Before & After: A Stuffy Bay Area Midcentury Opens Up to Light and Hillside Views
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Before & After: A Stuffy Bay Area Midcentury Opens Up to Light and Hillside Views

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By Melissa Dalton
Once dark and dated, the Cheng-Reinganum House in Orinda, California, now enjoys an outdoor connection thanks to a gut renovation.

Despite being located on top of a hillside with views of Mount Diablo, the original house on this Orinda site did not take advantage of its bounty. 

"While it had an interesting plan organization, it suffered from very low ceilings and eaves (6’-4") that effectively blocked almost all views and created dark and uninviting interior spaces," say the architects at Swatt | Miers Architects, who were responsible for the transformation. They took the house down to the foundation and created a new home on the footprint, weaving in lots of glass to better access the outstanding views and natural light. 

Before: The Exterior

Before: "With the children close to college age, the owners embarked on this project to create a new home that reflects their new lifestyle—with single-level open planning, seamless connections to the outdoors, space for the children to call 'home' when they return from college, and a lower-level guest suite for visiting parents," say the architects.

Before: "With the children close to college age, the owners embarked on this project to create a new home that reflects their new lifestyle—with single-level open planning, seamless connections to the outdoors, space for the children to call 'home' when they return from college, and a lower-level guest suite for visiting parents," say the architects.

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After: The Exterior

The team took the home down to the foundation and rebuilt on the existing footprint, which is composed of three wings: one that houses the living and dining spaces, one that includes the kitchen and family room, and a third that contains the master suite. The new facade combines Western Red Cedar for the siding, vertical slats, and roof fascia with white cement plaster accents.

The team took the home down to the foundation and rebuilt on the existing footprint, which is composed of three wings: one that houses the living and dining spaces, one that includes the kitchen and family room, and a third that contains the master suite. The new facade combines Western Red Cedar for the siding, vertical slats, and roof fascia with white cement plaster accents.

Before: The Entry

Before: The previous front door opened into a circulation corridor.

Before: The previous front door opened into a circulation corridor.

After: The Entry

The architects created an entry vestibule by reorienting the front door.

The architects created an entry vestibule by reorienting the front door.

Before: The Front Stairs

Before: The front stairs needed an update.

Before: The front stairs needed an update.

After: The Front Stairs

New concrete stairs, interspersed with Ipe decking, visually connect with the house.

New concrete stairs, interspersed with Ipe decking, visually connect with the house.


Before: Living and Dining Room

Before: An outdated fireplace dominated the semi-open plan and divided the living and dining rooms.

Before: An outdated fireplace dominated the semi-open plan and divided the living and dining rooms.

After: The Living and Dining Room

"Higher ceilings and plenty of daylight were a must," say the architects. The ceilings in the living room are 13-feet-high, making the interior feel more open and welcoming.

"Higher ceilings and plenty of daylight were a must," say the architects. The ceilings in the living room are 13-feet-high, making the interior feel more open and welcoming.

Shop the Look
Fritz Hansen 4 Leg Ant Chair
Fritz Hansen 4 Leg Ant Chair
 Originally designed for the canteen at Novo Nordisk, an international Danish healthcare company, the Ant Chair (1952) faced an unclear future when the manufacturer expressed concern about its potential.
Blu Dot Rook Table Lamp
Blu Dot Rook Table Lamp
Checkmate! You can move the Blu Dot Rook Table Lamp forward and backward, left and right, even diagonally, which just isn't legal in a real game of chess. A lamp that has great conversational appeal, this guy features an Off-White fabric shade and a solid Walnut body.
Crate & Barrel Baxter Wool Rug
Crate & Barrel Baxter Wool Rug
A variegated heather effect looms a family of tonals to ground the room in fresh "solids" with more interest, more range, more depth and more texture. Hand-loomed of plush New Zealand wool.
The use of Western Red Cedar for the interior accents feels cohesive with the exterior.

The use of Western Red Cedar for the interior accents feels cohesive with the exterior.

"Floor-to-ceiling glazing provides strong indoor/outdoor connections while carefully placed clerestory windows serve to infuse the home with dappled light from above, affording views of sky and treetops," says the firm.

"Floor-to-ceiling glazing provides strong indoor/outdoor connections while carefully placed clerestory windows serve to infuse the home with dappled light from above, affording views of sky and treetops," says the firm.


Before: Kitchen and Family Room

Before: Dark cabinetry and low ceilings made the kitchen feel cramped.

Before: Dark cabinetry and low ceilings made the kitchen feel cramped.

Before: Jarring, mismatched finishes chopped up the family room.

Before: Jarring, mismatched finishes chopped up the family room.

After: The Kitchen and Family Room

A Caesarstone quartz slab envelopes custom-made, rift-cut, white oak cabinetry with a dark brown stain, and bounces the natural light coming in from the doors and windows. Glossy white cabinets further lighten the space, while a Heath tile backsplash brings a pop of color and pattern.

A Caesarstone quartz slab envelopes custom-made, rift-cut, white oak cabinetry with a dark brown stain, and bounces the natural light coming in from the doors and windows. Glossy white cabinets further lighten the space, while a Heath tile backsplash brings a pop of color and pattern.

A look back at the deck that wraps the living and dining room wing, and cantilevers into the canopy. The stainless-steel railing doesn’t impede sightlines.

A look back at the deck that wraps the living and dining room wing, and cantilevers into the canopy. The stainless-steel railing doesn’t impede sightlines.

The family room merges seamlessly with the new outdoor space thanks to all the glass.

The family room merges seamlessly with the new outdoor space thanks to all the glass.

A linear pool was inserted between the family and bedroom wings.

A linear pool was inserted between the family and bedroom wings.


Cheng-Reinganum House floor plans

Cheng-Reinganum House floor plans