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.
Ryan Leidner mission district house renovation

In renovating this Mission District house, architect Ryan Leidner took cues from the courtyard-house typology, sandwiching the two-part house around an interior garden, which is the first space one experiences on entering from the street. (Seen here is the newly-built addition.) The layout cultivates a feeling of openness, along with some actual exposure, allowing the two children and dog to play freely—usually a nail-biting task in the city. Courtesy Joe Fletcher


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.

Ryan Leidner mission district house renovation

In the courtyard, Leidner designed the hardscape, but the owners did all the landscaping themselves, planting drought-tolerant olive trees, a few varieties of acacia, succulents, and wattles. Courtesy Joe Fletcher


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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Categories: Residential Architecture