A Modern Addition Breathes New Life Into a Historic San Francisco House
Local firm Ryan Leidner Architecture crafted a secluded indoor-outdoor living experience for a family with two young toddlers and a dog named Scout.
San Francisco’s booming tech economy has burnished its once-dog-eared Mission District, a neighborhood known for its cultural diversity and eclectic architecture anchored by the well-manicured Mission Dolores Park. In the spirit of honoring history while embracing innovation, local firm Ryan Leidner Architecture mixed old with new, indoor with outdoor, to create an art-filled refuge for a family with two young toddlers and a dog named Scout.
The existing building is an early Italianate-style butterfly-roofed commercial structure built in 1888 that had served as a saloon and grocery. To accommodate its new residents, Leidner and his team added a structure at the far end of its interior courtyard.
The 1,300-square-foot addition features an open kitchen/living room, half-bath, and garage on the ground floor, while upstairs are two bedrooms and one bath. Storage functions take the form of a flush wall of cabinetry. Both sunlight and air enter the hallway and nursery via a lightwell that also offers the kids another outdoor play space. Throughout the house, a feeling of lightness and brightness is amplified by a subtle color scheme and finishes including natural wood, bleached Douglas fir floors, and pale-white surfaces. Meanwhile, Leidner’s team refurbished the wood of the original structure’s interiors, exposed old rafters and partially retrofitting the foundation for seismic events.
Despite all this, the 25-by-25-foot courtyard is the house’s greatest amenity: The owners love to spend time outdoors and gardening—the 5-year-old daughter tends to a patch of strawberries—and the house, even in its heavily urban context, allows them to do this in spades. “You feel as if you’re entering a secret garden, protected from the outside world,” Leidner says, “but then we also made a big effort to extend that lushness to the sidewalk landscaping to create a park-like space for the benefit of the rest of the neighborhood.” Concrete pavers and sedum cover the courtyard, echoing the siding of the historical building. This outdoor “room” flows into a ground-level living space through a set of lift and slide doors.
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