Open Minded

Sierra Oaks home mingles mid-century modern with uncluttered contemporary

By Cathryn Rakich
June 2019

Mai and Jeff Townsend have taken the notion of “open concept” to a whole new level in their recently renovated home on a cul-de-sac in Sierra Oaks. A bright orange entryway door leads to an immense light- and art-filled space that encompasses multiple zones for entertaining, cooking, dining and relaxing.

“My absolute favorite thing is the incredible openness of the room,” Jeff says. “I love how we created these self-contained areas.”

The Townsends purchased the 1965 ranch-style home in 2017 from the estate of the original owner. “This property had great bones,” says Mai, who has a passion for interior design. “It was well built. Just very compartmentalized. The main thing for us was to create an open flow and space.”

The renovation took eight months under the watchful eye of Mai, who created the design plans. The couple gutted most of the 2,222-square-foot house, which they called a “time capsule,” leaving the exterior structure. “It’s a brand-new house in an old shell,” Mai notes.

The Townsends moved to Sacramento from San Jose with their son Blaze and yellow lab Parker. In addition to wanting to be closer to Mai’s parents who live in West Sacramento, the couple saw potential in what the area offered.

“We fell in love with Sierra Oaks,” says Jeff, an attorney specializing in mediation work. “It was a whole new amazing life that was opening up to us.”

The Townsends hired an architect to ensure the structural integrity of Mai’s design. The general contractor was Exact Property Solutions. “I was involved in the construction process and the micro decisions that needed to happen,” Mai says.

With a love for mid-century modern, as well as cutting-edge contemporary, the couple employed a color scheme of white, black, grey and tan with pops of color, especially in the original artwork throughout the home.

When designing the open interior, the Townsends gave a lot of thought to where and how to display their extensive collection of art, including several pieces purchased on a trip to Thailand, folk art from Mai’s native country of Venezuela, and work by Mai’s father, local artist Henry Parata. “We wanted to properly display them without feeling cluttered and give each piece a special space,” Jeff says.

Keeping with the contemporary feel, Mai chose large grey commercial-grade tiles for the floor. “Because the tile is oversized, it makes the space look bigger,” she says. “I like the uniform, clean look.”

Mai’s favorite feature is the asymmetrical fireplace with a plaster finish that resembles polished concrete. “It is one of the focal points of the house,” she points out.

The Townsends also recycled as much as possible, such as reusing most of the original interior wooden doors. “We just put a spin on them,” Mai says, by painting one side of the doors black and adding new hardware.

The ultramodern kitchen showcases a 10-foot white quartz waterfall island with a wine fridge. The backsplash has geometrically patterned tile. The look is enhanced by two different styles of cabinets—sleek white thermofoil on top and warm walnut on the bottom.

To keep the interior uniform, “you will see a continuation of materials throughout the house,” Mai says. This includes using the same kitchen quartz countertops and tile backsplash in the bathrooms. The guest bathroom has the unexpected feature of a freestanding tub inside an oversized shower.

Mai does not exaggerate when she says she looked at 10,000 different light fixtures to choose just the right ones, including a Ukiyo ceiling light in the entryway. “This is one of my prized possessions. Lighting can be such a game changer when it’s properly done.”

Tips for homeowners considering a remodel? “Research,” Mai says. “By doing research you learn about how things should be done, so when you’re interviewing people you can question the process and see if they are knowledgeable enough to get the job done.”

Jeff jokingly touts the University of YouTube, which he says is “a fabulous resource to learn how something is done.” The couple suggests going to open houses and taking home tours to get ideas. Also, be open to other people’s suggestions and always get three bids.

To recommend a home or garden for Open House, contact Cathryn Rakich at More photography and previous columns can be found and shared at the all-new

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