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!
I first met this awkward little Glen Park house a few years ago, when the owners brought me in to design a large addition. Things went on hold for a while but last year we picked up where we’d left off. By then the program increased and it became a truly to-the-studs project. It’s in the early stages but we’ve got some great things in store for this house. The house had been added onto and reconfigured several times over the years. It needed help: once inside the front door you walked directly into the dining room table; the top floor was composed of 2 pinched bedrooms; and the first floor was barely 7′ tall. Being that the house sat against a steep hill, it was a vertical 3 stories + basement at the front and 2 at the rear. It would benefit from excavation to capture additional space within the hillside, so the first step was to start digging.. The original garage was a narrow bunker; the new garage level would become full-width. As the layers of house were peeled away, evidence of cheap fixes were found, seen below: no longer need a door? don’t bother to remove it, just enclose it in the wall. have an extra crate lying around? use it for wall framing. ran out of plywood subfloor? cardboard is just as good. The house will expand in all directions, up, sideways, backward, down. At the front, the existing 21+ steps to the front door will be cut in half, by entering at the lower level. Less of a climb with groceries, et! As we dug down and removed a small rear room, the house showed its true colors. Soon after, concrete was poured in the area of the rear addition. It will be nice to be able to walk out of sliding doors to the existing rear garden. Sunlight streams in from the south-facing arch window one last time, now already removed after this photo was taken. It’s a view and precious light worth capturing, and we’ll be doing that with a larger bank of windows as we proceed through this remodel. Stay tuned, more to come!
Here is a typical ‘railroad flat’ Victorian house in Noe Valley. The house is nestled among a tight old neighborhood with close neighbors and a narrow, 20′ wide lot. As seen below, the house had a full, unfinished attic – and good views of Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower in the distance. Check out the spooky, dark attic. So much potential. The photo below was taken after the chimney was removed so there is some light coming in, but the first few times we went up it was pitch. Always a gamble what you may find…animals? bodies? box of money? At the back of the house was a tiny flat-roof room addition housing a pink-painted kid’s room. Not many windows in the box, creating a huge blank wall above the rear garden. Otherwise the house was in a limbo retaining some Victorian elements and halfway decent updates. That’s possibly the world’s smallest island in the kitchen! Aww. I met the new owners the day after Thanksgiving last year and learned of their quick timeline. A full, to-the-studs remodel was in order!Something else I should point out is the existing brick foundation, on which the house was sitting but was not actually connected to in any way other than gravity! Yes, the house was not bolted to the foundation at all. It could hop right off in a sharp earthquake. In order to create new living spaces at the basement level, we would have to replace the brick with concrete – a huge ticket item, something not immediately visible and would take up a lot of the budget. The permit was obtained quickly by avoiding the dreaded, 9-12 month ‘neighborhood notification’ process. We could add dormers and expand into the attic and basement but no major additions. Demo began as soon as we had a permit. The house started to open up. We’ll keep this small leaded window. It’s painted shut but it’s a cute relic. The house feels spacious now with the attic and ceiling opened up. In order to achieve living space within the former attic, we planned to drop the entire ceiling (since we had a generous 10′ height) of the main level. And just like that the roof is GONE! Except for the front 15′ feet. The contractor said the neighbors were looking out their windows wide-eyed. Seems so bright and spacious up here. Initially the owners wanted to create a small deck up there but I encouraged them to actually use the attic footprint for living space – it will be uniquely shaped with the angled roof but worth it.A rendering of the house (on the right with mirror twin on the left) showing the new dormers at the roof level. Stay tuned – more to come!
This otherwise ‘Marina-style’ house had some art-deco reminiscent details in it so that’s what I’m calling it. (marina-style typically has a garage and unfinished basement area at ground level with the living space on the second floor.) Look at the front: we didn’t make any changes here, I really wouldn’t know what to do without ripping off those tiles – or paint them charcoal grey – is that possible? My clients said that in their search for a home they liked yellow houses because they look happy – I like that thought!
The house had a few challenges, one was the redundant circulation seen above – you could walk down a hallway or take a parallel route through adjacent rooms to get to the bedrooms and bathroom at the back. Second, the only bathroom was big enough to be split into two (it had that typical low-ceilinged shower stall) Third, the stair was narrow and wound down into the garage. You had to walk through the garage to get to the tall basement space at the back.The previous owner installed a garage door to the yard which I liked, but we ended up redesigning with non-garage doors. The new owners wanted a better connection between floors, a finished usable first floor, master bath and new guest bath downstairs. I thought, who needs two hallways? and decided to drop the new stair directly down through the hallway floor. Here’s a view of the hallway, with the other rooms to the side after we opened up the wall. A view from the other end – – and then right after the floor was cut out and the new stair put in. Voila! Direct connection down with comfortable stairs, opened rooms and finishing out the first floor…still in progress..A view down to the lower floor to see the light coming in from the back yard. Stay tuned, more to come!