After raising two children in their modest, San Francisco cottage, the elderly owners, decided to give themselves the gift of design and turn the undistinguished front of the house into a welcoming entry. The new façade and landscape mediate the public and private realms with a sculpted, urbane architecture for the owners and neighbors to enjoy.
The project (250sf) was to redesign the façade and front setback. The owners, an artist and administrator, wanted a visually compelling entry and to create a place for the husband’s art. The existing façade had scant expression and poor construction. The existing front setback was a flat concrete pad enclosed by a rickety lattice fence. A separate, ill-formed basement stair was accessed by a non-compliant sidewalk gate.
The new façade is a bas-relief made of wood, steel, aluminum, tile and glass, pushed and pulled within the compressed vertical plane. Windows were greatly enlarged within the big, new canvas provided by a steel moment frame. The long, cantilevered canopy balances the vertical momentum of the façade. Gray acid-etched glass panels and LED lighting add detail to the steel frame. Precise openings in the drip edge irrigate the planters below. Custom powder-coated aluminum lattice screens add filigree and shadow within the façade thickness. Ceramic and iron-spot tiles add texture and color high and low.
The undeveloped forecourt became a sculpted landscape. The concrete slab was removed, the setback fully excavated and then reconstructed with a new topography. The new, multi-level ground plane has spatial, functional and visual differentiation. The walkway from the sidewalk to front door is expressed as a bridge. A sunken patio was constructed for various uses, including a home for art and socializing, and the new basement stair is an integral part of the design. The steel fence and gate serve as guardrail and boundary, open, yet protective.
Material selection reinforces the landscape parti. Dark stone tile at the bridge and patio are distinct from lighter concrete stairs and retaining walls. Ipe furring lines the side walls concealing utilities, outlets and irrigation controls. Steel planters have a smooth finish which complements the textured, board-formed concrete retaining walls. The contrast in material colors also enhances safety, making elevation changes more visible. The renovated facade and landscape uplift the owners‘ spirits each time they come home, making them feel youthful and connected to the next generation. The new architecture is as much a renovation as rejuvenation.
Material Used :
1. Ventana Aluminum Manufacturing, Inc. – windows
2. Heath Ceramics – upper facade tile – Field Tile
3. Endicott – lower facade tile – "Iron Spot" ThinBrick
4. Luminii – canopy lighting – Kendo "Wet"
5. Fusital – door hardware - Serie Bernina
6. Benjamin Moore - paint