From crisis to craftsman |

From crisis to craftsman

Carter Chess and Carl Rasher's Penn Valley home is on 21 picturesque acres.
John Hart/ | The Union

Owners Carter Chess and Carl Rasher freely admitted, “When we bought this home in 2007, honestly, it was suffering from an identity crisis.”

A home with an identity crisis? That’s a new one. However, their explanation made perfect sense.

Set on 21 picturesque acres in Penn Valley, the 2,100-square-foot home was a strange mixture of river rock and standard T1-11 siding, a Spanish-style tile roof and shades of 1970s’ powder blue throughout.

“We both liked the location and saw the home’s potential — as well as all the hard work ahead of us,” Carter recalled.

They moved into their motor home, rolled up their shirtsleeves and got into serious “gutting” mode. This home was going to get some character and style!

The creative road to craftsman

The tile roof came off, shingles replaced the old T1-11 siding, an interior wall was knocked down — and the road to a new identity began.

“Carl and I agreed that this was destined to be a craftsman-style home. We both like the open simplicity and easy-maintenance features. It reminds me of my grandmother’s home in Southern California where I grew up, and that’s a special connection. In fact, we continue to use and enjoy some of her furniture, including her dining set,” Carter said.

Local contractors Rich Creamer and Harold Mane were major forces in this massive remodel.

“Their expertise made all the difference,” Carl told me, “as well as being exceptional guys to work with, they kept us up-to-date throughout.”

Walnut floors replaced the old, blue carpeting. The kitchen was completely transformed — from dated to dramatic — with porcelain tile counter tops and traditional quarter-sawn oak cabinets. I found the copper clad panels unusual and stunning. Their diamond patterns reflect light while adding warmth and intrigue.

Since the dividing wall between the kitchen and great room was removed, the kitchen bar, great room and formal dining area is now large and open.

Yet even without the wall, the furniture groupings, art placement and thoughtfully placed area rugs add subtle definition and purpose.

An original oak beam was removed and repurposed. It now adds rustic charm above the wood-burning stove they purchased from A-1.

Kudos go to Carl and Carter for their DIY masonry skills. The river rock screen wall behind the stove is a testament to their learning skills and creativity.

Skylights add welcome, natural interior light while adding interest to the pine ceilings. One table lamp caught my eye, and I learned that it was made by Carter’s uncle.

“He is a master craftsman,” she said, “with a remarkable sense of aesthetics, as well. That’s a special piece, and it’s a lovely way to think of him. He also made the wall shelf in the entryway.”

Equine photographer Lesley Deutsch enjoys pride of place as well, and several of her interpretive horse images grace the home.

The progress continued throughout the rest of the house, as well. Other improvements included adding cork flooring in the office (highly recommended for disguising dog scratches), granite countertops, wainscoting in the guest bathroom, as well as additional insulation — and so much more.

“We opted to simply paint some of the original bathroom cupboards,” Carter explained, “and we’re very pleased with the results.” Electrician Jim Harlicker and plumber Todd King added their expertise and did an outstanding job.”

Tasteful, subtle earth tones are used throughout so the home’s energy is calming, and you’re drawn to the pastoral views outside — especially in the master bedroom that overlooks the patio and pastures.

Deal-making patio

“That patio was definitely the deal-maker when we decided to buy,” Carl told me. “Here’s where relaxation is guaranteed. “

Nearby Indian Creek gurgles in the summer and rushes in the winter, creating a year-round symphony.

Depending on the season, the home’s large overhangs provide shade, coolness and efficiency. The red tiles from the old roof were repurposed and are now road base for the extended driveway that links the home with Carl’s workshop, the stunning, little guest house above, and the pastures and horse shelters below.

Sitting on the patio, enjoying a coffee with Carter, Carl, their two dogs and Chester, the orange cat, I got to meet another member of the cast — a peacock named “Bing.” He and his peahen paramour, Heddy, are about to become a family.

“What a transformation!” I thought. “To turn a home with an identity crisis into this craftsman-style masterpiece must be very satisfying indeed!”

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at

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