Easy Returns

She sold it once, but this home’s a keeper

By Cecily Hastings
November 2023

My friend Sue Watkins has bought, fixed up and sold more homes than just about anyone else. The daughter of a local developer, Watkins loves a challenge and enjoys remodeling.

I met Watkins in 1995 when she bought and remodeled the Tudor home—once owned by her grandfather—next door to us on 33rd Street facing McKinley Park.

Before her move to East Sac, she lived in a 1950s Fair Oaks home she bought from the original owners. She remodeled the kitchen and kept most of the design intact. “I loved the neighbors, the neighborhood and the easy access to Fair Oaks Village,” she says.

When she sold the home three years later, she never imagined returning. But after many years and several life and home changes, including a move to Bodega Bay and Sebastopol, she longed for Fair Oaks.

“In 2020, my former Fair Oaks neighbors called me up and told me my old house was for sale,” Watkins says. “And I was just starting to look in a very competitive pandemic-driven market.” From Sebastopol she checked the photos online. “Not one thing had been changed so I snapped it up without even an in-person visit.”

She sent her contractor over since she couldn’t get there. “He reported back that, ‘Between you and me, we can make it whatever you want,’” Watkins says. “So, there it is, four owners and I’ve been the second and the fourth.”

This time Watkins planned an update. She added 715 square feet, plus 1,000 feet of covered and screened decks under a new roof. She now shares the house with her 100-pound black and tan coonhound Judd.

She knocked out the wall between the kitchen and living room, creating a great room with living, dining and kitchen. There’s space for a ping-pong table. There are now two bathrooms, a master suite, guest room and office.

She decided to embrace the midcentury modern theme, using black, white and gray, paired with colorful accents. The kitchen island is faced with graphic tile, a vibrant peach color in semi-circle pattern.

“I started with one wall of the master bedroom in a black-and-white forest wallpaper. But when it was installed, I decided I needed more so I installed it on all the walls,” she says. “I’m now surrounded by a cool forest.”

She added a pool, patio and pool house for storage. Mature fruitless olive and palo verde trees are new. The property was relandscaped with new fences and a cobblestone paver driveway leading to the garage from the street.

Recently her sister and brother-in-law moved from Land Park to Fair Oaks. “It’s great to be so close to family,” Watkins says.

“I’m often asked why I moved back. It’s having the most wonderful neighbors and neighborhood,” she says. “They all remember me as the gal that once had her own peacocks on her property. They are the best.”

Cecily Hastings can be reached at publisher@insidepublications.com. To recommend a home or garden, contact publisher@insidepublications.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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