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Name: Kevin and Elise Mirsky, plus their children Rennic (17), Belen (14), and Jude (12), and their dogs Suma and Chevy

Location: San Anselmo, California Square Footage: 1948 square feet Years lived in: 17

The Mirsky family home was originally built in 1939 as a summer cottage for San Francisco residents looking to escape the fog. When Elise and Kevin purchased the home in 1998 it was a tiny, single-story, two bedroom, one and a half bath house. Almost nine years ago they added on a second story master suite and modernized the exterior of the home. After discovering some major issues they just recently completed a remodel of the master bath.

Improvement Center: When did you decide you wanted to remodel?

Elise Mirsky: We had three kids in a two bedroom house, just a little over 1000 square feet, so we either had to move or we had to add on. We love this neighborhood and this location so much because we can walk everywhere, so we decided to do the addition.

IC: How did you find your architect and how did you come up with the design for your remodel?

EM: Andrew donated design time to our kids’ preschool auction. He had designed a house for another family at the same school and we really liked what he did. He gave us a lot more space than we thought we could get out of this house.

IC: Tell me about your process with Andrew. Did you know what you wanted upstairs?

EM: We wanted something that was modern and open and quite simple. Andrew gave us that, as well as just more of everything.

Originally we had around 1100 square feet, now we’re at 1948 square feet. Then Andrew created more living space by adding the great deck outside the front door and the porch off the master bedroom. We’re outside all the time when the weather is nice.

IC: What materials did you use for your construction?

EM: We wanted concrete, wood, glass, and metal because we love the simple clean lines of that.

IC: What was the biggest challenge you faced in your remodel?

EM: We had to move in with my mom and dad for 8 and half months during construction – they live about 30 minutes north of here. The biggest challenge was commuting to get the kids to school and then stopping by our house every day to check on progress.

IC: How did you decide where to splurge?

EM: We knew we wanted Bonelli doors and windows and knew that was going to be a splurge. But they were also a big statement and a necessary one to add to the look of the design.

IC: Were there places you decided to save money?

EM: Our house is so streamlined and the lines are so clean that we didn’t have to pinch anywhere.

IC: If you were to do it over again what would you do differently?

EM: The floors! I would never recommend bamboo floors to anyone. They do not hold up well. They dent easily, they scratch easily, they fade easily, they stain easily there is nothing I like about them anymore. If I could do it all over again, I would do some sort of reclaimed wood or poured concrete flooring.

IC: You added a master bath when you made your upstairs addition 7 years ago and just recently completely remodeled the bathroom again. What happened to bring that about?  

EM: We have a large window in the shower that wasn’t installed properly and it cracked all the grout around it. Water leaked in behind the walls and caused serious dry rot. The space is the same but we replaced all of the materials. We also had issues with the tile – they were African limestone, and they started leaching calcium that accumulated in the drain.

For fear of a repeat we triple waterproofed inside the walls and floor of the shower and used classic, ceramic subway tiles on the walls and poured porcelain tiles for the floor. And we put in the glass shower door we wanted.

IC: You also added some cool design elements…

EM: We did walnut baseboards and brass details. I knew the walls would be painted white with white tile in the shower and the very pale grey floor, but I didn’t want the room to feel cold. So we added brass light fixtures and walnut to warm it up. Those are two of my favorite materials. We did the baseboards as high as we could find the wood. I feel like if you’re going to do something let it make a statement.  

IC: Tell us about your custom glass shower door.

EM: When we did our original remodel we had a couple of cabinets custom made, and I gave the cabinet maker specific shapes to cut out as handles. We didn’t want any hardware. It’s just one more thing that can break. So when we were doing the shower we did one big glass wall and one door that pivots and asked the glass man to do a cutout similar to the shape on our cabinets. The guy who cut the door and the guys who installed said they’d never seen anything like that handle but they all liked it!  There is a great simplicity and lovely design element to it.

IC: What’s next on your renovation list?

EM: The next biggie is the kitchen. It’s still the original one from 1939. Our same architect, Andrew, is drawing up designs. And we’ll replace the bamboo floor in the living room and kitchen. I love the consistency of repeat materials throughout the house so maybe we’ll use the same flooring from the master bathroom. We may replace the fireplace as well and have a Malm fireplace in the corner of the living room to gain more seating space. We’ll probably do the kitchen next summer. Check back in a year and see where we are!

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