Room by Room


When Valerie and Duane Dichiara moved into their Curtis Park home in 2002, Valerie says her sister started referring to it as the Winchester Mystery House. She wasn’t all that far off the mark. “We found door after door after door,” Valerie says. “It felt like you could just open this door and go into this room, and open another door and go into that room.” A lot can happen to an original floor plan in 102 years.

The home, built in 1910, is known as a high-water bungalow because the main living spaces were built one floor above ground level. Working with Sacramento interior designer Katie Denham and GTO Construction, also of Sacramento, the Dichiaras have remodeled both floors to suit their family of four. Wills, their son, is 4; daughter Ella is 7. “I feel like we’ve been remodeling the house as long as we’ve been here,” Valerie says about the couple’s careful, steady approach to making the home comfortable, functional and so good-looking. Go and see for yourself. It’s one of seven homes open for the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s Curtis Park Home & Garden Tour on April 28. And it’s sure to be a standout.

RENOVATION RUNDOWN: Complete redo of kitchen, which the Dichiaras designed themselves. Working with interior designer Denham and GTO Construction, the couple did a total makeover of the master bedroom and bath and furnished the ground floor rooms, including the family room, Valerie’s home office, and Wills’ and Ella’s bedrooms.

CLASSIC KITCHEN: Valerie and Duane kept the kitchen’s original (and tiny) footprint. They chose sturdy soapstone for the countertops, a deep sink and added beaucoup storage with a modified butler’s pantry. Bud & Sons Furniture & Appliances on 30th Street refurbished the vintage Wedgewood stove. “We love the Wedgewood and have never had a problem with it,” Valerie says. “Duane does the grocery shopping and the cooking. Everything in here is about function and tools.”

DESIGN PROCESS: Denham is all about making design smart and fun. She can do a PowerPoint presentation with all of the items in the space and then provide a resource list so her clients can shop for themselves, if that’s what they’d like to do. That’s the process she used with the Dichiaras, in addition to creating a number of custom pieces. Denham also offers an online service in which clients provide measurements, details and photos of a room, and she’ll do the design and e-mail the information to them.

DREAMTIME: The master bedroom makeover included a new headboard, bed coverings, bolster and pillows, draperies and a dresser from Restoration Hardware that works for both Valerie and Duane. The European-style chair and garden stool (from are great for reading or watching the wall-mounted TV. Denham pulled the color palette from the rug, using classic toile fabric for the bed and drapes.

SUITE SPOT: Denham designed the two-sink vanity and had twin black mirrors with gold detail made into medicine cabinets that are quite deep. There’s a new shower with a bench seat, but the bathtub’s original. “It was pink, but we made it white,” Denham says. The fixtures are polished nickel. “That’s what is great about using a designer,” Valerie says. “I probably would have used chrome, but polished nickel makes it more dressy and more like what a master bath should be.”

FAMILY ROOM: The layout of the rooms on the ground floor was especially quirky, Valerie says. “Take the crazy out—that was the theme.” Today, instead of a rabbit warren of doors, halls and rooms, there’s a family room, a home office, bedrooms for Wills and Ella, and a bathroom the children share. There’s also an enormous storage space, a big plus for any older home where closets can be scant and scarce.

MYSTERY BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: A bookcase on casters fits like a glove into a door opening on one wall of the storage area. To enter, Valerie simply rolls the bookcase into a hallway and steps into the space. “The contractor framed it out so it looks like it belongs there,” she says.