aptly named for its existing plan shape, this ranch sits at the edge of vineyards in northern Napa County. This is the youngest house we’ve ever brought to the studs – built in 1988. Back then I was walking to the corner store with a friend, buying Cool Ranch Doritos and hearing Sweet Child O Mine croon from the radio as I passed by fields of the upstate NY type. (maybe this should be called Cool Ranch?!)the house is well-built and was cared for, but it just needs a little jolt from us to kick up the dust and bring it to 2016. Axl is still trying to make it happen but that doesn’t mean this house has to. one of the cool things about this ranch is that it came with original blueprints. hand-drawn plans and details! as you can imagine, one of the first things we thought of was to vault the ceilings and really appreciate / experience that gabled roof shape, from inside. that means removing a ton of trusses, 24″ o.c. … it’s a lovely location. the first thing you see from the road is the garage door, none of us like this but it has stay – only getting a makeover. below are a few more shots around the outside. where’s the front door?!tons of butterceam yellow, eek – I really only like this on a cupcake. it’s really weird to me to see massive roofs leaning on spindly little posts. like I said, the house is ‘nice’ but isn’t living up to its potential in this location. out in the back is the water tank building. around wine country you often see old water towers, with the tank at the top. this property has two wells. we’re looking toward the rear yard, from where large doors will be located. inside is just, blah. finishes aren’t amazing, flat ceilings throughout, gigantoid fireplace and concrete hearth. sidenote: there are some brass faucets that were hot in ’88 and despised until a few years ago. it’s all cyclical. here are a few proposed renderings, showing the new entry and vaulted ceilings with rafters. below are some more recent shots of what’s been going on: from underwhelming entry to chopped off entry! the cupolas are staying, a client decision that I think is a good one. photo on the left above is a slice through the house, at the boomerang ‘elbow’ where the new main entrance will be. see one of the wells in the foreground. on the right, to the studs: the future dining / living area and soon to be removed trusses. at the back / north end of the house will be the master bed & bathroom. the photo below is the stunning vineyard view directly across the street when leaving the driveway. this is why I’ve always said I feel like I can finally breathe when I get into the country – air, space, light, views, nature. stay tuned, more to come!
a huge thanks to our photographer Melissa Kaseman for pitching our project to San Francisco magazine. They picked up the story and it’s in the November issue.
flip through their entire online issue here, or check it out in images below. Or better yet buy a hard copy, cut those pages out and put them on your wall for inspiration🙂 and call us when you’re ready to do your own to the studs remodel!
this project was a fun collaboration with really great clients. we can’t thank them enough for being open to 99% of our design ideas. they wanted a sense of whimsy in the house and I think we achieved that feeling.
we like to think of this house as a bright, inviting, energetic series of spaces with bold patterns and textures. it has plentiful windows to grab distant views out the front and a 17ft wide multi-panel sliding door to connect to a cozy garden in the back.
take a look ———–>
at long last we have a place of our own for a to-the-studs project! we could not be more thrilled. this woodsy little confection was built in 1963, at the tail-end of the mid-century era, in the California Sierra foothills. after a 3-month search through the pine forest with our realtor, we settled on the one: it was the right size (800 sq ft) not oversized like some ski-houses tend to be; in a good location we’ve visited with friends – it has access to a lake; and most importantly because it hadn’t really been touched much since the 60s and needs work – nothing major, but work that we’re anxious to do. a real vintage fixer-upper. below are photos of the other sides. it was affectionately referred to as ‘cigarette house’ by our realtor because it was beyond saturated with the smell. but that only ‘fueled’ our interest more – we knew we could do a job on it. I like the board-and-batten siding but not the lemon color. so un-woodsy! it’s nestled into a gentle hill with a deck in front and a cute guest cottage / toolshed out back – perfect for our unwanted guests lol! I assume it was used for sleeping because it’s insulated, carpeted and has lighting. Inside the house, it’s wood-on-wood-on-wood. another big selling point was the vaulted, knotty pine ceiling….which we love and think really makes the cabin. there are three truss-beams running through the living area. my engineer colleague took one look and said they’re not structural. but we’re keeping them, of course.the kitchen is quaint, and came with no refrigerator. that’s OK – we have coolers, for now. seems like a mircrowave was taken too – but we don’t care – less things to throw out because it would probably not been one we liked the look of. the cabinets are not original, maybe one of the only things updated in the house, but they’re OK for now. we have plans. in the bedrooms, the vaulted ceiling disappears….WTF. why are these ceilings flat / dropped? the first time I saw this, I was certain that the vaulted pine must continue above, and this is only a cosmetic lower ceiling. we also did not love the built-in closets that took up floor space in the cozy bedrooms. how about those faux-wood accordion doors? oh my vintage! there’s no way they’d make the cut. The Bathroom…pretty basic…you can’t tell but the toilet is on an angle – we’ll call it the V8 toilet. I’m glad there’s a wall-hung sink, I often prefer them over vanity cabinets that can make a small space feel cluttered (like that shelf!). even the toilet seat was wood-grain. the entire bathroom was paneled, ceiling and all. I actually like this curved-corner medicine cabinet and think with a little spray-paint it can stay. that outlet is not GFI = good thing I don’t use a blowdryer :) some fun light fixtures. old-west scalloped realness above, and the lower one is the same as was in my childhood bedroom – and I’m sure many bedrooms across the USA.. the original wood wall paneling: to keep or not to keep?? it’s ‘real’ wood, as in very thin sheets of plywood. not plastic printed woodgrain that came along later. this is genuine wood..and wood makes the CABIN. we are at once charmed by it, and yet could also see painting it white to brighten the place up. for now we’ll keep it, other things to do first. we’re also unsure if all exterior walls are insulated. the ‘Woodsman’ fireplace is so damn awesome. we’ve already built many fires in it. we like to think we are becoming woodsmen…ha. vintage moment: maybe we should keep the paneling in the bathroom? she doesn’t seem to mind it.and as for this short, but obtrusive wall: I suspect there is a structural post within it, supporting the ridge beam. but it’s in a bad spot. we think this is where a refrigerator once was (on the kitchen side) but we don’t plan to put it back there. this wall irks us but I have a solution.
your homework is to think about the paneling! should it stay or should it go?! more to come!
at the castro corner house, the new walls were framed in, and sheetrock is now being installed.
above is the rough framed new stair to the first floor. about 20′ of new concrete retaining wall was poured along the property line.
in the photo above, part of the concrete wall is thinner to allow for the stair landing in this location – every inch counts to make the stairs work, especially in these narrow san francisco lots!
here the 6′ tall new concrete is furred out to allow for bathroom plumbing to run inside. new johns-manville formaldehyde-free insulation (for better indoor air quality) fills the wall cavities where there was no insulation before…..the globe is warming but we’re using more insulation now than we did in 1940. :) from this point looking over the new stairwell you can see through the lower hallway and to the new garden door. a nice peek to the rear yard without having to go downstairs.. a view along the floor toward the new built-in bench, and spot where the gas fireplace will go. it’s a corner fireplace by Ortal. pretty slick! can’t wait to see it. we’re further along than these pictures show; some cabinetry is installed, and we’re selecting final finishes now. stay tuned, more to come!
We submitted our “Bridge House” project to the annual Remodeling Design Awards in the Spring and were thrilled in June, during a particularly challenging work week, to get a voicemail saying we’d been given a Grand Award for the project. Woo-hoo! This was a fun project, and only really possible by having great clients who were receptive to our ideas. Sometimes I feel that working in Victorian houses is restrictive and in this case we came up with some great ways to mix old and new…I wasn’t sure which category to submit to but I chose ‘historically sensitive renovation‘. This was the first project for Farooq on our team: he saw it all from climbing up into the dark attic to winning the award.
A huge thanks from our team to the judges for this Grand Award!! We’re very proud and excited to share the pages with the other esteemed architects and designers.
Check it out among the other winners here.
…and please vote for it here! (through Sept 26)
A copy of the feature below:
here’s a house at the bottom of a steep block, built in 1940, slathered in stucco with red tile accents. below are some interior views while it was for sale. it’s not unlike my own apartment: a house of redundant doors, disconnected rooms, box by box by box. my friend andrew, a realtor, introduced me to the new owners and we discussed a two-phase, or a minimal-change remodel. “let’s keep the kitchen cabinets” “we don’t want to do the downstairs until a couple of years from now”… these initial ideas have a funny way of mushrooming, and next thing you know we’re doing the entire project at once, down to the studs! the more they opened and closed the flimsy cabinets, and stared at the corner toilet (I don’t think I’ve seen that before..) they realized it all had to go. closed-off rooms is not the way most people prefer to live now; the majority of our clients want connected spaces to spend more time together. it’s less formal, but also a factor of our lives being so busy that when we’re at home we want to see each other and connect! or, watch tv while cooking spaghetti. below is the first floor garage / basement, all one huge space with no rooms or use other than laundry and storage. a narrow winding staircase connected the two levels. it was convenient to see the framing, plumbing, etc exposed on this level; for making structural estimates and knowing where everything is running. time for demo!in san francisco where codes and rules are as plentiful and convoluted as the hazy hash smoke wafting through the streets, we have to be careful about how much of the house we demo – even inside. when I try to explain this to people they give me the most confused reactions and a huge WHY? I share their wonder – I understand the desire to retain some worthy building exteriors, but inside, homeowners should be able to live and revise how they want to. we’re excavating at the first floor because the ceiling wasn’t high enough for living spaces (bedrooms). we’re going down a total of about 24″. the hulking wood posts & beams, original to the house, will be reused somehow inside – barn door? shelving? check this out below, found under the slab in the dirt: WHAT IS IT??it’s made of leather, feathers, some paint. it looks so well-preserved it’s hard to imagine it was in the dirt since 1940 when the house was built. it’s about 24″ long x 13″ at the widest. a mask, or a shield? indian, or african? we also found a red rubber bouncy ball. weird. I love when we find stuff in the walls or below in the dirt – this is certainly unique. one friend suggested it may indicate burial and that we could find bones if we dug deeper; but I can’t imagine that this block of comparatively young houses for this neighborhood, is atop a burial ground unknown at the time of construction. any ideas? more to come!
Construction continued despite the wet weather this Spring (but, we need the rain!). The second floor of the house took shape quickly, with the new rooms sitting over the expanded first floor. A couple shots of the on-site studs. On the left is the view when you walk in the front door, looking up to an overlook balcony, and the kitchen will sit below. The right photo is the master bathroom with an angled wall that follows the property line. 2 views at the front of the house a few weeks apart. New french doors and sidelights were installed in the new master bedroom. The view from the bedroom doors is pretty sweet, down through the bay to the city. The vaulted ceilings of the house have spray-foam insulation, letting us avoid a tricky venting requirement at the eaves and ridges for the long roof runs. A view across the rear part of the house past the stairs to the new family room with multi-slide doors. Here’s a view of NormaJean the volvo looking up at the two projects we’ve done, side-by-side. Two photos taken at the rear yard several weeks apart. The shingles are being installed and they really make the house look finished. Tina’s crew at Builder Girl is doing a really great job.The large steel window at the staircase is from Torrance. The steel window will be a dramatic statement at the staircase, seen from everywhere on the lower floor and yard, and from the bedroom hallway above. The master bathroom, in two directions. The shower with its round window facing the street – the bottom half obscured for privacy of course. The other end of the room has a skylight above to bring light down along the wall, to the spot where the bath tub will be. Really exciting to see finishes coming along! Kress Jack is working alongside us on the finishes, and it seems like the finish line is in sight – though distant still. Stay tuned for more!