Palo Alto Cottage

Palo Alto, California

The client asked that this major renovation of her home in Palo Alto be based on principles described in Sarah Susanka’s Not-So-Big House and Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. She wanted beauty, emotional connection with her environment, good indoor-outdoor relationships, fostering of social gathering, functional spaces, and ecological design. 

Building less was the first step we took toward sustainability. We made the small home far more functional while keeping most walls in place and adding only 65 square feet. The circulation through the old house was poorly planned and inhibited social interactions. New openings in existing walls and a series of low walls and columns improve circulation, connect spaces, and define gathering spaces. Energy usage was considerably reduced by adding insulation, new windows, a solar attic fan, and sealing the skin of the building. Natural, low-toxic materials were used throughout. 

Each area in the renovated house has something special about it, such as ornamental trellises set with unique tiles, a cozy window seat at the front of the house, a simple cathedral ceiling with cross-beams at the bedroom

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Alexandra Saikley in Alameda, CA on Houzz

“Alexandra’s vision and skills helped me remodel my house to include lots of light, better traffic flow, connection to the garden throughout the house, and special details in each room – all without changing the essential character of my four-generation family home.

Before I started my remodel I had read every one of the Minnesota architect Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House books, and I knew that I wanted to use my limited budget to build in beautiful and functional details, not to enlarge my space. Alexandra’s plan added only 65 feet (the original exterior front porch was made part of the interior entryway), but changed a series of small rooms into beautifully connected kitchen, dining, and living rooms and private areas.

It was a delight to work with Alexandra! In the beginning stages of our work together, she sent me articles about basic architectural principles such as Christopher Alexander’s sitting circles, indoor-outdoor rooms, and sunny places (aka cat-sunning spots). She listened carefully to my ideas and the final plans were a combination of her ideas, my ideas, and timeless historical concepts – exactly what I wanted.”  – Client