once upon a time there was a 1991 Volvo 240 that sputtered 3,000 miles from New York to California. I’m talking about my clunker, affectionately called NormaJean. over the past 15 years she has inadvertently appeared in many photos of projects (before, during, and after) I’ve worked on in San Francisco and beyond. as embarrassing as it may have been to screech up to a half million dollar project in that, she’s still around. I decided to dig through the archives and post photos. she’s not always at center but see if you can spot her in there, smiling for the camera 🙂
2004, Cole Valley SF:
2005, Menlo Park:
2006, Pacific Heights SF:
2009, Foster City:
2010, Mill Valley:
2012, San Francisco:
2012, San Francisco: Continue reading
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 ———–>
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!
A lot has happened since my last update! On this house, and for the business: we’ve moved to a new office, and the dust is still settling… This is a mighty heap of scrap – mostly unusable – taken from the house and placed into the rear yard. The rear yard here is/was a beautifully overgrown mass of decades-old flowering plants and trees. To get taller living space on the first level we removed the floor to get up to 24″ of additional height to work with:
As you can see the walls were all sorts of patched together = need to be rebuilt. Then we had to excavate into the hill to maintain this lofty new ceiling.This retaining wall represents the line between the garage that will maintain the original low height of approx. 7′, and the new living space that will have approx. 10′ ceilings.
The new stairs came down (‘bombs awaaay!’) just in time as the new 3′ addition extended the house into the rear yard. Upstairs, the back portion of the house was removed. This was a multi-layer addition from the 1940s-70s, and insufficient to support the third floor addition. Braces hold up the side property line walls. We left the existing side windows in so we can replace them in-kind without having to be fire-rated (which can run about $2500 for a 3’x4′ window!)
The charming master bedroom dormer is seen here.
Above views are from the second floor looking through the newly opened wall. The photo below is looking up at the back of the house. The first floor is framed in, and the new deck is cantilevered 5′ beyond the wall.
Where’s Waldo? There’s a guy in all that mess, if you look hard enough.
This is me trying to photograph a steel beam, standing on the open edge of the house!
More to come!
The kitchen cabinetry is being installed – custom walnut built by a carpenter here in San Francisco. I prefer the ‘true’ brown tone that walnut has over other woods. Not too yellow, not too red, so it won’t compete with the greenish floor tiles – or art, furniture, etc.
The island with space for stools sits opposite the counter at the wall. There will be open shelves in front of the windows (no real view out them so it’s OK); the only upper cabinets are to the side above the refrigerator. A range and hood will sit in between the windows.. can’t wait to see it.
The space for the refrigerator and surrounding cabinetry. The penny-round tiles (almost the color of old pennies!) are in the hall bathroom outside the kitchen. More penny rounds – white – in a guest bathroom seen below. Shown next to the entry steps clad in the same slate as the kitchen/family room.
The built-in bookcases in the Dining Rm are of MDF and poplar, built into 3 sides of the room.
We’re waiting on a fire-rated window in the Dining Rm. . a little snafu with the paint color. .
That dim ’50s bathroom in pale yellow and brick-red tile? Not so tired anymore – refreshed with a modern look but keeping close to the midcentury lines of the house that first attracted its owners.
A wall of glass mosaic tiles gives energy to the small room while the simple arrangement of components keeps a sense of order. Given the new vanity’s storage capacity (plus a new wall-hung cabinet above the toilet) we decided to forego the traditional recessed medicine cabinet. The shower stall ceiling was raised to full height, and the entire width opened to the room with a frameless glass door from Empire Shower Doors. We decided to use the mosaic tile again in the shampoo niche.
The opening of the cramped shower makes the room appear larger. The new glass door, glass 3×6 tile on the walls, 12×12 porcelain tiles on the floor and chrome fixtures mix together to create a soothing feel.
City Cabinetmakers made the flat-front, clean and simple vanity in makore veneer. The warm cabinetry color picks up the reddish-brown random tiles that appear in the mosaic backsplash. The sparkly countertop slab that contains bits of mirror glass is ‘quartz reflections‘ from Caesarstone, which is from their recycled product line. Chrome hardware ties the piece back in to room.
In the living room, here is the fireplace with new stone tile, slab hearth and mantel.
Ann Sacks “luxor grey” limestone tile and “topo azul” slab and a wood mantel painted in a similar grey give the fireplace a subtle presence in the room, toned down from the stark white it was previously.
Motoring ahead with this project, we’ve gotten much of the walls, ceilings, floors opened up as needed. The new concrete foundation has been poured. This photo below shows framing that we think may be from 2 windows – and possibly the original front wall of the house. Now there is a living room on the other side of it. See the rectangles framed toward the sides of the image.
You never know what’s behind the walls. . as seen below. On the left is an old exterior door that was simply closed, boarded over and became part of the exterior wall for who knows how many years. There’s even an electrical outlet and a duct carved through it! On the right is the inside of a closet that was probably part of a hallway or room; why would a closet interior have wainscoting, picture rail and a door crown?
The view up the stairs, now that construction has started:
Old San Francisco houses with their deep, dark redwood framing: when the finished plaster is peeled away, they remind me of barns. There’s also a spooky appeal in seeing the nooks that haven’t been exposed or inhabited – in close to 100 years.
Here’s a house in Pacific Heights. I’m collaborating with a designer friend Ian Stallings on this project. It looks ok from the street, but a thorough study shows that it needs a new foundation, floor plan reworking, and upgraded interiors. The blank area above the garage door could use something too.
The back of the house has a wall of ’70s sliding doors which is a great to capture light, but at the low standard 80″ height, the blank wall/gable above gives a top-heavy feeling.
The rooms seemed to be carefully set up – but much of this funky look won’t last through the remodel. The dropped ceiling, the (smoke and) mirrors, applied wall brick…
Mustard yellow and dark brown 70s kitchen scheme – making a comeback? Maybe, but this one didn’t hold up enough to stick around.