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Customized comfort: Los Altos couple personalizes Creekside Oaks condominium

The Creekside Oaks condominium of Barbara and Tom Mack looks just like others in the Los Altos gated community – same roofline, same bay window in front, same chimney.

The similarity stops at the front door, where the wow factor takes over. This is not your basic condominium. The Macks added 5 feet to one side, removed a wall separating the kitchen and dining room to open up a great room and used the additional space in the living room for a dining room.

The changes didn’t stop there.

“We blew it apart,” said Barbara, an interior designer who owns Fleece to Fibers Interior Design in Los Altos and has added an office in Manhattan, Mont., where the Macks maintain a second home. Tom is a retired endodontist who volunteers at the Community Health Partners Dental Practice in Bozeman, Mont., when he’s not fly-fishing.

“We took it down to the framing,” she said.

The couple added an upstairs office and storage room – quite a feat because of the condo’s covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). The parapet on the roof conceals the addition – you would never guess there’s a second story.

The condo’s CC&Rs specified that the bay window had to stay. This posed a problem, because Barbara wanted the kitchen sink and counter in the same area but the windows extended to within a few feet of the floor. The solution: plantation shutters.

Dummy shutters – in a closed position – were affixed to the exterior on the lower half of the windows and real shutters inside above the sink. Looking in from outside, you would never notice the difference, thus preserving the look of the neighborhood.

The living-room fireplace was moved – though the chimney wasn’t – when they extended the condo 5 feet, making it part of the new dining room. An antique English tilt-top table and bowback Windsor chairs form a cozy dining area in front of it.

The magic number seems to be 5 feet.

“I stole 5 feet from the guest room so that I could have a walk-in closet in the master bedroom,” Barbara said.

Because the master bedroom itself grew 5 feet when the condo was bumped out, she used some of the space for a 6-foot-by-4-foot, climate-controlled wine closet, which holds 350 bottles. A custom-built storage unit, designed by Barbara, occupies one wall of the bedroom. It eliminates the need for dresser drawers and serves as Tom’s closet.

Barbara applied all the tricks of the trade gleaned from 30 years of design work to maximize and better use the space. She and Tom downsized from a 3,500-square-foot English cottage on a half-acre on Marvin Avenue to the 1,840-square-foot condo.

“We loved the Marvin Avenue house. We had a pool and an exercise cottage,” Barbara said. “But after the third renovation, Tom said, ‘I’m tired of doing maintenance.’ The lightbulb clicked.”

Now they have a small exercise room in the condo – another example of Barbara’s creative use of space.

They sold Marvin Avenue at the time they purchased the Montana condo and property.

“It was a crazy time,” Barbara said.

The couple rented a house on University Avenue for the two years it took to customize the condo.

“We gutted it before we got permits, never realizing how lengthy the process would be,” she said.

Barbara was the designer/builder, working closely with Roger Lindahn of Lindahn Enterprise and Todd Bradrick of Diablo Landscaping, both located in San Jose.

She describes the decor as a blend of ethnic and traditional. She used primary colors – especially deep reds and blues – because “they tend to stay in style and are very inviting.”

Floors in the living, dining and exercise rooms are walnut, as are the stair treads. The floors in the kitchen, great room, bathrooms and atrium are travertine in the Versailles pattern.

It’s apparent the Macks like to cook. The kitchen is equipped with a six-burner gas stove, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, two freezer drawers, a warming oven, a Miele coffee machine and an eat-at island with an under-counter wine cooler.

Countertops are Carrera marble, which people tend to shy away from because it’s porous and susceptible to staining. But, as Barbara said, “If the Italians can use it and (Michelangelo’s) ‘David’ is in it, that’s good enough for me.”

The bathroom and steam shower are also Carrera marble.

The couple brought favorite furnishings with them. Noteworthy is an armoire that Barbara adapted to serve as a divider between the great room and living room. In effect, she created a wall with storage on both sides. She uses it to display some of the treasures she and Tom have collected on their world travels, such as cricket cases from China, handles from Indonesian ceremonial swords and an opium pipe.

Colorful art and artifacts, illuminated by directional lighting, adorn the walls.

“We loved Marvin Avenue and hated to leave. But this has been our pride and joy,” Barbara said of their customized condo.

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