Lift a Cottage to Save a Cottage

Los Gatos, CA

Starting with the second smallest house (400 square feet) on a tiny parcel in the town of Los Gatos, a town Historic Preservation Committee mandate to preserve this 1912-era historically significant Arts and Crafts cottage, and a client program to triple the size of the house, we faced a real challenge.

How do you preserve a structure while adding more than twice its floor area? Given the tight parcel, we had no choice but to add a second story and vertical additions always require earthquake strenghthing of the existing floor below. The 6.9 magnitude 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake made us very aware of that!

We were forced to think outside of the box. It had never been done before in Los Gatos but we decided to lift the cottage to save the cottage. After presenting the concept to the town Historic Preservation Committee and securing their preliminary approval, we designed a ground floor addition for the cottage, making the cottage the upper floor. This allowed us to leave all of the walls of the cottage intact and meant that we had little strengthing work to do to the original structure. All of the strength would be in the 100% new foundation and new ground floor walls.

The original very low front porch became the new stair hall. We filled the old openings with windows leaving the old porch as open as before. We copied period detailing such as the flared shingle wall base and simple 4×4 outrigger eave braces. We added other detailing such as the white painted wood corbled shelf below the stair windows, carved porch beam supports, and painted siding used for select walls at the base of the building.

Inside the original cottage, now the upper floor of the residence, we converted the old living/dining room to a bedroom and hall, remodeled an old bathroom, and converted the kitchen into the larger bedroom, and added closets. Inside the new lower floor we kept to the proportions and detailing of the original cottage while making concessions to modern expectations such as a modern heating and air conditioning system, having a kitchen open to the family room and dining, and providing for a small half-bath under the stair. The end result: cute as a bug’s ear and as snug and cozy as you could ever want.


Michael McKay
Staff designer:

Harlan Bradley

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