Real Estate

Big blowout on small budget

Mountain View remodel updates kitchen, adds master bath

Karen Eichstadt-Coy's family of three often found themselves squeezed into one bathroom in their 1,100-square-foot house. When their 10-year-old's friends played in their cul-de-sac they often stormed through the house to use that bathroom, since the half bath was harder to get to.

They were also cooking in a kitchen that would have looked at home in the early '60s and was cut off from the rest of the house.

With a limited budget, Eichstadt-Coy set out to improve the flow of the house through the kitchen, add a luxurious master bathroom and carve out a nook for her projects and paperwork -- all while adding fewer than 300 square feet to the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house.

Everything in the kitchen, including the wiring, was wildly outdated, so it was a total scrape. Karen kept costs low by buying floor models and remnants while splurging on one key component in each room. That splurge was the backsplash tile that covers the two main walls of the open kitchen, above the range and sink. The tiles are white and rectangular with a raised oval. The kitchen bargain she's most proud of is the marble slab that makes up the bar where the kitchen opens to the living and dining areas.

Most everything in the kitchen was rearranged -- windows, doors, walls and appliances. The flow of the kitchen is greatly improved from the living-dining area on through to the half bath, which also moved.

Another goal of the remodel was to make the house very kid-friendly, and Eichstadt-Coy says they succeeded. They love their neighborhood and now she has a great "perch" from which she can see the kids playing on the street as she works in the kitchen.

Before, stepping into the half bath from the kitchen meant stepping down and effectively entering the garage, which didn't make the bathroom feel very cozy. Now you walk through what Karen calls her "mom's pantry" (as opposed to a butler's pantry; it's where she keeps schedules and paperwork) to get to the half bath. That room is painted with chalkboard paint where family and friends alike add their own art and quotes for a whimsical background.

The master bath is where most of the square footage was added. The family had all been using the cramped hall bath. Now they have a wide shower stall (soaking can be done in the coming-soon hot tub, which will be right out the door from the master suite), his-and-hers sinks and plenty of storage. The splurge in this room was the toilet. Yes, the toilet.

The Toto Washlet was her husband Bill Coy's choice. It's similar to a bidet but with drying, deodorizing and white-noise options to muffle the sound of private bathroom functions. The toilet retails for about $750.

Other choices in the master bathroom meant big cost savings: An old bookcase with distressed wood was disassembled and the lumber found new life as the vanity cabinet fronts. Karen found discontinued tile that she liked at a store in San Jose. She says she saved a lot of money by doing the legwork herself -- visiting stone and tile warehouses around the Bay Area, comparing prices on similar materials and hunting for deals.

They continue to save money since they installed new plumbing to include a hot water recirculating system and a high-efficiency water heater, which means instant hot water at the taps and big savings on water and electricity. "It feels luxurious to twist the hot tap and immediately experience hot water," Eichstadt-Coy says.

The master bedroom got some attention, too: They pushed out one wall into the guest bedroom to make space for a walk-in closet. They installed a recessed nook for the wall-mounted flat-screen TV.

When your house is less than 1,400 square feet, "every inch counts," Eichstadt-Coy says.


Architect: Henry Wood, Mountain View, 650-961-1926

Building contractor: Mick F. Sorey Custom Remodeling, San Carlos, 650-743-2933

Countertop installer: Ron Kipling, San Jose, 408-309-5387

Goals of project:

Add another full bath, open up kitchen and allow access to the backyard, improve access to a half bath

Unanticipated issues:

Had to redo almost all of the electrical throughout the house; had to change design of vanity because a marble remnant Karen found was heavier than the original material

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

1,154 sq ft, 3-bed, 1.5-bath before, 1,377 sq ft, 3-bed, 2.5-bath after; on 5,700-sq-ft lot

Time to complete:

Nine months


$170,000 (planned to spend $125,000)


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