Renovation revives a Sierra Oaks classic
By Cecily Hastings
In late 2019, Karen Blaise and Matthew Shigihara purchased their midcentury modern home in Sierra Oaks. The couple previously lived in Land Park, where Blaise bought her first home in 1984.
“The home was in original condition, and we were excited to start a major redesign and remodel,” says Shigihara, an architect known for his design of two Sacramento water intake structures. “We were thrilled to give a new life to the home originally built in 1960.”
“After we met in 2007, I vowed I’d never leave Land Park,” Blaise says. “Matthew even designed a striking contemporary home that we considered building in place of our older home on Fifth Avenue. But sadly, the city’s design ordinance didn’t allow what we had envisioned.”
Blaise’s brother lives in Wilhaggin, and the couple visited Arden often. In their eyes, it lacked Land Park’s appeal. “But when this Huntington Road home came on the market, we both agreed we’d found the perfect project,” Blaise says.
The couple embarked on a one-year renovation. “Our plan was to repurpose the rooms to fit our lifestyle. Where the dining room was is now my studio,” Shigihara says. “The kitchen, dining area, half bath and laundry room were totally redesigned.”
The home remains its original 2,600 square feet. But the couple reduced the structure to its original cinderblock walls.
The result opens with a generous entry hall that steps down into a great room. A view of new front landscaping highlights the room, along with a linear fireplace façade. Contemporary and classic modern furnishings create an open layout on new cork tile floors.
A former family room is now the dining area, which flows into a cook’s kitchen. An extra-large island makes a statement with a granite countertop. Natural finish walnut cabinets maintain the midcentury design aesthetic.
A six-burner gas range is topped by a rectilinear hood suspended from the ceiling. An enormous skylight between kitchen and dining areas brightens the space. A counter-height fireplace faces the kitchen. The room opens to the backyard, redesigned by Shigihara.
The bedroom wing earned a repurpose. The couple combined two of the four bedrooms into a master suite with a large bathroom and walk-in closet.
“The effect is that we simplified the rooms and layout,” Shigihara says. One of the two remaining bedrooms is a guest suite with an attached bathroom. The other is Blaise’s studio. She’s a retired architectural administrator and talented craftsperson.
“We both have our hobbies—Matthew is also an artist—and now we both have the perfect studios to enjoy them,” she says.
Shigihara’s paintings and ceramic work, along with Blaise’s beadwork, are displayed throughout. The couple collects local art and ceramics, displayed on built-in shelves.
The exterior was transformed with white and black paint, new windows and front door, new hardscaping and landscaping. A Japanese design aesthetic comes to mind, something that appealed to the couple.
The back features an original covered porch updated with skylights. It creates a shady outdoor room for living and dining. Raised planters in weathering steel and fiberglass hold a sculptural collection of small trees and succulents.
Shigihara paid special attention to the fence design, with a variety of surfaces and details. He built much of the fencing.
“My favorite part of the home is the attention to the lighting,” Blaise says. “The windows and skylights provide gorgeous light throughout the day. But at night it is equally compelling because Matthew used innovative lighting details inside, and the landscape lighting is visible through the windows and creates wonderful visuals.”
A talented couple created the home of their dreams. The neighborhood got a beautiful transformation.