A gorgeous midcentury modern home — highlighted by a sunken conversation pit with a drop-down fireplace in the middle and a stunning reflecting pool outside — is available in Sacramento for $1.385 million after the owner spent a year updating the residence and ensuring that the original details and design stayed true to the era.
Susan Pillon — a huge fan of the midcentury modern style — purchased the home designed by prominent Sacramento architect John Harvey Carter for $750,000 in late 2020. She bought the home, built in 1968, from the original owners. It hadn’t been on the market in more than 50 years, and remained fairly untouched during that time.
“The reflecting pool, the conversation pit, and there’s a flat roof, all together, you really don’t get too many homes out there, especially in this area, that would have all of those features in one,” she said. “And, of course, John Harvey Carter, being a very well known, established designer/architect, really makes this special.”
The home at 729 Columbia Drive in Arden Arcade spans 2,232 square feet on nearly a third of an acre with three bedrooms and three baths.
Pillon, who is also the listing agent for the home with Nick Sadek Sotheby’s International Realty, and Dr. Jason Trummer, her boyfriend, set about preserving period details — from the ornate woodwork to the floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors. Pillon has even staged the home with retro furniture to fit the midcentury modern era.
Pillon’s and Trummer’s journey began when they saw the home featured on Facebook by SacMod.
“This was just one of those, that I’ve seen enough in real estate, where (people) buy a house that looks like this and inside they gut it, and everything about it is gone,” she said. “This would probably be gone, all the cabinets, all the kitchen, brand new cabinetry. And I just thought, ‘can’t let this happen to this house. I’ve got to have it. ‘ So I did. I actually wrote a letter to the sellers and said I want to do as little as possible to (the original features of) this house. And I really stuck to that. I had contractors, a (project manager), they had their own idea of what we should do, and I keep saying no, no, I made a promise.”
“The sellers really entrusted me with the house,” she added.
The remodeling work was arduous but fulfilling, PIllon said.
Working with Sacramento contractor Richard Sanders, Pillon added a full master bath with a steam shower and a soaking tub, built on a laundry room, tore out the old orange carpet and outdated flooring and installed light-colored cement tile throughout the living spaces. They eliminated the old popcorn ceilings, reconstructed some plumbing, placed stepping stones across the reflecting pond and relandscaped the yard, among other work.
The home features large windows bringing natural light into nearly every room, a private yard with mature landscaping and a sizable family room with views of the reflecting pool on one side and side yard on the other. Bursts of color accent the warm earth tones of the wood cabinetry and kitchen countertops.
“With midcentury, you don’t do the whole thing that way, (but) you need these big, grand pops of color,” PIllon said. “You need homage to the time period.”
Count Sacramento appraiser and housing market analyst Ryan Lundquist among fans of the home.
“There are midcentury modern homes and there are super custom midcentury modern homes, and this one is the latter,” he said. “This is midcentury modern on steroids with ornate woodworking, floor-to-ceiling windows, and the largest conversation pit I’ve ever seen. Not everyone likes midcentury modern architecture, but I think this home reeks of quality design and it’s something buyers looking for something special are going to be able to appreciate.”
“This is a must-see for fans of midcentury ranch homes and John Harvey Carter architecture,” according to the listing. The home hit the market December 10, 2021.
There aren’t large tracts of midcentury modern homes in Sacramento neighborhoods, and Pillon’s house stands among ranch-style residences on Columbia Street. And that’s a good thing, Lundquist believes.
“This property stands out because there are zero other custom midcentury homes on the street, but that’s not a detriment,” Lundquist said. “In real estate, we often hear about the principle of conformity in that units need to be mostly alike to maximize value, but that’s not something that applies rigidly here as buyers don’t expect to find a street with nothing but custom midcentury modern homes. In other words, a custom unit like this sitting among many ranch homes is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of buyers.”
The asking price for the home, which is located in Arden Arcade, seems fair in today’s Sacramento housing market, Lundquist said. It’s common to see million-dollar sales in the 95864 area.
“A whopping 24.4% of all single-family residential sales in 2021 have been above one-million dollars in the ZIP code,” Lunquist said.
For the entire Sacramento region, about 7% of all sales have been above $1 million, he said.
“This might sound like a minor figure, but over the past twelve months we’ve actually seen over twice as many million-dollar sales in the region compared to the previous years,” he said. “It’s easy to blame this all on the Bay Area, but this million-dollar explosion has been happening across the entire country. In Sacramento, this comes down to buyers taking advantage of mortgage rates around 3%, higher-income workers being able to work from home, higher wage-earners thriving financially over the past year, and of course increased Bay Area migration.”