen equipped for two (they love to cook and host wine-tasting parties), a mudroom that connects the interior with a colorful and completely reimagined backyard. Heaven!

The goal: “We like modern touches, things that are clean and bold. Simple things, not a lot of fuss,” Amy says.

Why it worked so well: “Ted introduced us to Susan,” Amy says. “We really wanted our builder to be involved from the very beginning. Susan came to every one of our design meetings and understood our likes and dislikes. We really got to know each other.” Vannatter Prang and Amy figure they emailed each other “thousands” of times about anything and everything during the demo and construction.

Change-outs: Marble and granite for ceramic tile, open shelving for china hutches, gas fireplace for original brick, new acacia flooring, energy-efficient everything and a garden with style, designed for hanging out.

Detail, detail, detail: There are no transition strips between floor surfaces. None. “That’s all Susan’s doing,” Amy says. “I didn’t think that could be done, but Susan really paid attention to that.”

Respect for resources: “You can’t get more insulated than this house,” Amy says. “It’s ultra, ultra insulated.” Other energy efficiencies: tankless water heater, dual-flush toilets, high-efficiency HVAC system, Nest thermostat, a heat recovery ventilation system, ceiling fans, and low-flow/high-pressure showerheads and faucets.

In and out: A mudroom with a Dutch door leads to the new bird-, butterfly- and bee-friendly garden (with a planting trough for hops).

Creature comforts: A cool little bar to front the beer- and wine-storage room and soft-close cabinetry (no slamming doors!) in the dining room and kitchen.

Garden envy: Kernick’s renovations turned a formerly blah backyard into a colorful, tranquil get-away-from-it-all space. He constructed a new gate, extended the garden wall upward, recycled fence boards to back the barbecue area, upcycled fencing materials, planted for drought tolerance, created a recirculating water feature from an antique-ish plow disc and painted a garden wall cayenne-pepper red. Wow.

Experience counts: “Amy and Rodd had redone a little home in midtown, and they had a strong sense of the style they wanted here,” Smith says. “This (remodel) worked out so beautifully because of the team we had—if the team isn’t there, you don’t get these kinds of results.”