Small But Mighty

East Sac bungalow gets update but keeps its charm

By Cathryn Rakich
January 2020

The East Sacramento bungalow, built in 1949, had the original kitchen, original bathroom, original flooring and no insulation. There was even the old knob and tube wiring when Nar Bustamante purchased the home in 2018.

“As pretty and cute as the house was, it was just done,” says Bustamante, who looked at numerous homes before finding the two-bedroom, one-bath house on a quiet street off Elvas Avenue.

“When I saw this, it was in the right neighborhood, it’s never been remodeled and it’s three blocks from my shop,” adds Bustamante, owner of Nar Design Group, which specializes in residential design and remodeling. With a background in planning and building, including 30 years as a contractor, Bustamante, along with his design team, jumped right in to transform the 1,085-square-foot bungalow into a spacious, modern abode.

One of the most striking features is the wide-plank white French oak floor that flows throughout the house. “I was going to leave the original floors, but with every step it was squeak and squawk,” Bustamante says. “It was horrible.”

One might question wood floors in the kitchen and laundry room. “People shy away because they fear their dishwasher will leak or they will spill water,” Bustamante says. “But if you do it right, it’s easy to not have water issues. I love how warm it is—it makes the home quiet and soft.”

The new homeowner transformed the original galley kitchen, with one tiny doorway, by knocking out a wall and opening the room up to the rest of the house. Old tile countertops were replaced with Silestone by Constantino, a solid-surface quartz material, with a marble pattern and suede-like finish.

Handmade custom tiles with a hexagon design, by Fireclay of San Francisco, line the kitchen’s back wall. The same geometric pattern is hand painted on the refrigerator. “This was an easy way to add fun elements,” Bustamante says. “That’s a trademark of what we do as designers—we are always creating projects with interesting concepts, designs and ideas.”

The kitchen cabinets are solid walnut, with several upper cabinets painted white. Glass cupboard doors are lined with textiles to conceal the contents. Subtle design touches include matching the tile grout to the color of the white cabinets. “There are these nuances that talk to each other, but you wouldn’t know it. It plays on the design and makes it feel bigger, lighter, less intrusive.”

For consistency, Bustamante used the same walnut cabinets in the laundry room, which includes a coat closet, pullout pantry and tankless water heater.

To bring more light into the home, he replaced the interior doors, including a pocket door between the laundry room and kitchen, with etched-glass doors. “The house is so small that when the doors are closed, I want the light transfer so it doesn’t get dark.”

Molding around the windows is original, and Bustamante kept the old floor heating vents for nostalgia. The fireplace with brick trim is also original, as are the windows. “I kept the windows because they are just too darn cute. For a little bit of efficiency loss, it’s worth it. It’s part of the charm and you can never get it back.”

Lighting, including an “edgy” fixture over the dining table, plays a significant role in embellishing the interior. “The light fixtures are the jewelry of the home. They’ve got to be fantastic,” Bustamante says.

To create a more spacious vibe in the bathroom, the homeowner took out the tub, added a frameless slider on the shower and used large-format porcelain floor tiles. He installed the same walnut cabinets and quartz countertops as in the kitchen, and painted the walls black.

In the bedrooms, Bustamante converted the closets into custom-made, built-in dressers with top and bottom storage. “You gain a ton of room. In these small homes you have to be creative with storage and design.”

While creating a modern, efficient, beautiful home is vital, Bustamante emphasizes the importance of maintaining the originality. “Certain things are what make these bungalows so special. If you get rid of that—even though it may not be totally functional—you end up getting rid of the charm. And I think that’s what people are buying here. They really like the charm of East Sac.”

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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