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A jewelry-box cottage stores tiny charms


Photos Courtesy of Amanda Kuzak
A simple remodel turned into a down-to-the-studs rebuild after Los Altos residents Amanda and Chris Kuzak bought a 930-square-foot house in Los Altos. They removed a wall to open up the living and dining area, right, and added a kitchen island, above, that provides both storage and home for a cooktop and pop-up exhaust fan, above. The marble in the kitchen’s tiles appears again in bathroom and living room flourishes.

Amanda Kuzak calls her Los Altos home a jewelry box.

“It’s small, but there are treasures inside,” she said.

Kuzak and her husband, Chris, purchased the 930-square-foot, three-bedroom house last July, hoping to move in after some quick updates. The pressure was on because the lease on their 2,300-square-foot Los Altos rental was about to expire.

kuzak kitchen beforeThe structural changes seemed simple enough: Remove the L-shaped wall separating the small kitchen from the living/dining area to create an open floor plan and remove a wall between two of the bedrooms to create a master suite.

The renovation proved neither simple nor inexpensive. In addition, because of termite damage, the house had to be gutted. Only the foundation, siding and shingles remained.

Kuzak likened it to the movie “The Money Pit.”

The luxury cottage that ensued after a three-month renovation is a credit to their expertise. Kuzak, a professional organizer, CEO of Kuzak’s Closet and Town Crier columnist, designed every detail, while Chris, a privacy engineer at Google Inc., made it a smart home with Nest gadgets.

The Kuzak’s Closet staff also played a role, helping with space planning, downsizing and liquidating.

“The biggest challenge was the timeline,” Kuzak said. “Keeping things moving and on budget was tricky.”

But somehow the couple managed and celebrated the holidays in their new home. In fact, they could have moved in earlier if Kuzak hadn’t been helping clients get settled in Seattle and Cabo San Lucas.

Maximizing makeover

The footprint remains the same, but the house, built in 1951, has changed dramatically.

So, let’s take a tour and see how space has been maximized.

A divided-light window to the right of the front door has become a huge picture window affording a view through the house.

To the left of the front door, the old coat closet now resembles a piece of furniture. It’s divided into thirds – top cupboard for storage, middle section for hanging clothes, bottom drawers for shoes.

The L-shaped kitchen wall is gone, so the living/dining area is open. Window seats in the dining area provide storage.

The closet that contained the water heater is now the pantry (a tankless water heater was installed outside). There’s even space for small kitchen appliances. And, of course, the new island provides storage as well as housing a Dacor gas cooktop and pop-up exhaust fan.

Barn doors in the hallway and master suite are space savers.

kuzak bathroom after

The bathtub was replaced by a walk-in shower, making the bathroom more commodious. The medicine cabinet was recessed, furthering the illusion. And the vanity provides storage because a drawer was installed beneath the plumbing.

This brings us to the master suite, which was created by removing a wall. Space was carved out for a his-and-hers walk-in closet. Among the built-ins is a pull-out laundry hamper.

Sliding doors (new) open to a deck (new), affording more living space. The house is on a 7,000-square-foot lot, which the Kuzaks are in the process of landscaping.

Harmonious home

There’s a harmony to the house because the color scheme, custom cabinetry and finishes are consistent throughout.

“It’s cohesive and not choppy to the eye, which creates an illusion of space,” Kuzak said.

In the kitchen, Carrara marble tiles installed horizontally form a backsplash and wrap around one wall. The fireplace is faced in the same marble, albeit in a herringbone pattern, and the floor of the shower is marble. Countertops are white quartz, cabinets are gray and fixtures are polished nickel.

06 27 18 HOME kuzak LivingRoomafter

Downsizing from 2,300 square feet to 930 didn’t seem to faze Kuzak, who had two purging sessions with a staff member.

“It was easy to pare down because most everything we bought for the rental was replaceable,” she said, referring to items like their dining table, sofas and guest bedroom furniture.

Kuzak took her own advice: “If you are not using it or loving it, get rid of it.” For example, she kept her Juliska wedding china but not her yellow sunflower Fiestaware.

Her one priority was her grandmother’s hutch, which has traveled with her since her college days and occupies a place of honor in the living room. Atop the hutch is her great-grandmother’s clock.

The couple lived in the Los Altos rental for more than six years, house-hunting for four of those years off and on, “depending on how discouraging the market felt,” Kuzak said. They made offers on two homes in Mountain View but were outbid on both. The house they bought was off the market.

“It was scary to put so much of our savings into this tiny house, but it was worth it. We both work hard and are involved in our community and wanted to feel like we really live here,” Kuzak said. “Until now it’s seemed temporary, but now Los Altos officially feels like home.”

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