They broke up with two architects before finding the right one

When Gagan and Jasmin Arneja purchased a Bay Area hillside home designed in 1975, they knew it would need some work. But with large win...


When Gagan and Jasmin Arneja purchased a Bay Area hillside home designed in 1975, they knew it would need some work. But with large windows offering sweeping views of San Francisco and an interior lined with distinctive redwood plywood panels, there was already a lot about the house they loved.

So after closing in 2011 for around $1.5 million, they moved in unchanged. “We think it takes at least three to four years to understand the quirks, pros and cons of a house,” said Ms Arneja, photographer. “We didn’t want to tear it up or remodel it before we even had a chance to get to know the house.”

“The house changes with the seasons,” added Mr. Arneja, software engineer at Arista Networks, noting that the house, designed by architect Albert Lanier, has overhangs that allow the interior to be flooded with sunlight. in winter, while shading summer — something they wouldn’t have understood if they didn’t live there.

The couple, who are in their late 40s, also couldn’t help but notice the shortcomings. The three-story home is nestled into the hillside, with the main entrance and main living space at the top. But the bedrooms, one level below, seemed poorly finished, and the lower level which was not finished at all. The house also had ineffective single-glazed windows, and its original kitchen and bathrooms were in desperate need of renovation.

In 2016, the Arnejas were finally ready to make some changes, but they weren’t looking to do a gut renovation. They wanted to keep the redwood paneling they loved, while expanding the house to make it more comfortable for family visits (Mr. Arneja’s parents sometimes stay for months when they come from India), improve its efficiency energy, replace its fixtures and appliances from the 1970s and add a few touches of style to make it your own.

Finding the right architect for such a job was not easy. They hired one, but soon realized they had very different ideas about how the house should be updated. They moved on to another, but also found the proposed design too cumbersome.

“It’s like going through bad relationships,” Ms Arneja said. “The house needed an architect who was less ego-driven, mature enough and confident enough to undertake the renovation of a house with a strong architectural identity and not feel pressured to put their stamp on it.”

Fortunately, Monique Viarengoa landscape designer who had consulted with the couple’s second architect, thought she knew the right person for the job: her husband, Brett Terpeluk, the director of Studio Terpeluk. When the Arnejas met him, it looked like a perfect match.

“I think Brett’s sensibility is veering towards Italian sensibility,” Mr. Arneja said. “It’s not about creating these clean, clean, modern lines; it’s really, in its entirety, about how hot everything feels.

Mr. Terpeluk understood why the couple wanted to preserve so much. “When I walked into the house, the architecture really resonated with me,” he said. “It has such a beautiful, almost mystical quality to the way the space embraces you. Taking a curatorial approach to maintaining that, while enhancing the house, was the right approach.

His plan called for extending and finishing the lower level, to make room for an office and a media room with a kitchenette that overlooks a new garden designed by Ms. Viarengo; updated bedrooms and bathrooms on the second level; and making surgical additions to the main top floor living areas.

Throughout this time, Mr. Terpeluk worked with Beatrice Santiccioli, a color consultant, to coat new architectural elements in unexpected hues. Cabinets in the remodeled kitchen are finished in mint green and soft pink lacquer, and a nearby console table is upholstered in sunny yellow. The master bedroom has fitted wardrobes with aubergine hues, and the adjoining bathroom has similarly colored mosaic tiles.

Each level has access to exterior spaces, including the garden, an interior courtyard, and balconies, primarily through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors.

Beneath his feet, Mr. Terpeluk installed whitewashed Douglas fir flooring with dark brown knots, salvaged from old pier pilings, where the house previously had dark stained oak. Then he connected the three levels with a sculptural folding steel staircase with a handrail resembling a shepherd’s crook. Coming down the stairs is now “a kind of cinematic experience”, Mr Terpeluk said, as it meanders past the different colors of the different levels.

The Arnejas moved out when construction began in the fall of 2017 and returned to their completed home in the summer of 2020, having spent around $500,000 on the renovation. It took nearly a decade of dreaming, designing and building, but now that their 3,200 square foot home is complete, they know their patience has paid off.

“We use every part of the house every day,” Ms Arneja said, as they moved between spaces to sleep, work, eat and relax. And when no one is staying with them, she added, the guest bedroom doubles as a gym.

“The end result is a house that’s different from the one we started with, but that doesn’t destroy what was already there,” Arneja said. “It highlights it.”

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