John Lum Architecture Collaborates with Mansfield + O’Neil and Christopher Gate Construction To Transform a Slender Victorian into a Light-Filled, Family-Friendly Home
Instead of fighting the tall and narrow rooms, the design accentuates the soaring ceilings and maximizes space
Renovating a home that is a century old comes with its challenges. This is especially true in San Francisco’s trendy Lower Haight, where preservation, due to the neighborhood’s historic significance, is strictly enforced by the Planning Department.
When the clients, a former ballerina and tech executive, commissioned John Lum Architecture, who collaborated with interior designers, Mansfield + O’Neil, with Christopher Gate Construction as the General Contractor, to renovate their Stick-style Victorian, they were committed to preserving its charm. A household with two young children, a dog, and cat, the renovation had to meet the family’s kid-friendly needs while staying true to its historic roots.
“Part of our directive was to maximize the space while creating comfortable, livable rooms where everyone could relax and hang out,” says John Lum, founding principal at John Lum Architecture. “Given the lack of structural foundation and aging infrastructure, this resulted in a comprehensive remodel focused on clever space planning, natural light, and a minor first floor addition”.
The new layout required removing walls at the double parlor to create a great room with open kitchen, sitting and playrooms, and a guest bedroom-cum-office, along with a full bath. The lower level, a former basement/garage space, now features a master suite with his and her closets, two bedrooms, a full bath, wine storage, laundry room, and mudroom. The overall design consisted of melding the old and new. The casework, trim and openings interact beautifully with the restored Victorian woodwork, and are a timeless backdrop to the bold color palette.
"The clients wanted to achieve a bohemian-mod vibe with natural, organic elements mixed in with modern ones,” says Lisa O’Neil, principal at Mansfield + O’Neil. “The wife was very specific about color, and knew that she loved aloe green and black, juxtaposed with creams and natural tones.”
“The house is not large in terms of square footage but we were able to create a home that feels ample,” adds Christopher Gate of Christopher Gate Construction. “By focusing on the details and staying true to the design style throughout construction, we were able translate the team’s vision with precision”.
Sited on a standard 25-foot lot, with a classic, central-entry hall, meant that the rooms would be narrow, with some of the bedrooms being less than 10-feet wide. “By accepting that the rooms were going to be tall and narrow, freed us up from losing the quirky, historic quality of the house” says Lum. “The feeling of airiness and height in the house is extraordinary. Incorporating as much natural light as possible was essential to the design as the former house was dark and foreboding”.
The main floor hallway is awash in daylight which emanates from the large kitchen skylight. Light cascades down the stairs, transforming what would have been a gloomy corridor, into a cheerful entry/mudroom, accessed from the garage.
“In order to avoid the tedious and time-consuming SF planning process, we limited the expansion of the building and focused on optimizing every square inch of the existing footprint,” says Lum. “For example, the kitchen is open, yet without any wasted space. The use of side windows and a large skylight create a greater sense of volume, while the island cleanly divides the space into work and entertainment. A coffee/wet bar provides additional functionality. The breakfast nook anchors the room and has become the most popular place in the house.”
To further maximize space, an adjacent bedroom was converted into a playroom with a sliding barn door and built-ins that allow for active play while keeping the kids from underfoot. In the bedrooms, floor-to-ceiling closets, a modern-day interpretation of the Victorian linen closet, provide ample storage. And in the transient area, storage was hidden beneath the stairs, disguised by a wood-paneling system.
“To achieve this highly functional layout was truly a team effort,” says Lum.
In contrast to the façade, which was maintained due to preservation requirements, the modernized back deck spills onto a terraced landscape. This once inaccessible south facing yard now features an outdoor kitchen with shade pergola, hot tub, and a play area.
“The finished design is much more livable and aligned with the family’s contemporary needs; a remarkable transformation from a tired, overly-formal two-bedroom Victorian,” says Lum.
Architecture by John Lum Architecture
Interior Design by Mansfield + O’Neil
Construction by Christopher Gate Construction
Styling: Yedda Morrison
Landscape Designer: Growsgreen Landscape Design