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 Name: Anne and Mark Miller with their kids Jackson (19) and Sophia (17), and their dog Stanley

Location: San Anselmo, California  Square Footage: 2,276 sq. ft.   Years lived in: 18

The Millers have lived in their San Anselmo home for 18 years. Originally built in the mid-1930s, the Millers are only the second owners. They have raised their two children here and completed a kitchen and dining room remodel in 2003.

Improvement Center: How would you describe your style?

AM: Clean and simple, for sure. I don’t like fussy details. I like a really authentic look. I don’t want to hide the fridge, the fridge is the fridge. I like things to be what they are but I also like them to be simple and straightforward.

IC: Tell me what your kitchen looked like before?

AM: It really wasn’t functional. There was hardly any counter or storage space. The stove was right inside the door when you walked in the kitchen, and someone had made a makeshift counter that was really high with open space below it. And then where the windows are now was a long skinny pie cupboard that had slats that were open to the outside so air could flow through.

IC: What was top priority for you on your kitchen remodel?

AM: Windows and light (which is why we sacrificed our upper cabinets) and counter space. We have our dishes in a drawer because the only upper cabinets are way down at the other end and we wanted our dishes close to the dining room. All along we said, “I so don’t care about resale value, we need to do what works for us in this house, right now.”

IC: Did you design your kitchen yourself? And what was your vision?

AM: We had an architect because we had to have drawn out plans for the city. We knew we wanted marble, we knew we wanted white. And then the space kind of dictated where everything went. There’s a chimney next to the fridge (it’s dry-walled over and painted with chalkboard paint now) or else we could have done a slightly different layout.

We also knew we wanted open windows to the backyard so we didn’t want to put the stove in that space. And I didn’t want to come in the front door, look down the hall, and see the dishwasher. So the dishwasher had to go on the other side of the sink.

IC: What would you change or do differently? 

AM: I would not have that big range. There are absolutely times we use all six burners but I would have gotten the smaller size that doesn’t have the griddle. And I really love floor to ceiling storage and I love the idea of a dish pantry. But it’s all fine.

IC: Any advice for homeowners who are renovating?

AM: My biggest lesson is do NOT look at all the choices. Kind of know what you like and look at a bunch of stuff and sit with it for a while and you’ll end up coming back to what really resonates with you. And don’t second guess yourself beyond that point. Especially once your project is underway. Just go with something you love.  We were going to do the wood floors, and then at a certain point, when things were underway, I saw a kitchen with a stone floor and I thought, “I want a stone floor.” And I ordered grey tiles. Oh, it was awful. We ordered the tiles and they came and I loved the way they looked but suddenly I realized how funny would it look to have the stone floor there, because it connects to the wood floors in the hall and the dining room – and also a stone floor in a kitchen, everything you drop breaks. So then I had to say, “So sorry, but we really have to do wood.” We said we’d use them in a bathroom someday, which we did.

IC: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

AM: We didn’t have a ton of challenges. I guess for me the biggest challenge was I really wanted to be able to configure things slightly differently. I was wishing the chimney wasn’t there because it meant the fridge had to go where it is. So just accepting the limitations of the space was probably the biggest challenge.

IC: Did you do your dining room at the same time as your kitchen?

AM: Yes. We knew we needed more storage so we pushed out the east-facing wall and added the built-in. And we put in a set of French doors leading out to the backyard. There was a swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room, and we opened up the doorway and took the door off. You know, it was built in the thirties, probably the help was in the kitchen or whoever was cooking and you didn’t want to see them. I love walking in the front door and looking down the hall toward the kitchen.

IC: Did you have certain things you wanted to splurge on and others areas where you wanted to save?

AM: We knew we wanted a good range; that was a splurge. But 13 years ago there weren’t all the things you have access to through the internet now. You were really looking around yourself.

IC: You built a deck off of your dining room. How long ago did you add that?

AM: Five years ago. For years we wanted to do something out there. I kind of wanted there to be a big stone patio. But it was more expensive plus we had to protect the redwood tree. And Mark always wanted a deck so it would open immediately off the house. And he was totally right.

IC: Do you have any other renovations on your project list?

AM: The yard! We’re actually starting. This is going to be the summer of the yard!

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