Sidebar: Are we still wearing corsets, riding stagecoaches, using leeches? It’s curious that most things are expected to advance while we hold on to the past when it comes to home design. Sadly, the majority of American homes built today are reminiscent of a time that most of us would dread to live in (=no computers or cell phones). I speak for residential architecture when I say “what about me!? it’s not fair!”.
This is a project I worked on in a former life, at another office. Design was started in ~2005 and it’s only now beginning construction due to a few bumps. (the joys of permitting!) I’m working on an adjacent building (same owner) so I get to watch the progress on this project too! It involves a not-so-noteworthy single family house in a bustling commercial district. The owner wanted to either demo it or modify it significantly. After the gasps settled, the latter was allowed – as long as this ‘historic’ (avocado-colored popcorn-painted) facade and some other parts of the building remained. It will eventually be (2) commercial units and (1) dwelling. Ever wonder what a facade would look like if it was peeled off a house? Like this, from the inside: The 100-yr old redwood framing exposed, it shows you how much of the front facade is a fake wall/cornice with a gable-roof line behind it. This sort of thing happens often in San Francisco, I call it ‘facade-itecture’. To follow the comment at the top, forced preservation of this kind doesn’t make much sense; it’s pausing a street experience while everything beyond that line is brand new. [I have to applaud the San Francisco Planners’ rejection of ‘faux historicism’ and requirement that additions to old buildings look modern and don’t imitate the original structure.]
Above: before. Below: during. This house on a steeply down-sloping lot in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco has a full-height basement with great views which was never fully utilized or developed. Look at those wimpy little windows~ The owner was concerned with the house sliding down the hill, and compared its slope to a Blahnik. It seems that a 90+yr old house that withstood 100s of tremors – and the 1989 quake – is probably staying put. Even with its sub-par structure seen below! We opened up the back wall with larger windows and 8′ tall doors which will lead out to a deck. Above, a view of the existing narrow, steep stairs – fit for a Hobbit! These will be rebuilt larger with a window above the landing. The existing basement room on the left, with dropped ceiling, small window, carpeting, and one of those hey guess what I just did bathroom doors that opens directly into a room – never a good idea… Other parts of this project include: Fill-in an existing lightwell with additional rooms on the basement level, where rickety old wood stairs are seen on the left. (The owner actually fell through one of these steps just before it was torn down!) Secondly, replace a catch-all storage room seen on the right with a guest bedroom. They’ll cringe to see this, but we all have one of those spaces! The room has to be excavated quite a bit to get full height, and is still being dug now. Here’s the basement room down to the studs – no insulation, as is common in older SF buildings. Notice how much unused wall space is above the window! The owner is reusing some of this old redwood lumber to make a table, great green idea. This full-width room had a beam across the ceiling, which was resting on (2×6) posts that just barely landed on the concrete footings – see belowYou could literally knock the post off the concrete with one good elbow….scary, especially in seismic SF! Not sure how this was ever approved previously. The same rear wall with new doors and windows installed. Nice view, and the room will be used for entertaining indoor and outdoor on the deck. More to come!