A “Dialogue Between Old and New” in an Updated California Victorian

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
1 / 8
Living room with bay window bench, refurbished coal fireplace, custom shelving (Image credit: Benjamin Photographics)

Name: Ben and his family
Location: Alameda, California
The basics: 4 years, owned | 1,500 square feet

Ben and has family tackled the mammoth undertaking of renovating and updating a Victorian home but found that living in the home during the reno helped them create a space more personally tailored to their needs.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: We bought the house in 2010, knowing it was in need of a major renovation. The 1886 Queen Anne Victorian had much of the interior detailing intact—though painted over. And the exterior needed to be significantly restored. The house was well-suited to our family of 4 (Ben: 38, Taryn: 39, Larkin: 8 and Elliot: 5).

The 1,500 square foot single-level layout was preserved for the most part, with a few doorways closed up in cases where two doors led to the same room. The 12′ ceilings became something to celebrate, with a base color scheme of white throughout, and southern light bathing most of the rooms. The interior renovation became a dialogue between old and new: keeping original details but reinterpreting or editing them with modern touches. Picture rail trim throughout was maintained, but custom picture rail hooks were created from extruded aluminum trim. The fire place was painted gray, and the bay window was fitted with a custom bench with a walnut shelf. Walnut became an accent throughout the house, used for other shelves in the living room and reappearing on the chairs of the dining room table. Lighting is perhaps the most noticeable modern feature throughout the renovation, with a glass pendant in the living room, a laser-cut paper pendant in the entry, and a custom-designed “Cookery Pendant” in the dining room, fashioned from a steel wok.

The kitchen needed a focal point, which took the form of a central “command center” inspired by Joseph Albers “Homage to a Square” the inset painted area extends up onto the ceiling, defining a zone for artfully contained necessities and electronics. The kids bedroom had an awkward “nub” when the adjacent bathroom was enlarged (in a previous renovation before our purchase) We turned this into an opportunity to create a second level “loft-bridge” for the kids. A bookshelf-ladder leads up to it, while the underside is covered with a leave canopy to become a “rainforest ceiling” adjacent to their bunk beds. The sun room in the rear of the house is part office, part breakfast nook, and part utility room, all neatly arranged in an approximately 120 square foot area.

What is your favorite room and why? The dining room is our favorite because of the south light coming in through the two tall double-hung windows, and it best tells the story of old-meets-new. The white and gray paint scheme still provides a nod to the original wainscot datum of trim around the room, and the picture rail holds a geographic story of everywhere we have lived. The central pendant light was the first light fixture I ever designed, and has been used to launch my company, Mickus Projects.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? The Incredibles because each room is unique in its own way, and the renovation of the house as a whole was a heroic effort, which our entire family participated in.

Ben’s words of wisdom: We have found that renovations are best when you’ve lived in the home for a bit before starting it and living in the home through the process. We were very closely attached to the process, and found opportunities for spontaneous customization throughout.

Thanks, Ben!

• Interested in sharing your home with Apartment Therapy? Contact the editors through our House Tour & House Call Submission Form.