the cabin

cabinat 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. rear-facadegable-roofa-frameit 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! guest-cottageI 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. knotty-pine-ceilingthere 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.vaulted-kitchenthe 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. dropped-ceilingin 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. accordian-doorhow about those faux-wood accordion doors? oh my vintage! there’s no way they’d make the cut. camp-bathroomThe 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!). wood-toilet-seateven 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 :) vintage-light-fixturessome 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.. eames-shell-chairthe 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. woodsman-fireplacewe like to think we are becoming woodsmen…ha. 6a00d83451ccbc69e201156f66c1c7970c-400wivintage moment: maybe we should keep the paneling in the bathroom? she doesn’t seem to mind it.cabin-interiorand 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.

f2d5d29e207cca0499fe5f0fb85026b1your homework is to think about the paneling! should it stay or should it go?! more to come!


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castro corner house


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. img_9947

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! img_0130

here the 6′ tall new concrete is furred out to allow for bathroom plumbing to run inside. img_0356new 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. :) img_0664from 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.. img_0660a 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!


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remodeling design award

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.

Thanks to the photographers Eric Rorer and Rachel Styer for capturing the house, and Mixed Nuts for some of the staging elements.

Check it out among the other winners here.

…and please vote for it here! (through Sept 26)

A copy of the feature below:








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castro corner house


castro-streethere’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.hallwaysliving-room 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! ugly-kitchenold-bathroomthe 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. cellar-stairsbelow 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. garageit 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!plaster-and-latheto-the-studskitchen-demoin 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. excavationwe’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??artifactit’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!

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bay view house continued

remodelConstruction 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. studsA 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. mill valley remodelmill valley house2 views at the front of the house a few weeks apart. New french doors and sidelights were installed in the new master bedroom. bedroom view The view from the bedroom doors is pretty sweet, down through the bay to the city. spray foam insulationThe 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. steel beamA view across the rear part of the house past the stairs to the new family room with multi-slide doors. volvo 240Here’s a view of NormaJean the volvo looking up at the two projects we’ve done, side-by-side. house wrapshingle styleTwo 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. steel windowThe 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. master bathroomThe 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!

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bay view house

front facadeIs it too late to say happy new year? I say no since this is my first 2016 post. This is a cute 1940s house set on a cul-de-sac, 2 bedroom / 2 bath. Not nearly enough room for a family of now 4 who entertain and occasionally work from home. The program is to add a second floor and push the house out in the rear yard to get more space on the first floor. New total will be 4 bed, 4 bath. view of san franciscoOne really cool thing about its location on a south-facing hill is a surprisingly direct view back to the city across the bay. old stuccoOtherwise it is standard suburban rancho from another era…ready for an update!exposed beamsAt some point the living room was expanded and the ceiling was vaulted with exposed beams – a really nice look that we’re maintaining and improving upon in the new design. kitchen skylightThe kitchen is workable, but feels a little cramped.  A low-ceiling breakfast nook is hidden away in the distance.

In the early stages we studied the possible massing for the top floor addition. 21 BAYVIEW TERR_Front1_14-0401We initially settled on the gable roof with an overhang at the front. BUT: heed my advice, and get a professional lot survey! It was discovered that the house sat within the front yard setback so we had to redesign and push the second floor back. 21 BAYVIEW TERR 2015 balconySilver lining is that they will have a walk-out balcony at the front (the windows have become doors now..) and a circular window to the side gains a city view as well. storypolesStorypoles were installed to demonstrate the extent of the new addition. construction demoDemo happens quickly… The back wall of the house was removed to accommodate the expansion. It almost looks like a stage / bandshell. garden excavationThe rear deck was removed to make way for the addition and pushing the land back a little for a new deck. All this while preserving the persimmon tree in the upper left of the photo!stud framingHere is a photo after concrete and during initial framing from last Fall. The ground floor is mostly framed, and the second floor is just starting. Steel beams are seen on the left, awaiting install, and a narrow Simpson Strong Wall on the left of the house. We’re already far ahead of this phase – stay tuned for more!

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pacific heights part deux

heath modern basics

At this house (top floor addition: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms) we’re further along with finish materials and details. It’s exciting to watch the transformation, sometimes it seems to take forever, other times change happens quickly. Tile is about 75% installed in the bathrooms – Heath Ceramics’ Modern Basics ‘Heron Blue‘ covers the walls of the 2nd bathroom. shower niche

Above are the niches in each bathroom. Each is 12″ x 36″ and will have a shelf to divide it. On the right is a marble mosaic hexagonal shape in the back wall of the niche and 12×24 wall tiles. grout color

Tile hasn’t been grouted yet but we chose the dark grey shown above for the floors (top shiny penny-round tiles for second bath, marble hex in master) vanity cabinet

The master vanity is a cool grey-blue to pick up on the darker veins of the marble tiles. Cabinet by Bartlett Cabinetry via KnockKnock.

wall paneling

The square grid paneling at the top floor is a continuation of the existing paneling in the entry room below. flooring install

It took some drafting skill to lay out the grid in the way that made the most sense. Not all squares are equal, but generally about 20″x20″. We had to work between wall, window, door and floor constraints. Once painted a solid color, any variations will be undetectable.  Bedroom flooring on the right. herringbone floor

Herringbone flooring in the stair hallway / office. Herringbone pattern costs about twice as much as straight-run flooring, but it’s arguable twice as beautiful! We’re loving it.. dark flooring

The flooring has had its first staining and sanding. It’s an antiqued dark brown finish. In the corner is the built-in desk; walls and cabinetry will be Sherwin Williams ‘Muddled Basil’.

steel railing

The black steel railing pickets on the left, ready to be attached at each tread on the new stair. On the right at the bottom of the stairs is a round newel post that I designed to complement the existing curling railing. The post will sit on top of the bottom step, as yet to be extended in the photo, and the existing railing on the right will be continued over to meet the newel. round newel post

The newel at the top of the staircase, the handrail and guard rail along the hallway. Guardrails are 42″ per code so the top newel is just over 4′ tall.  It has minimal detailing – a base, and a cap, with rounded edges. plywood

When in the field and you’re designing as you go🙂 – plywood works as well as a sketchbook! Above is a section for the cornice at the front and rear facade of the new top floor.

Stay tuned, more to come!

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