Tag Archives: san francisco remodel

sunset magazine

It’s been a little over a year since my last post* and what better way to return than to share that the Bayview Remodel was featured in the April 2019 issue of Sunset magazine! I’m pretty dang thrilled at being included in their glossy pages…I’ve been a devoted reader (and page tearer..) for 17 years. Check out the pages below! and I promise to come back to this blog, I have many many stories, projects and ideas that I want to share. the good, the bad and the ugly. until then, stay tuned!

*you know, you get busy, life takes over, work, play, etc…. no real good excuse ūüôā¬†IMG_9913IMG_9914IMG_9915

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the job site & the volvo

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 ūüôā

2004, Cole Valley SF:DSCN0934

2005, Menlo Park:IMG_7447.JPG

2006, Pacific Heights SF: pre-construction.jpg

2009, Foster City:IMG_2452.JPG

2010, Mill Valley:IMG_4860.JPG

2012, San Francisco:IMG_0507.JPG

2012, San Francisco:IMG_0998.JPG Continue reading

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san francisco magazine

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 ūüôā 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 ———–>


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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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glen park house

glen park house

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.¬†rear ¬†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.¬†interiorBeing 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..¬†excavationThe 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.¬†old doorold flooring¬†interior demoThe 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! ¬†exterior stairsAs we dug down and removed a small rear room, the house showed its true colors. ¬†IMG_2504Soon after, concrete was poured in the area of the rear addition.¬†IMG_2972It will be nice to be able to walk out of sliding doors to the existing rear garden.¬†IMG_2371Sunlight 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!

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noe valley victorian bridge

roof framing

Once the 2×4 flimsy roof was ripped off, the new roof was framed back up pretty quickly. The top floor will have new rooms so we needed to take advantage of dormer space, and as much height as possible.¬† The view above is looking toward the street. old shingles

On the right is a close-up of the layers of shingles, starting with the original cedar shakes from late 1800s and a series of asphalt shingles right on top.  Note there is no waterproofing in the old roofing system! On the left is an old coffee coffee can that was found during demolition.

dormer framing

Here is a view looking toward the back of the house; the roof is a tricky series of angles and shapes. At the very back is the square ‘box’ addition from sometime in the ’80s or ’90s.


A view from the inside of the new bedroom at the former attic level. It’s a double-ridge dormer. The neighbor’s house is just outside – tight urban living!¬†new dormerFrom the street you barely notice the dormers. There’s my Volvo out front ūüôā¬†dormerThe same view a few weeks later after the plywood sheathing has been installed on walls and roof.¬†triangle windowAnother few weeks and the windows are installed – this is the corner facing the street and Twin Peaks beyond, so we thought it important to have a window along the slope where the dormer meets the roof. Uncommon, but I was able to dig some examples up online.¬†footbridgeThe ‘great room’ will occupy the area at the back of the house on the middle level. There I am crouched on the old attic 2×4 framing, which we repurposed as a bridge walkway to connect the areas of the new top floor. ¬†The photo below was taken sometime between the two photos above, once the attic floor was taken out but before the bridge steel was installed.¬†steel framingI am SO excited to have this steel exposed in the house; it will be a nice mix of Victorian and modern together, and tell a story of the old framing that was reused to build it. ¬†bridge walkwayA view below the bridge toward the rear wall. ¬†bridge sketchA sketch when we were figuring out how the bridge would meet the floor on each side, which were at different heights!¬†lincrustaAbove is a detail of the existing lincrusta wall covering featuring birds (Swallows?) original to the house. Most of it was removed but will be replaced. ¬†Next to that is the rectangle of a closed window found behind the refrigerator. Much of the work at the upper two levels happened while the new concrete footing was being poured around the perimeter of the house at the ground level. Groundwater was discovered during excavation which set the progress at the ground floor back a few weeks.

More to come!

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noe valley victorian

noe valley victorianHere 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. twin peakstwin peaks noe valleyCheck 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? atticAt 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. san francisco houseOtherwise the house was in a limbo retaining some Victorian elements and halfway decent updates. bay windowold kitchenThat’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!brick foundationSomething 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. tothestudsThe 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. demolitionThe house started to open up. leaded glassWe’ll keep this small leaded window. It’s painted shut but it’s a cute relic.¬† remodelThe 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. attic remodelAnd 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.3d modelA 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!


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art deco house

marina styleThis 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!

redundant hallwayThe 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. large bathroomSecond, the only bathroom was big enough to be split into two (it had that typical low-ceilinged shower stall) winder stairThird, the stair was narrow and wound down into the garage. basementYou had to walk through the garage to get to the tall basement space at the back.rear yardThe 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.¬†old hallwayHere’s a view of the hallway, with the other rooms to the side after we opened up the wall.¬†low wallA view from the other end –¬†cut stairs– 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..new stairA view down to the lower floor to see the light coming in from the back yard. ¬† Stay tuned, more to come!

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the ice storm

Yes, this is not real stone.¬† It’s a nice representation of a (burnt?) stone wall, with several parking options for your late 70s cars, and – as an afterthought, let’s stick a front door on there for grins. One of the worst Hobbit-hole entrances I’ve ever seen.. ¬† This is the first house in San Francisco I’ve worked on that’s younger than me – but not by much!¬† Started in 1979 and completed in 1980, this house is an ode to all things brown and mirrored.¬† Walking through made me think of the Ice Storm. hot fireplace, curving hearth…you can see your casserole dinner in reverse…

We don’t mind this though – the wet bar!¬† It stays.¬† (there are two of them in the house…) The awesome tile, and the padded cabinetry so you don’t knock your knees when going in for cocktail no.4. A second fireplace – leftover stone from the facade?¬† Typical doorknob throughout the house…Off the back of the house there’s an enclosed patio, with covered hot tub in the corner, kitchenette and bathroom.¬† We think it’s pretty groovy, a nice private enclosed space (would love to have seen a party here in 1980), but definitely in need of updating.¬† We’re opening it up quite a bit too. The dreaded fire escape, as seen from the patio.¬† It’s a goner!¬† All these 70s treatments aside, the house has a lot of space, good bones, and sweeping views of the Marin Headlands and Twin Peaks – the reasons why the family bought it.¬† We’re well into demo now – check back for more progress….to the studs!

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San Francisco bungalow progress

Here’s the look of demo….the mess, the uncovered pieces, the view to new possibilities. ¬†

This is in the kitchen – behind the cabinetry and appliances we uncovered evidence of a once-PINK kitchen!¬† Awesome. I thought this was a nice composition…A heap of ceiling coming down.¬† The issue with these older homes is that the walls have no insulation.¬† I’ve never done blown-in insulation, where a hole is drilled into each study bay and it’s filled with some kind of loose fiber.¬†¬† View of the hobbit staircase.¬† Cute, but even I at 5′-9″ would almost crack my head on the way up. The old brick coal-burning fireplace.¬† You probably couldn’t fit more than a Duraflame log in here, on the days you can actually burn a fire in San Francisco.Here’s a painted wall we found within a dropped ceiling.¬† This may have once been an exterior porch.¬† Over the years, I’ve seen this green-blue color very often in porches, laundry rooms, ‘utility’ rooms, etc.¬† I like it, and am interested in knowing why this was common practice for paint color in those spaces..? Looks like someone built a house within this house at one point in time!¬† There’s that green-blue color again. Cobwebs, or “Irish lace” as I was told – in the uncovered attic space. Spoooky..Down at the first floor here’s the shadow of an old staircase found within a wall. It was an exterior staircase since that’s redwood sidingTwo views of eave closet spaces, matched in reverse.¬† Lots of old wood in this house – can we reuse some, please, someday!?¬† Clients are often dubious or nervous about the prospect of this beat-up redwood being turned into beautiful interior wall cladding.¬† I know it’s possible, it’s been done – even with lath.¬† It does add more time/labor but in the end, it tells a story, is warm and tangible, and relates directly to the history of the house.

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