Tag Archives: Architecture

What makes a San Francisco house a San Francisco house?

[Editor’s Note: We have a new contributing architect, Sven, and this is his first post ever. Please take a moment to read his post, and welcome Sven Lavine.]

I decided to do a little brainstorming on the factors affecting San Francisco house design. I want to steer clear of discussions of the city’s historical & stylistic influences – that’s a whole different discussion. There are universal forces which have always applied, regardless of the style of the time (or the whim of the builder) which make our houses look similar.

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1. Lot size:
Most San Francisco lots are 25 feet wide by around 100 feet deep. That’s long and skinny by most standards. This results in a long linear arrangement of rooms, often loaded on a long corridor. This can result in some weird spaces and long halls, but this sort of thing is quintessential San Francisco. And it can also fuel some really creative solutions.

2. Setbacks
In SF, builders have been allowed to build houses right up to the lot lines, with no side or front yard (they do require a back yard though). The exterior identity of the house usually comes entirely from the front facade, which is usually sandwiched tightly between it’s neighbors. This is where the whole false front thing came from. And it also creates an opportunity to get creative with the facade to keep things interesting.

3. Bay windows
Bay windows have always been allowed to extend past property lines and hang out over sidewalks. There is a very specific size and shape prescribed in the code. Designers have always jumped at this opportunity to capture more floor area and views. This is why many San Francisco streetscapes are lined with a familiar rhythm of regularly shaped bays.

4. Cornices
Like bay windows, small roof overhangs have also been allowed. Designers have used this to their advantage over the years by adding interesting features to flat fronted San Francisco houses.

5. Environment
I wanted to come up with some way that the environment has shaped the vernacular, like you might see in the desert, or the mountains. but it occurred to me that unlike residents in those extreme climates, we have such a moderate climate, that we can build in whatever style we damn well please, and we have. Certain styles predominate, but if you really look, you can find (or build) just about anything here. But chances are it will still look like a San Francisco house.

-This post contributed by Sven Lavine, San Francisco architect.

Reasons We Live Here #15: Iconic Architecture

There are many reasons WE live here in San Francisco, and certainly many reasons YOU live here, so feel free to share with us. We captured this photo just yesterday evening on walkabout in North Beach, and thought, “damn that’s cool!”

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Just another reason we live here…great (iconic) architecture old and new all around us.

Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian Home In Forest Hill (One San Marcos)

We were fans at Usonian, but if you must…the whip cream on top:

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Polished concrete floors; radiant heating; chef’s kitchen; custom walnut cabinetry; multiroom sound system; remodeled bath with handcrafted Heath tile; Sub-Zero refrigerator with glass front; Viking convection oven; Miele range; 2,344 sqare feet all on one level; two car side-by-side garage.

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Some history on Usonian, and what you need to know from Wikipedia:

‘Usonian’ is a term usually referring to a group of approximately fifty middle-income family homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright beginning in 1936 with the Jacobs House.[2] The “Usonian Homes” were typically small, single-story dwellings without a garage or much storage, L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace on odd (and cheap) lots, and environmentally conscious with native materials, flat roofs and large cantilevered overhangs for passive solar heating and natural cooling, natural lighting with clerestory windows, and radiant-floor heating. A strong visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is an important characteristic of all Usonian homes. The word carport was coined by Wright to describe an overhang for a vehicle to park under. Variants of the Jacobs House design are still in existence today and do not look overly dated. The Usonian design is considered among the aesthetic origins of the popular “ranch” tract home popular in the American west of the 1950s

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Let’s not forget the price and link to more Usonian property picture porn: One San Marcos, $1,590,000.

We look forward to your first fireside chat (we promise to wear our best mid-century ski sweater, and mix some tasty margaritas!)

-OneSanMarcos.com [property website]

Claude Oakland Designed Mid Century Eichler In Marin

Oh if we had time to publish these things when they’re hot off the presses. Oh well, we’re still fans of all things architecture, especially when Eichler is involved, so we’ll throw them up for your delight. Coming soon to the Lucas Valley (Marin) real estate market (and what we’d almost consider an epicenter of Eichlers), 26 Oak Mountain Court.

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It’s a rare gallery model Eichler designed by architect Claude Oakland, which has been extensively remodeled and expanded to reach 2,400 sq ft, 4 bedrooms, and 3 full baths. This home was featured on the American Institute of Architects home tour and is truly spectacular inside and out (and the cycling down the road is nothing short of world class).

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The home will be priced at $1,550,000, is not yet on the MLS, and of course, we can always get you in early.

-26 Oak Mountain Court [Renee Adelmann]

Millennium Tower, San Francisco: A walkthrough, a few photos, a little scoop, and my opinion

For those of you that read this San Francisco real estate blog on a regular basis, you’ll know I’ve been watching the progress of many of the new developments around town. One of my favorites happens to be Millennium Tower (301 Mission). Not because I’ve sold many units there, but because it truly stands out (and above) from the others.

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(Yes, that is the Infinity you see way down there, and this shot is only from the 26th floor.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the other new developments (towers) as well, and I’d love to show any of you around all of the buildings, because they all have their attractions, but Millennium Tower just seems to have that vibe. That…je ne sais quoi…It seems like it will have the same high end/high net worth residents (at least one penthouse in contract at +$10 million and….damn I want to tell you more, but promised not to) as those in the St. Regis, but twice as many amenities at half the dues…not to mention a Michael Minna restaurant. The Infinity feels much more Hard Rock Hotel meets San Francisco (not a bad thing at all), and One Rincon Hill with the dazzling views, just doesn’t have the location (trust me, I’ve had several clients turn away from the location) to put it in the same class as St. Regis and Millennium Tower, not to mention the uncertainty of Tower Two.

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I must say I am a bit disappointed with the ranges, and islands in the kitchens at the Millennium, and that some units don’t have deeded parking, but those are easy enough to remedy. The building is solid, and the finishes are very high end. The views are extraordinary, the location is getting better, and the amenities are through the roof. The units are still selling very quickly and many owners losing their money in the stock market have bought multiple units here, so all signs still point to a successful development by Millennium Partners, and I can’t wait until they start moving people in.

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(Penthouse terrace views.)

There are still some very choice units available at the Millennium and several at many other developments around town. I haven’t heard of any negotiations or price incentives at Millennium Tower, but I know some of the other developments around town have been offering them up, and the “off market” trading that is going on at many of them is nothing short of extraordinary.

I have more photos, and a lot more details, but you’ll have to contact me if you’d like to learn more.