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August 27, 2009

The renovation of Katie and John Eller's Park Street Residence in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco began with a referral from a friend: "She said, 'I want your architect and your contractor,'" recalls Sarah Willmer, founder of Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture. "Katie had heard so many renovation horror stories and saw that her friends were having such a good time with us; we just had a such a good rapport with her friend."

The renovation doubled the size of the old Victorian from just over 1,000 square feet to just over 2,000 square feet. More importantly, it untangled the mismatched layout and separated the public and private spaces while opening up the south-facing wall to let in ample daylight.

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  In early 2006, Katie and John Eller reached out to a friend for a reference. "She said, 'I want your architect and your contractor,'" recalls Sarah Willmer, founder of Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture. "Katie had heard so many renovation horror stories and saw that her friends were having such a good time with us; we just had a such a good rapport with her friend." Soon after, the couple sat down with Willmer to plan the renovation of their old Victorian home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    In early 2006, Katie and John Eller reached out to a friend for a reference. "She said, 'I want your architect and your contractor,'" recalls Sarah Willmer, founder of Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture. "Katie had heard so many renovation horror stories and saw that her friends were having such a good time with us; we just had a such a good rapport with her friend." Soon after, the couple sat down with Willmer to plan the renovation of their old Victorian home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  The original home was built in 1901, five years before the 1906 earthquake and fires that destroyed much of the city. Since then, Bernal Heights has created its own planning code which requires new renovation to include two side-by-side, off-street parking spaces since the winding roads of the area make parking problematic. To do so, Willmer had to create a new, wider garage, but when she presented the design to the board for review, the historic technicians said that they wanted Willmer to keep the original garage door in order to maintain the historic fabric of the neighborhood. In the end, Willmer was able to keep the original door and gain permission to forgo adding the second parking space. "The Ellers didn't want to park two cars inside the house," she says. "It took up too much space."

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    The original home was built in 1901, five years before the 1906 earthquake and fires that destroyed much of the city. Since then, Bernal Heights has created its own planning code which requires new renovation to include two side-by-side, off-street parking spaces since the winding roads of the area make parking problematic. To do so, Willmer had to create a new, wider garage, but when she presented the design to the board for review, the historic technicians said that they wanted Willmer to keep the original garage door in order to maintain the historic fabric of the neighborhood. In the end, Willmer was able to keep the original door and gain permission to forgo adding the second parking space. "The Ellers didn't want to park two cars inside the house," she says. "It took up too much space." Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  The original home measured in at 1,040 square feet. "It was a teeny tiny house," Willmer says. Perhaps not "teeny tiny" for a pair of adults but Katie and John had just had their second child when they first met Willmer. "The renovation was about starting a family, deciding to stay in the city, and needing to make a real nest and commitment to being there," Willmer says.

    The original home measured in at 1,040 square feet. "It was a teeny tiny house," Willmer says. Perhaps not "teeny tiny" for a pair of adults but Katie and John had just had their second child when they first met Willmer. "The renovation was about starting a family, deciding to stay in the city, and needing to make a real nest and commitment to being there," Willmer says.

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  The renovation expanded the square footage of the home from 1,040 square feet to 2,170 square feet. "The biggest change was adding the family room and kitchen to the top floor and making that level all living, public spaces," Willmer says. "We moved the bedrooms down to the lower level and connected them to the garden behind the house."

    The renovation expanded the square footage of the home from 1,040 square feet to 2,170 square feet. "The biggest change was adding the family room and kitchen to the top floor and making that level all living, public spaces," Willmer says. "We moved the bedrooms down to the lower level and connected them to the garden behind the house."

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  The original house ended at the back wall of the dining room, though it was previously the kitchen. The extended space adds more public areas and the sliding glass doors that lead out to the patio beyond the family room bring in extra daylight.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    The original house ended at the back wall of the dining room, though it was previously the kitchen. The extended space adds more public areas and the sliding glass doors that lead out to the patio beyond the family room bring in extra daylight. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  After long days at the offices--Kate is a literacy coach in the San Francisco United School District and John works for a non-profit community organization in low-income neighborhoods--the couple and their kids can take in the views of the penninsula from the roof deck off of their family room or walk down the steps to the backyard garden.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    After long days at the offices--Kate is a literacy coach in the San Francisco United School District and John works for a non-profit community organization in low-income neighborhoods--the couple and their kids can take in the views of the penninsula from the roof deck off of their family room or walk down the steps to the backyard garden. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  In the new kitchen, taking maximum advantage of the southern exposure was key. "I'm always conscious when doing townhouses about the fact that they limit daylight to only two directions," Willmer says. She raised the roof to a create a taller space and added a glass window for passive heating and lighting during the days.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    In the new kitchen, taking maximum advantage of the southern exposure was key. "I'm always conscious when doing townhouses about the fact that they limit daylight to only two directions," Willmer says. She raised the roof to a create a taller space and added a glass window for passive heating and lighting during the days. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  Raising the ceiling height in the kitchen meant that Willmer was also able to create a clerestory window (top left) that lets in western light in the evenings. Beyond the custom bamboo cabinets are stairs to the ground floor as well as half bathroom.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    Raising the ceiling height in the kitchen meant that Willmer was also able to create a clerestory window (top left) that lets in western light in the evenings. Beyond the custom bamboo cabinets are stairs to the ground floor as well as half bathroom. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  Because the upper-level bathroom is in the middle of the upper level, without a window, Willmer and her team--including designers Kathleen Heimerman and Joseph Barajas--created one wall with a translucent material to bring a lightness and glowing affect to the room. 

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    Because the upper-level bathroom is in the middle of the upper level, without a window, Willmer and her team--including designers Kathleen Heimerman and Joseph Barajas--created one wall with a translucent material to bring a lightness and glowing affect to the room. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  Entering the home through the garage, the rest of the house is accessed through the mudroom, which leads up the stairs to the public level or straight through to the bedrooms and backyard beyond. The third stair from the bottom extends into a bench for putting on and taking off shoes. "It was a nice opportunity to make the stairs sculptural and integrated into the space," Willmer says.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    Entering the home through the garage, the rest of the house is accessed through the mudroom, which leads up the stairs to the public level or straight through to the bedrooms and backyard beyond. The third stair from the bottom extends into a bench for putting on and taking off shoes. "It was a nice opportunity to make the stairs sculptural and integrated into the space," Willmer says. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  The Ellers wanted their main bathroom to be lined with tiles but the expense was a limiting factor. To overcome this, Katie made frequent trips across the Golden Gate Bridge to Heath Ceramics in Sausalito to purchase seconds. "She collected boxes and boxes over time, and then we arranged what she had in this pattern," Willmer says.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    The Ellers wanted their main bathroom to be lined with tiles but the expense was a limiting factor. To overcome this, Katie made frequent trips across the Golden Gate Bridge to Heath Ceramics in Sausalito to purchase seconds. "She collected boxes and boxes over time, and then we arranged what she had in this pattern," Willmer says. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  The couple couldn't afford to add another story for a master suite so they agreed to move their bedroom to the ground level with the other private areas. Their room opens to the backyard for now, but Willmer installed plumbing  upstairs in case one day they are able to build up.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    The couple couldn't afford to add another story for a master suite so they agreed to move their bedroom to the ground level with the other private areas. Their room opens to the backyard for now, but Willmer installed plumbing upstairs in case one day they are able to build up. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  The blue door on the left separates the kids' bedroom (right) from the couple's room. When open, the joined areas give the ground floor a more spacious feel. If Katie and John do build an upper-level master suite in the future, the two rooms can become two kid's rooms or a play room and a sleeping room.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    The blue door on the left separates the kids' bedroom (right) from the couple's room. When open, the joined areas give the ground floor a more spacious feel. If Katie and John do build an upper-level master suite in the future, the two rooms can become two kid's rooms or a play room and a sleeping room. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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  Willmer completely redesigned and relandscaped the backyard. "Houses in the early 1900s were built with a strong presence to the street but the back was totally forgotten," she says. Now, Willmer admits, the house is almost more oriented toward the south-facing garden than the street, but it's a space in which she had more design freedom and that the family is able to enjoy to its fullest.

Visit the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter website to purchase tickets to the see the Eller's Park Street Residence the Saturday, September 12 home tour (and more homes on the Sunday, September 13 tour) as part of the month-long Architecture and the City Festival.

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

    Willmer completely redesigned and relandscaped the backyard. "Houses in the early 1900s were built with a strong presence to the street but the back was totally forgotten," she says. Now, Willmer admits, the house is almost more oriented toward the south-facing garden than the street, but it's a space in which she had more design freedom and that the family is able to enjoy to its fullest. Visit the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter website to purchase tickets to the see the Eller's Park Street Residence the Saturday, September 12 home tour (and more homes on the Sunday, September 13 tour) as part of the month-long Architecture and the City Festival. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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<p>In early 2006, Katie and John Eller reached out to a friend for a reference. "She said, 'I want your architect and your contractor,'" recalls Sarah Willmer, founder of <a href="http://www.studio-sw.com">Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture</a>.

In early 2006, Katie and John Eller reached out to a friend for a reference. "She said, 'I want your architect and your contractor,'" recalls Sarah Willmer, founder of Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture. "Katie had heard so many renovation horror stories and saw that her friends were having such a good time with us; we just had a such a good rapport with her friend." Soon after, the couple sat down with Willmer to plan the renovation of their old Victorian home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

Project 
Eller Residence

Completed in September 2008, with the final touches finished by June 2009, the home will be open to the public in September as part of the San Francisco Living: Home Tours, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter as part of its month-long Architecture and the City Festival.

Click the yellow "Slideshow" button at the top right-hand corner of this post for a preview tour through the home and the story behind its renovation.

<p>The couple couldn't afford to add another story for a master suite so they agreed to move their bedroom to the ground level with the other private areas. Their room opens to the backyard for now, but Willmer installed plumbing  upstairs in case one day

The couple couldn't afford to add another story for a master suite so they agreed to move their bedroom to the ground level with the other private areas. Their room opens to the backyard for now, but Willmer installed plumbing upstairs in case one day they are able to build up. Photo by Ken Gutmaker

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