Homeowner and designer forge friendship, create one-of-a-kind home
By Katie Kishi
Photos by Fred Donham of PhotographerLink
Multicolored lights against an all-white bathroom. A painting of tiger’s eyes glaring down as you enter the study. An I-beam spanning the entryway ceiling. These were just a few of the eclectic elements you would find in Kristan Otto’s Campus Commons home.
The daughter of John Otto, Kristan and her family were well known in the community as the folks behind Otto Construction. When Kristan Otto passed away last spring, she left an unforgettable legacy—part of which was displayed throughout her home. Every feature was unique and custom created, not found in any other house.
When she wanted to remodel her home 15 years ago, she went to Nar Bustamante, president and founder of Nar Design Group in East Sacramento. Throughout their years working together on many redesigns, they developed a great friendship.
Bustamante reflects on her personality and the memories they shared. “You had to have thick skin to work with her,” he says. “As the project manager of Otto Construction, she was used to being in charge. But we trusted each other more and more with each project.”
Otto’s home was ever changing. She always wanted something new and unique. One time, Otto reached out to Bustamante with a somewhat angry email. “She basically told me off,” he laughs. “She said, ‘You’re gonna take all my money again because I want to do another project with you.’
“I don’t think I’ve ever done the same house so many times. I was redoing my own remodels.”
Otto and Bustamante built a trusting relationship. After several remodels, Otto gave Bustamante the freedom to do what he wanted. “It was totally adventuresome, very eclectic. I found myself branching out into a whole new thought process,” Bustamante says. “She didn’t care about the money. It just needed to be cool and inspiring for her.”
Some features stood out as Bustamante recollected the rooms he designed. One of his first projects with Otto was a hammered zinc wall in her kitchen that won national awards, including Best Architectural Feature from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. An office painted a deep, dark charcoal contrasted with a painting of tiger’s eyes to make for a moody workspace. The whole room earned a Crystal Design Award by Crystal Cabinet Works in 2019.
In her living room, rather than installing a typical entertainment center, Bustamante suspended the television from an I-beam, giving it the illusion of floating. Notwithstanding the colorful details throughout the home, the duo decided to create an all-white bathroom. But it was far from simple. Multicolored LED lights made for a dramatic contrast, showing off Otto’s fun personality.
Original art was also important to Otto, who was heavily involved in the art scene and always supported local artists. She devoted a significant amount of attention to the pieces she acquired and wanted them to stand out in her home. For example, Bustamante built a whole wall as a backdrop for one specific piece of art.
Otto’s playful, out-of-the-ordinary home became something on which she could build a friendship. Her headstrong, straightforward personality made things tricky for Bustamante in the beginning, but they soon learned to trust each other. “It was a fun, dynamic process that we both enjoyed,” Bustamante says.
“Oftentimes in my career, you do something once and that’s it for that client. The unforeseen thing is that you don’t realize you’re becoming friends with somebody. It’s not only about the projects anymore, it’s about building trust with your clients,” he adds.
“It ended up being an amazing relationship over the years because we’d always look for the next project and knew it would be an adventure.”
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