Under way at the same time as our project at 1436 Sanchez Street is our other LEED Platinum project at 1566 Sanchez.

This Stick Victorian dates to 1889 and has an unmodified facade.  Looking at its 1966 photo from the Junior League’s Here Today; San Francisco’s Archtiectural Heritage survey published in 1968 (see the listing of homes covered by the survey here), it’s pretty clear that at least nothing’s changed in the last 45 years.

What’s great about having the Junior League photo, in particular, is that you can see that the house to the left, 1570 Sanchez, was a nearly identical home.  Now, however, thanks to a circa-2004 3rd-story addition, the formerly 1-story-over-basement house that matched ours is now a 2-story-over-basement.

What’s interesting about that, you ask?

Well, thanks to Historic Preservation Guidelines put into place barely a year after their 3rd story addition, you can no longer add a 3rd story in San Francisco that matches the design and size of the lower story.  You now have to set the 3rd story back at least 10′ to 15′ from the front of the lower story and you should make the addition stand out from the original so that it’s clear what was original and what is new.  We did this with our 3rd-story addition at 394 Frederick Street.

So what will we be doing to this little piece of San Francisco history?

What to Save

Well, there really wasn’t much worth saving on the inside.  As you can see below, the floors had all been painted since the previous owner had smoked in the house for 40+ years and the only way to stop the floors from smelling was to paint them.

The trim details are nice, but there are layers of lead paint buried under there, so we’ll have to properly dispose of that trim and the painted wall plaster as hazardous waste.  There were no historic fixtures, kitchen cabinets were from the 40’s or 50’s and not particularly worth saving, and the one fireplace has no mantel (other than a flat, poorly cut piece of yellow-stained Carrera marble) is shallow because it was originally a coal burner.  Yuck.

What is worth saving is the beautiful facade.  Completely original, it will look just great with a new paint job, some new gilt-painted house numbers (like the numbers we found on a door in Brooklyn, below) on the front door transom window and some attractive newel posts added to the front stairs.  We’ll also save the beautiful old wavy glass from the existing windows on the home and re-use them in the glass cabinet doors in our new kitchen cabinets.

Aside from that?  It’s a gut.  Which is good because then we’re able to bring everything up to date – the plumbing, the electrical, the heating – plus we can fully insulate it, make it seismically safe for earthquakes and use sustainable, reclaimed, and non-toxic products throughout.

Scope of the Project

Right now, the home is just 1000 square feet, with two small bedrooms, more or less no closet space, and one bath.  In our eco+historical rehab, we’ll expand the living space to 2600 square feet by excavating the basement level to give us a two car garage, some storage, and an office and bathroom on the ground level.  We’ll add an office/guest room on the main level, separate the living and dining rooms, add a great new kitchen for entertaining and a family room.  We’re also adding a small 3rd story above with small-ish bedrooms and bathrooms for us and our son.  We’re cramming a lot of functionality into a modest space, but we think this will be an awesome home in which we can live, work, and connect with our family and friends.

Here are the great plans that our architect, Bridgett Shank of Feldman Architecture, came up with.

Existing Front and Rear Elevations

Note that the rear of the home is at a higher elevation since the lot slopes upward as you head back from the street.  We will excavate that lower level from the front (where even today it looks like a lower living level) to the back (which only has an egress door on the right today).  Also note how the facade makes the house look a lot larger than it really is!

Existing Floor Plan

Although I only have the existing floor plan in the form of the “demo plan” – i.e. the plan specifying what will be demolished before the start of construction – you can see what the current layout looks like.

New Elevations

From the street in front of the house, it will hardly be obvious at all that there was much change.  Aside from there being a garage door on the right where there is now a window, the new 3rd story will not be visible.  Even from across the street it will be hard to see the new addition.  Only people standing in our neighbor’s homes across the street will be able to see the top of our new 3rd story.  Why is that?  Because these Victorian homes had huge “false fronts” extending their perceived height above the ceiling level.  In our case, this existing facade extends nearly 7′ above the floor of the new 3rd story.  Yep.  Seven feet.  So the lovely front deck that the front bedroom will gain really won’t have any views…other than the inside of our own facade!

The back of the house, however, gets some big gains.  The top floor Master Bedroom gets a set of big French doors that open to our yard and views of Diamond Heights plus a lovely deck where we could relax with a cup of joe and take in a beautiful sunset…until that San Francisco chill sets in and convinces us to get our butts back inside ;^)

The main floor gets a windowed breakfast nook and a Family Room with another set of wide-opening French doors plus some additional transom lites above.  Below grade, the rear bedroom/office gets some French doors as well for a bit of natural light downstairs plus the below-grade bathroom also gets a window and light-well for some natural light as well.

As you can tell by comparing it to the original home above, the neighborhood impact of our change is quite modest and fully retains the original character of the home.  The rear is a tad more contemporary to capture more light and to reflect our more modern tendency towards an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, but it will still be trimmed out in a traditional style to keep consistent with the rest of the home.

New Floor Plans

Looking at the new floor plans, you can see that we’ve taken our unfinished, unexcavated basement and made a couple of rooms that could be offices, bedrooms, or some sort of Au Pair or in-law suite…

…and converted the current living level of the house into our social space, with a Living Room, Dining Room, Sitting Room/Guest Bedroom plus a large Kitchen and Family Room.

While the new third story crams a petite “Master Suite” and a second bedroom and bath with a great courtyard-like deck.

We’re out to bid right now, so more to come soon!

…and we’re back.

Well, it was a spirited bidding process that dragged on for nearly 2 months, but after our first round of bids came in between $400 and $500 per square foot, we needed to go back to the drawing boards and try again.  After a second round, we were down to around $300 psf and that seemed a lot more workable.

Our Builder

So now we can introduce our builder, Chris Begg, with whom I had worked before on our Cole Valley projects and who is not just capable, but a true partner in managing the cost and process of getting the home built.

In developing the contract with Chris, we left some of the subs with him while eco+historical took on some of the subs that were less integrated and thus required less management on Chris’ part.

Deconstruction Day

A week ago, we started demo, deconstructing the interior of the home and donating lumber, appliances, wiring, piping, doors, and the fireplace so that they could find new lives elsewhere rather than ending up at the dump.  Here are a few pictures from Deconstruction Day:


Pulling off the cabinets, doors and trim…

Saving some unique, select pieces – like this lovely corbel framing the window bay…

This is what was left of the kitchen after the cabinets and sink went but before the walls were removed…

All in all, we only had to abate some lead-painted plaster, but lots of good lumber, cabinets, doors, trim, and bath fixtures were saved for reuse elsewhere.  The existing chimney was deconstructed as well and those beautiful old bricks were saved on-site so that we could re-use them for patios while the old windows were kept on-site so that we could explore re-cutting the original wavy 1889 window glass to make the panes for the upper cabinet doors in the new kitchen rather than buying new glass.

New Homes for the Trees

And while all this demo was going on, we put an ad up on Craigslist making some of the trees we couldn’t keep available to others to take away for free so that they could find a new home and continue on.  Our call was answered and our two Ceonothus trees and one Camelia tree found new homes, as did many of the garden plants that would otherwise have become mulch.

For what it’s worth, the tree in the two upper left pictures in front of the house and the 10′ Camelia in the lower left picture and the 6′ Camelia in the lower center picture are all still available for the next week or two if anyone wants ’em!

Up next…our gutted home.