El Cerrito

The existing building was a small two-bedroom house built at the low end of an uphill lot with about fourteen feet setback from the front property line. We believe one of the reasons that the original owner of the house chose to build such a small footprint was the challenge of extending the house into an uphill/elevated backyard.

The house was a good start as the first house but for long-term use, it suffered from lack of amenities and absence of coherent circulation. For example, both existing bedrooms were too small to be considered as a master, and the one small shared bathroom didn’t allow any room for expansion and improvement. The existing kitchen was ridiculously small, dysfunctional, and blocked off from the rest of the house.


To remodel the house, we needed to find a way to expand the house from the back wall without massive excavation into the uphill backyard. To achieve this task, we incorporated the existing kitchen into the living room and built a new kitchen using a section of the existing concrete patio in the back of the house. We kept the existing bedrooms and bath at their original location and added a new master bedroom, master closet, and master bath on the north-east part of the backyard – beyond the kitchen and living room. This part of the addition was elevated six steps above the existing finish floor to minimize excavation-cut into the uphill backyard.

Interestingly enough this cost-saving solution which significantly reduced the cost of excavation and retaining wall also provided much-needed privacy for the master bedroom and master bath by somewhat elevating them above the more public area of the house. As a result, our design solution, created out of our concern for costly excavation and foundation work, resulted in a better design solution.

A Deck with a sliding door in front of the master bedroom created a dynamic south-facing outdoor area and fully integrated the newly designed addition with the surrounding landscape in the backyard. Redesign of the front yard including landscaping, front stairs, walkways, and a front porch were the final touches that concluded our work on this exciting project.

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