Updating a Townhouse

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From Exquisite Estates of Monterey Bay Magazine, April 2012
By Kathryn McKenzie Nichols

The connection between homeowners and their architect can make all the difference in the world when it comes to completing a home project. It’s such a personal and intensive undertaking that the right match is critical. So when Christopher and Ann Storm first began talking to Salinas architect Thomas J. Carleton about an extensive remodel of their home in Pebble Beach, they knew it was the beginning of something special.

“Tom had a real sweetness about him that informed all of his relationships,” said Christopher Storm, who inherited the property from his mother and stepfather, and with Ann sought to update and modernize it. It would turn out to be Carleton’s final project. The award-winning architect died unexpectedly in November 2009 at age 65, just months after the Storms’ home was completed.

The house—one of a number of two-story townhouses built in the 1970s near the Lodge at Pebble Beach—was woefully in need of a facelift. Unlike most townhouses, these are separate from each other and don’t share walls; they are also quite large, with the Storms’ being 3,000 square feet. Previously, the Storms’ upper story contained a series of small rooms, none of which had access to most of the wonderful views outside. The bathrooms and guest rooms were dark and dated. Nothing had been done to bring the place into the 21st century.

Because the proposed modifications were so extensive, an architect’s help was essential. One of the biggest challenges was removing a load-bearing wall; to accommodate the change, a large steel beam had to be lifted in with a crane. But the Storms say that Carleton went above and beyond what an architect would ordinarily do.

There’s a detail in the master bathroom that they affectionately call “Tom’s niche.” And Carleton got involved in a great many other areas—even giving advice on minor things like tile.

They began working on the project in mid-2008, with deconstruction starting that September, and the work was completed last spring. “It was a real opportunity to bring the house back from the ‘70s into the modern age,” said Christopher Storm, who retired from the business side of the San Francisco Chronicle two years ago, and still consults for the newspaper. “It was pretty dark and chopped up.”

The upper story had contained a long and narrow dining room that Christopher Storm describes as “a bowling alley,” an awkwardly placed, walled-off kitchen, and a living room that was showing its age. Now the kitchen, dining room and living room gracefully flow into each other, and there are beautiful views from just about anywhere you can sit or stand.

“It created this great view when all the walls were gone,” said Ann Storm. But creating that look was a little tricky, according to James Carleton, who worked on the project as a designer with his father. “There were structural challenges in opening up the space to have a more modern feel,” he said, which involved bringing in the beam to bear weight. But the result was well worth the effort.

Now, Point Lobos can be glimpsed from the dining room area, as well as the adjacent Peter Hay Golf Course, where deer come to graze and birds flutter around the second-story feeder.

Many important details were also changed. The front walkway and wall were enhanced with stonework, and the front door—previously a very ordinary-looking entry—was replaced with one custom-made of glass and dark wood. A travertine floor greets visitors in the entryway, with a rustic Chinese sideboard gracing the space and a contemporary fabric shade overhead. “We’ve always liked that mix of antique and modern,” said Christopher.

So much of the house had inadequate lighting that correcting this was a top priority. Now, there are recessed lights throughout the home, as well as new windows and skylights. Peaked windows in the living room, a very ‘70s touch, were replaced with more modern rectangular shapes. Pendant lights as well as a skylight, bring light and warmth into the kitchen, which features a bi-level granite countertop, a black granite sink, and cherry wood cabinets. Ann Storm said she particularly likes the countertop. “You don’t see the pile of dirty dishes on the counter from the rest of the room,” she said.

Rough-finished small tiles from the backsplash provide a nice contrast to the smooth textures in the rest of the kitchen. A Dacor range and a wine refrigerator are additional choices that are both attractive and practical. The clean, modern lines of the rooms are a perfect backdrop for the Storms’ Asian and antique pieces, as well as their photography collection. Often, just changing color schemes and materials were enough to make the rooms seem larger than they are.

The house’s several fireplaces were replaced with gas units. The showpiece is the living room fireplace, which was resurfaced with travertine tiles, and enhanced with custom-built cabinets and shelves on either side. Changes to the master bedroom were most significant. The room had been divided into a series of small spaces, but Carleton’s design opened it up. The former storage rooms and cabinets were combined into a large walk-in closet with a dressing area.

The new color scheme, in shades of black, white and gray, also helps make the bathroom seem more spacious, with marble in the tub and shower and limestone tile on the floor. The floor also features a radiant heat system. Two guest bedrooms and two bathrooms on the bottom story also received makeovers, with one room doubling as Christopher’s office and exercise room.

The Storms also added a whole home entertainment system, so music is easily accessible wherever they are, and in the living room, shades are operated with a remote control—easy and practical for these large, sunny windows. Even though the footprint of the house didn’t change, the project was an extensive one. The Storms say they were grateful for everything that Thomas Carleton did for them, and are enjoying their home in its up-to-date form.

And they’ll always remember him fondly, as well as the many others who worked on the project. “He brought in the best contractors,” said Ann, in particular Groza Construction of Monterey, the general contractor for the project.

Carleton’s legacy in Monterey County will continue. His children, James Carleton and Johanna Ceornocut, are continuing his firm under the name Carleton Design. And his work will live on, as well, at the Storms’ home and in many other places.

“Tom has his fingerprint on so much of this house,” said Christopher.