Exterior of Andy Carpentier's Sonora Cabin, photo by Kat Alves
Preservation Magazine, Winter 2017

An Architect's Weekend House In Sonora, California

Joseph McCullough Cabin, circa 1866
Sonora, California
Interviewee: Andy Carpentier, owner

WHY THIS HOUSE: I’m an architect and I do a lot of preservation work to begin with. Also, it was intriguing and a challenge. It’s a great location, a block from historic North Washington Street in Sonora. The neighborhood is called Piety Hill—the town has a lot of churches.

There were some outrageous things. When you flushed the toilet in the master bath, a fountain would erupt in the front yard. It was like the TV show Green Acres.

Kitchen in Andy Carpentier's home, photo by Kat Alves

The kitchen's original beadboard ceiling has been restored.

PAST AND PRESENT: The county courthouse is a block and a half away, and it was relatively easy to find the property records. We found out we’re the 14th owners. The house was originally owned by someone named Joseph McCullough. In the 1870s it was expanded from two rooms to six rooms. In the 1950s a major remodel was done. They added 2-by-4 studs onto the existing walls, and drop ceilings. To get from the bedroom to the bath, you had to go through the kitchen and the living room. I turned the plan 90 degrees—it made more sense functionally.

ORIGINAL MATERIAL: The living room had vinyl asbestos tile on top of Masonite, probably added in the 1950s. Under that were the original floorboards with three coats of paint. We had to rip all that off and have somebody refinish those.

We found beadboard ceilings above the drop ceiling. That became the inspiration for what to do with the walls. Beadboard was a very American and available material throughout the history of the house. We thought it would maintain the historical quality of the interiors.

Porch at Andy Carpentier's House, photo by Kat Alves

Carpentier on the house's front porch.

Detail of Sonora Cabin, photo by Kat Alves

A framed vignette of the 1950s kitchen wallpaper.

HIS FAVORITE DETAIL: In the kitchen, a hole in the wall is framed and covered with glass, so you can see the old wallpaper. There’s another one of these wallpaper vignettes in the living room, and a third in the bedroom, framed out in Victorian molding.

Can't get enough photos of this house? Check out more images from our photo shoot.

Headshot Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

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