Home Office in a Water Tower

Christina Schmidhoffer
Homeowners find a creative new workspace in an old backyard water tower

Architect Geoffrey Holton was to evaluate a 1950s ranch house for the possibility of adding a home office. Instead, he ended up turning their 1920 water tower― built when the property was part of a ranch―into the needed work space.

“The first time I saw it, it was very close to falling down, but I thought it was fantastic,” says Holton. “It was like a little piece of history on a typical suburban lot.”

First, the practical: Builders stabilized the tower and added flashing to make it waterproof. Next, they restored the windows and added a ring of transomlike windows at the base of the tower.

Christina Schmidhoffer<br/>

The floors were patched and refinished, and the walls received a fresh coat of white paint. The formerly dark, musty building became light-filled and bright.

Holton designed a desk, shelves, and cabinets using recycled wood and other green materials. Boards were installed between existing beams to make artful bookshelves. The tank was preserved for future use as an observatory for the kids.

“The whole project has the spirit of sustainable building,” says Holton. “We all saw the value of saving what was there.”

Christina Schmidhoffer<br/>

DESIGN: Geoffrey Holton and Associates, Oakland (510/663-9797); S.E.A. Construction, San Carlos, CA (650/802-9585).

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