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!
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!
Check out the “room of the day” feature on our project near Dolores Park. Thanks Jeannie!
This massive concrete retaining wall has held up a hillside since who knows when. When the house was built in 1955 they used this as a foundation, and at 14′ high created a lofty first floor/basement. Remarkably dry. It continues through this lot and apparently all the way through the city block – 228′ long! We used this unfinished area to locate a new master bedroom and bathroom:The new ceiling will slope from the bathroom at 9′ up to 12′ at new doors in the side wall, facing a narrow yard. That’s the low point above, ..and the high end. That’s James of JP Builders – great guy to work with! This area will be the new sliding doors to the yard. A rendering in Sketchup showing the concrete wall along 2 sides, and the new rooms. The closet was located partially below the massive terrazzo stairs, and we left the brick supports exposed. Below is a photo of the back corner of the bathroom. The concrete wall was lined in cement board and will be clad in stone tile. I may have opted to leave the concrete exposed but the owner indicated that it was slightly crumbly and might not be as hardy when exposed to bath and shower water daily…Since the back corner is hugged by the giant concrete wall it had no windows, so we put glass around the wall to the bedroom to borrow light from the new doors. From the bath tub you’ll be able to see the stone wall continue through to the master bedroom.Here’s the wall where the bed will go, with the bathroom beyond. The two posts? One was existing / structural, the other hides plumbing. The 11′ high 3-panel sliders are from Fleetwood. The adjacent building is only 12′ away, so luckily we created a soffit for shades : )Out through the sliders will be a low deck and some landscaping. This is looking up toward the in the slot yard street. Just found out that any changes we want to make to the street front of the building will require a historic study….reminder: this was built in 1955…does that say ‘historic’ to you?
Welcome to San Francisco! Not that we’re planning anything major – I love the mid-century lines, but it’s looking tired. Stay tuned!
This house built into a hill in the mid 1950s had a common layout where the entire living area is on a single floor above a garage and unfinished basement first floor. Upon entering the basement level, everyone was surprised to find 14′ high ceilings! An exterior stair is all that connected the two levels. The high ceilings result from this concrete retaining wall that was in place when the house was built in the 50s. With all the height the homeowner wanted to finish the area into a master bedroom suite, laundry room and new interior stair. The project was divided into two phases; the kitchen, stair and laundry room in phase I and master suite in phase II. This laundry room and lightwell would be eliminated to locate the new staircase. Here’s the underside of the existing terrazzo stairs – we had to break through one of the brick walls for a doorway in the new first floor layout, but the other wall was left exposed in the new laundry room. This is the demolished kitchen. Behind plywood is the old lightwell. The roof was about 3′ above the ceiling, so we raised the ceiling in the new kitchen. Downstairs the new staircase approached the garage ceiling before the hole was cut in the floor above. That’s the new stair landing at the top of the ladder. The upper run completed the framing. A view from the top of the new stairs near the kitchen. Skipping ahead, here’s a view up the lower run of stairs from the basement hallway. The first floor will have walnut flooring so we continued it up the stairs, while the existing second floor has oak floors. The giant, ugly return-air grille would have to be located at the landing, so I decided to clad the walls with wood slats to obscure it. Air can pass through the slats as it needs to, and you don’t have to see a metal grille on a sheetrock wall. Here’s a view looking from the kitchen toward the new staircase with display shelves and a skylight above. The stair is located where the laundry room and lightwell used to be. More to come!
Things are wrapping up down in the
basement first floor – the homeowners have started moving back into the remodeled spaces gradually, even holding a graduation party in the new family room! The window above is a new one, high above the stair landing, facing south = lots of sunlight. The 8′ tall french doors out to the deck bring in the views and light, facing east and a forested hill beyond. Interior shot above, exterior shot below (in case there’s any confusion…)
The stairs from below in the family room. The ledge was clad in the same wood / nosing as the stairs – a good place to sit. The handrail is temporary, installed for the party. The stair landing above, I’ve been told, is where karaoke performances will take place viewed from the family room, hence the spotlights. I’ve already got some songs picked out! (Note that this project is more traditional than I normally do – I was happy to be involved in the overall design, space development, windows/doors/stair/etc, but the owners are choosing the finishes. “Provence goes to Mexico” was how she described the overall feel she was going for. ) Above, the wet bar at one end of the family rm, perfect for entertaining with sink, dishwasher and min-fridge. The second-floor living room, now almost doubled in size. The opening overlooks the new stair to the first floor. This area and two windows at the corner used to be a bedroom, which was combined with the dining room about where I’m standing to create one large living room. Good scale! (The former living room will now be used for dining.)This last photo is of two skylights poking through a small deck off of the kitchen. One goes to the laundry rm and one to the bathroom at the first floor. A good way to get light into what would have been windowless rooms, and as you can see they do get good sunlight. This deck will be used mainly for grilling and potted herbs. Maybe herbs de Provence!