Doing over an open-plan house. New entry, fireplace, upstairs master suite.

How do you add a little formality to an Eichler–the California tract house best known for its open-plan informality–and at the same time make room for a new master bedroom? The task was handed to San Francisco architect Daniel Solomon, asked to remodel a house in Mill Valley, California.

The living room suffered from a lack of definition: the front door opened directly into the room, and the fireplace seemed lost in a corner away from the dramatically gabled central space (the galleria). Two floor surfaces, tile and wood, added to the confusion.

Solomon removed the old fireplace and added a new one in the galleria, giving this high space added focus at the heart of the house. The new fireplace also acts as a divider between the front door and living areas, in effect defining an entry for the first time. He extended the tile floor to cover the entire entertainment area.

Opposite the front door, he fitted an almost sculptural stairways–wide at the base, narrower at the top–between existing posts. A window at the top of the stairs and a skylight above a short upstairs hall flood the area with light. By acting as the focal point for the entry, the stairway reinforces the separation between entertainment and areas, giving both a more formal feeling.

Because of site constraints, the only way to go with the bedroom addition was up. Solomon placed the 22-by 25-foot master suite on top of the existing three-bedroom wing. To support the addition, he added extra joists and a plywood subfloor to the former roof.

Upstairs, Solomon treated the new bathroom, behind the bed, as a sort of walk-through headboard. For easy access, he provided a door at each end. A couple of steps from each door are a built-in vanity and walk-in closet. The bed is placed to take advantage of the view out a corner window and glass balcony doors. Pipe railings help link bedroom and balcony.

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