No Longer Off-Kilter

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By Jenny Xie
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An architect and designer couple rescued their partly-sunken home and transformed a dilapidated garage into a modern living room.

When architect Wendi Sue and designer Lukas Bruggemann purchased their home in Piedmont, California, they knew they had their work cut out for them. Though the structure had the benefit of large windows and high ceilings, it had sunk 11 inches at one end, giving the home a pronounced slant. The couple got cracking, starting by gutting the house. They installed a custom stairway that led to a renovated basement level and transformed a deteriorating garage into an outdoor living area, complete with a loft lookout for their two sons. The resulting residence has double the original footprint and combines historic and modern elements for a look that exudes warmth and comfort.

Continuing the theme of incorporating old and new, the couple furnished their home with family heirlooms from Thailand, Germany, and China alongside modern pieces. 

Continuing the theme of incorporating old and new, the couple furnished their home with family heirlooms from Thailand, Germany, and China alongside modern pieces. 

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Succulents and produce maintain the home's California vibes.

Succulents and produce maintain the home's California vibes.

When connecting the basement level to the rest of the home, Wendi Sue chose a contemporary railing that would still cohere with the more traditional vernacular throughout. The custom steel stairwell features a matte black powder finish and pickets of tensioned military parachute cord.  

When connecting the basement level to the rest of the home, Wendi Sue chose a contemporary railing that would still cohere with the more traditional vernacular throughout. The custom steel stairwell features a matte black powder finish and pickets of tensioned military parachute cord.  

Wendi took advantage of the space under the stairs by installing a daybed; bedding is stored in a drawer hidden behind a baseboard. 

Wendi took advantage of the space under the stairs by installing a daybed; bedding is stored in a drawer hidden behind a baseboard. 

Awkwardly shaped and saddled with a run-down garage, the backyard posed a challenge. Since the city wouldn’t allow for the removal of the garage, Wendi and Lukas decided to convert it into additional living space.

Awkwardly shaped and saddled with a run-down garage, the backyard posed a challenge. Since the city wouldn’t allow for the removal of the garage, Wendi and Lukas decided to convert it into additional living space.

The minimalist garage takes the form of an archetypal house. The gutters and weather- and waterproofing are concealed by redwood slats that can be removed for future repairs. Black Pine Tar coats the rainscreen, creating a striking contrast to the warm interior.

The minimalist garage takes the form of an archetypal house. The gutters and weather- and waterproofing are concealed by redwood slats that can be removed for future repairs. Black Pine Tar coats the rainscreen, creating a striking contrast to the warm interior.

Clear Heart redwood creates a glowing interior. 

Clear Heart redwood creates a glowing interior. 

Pivot doors to the storage area are disguised by redwood siding.

Pivot doors to the storage area are disguised by redwood siding.

The couple’s children had requested a treehouse, but the lack of old growth trees on the property prompted Wendi and Lukas to include a loft above the renovated garage. The hatch skylights allow the boys to have a lookout over the backyard, and the chalkboard wall is great for doodling.

The couple’s children had requested a treehouse, but the lack of old growth trees on the property prompted Wendi and Lukas to include a loft above the renovated garage. The hatch skylights allow the boys to have a lookout over the backyard, and the chalkboard wall is great for doodling.