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.

This 1920 backyard water tower was built when this property used to be a ranch. Now a residence, the owners needed a home office.

 

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

Builders stabilized the tower and added flashing to make it waterproof. They restored the windows and added a ring of transomlike windows at the base of the tower. After finishing the interior, the old ranch water tower is now a cozy home office.

More about this project

 Christina Schmidhoffer

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.”

Inside, shelves added to posts and braces make efficient book storage.

 Christina Schmidhoffer

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

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