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Condo Comfort: Los Altos couple redesign downtown condominium

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier The Parkers remodeled their condominium's kitchen to create a French country-style atmosphere.


Terry and Ken Parker have come full circle. In their early married life, they lived in an apartment in San Francisco, and today they live in an apartment in downtown Los Altos.

“We went from an apartment to an apartment – but now it’s called a condo,” Terry said.

In the interim, the couple lived for 40 years on Parma Way in Los Altos in a good-sized house on a half-acre lot. Both retired last year: he from telecommunications, she from legal secretarial work.

“We had a pool, a 1,100-square-foot deck, fruit trees, heritage oak trees and a creek,” Ken said. “It was a very special place.”

Their condominium is special, too, now that they’ve gutted and remodeled it.

“It is similar in feeling,” said Terry, pointing out furnishings from their Parma Way home.

However, the Parkers weren’t able to bring everything with them.

“We gave things away to friends and took eight pickup loads to the Goodwill,” she said.

What prompted them to downsize to downtown?

“We talked about downsizing for three or four years,” Terry said, “but we were never on the same page at the same time.”

One day, after returning from their condo in Colorado, where they have family, the Parkers realized how much maintenance they faced at their home here.

“We were spoiled by the condo. We could just close the door and go,” Terry said.

And, just like that, they put their house on the market – not expecting that it would sell in two days and that they’d have only 35 days to pack and move. They described the experience as “hair-raising.”

There was no question about remaining in Los Altos.

“We’d searched cities looking for the best place to retire – Scottsdale, Santa Fe, Taos, Las Vegas,” Ken said. “We’d come home thinking they were great, but they didn’t compare to Los Altos.”

The Parkers scrambled to find a place to live and bought the Third Street condo, even though “it did not look very nice.” It had a “dumpy little master bath” that Terry wouldn’t set foot in, and the first time Ken took a shower in the guest bath, the faucet handle came off in his hand.

They closed escrow on both the Parma Way house and the condo on the same day.

Next they enlisted the help of Santa Clara general contractor Stephan Tanczos, known for his European craftsmanship, and Los Altos resident Cathy Kordsmeier, a personal friend who is an artist and designer. They transformed a dated vin ordinaire two-bedroom condo into a French country-style home.

Only the construction of the walls is original – and two of those were removed (one in the master bath, the other in the kitchen). They replaced the carpets, flooring, popcorn ceiling, windows and balcony doors. A doorway from the entry to the kitchen was closed to create more kitchen space.

“There were only the bare outlines of the walls and floor,” Terry said.

The cement floors posed a challenge because they were different levels – something that was discovered when the carpeting was removed. It took 14 bags of concrete and painstaking effort to level them before the pre-distressed teak flooring (Ken’s choice) could be laid. The tongue-and-groove floor floats atop a two-layer base of plastic foam and cork.

Another challenge was installing two ceiling-support beams, roughly 200 pounds each, because a load-bearing kitchen wall was removed. The condo was

rewired at the same time.

“We have 58 can lights and 22 doors,” Terry said. “Hard to believe.”

Crown molding, custom baseboards and plantation shutters were among the finishing touches.

The January-to-July remodel was done in two stages: master bedroom and bath first, followed by the rest of the condo. The Parkers stayed in the guest room and had full use of the condo during stage one. Then they moved into their new bedroom. With only a refrigerator on the deck and a barbecue, they ate out a lot.

“That’s one of the benefits of being downtown. You can walk to dinner,” Terry said.

The couple enjoy their new kitchen, with its Uba Tuba granite countertops, tumbled Moonstone tile backsplashes, wine refrigerator and lighted custom cabinets with glass doors. Above the sink is a handpainted tile mural that is a copy of a Kordsmeier painting of Tuscany. On the induction cooktop sits a MacKenzie-Childs teakettle in the popular black-and-white Courtly design.

MacKenzie-Childs lampshades add a lighthearted touch to the chandelier in the dining area, and MacKenzie-Childs plates are displayed in the breakfront imported from the Parma Way house. The dining table and chairs are also from Parma Way, in addition to the living room furniture, which Terry recovered in Pierre Deux fabric.

Above the fireplace is a flat-screen TV.

“Ken went out to buy a 46-inch TV and came back with a 55-inch,” Terry said.

But, it turned out to be a perfect size for viewing from a cozy corner in the living room, with its third-floor view of the city.

The pièce de résistance of the condo is the guest bath, which is


French in flavor with black-and-white toile wallpaper, a white marble floor inset with 2-inch black diamonds and a whimsical chandelier dripping with crystals.

At the end of the hall leading to the master bedroom is a rummage-sale find – a table that now looks quite French with a new paint job. It bears the slogan, “A good laugh is sunshine in a house.”

There is indeed a great deal of sunshine in the condo, courtesy of the big windows and glass balcony doors.

And laughter from two very happy retired people fills the air.

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