Sac Design: Common History

A contractor with a design pedigree reimagines a home with deep Sacramento roots.
common history benning
The open kitchen gets its wow factor from a turquoise backsplash made from Sonoma Tilemakers tiles. A skylight is positioned to mirror the island below. The mobile-like Andrew Neyer pendant above the table makes a statement without obstructing the view between the kitchen and living space. Centering the great room around the dining area “was my wife’s inspiration,” says Eric Benning. “It’s a hub of activity.” Photo by Kat Alves.

When contractor and homeowner Eric Benning remodeled a dated but promising 1971 Streng home in Sacramento’s Arden-Arcade area, he did so with a deep respect for the house’s original design even as he gave it a thoroughly modern makeover.

“My overall intent was to honor Streng Bros. and their design. But I wanted to use materials that I believe they would use if they were building today and create a floor plan that speaks to how we live now,” explains Benning. “I know some purists who like to restore these homes to their original look—and I respect that—but I didn’t want super-low countertops and vinyl flooring.”

blue door at eric benning home
Visitors are greeted with a blue pivot door and a canal-like water feature custom designed by Benning. Espaliered Japanese maples hug the exterior wall. Photo by Kat Alves.

Benning and his wife, Tara, hunted for years for just the right property to remodel—one that required minimal maintenance of the home and yard. “We wanted to make our lives easier,” says Benning. “We set it so we can lock this place up and leave for a month if we want to.”

In devising a layout that functioned well for his family (the youngest of the couple’s four children, Kelsey, lives at home and was involved in the design), Benning relocated the kitchen to one side of the house, allowing for the creation of a great room that positions the dining space as the heart of the four-bedroom, 2,400-square-foot residence.

eric and tara benning
Eric and Tara Benning in front of their home. Photo by Kat Alves.

Mindful of practicality, Benning added an interior door connecting the house to the garage, which was previously accessible only from an outside entry. Nearby, he made space for a functional mudroom, which serves as a convenient place to drop keys, charge phones and store coats.

lounge chair
A floating bench is punctuated by a fiddle-leaf fig tree, a nod to the atrium homes that Sacramento builder Streng Bros. was known for. Photo by Kat Alves.

Flooring throughout the main living space consists of large-format porcelain slab tiles that, although tricky to install, help lend the home its indoor-outdoor vibe—something that Benning was intent upon. “In today’s world, everyone wants a connection to the outside,” he says. As an homage to the Strengs’ distinctive atrium homes, Benning left one corner of the living room untiled so that a fiddle-leaf fig could be planted directly into the ground.

outdoor at benning home
The pool gets a fun punch of color from orange and blue tiles dotting its edges. “That little detail lets you know this is a space that’s playful, not serious,” says Benning. The cantilevered wood deck is a favorite jumping-off point for the Bennings’ dog. Photo by Kat Alves.

That detail is a fitting tribute from someone whose family, like the Strengs, has a long history in Sacramento design circles. In 1961, Eric’s grandfather, Adrian Benning, purchased A&A Furniture with Buzz Oates. Eric’s father, Bruce Benning, later founded one of the city’s premier interior design firms. Today, Eric carries on the tradition as principal at Benning Design Construction, a design-build firm focused on upmarket residential remodels.

Ipe wood slats surrounding the deep soaking tub give the space a serene, spalike vibe. Photo by Kat Alves.


With this stunning and respectful makeover, Benning was able to showcase not only his fervor for midcentury-inspired design but also his firm’s capabilities. “This is our home, but this isn’t just about me and my wife,” he says. “This is about what our team is capable of doing.”

The home’s original floor plan did not include a mudroom, but Benning added one to eliminate the need for storage in other parts of the house. An orange bench cushion perks up the space. Photo by Kat Alves.

Kitchen backsplash and fireplace surround: Sonoma Tilemakers
Kitchen countertops: Caesarstone
Glass art installation in dining room: SkLO
Dining room pendant: Andrew Neyer
Kitchen cabinetry: Feist Cabinets & Woodworks
Bedroom pendants: Flos

Classic Flos pendants are suspended over the nightstands. Woodworker Luke Sanderson built the sleek matching bed on-site. Photo by Kat Alves.