Legal Lair

Classic Land Park Colonial gets bright new future

By Cathryn Rakich
May 2020

Built in 1951, the two-story Colonial was home to attorney Stephen Downey of the Sacramento law firm Downey Brand, whose roots date back to 1926. Downey and his family, which included 11 children, were the original owners of the 2,800-square-foot home that overlooks Land Park.

Meredith and Jeff Schaff, with two young children of their own, purchased the classic house in 2018. “We are both lawyers, so we were very excited to take over the house because it’s such a great family name,” Meredith says. But the home, which had not been updated since the 1970s, needed a complete overhaul.

To give the four-bedroom, three-bath abode an open floor plan, the couple rearranged the footprint so “when you walk in, you can see to the backyard,” Meredith says. She notes they removed a “strange L-shaped hallway,” which allowed for a larger downstairs bathroom. Oak hardwood floors, which were covered in carpeting (including on the staircase), were brought back to life.

A wall came down to open up the galley-style kitchen to the dining area. “The designers wanted this to be a wow moment when you walk in,” Meredith says.

Center stage finds an industrial, two-panel Lacanche range from France, complete with brass accents and a massive custom-made hood flanked by two new windows. “All the bloggers I follow have this range because it’s so beautiful, but it also works really well,” Meredith says. “My husband wanted it because he’s the chef.”

Quartzite countertops have the appearance of marble. The backsplash of handmade tile by Clé studio, based in Marin County, is set in a “subway rustic” French design to compliment the range.

The Schaffs opted for glass and brass open shelving instead of upper kitchen cabinets, while lower white cabinets provide ample storage. A large white farmhouse sink sits to the left of a small prep sink where the “kids can wash their hands,” Meredith says.

To the right of the stainless-steel Thermador refrigerator is a coffee and alcohol bar complete with a small drink fridge that can be hidden away behind closed cabinet doors.

A new three-panel sliding glass door off the dining room opens to a spacious backyard that features a dramatic pergola where the family entertains. They also installed a Jacuzzi to the existing pool, which underwent a major revamp.

New decorative molding was added to the living room walls for architectural richness. The diamond-gridded windows on both sides of the front door and in the upstairs laundry room are original. But the Schaffs installed all-new windows, framed in black for a contemporary contrast to the bright white walls, throughout the rest of the home. Black tiles border the fireplace, which is surrounded by a columned white mantel.

The couple added a built-in display case and wall panels to the downstairs den, then painted the room “a really dark green—it almost looks black,” Meredith says. “My husband wanted the dark so it would be different from the rest of the house.” A Ralph Lauren light fixture completes the scene.

The enlarged downstairs bathroom features an eye-catching hexagon tile floor and Calcutta marble countertop with clear Lucite legs. “We decided it was OK to do marble in the bathrooms because you don’t have food or wine or coffee,” Meredith notes. “They’ve held up well.”

Upstairs was “a huge bedroom—almost like an army-barrack style because they had so many children,” Meredith says—with an exterior staircase to the backyard. “They probably wanted it so the kids could go in and out of the pool without traipsing through the house.” The Schaffs removed the stairs and created two rooms—a playroom/homework/TV room and another bedroom.

Meredith explains how a closet and “weird landing space” upstairs became a laundry room with open wooden shelves and scalloped grey floor tiles by Arto, based in Southern California. “It was difficult to get the plumbing up here, and stacking washer and dryer, but we did and it works.”

The couple turned the original master bathroom into large his and hers walk-in closets. A bonus room off the master bedroom became the couple’s bathroom, with two new windows, a freestanding tub in an oversized doorless shower stall, oak vanity, double sinks and a mixed pattern of Calcutta marble on the floor and walls. 

Throughout the home, light fixtures and knobs are brass; handles and faucets are polished nickel. “It’s a designer’s rule of thumb,” Meredith says. “You can mix metals as long as you have two things alike.”

Using Design Shop Interiors for the remodel, the Schaffs chose most of their materials early on in the process. “Plan everything out ahead of time—tile, lights, fixtures,” Meredith advises. “We put them in a spec book that was kept on site, so any contractor that had questions could just refer to the book.”

To recommend a home or garden for Open House, contact Cathryn Rakich at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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