Master Class

Curtis Park home maintains original old-world charm

By Cathryn Rakich
April 2020

Bill Harms is an artist and craftsman who studied with a master in Germany. In 1957, Harms migrated to New York with his parents and siblings. A year later, they crossed the country by bus and landed in Sacramento.

“We got out on L Street where the Greyhound bus station was,” Harms says. His first impression was a sleepy village. But the family soon found an apartment at 23rd and G streets, and “that’s when we started loving the area.”

On practically a handshake, they purchased a quaint two-story English Tudor built in 1925 in Curtis Park. “The owner said he was interested in selling it to us, so we opened the doors and windows, and started painting and texturing,” Harms recalls.

More than six decades later, Harms now shares the 2,200-square-foot home with partner Allison Sabraw, who he met as a neighbor. “I lived right across the street,” Sabraw says. “He was always coming over to visit. We’d have wine and talk. We were really good friends, and it’s just evolved over the years.”

The four-bedroom two-bath home has seen various upgrades over the years. “What we haven’t done is knock out walls,” Sabraw says.

When the Harms family bought the house in 1959, they went to work texturing and painting the walls and ceilings. They also added wood beams in the dining room. Today, each room sports a different vibrant wall color, such as ruby red (handmade by Harms) in the dining room, terra-cotta clay paint in the living room and chartreuse in the kitchen.

The moldings, baseboards, double-hung windows and a built-in cabinet in the dining room are original. Harm’s brother, who also trained as a craftsman in Germany, replicated another built-in cabinet in the breakfast nook. Also original is the extra-wide, vertical-grain front door with its window and glass doorknob.

Harms created an archway between the breakfast nook and kitchen to replace a “pretty ugly” door, he says. Harms and his brother added three more arches throughout the home, including a curved pine door, distressed to appear aged, that leads to a wine cellar in the basement.

The kitchen has been updated with green Italian tile countertops on one side and butcher block, flanking the stove, on the other. Harms’ brother created new kitchen cabinets with solid-pine doors recessed to replicate the original cabinets. “We made sure to copy the old doors exactly,” Harms says.

Two layers of old linoleum in the kitchen, pantry and breakfast nook were ripped up and replaced with engineered hardwood to match the original oak floors throughout the rest of the home.

The kitchen leads to a family room with a bar, formerly a linen closet, where the couple entertains. The bar, another creation by Harms’ skilled brother, features hand-finished Honduran mahogany countertop and open shelves.

A small window and door in the family room were replaced with a new sliding glass door leading to the brick backyard patio where guests can gather. The lush garden is surrounded by apple, pomegranate and birch trees providing shade and privacy.

Up the staircase with its original railing is a bedroom where the walls are covered with grass cloth hung by Harms’ father. “I didn’t have the heart to tear it out,” Harms says. “So I painted over it. You have to keep some things to remember your folks by.”

Painted knotty-pine panels line the walls and ceiling of another bedroom, which Sabraw calls her retreat. A small window was replaced with a larger version that looks out over the Curtis Park neighborhood. “When girlfriends come over, we come up here and hang out,” Sabraw says.

The upstairs bathroom underwent a “semi-major” remodel. “It was horrendous looking when we bought the place,” Harms notes. The remodel was twofold over many years, first to expand the footprint and then to refashion the design, which included replacing the old concrete shower.

“With old homes there is a constant need to scope things out to upgrade or repair. Bill takes it on as God-given task,” Sabraw says.

“Some people work with their hands. Some with their brains,” Harms adds. “Mine is with my hands.”

The Curtis Park Home & Garden Tour, originally scheduled for April 25, has been canceled. For information on a possible rescheduling, visit

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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