I met Sam and Kevin as they were looking to purchase a new home and, like many prospective buyers, they were in search of a home that best suited their lifestyle. The couple enjoyed entertaining, hoping to find something spacious and welcoming, and after viewing various properties, they had narrowed it down to one in particular. Due to the narrow row style of the building they had chosen it would likely need some modifying to become the space of their dreams. This is where they contacted Lee & Co Contractors to see if the home was the right fit with the modifications they had in mind.
Upon entering the top “flat” of this three-unit Edwardian building for the first time, I was immediately struck by the integrity of the interior finishes. Here in San Francisco many houses were built around the turn of the century. I am often awestruck by the level of detail found in these homes—created without a single power tool. This home was no exception, retaining the original handcrafted detailing that was first present when it was built.
The dining room came complete with coved ceilings, 6-foot wainscot, a Victorian era “plate rail,” and built-in cabinetry. I informed Sam and Kevin that this level of detailing, even with the assistance of power tools, could cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, to recreate today. Due to the quality of the finishes we decided to move forward with a design that was mindful of the home’s original architecture while integrating the homeowners desire for a highly functional contemporary space.
Soon after their offer was accepted, Sam and Kevin began working with local architect Andrew Mann. Mann set out to create a cohesive design that would meet the needs of the homeowners while honoring the integrity of the existing finishes. The homeowners were mainly concerned with the dark, outdated kitchen and compartmentalized floorplan.
Since the row-house configuration eliminated the option to add additional space or windows, we had to be resourceful when addressing the concerns of the homeowners. We also needed to be mindful of the time constraints involved with a homeowner paying rent on their current home as well as a new mortgage during design and construction.
The solution came when we decided to borrow light from the dining room and sunroom bar area. Since the main wall between the kitchen and dining room area was the primary load-bearing wall in the home, we couldn’t remove it entirely. Instead we were able to work with a structural engineer to maximize the opening between the two rooms, resulting in more space and light. The trim surrounding the opening was custom matched to blend in with the existing finishes. And to further unify the space, the base of the kitchen island was designed to mimic the wood paneling in the living room.
The most difficult part of this remodel was to make the budget work for the homeowner’s original wish list. In the end, this was achieved by keeping a large portion of the existing woodwork while implementing a more contemporary “open” floorplan that worked within the engineer’s constraints. By being involved from the beginning, Lee & Co was able to make design recommendations and work seamlessly with the design and engineering professionals to optimize the homeowner’s budget and vision. We achieved not only the bright, open floorplan that Sam and Kevin wanted, but retained and blended the original detailing found uniquely in San Francisco. | QR
Karl Nielsen Photography
Arlen Lee is the owner/principal of Lee & Co Contractors, a full-service general contracting firm specializing in residential design implementation that makes the spirit of beautiful craftsmanship and expert technique tangible. Since 2010, Lee & Co has been reimagining the possibilities of residential construction and remodeling with attentive dedication to clients and their homes.