When Ayesha Sikandar and her husband walked into
the 1960s ranch-style house in San Mateo, it had the signs of an angry
exit _ walls with holes that looked as though someone kicked them in.
Neighbors told them the owner had lost his job, his relationship, his
health and finally, in foreclosure, his home. The house had become an
But this couple from Pakistan, who had studied and worked in the Bay
Area for a decade and saved for so long, finally found a house they
“It’s not a good feeling to go into someone’s house who has gone
through that,” she said. “But the time and price were right for us and
we made it our own.”
The single-story, 1,350-square foot tract home needed a lot of work, but had a nice floorplan that opened to a south-facing backyard. They saw potential .
So they took it upon themselves to turn this house of sorrow back into a happy home.
First, the budding designer and her husband, Musa Sayyed, an artist who designs games for LucusArts in San Francisco, had to agree on a style.
“I’m very modern. My husband likes warm and traditional,” she said. “He was a tough client to please.”
And they needed to stay on budget, which meant many do-it-yourself projects that had them working side-by-side past midnight.
They tackled the big projects first — new handscraped hardwood flooring and double-paned windows. A straight replacement would have meant customizing windows to fit in the spaces. Instead, they made the openings a bit smaller to accommodate standard-size windows.
They also ripped out a kitchen wall and hanging cabinets that separated the kitchen from the big dining and living rooms, creating an open, entertaining space. From Ikea to Lowe’s and Home Depot, they found rolling coffee tables, modern pendant lights and peel-and-stick, rectangular metal plates to add a contemporary dimension to the kitchen backsplash — as well as the corners of her dining room table legs.
A huge brick fireplace separating the dining and living rooms was also given a new look, with a creamy stucco finish.
Sikandar, who has launched her own Maddimensions design firm, embraced a bold, modern palette of black and white, but also introduced warm gold and orange hues to satisfy her husband’s aesthetic. Travertine was used in the bathroom and bands of warm-hued glass mozaic tiles were used to add sparkle and depth to the kitchen and fireplace.
Sikandar’s favorite design element, and by far the cheapest, was the swirling stencil pattern she used on several walls throughout the house to unify the rooms and add a signature element.
They also re-landscaped the back yard to give themselves a bigger lawn and removed the corrogated green roof from the trellis to bring more light into the house.
“My husband and I had our moments,” she said. “But at night, when we sit by the fire, we think we did alright and we’re happy.”
The neighbors are happy, too. Often through the summer, they would stop by with gifts of fresh vegetables from their garden.,
“This was a milestone for us,” Sikandar said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Here’s the complete slideshow: