A Century in the Making
Midtown bungalow is home and studio to local artist
By Cathryn Rakich
For 100 years, a quaint bungalow on a corner lot in Midtown has sheltered its occupants and kept watch over a peaceful neighborhood. The century-old home stands strong while others were demolished to make way for multi-unit apartment buildings.
And for the past 20 years, Pat Orner has been the fortunate guardian of the historic structure.
“These were the homes of the worker bees,” says Orner, who bought the bungalow, located in Midtown’s New Era Park, in 2000. “Those were the doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs in the bigger homes,” she adds, referring to the more spacious dwellings just across the street in Boulevard Park.
In fact, Orner speculates that her two-bedroom, one-bath home may have originated from a mail-order catalog. “This house was probably a kit from Montgomery Ward or Sears.”
Kit or no kit, the 1920 abode has kept its original charm under Orner’s care. “It had good bones,” she says, reflecting back on when she first saw the bungalow. “The character felt good.”
Orner, former owner of a Sacramento relocation company and an accomplished artist, has made it her mission to respect those bones when making upgrades to the 1,160-square-foot house. Changes include removing the “cottage cheese ceiling” added in a previous decade, installing central heat and air, and remodeling the modest kitchen.
“The kitchen only had one wall of cabinets,” Orner says. By removing walls and rearranging the footprint, the homeowner was able to add more cabinets in the kitchen and laundry room. Using basic bases from Home Depot, she had custom cabinet doors and drawers installed on the new and original cabinetry.
The initial kitchen demolition uncovered the old brick service chimney hidden behind sheetrock. “We literally ran into a brick wall,” Orner shares. “So we had to reboot.” But she kept the exposed brick as a nod to the home’s past.
The avocado-colored sink had to go. The addition of a dishwasher was a must. Laminate Wilsonart countertops were added, as were two new garden windows in the kitchen and laundry room. Orner made shelving out of the shallow wall insert that once held a built-in ironing board.
The original windows were replaced throughout the home with energy-efficient double-panes. However, Orner made sure the frame designs matched the originals, including the gridded windows that flank the brick fireplace. The solid wood floors in the living and dining rooms were brought back to life, while engineered hardwood was added to the hallway and bedrooms. The lathe-and-plaster walls feature a different vibrant paint color in each room, but red is the primary accent hue. “I’m very colorful,” Orner says.
A new vanity and floor tiles were installed in the bathroom. The upgraded window has rain glass for privacy to match the glass in the original bathroom door. Solar tubes in the bathroom and dining room provide an abundance of light. “You don’t have to turn on the light, even at night if there’s a full moon,” Orner notes.
Step outside to “Pat’s Garden Café,” a peaceful setting embellished with several garden murals painted by the artist homeowner. The café mural is reverse painted on the back of the home’s original front window and hangs near a cozy bistro table for two. Another painted garden graces the side of the neighbor’s garage bordering Orner’s property. Her latest work transformed the front yard’s worn wooden fence into a blooming Buddhist garden with birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
Orner became known for her virtual gardens and was sought out by clients who wanted one of her mural creations for their own. But the work was “challenging, especially big walls. My daughter doesn’t like me getting on ladders,” the muralist says. So now Orner, who was an original artist at the Kennedy Gallery where she is still in residence, focuses on fine art with a sense of whimsy and color.
The “old, brown, ugly garage” was updated with two side doors, windows, white paneling and storage cabinets. The addition of a few extra feet created an artist studio—with a skylight, ceiling fan and track lighting—where Orner paints and holds art classes. A framed photo tribute to her friend and partner, Keith Hopkins, also an artist who died in 2013, hangs on the studio wall.
A visit to Orner’s garden reveals a trove of family treasures—birdhouses crafted by her son, a wooden panel painted by her grandfather, a volunteer redwood tree that snuck in as a sapling with an angel’s trumpet cutting from her mother. “It’s a gift from my mom,” who passed in 2006. A path along the side yard is paved with hand-decorated steppingstones given to Orner by her grandson every Christmas since he was born.
To recommend a home or garden for Open House, contact Cathryn Rakich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.