A Compact Three-Story Brick Loft in San Francisco

Originally published in 
Pump Up the Volume
Making the most of vertical space unleashes the potential of a petite San Francisco project.
brick house sectional exterior


Making the most of vertical space unleashes the potential of a petite San Francisco project.

Photo by Cesar Rubio.

Brick House

Tasked with transforming a 93-square-foot brick boiler room, built in 1916, into a guesthouse, architect and metalworker Christi Azevedo flexed her creative muscle.

A guesthouse conversion in San Francisco
Architect Christi Azevedo deployed Ikea cabinetry in the kitchen (left), which spans almost the entirety of the renovated building. In lieu of adding standard-issue fronts to the upper cabinets, she created sliding doors of sanded acrylic panels. A PaperStone work top extends from the stainless steel counter for additional prep space. When not in use, the movable dining table—also designed and fabricated by Azevedo—fits snugly beneath it.
“Whether it’s 100 or 1,000 square feet, it’s about going in and looking at opportunities,” she says. In this case, she saw a chance to experiment with light, volume, and materials. The architect spent a year and a half designing and fabricating nearly everything in the structure save for the original brick walls. “I treated the interior like a custom piece of furniture,” she says. She raised the roof five feet and added a full kitchen, a bathroom, closets, and a sleeping loft, accessed via a steel ship’s ladder and a glass walkway.

compact three story home in san francisco interior bedroom
The three levels of the house transition from public to private: The ground floor is composed of the kitchen and living-dining area; the bathroom and closet occupy the mezzanine, accessed by a ship’s ladder; and the sleeping loft hovers a couple steps above. The seminal 1970s tome A Pattern Language, written by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein, inspired the layout. “I’m a huge proponent of the [book],” says Azevedo. “I like the ideas of a bed as an alcove, natural light on two sides of a room, varying ceiling heights, and different levels of privacy.”
“When you step inside, you don’t feel like you’re in a small space,” says Azevedo, noting that the split-level design draws the eye up through the structure, which rises to 17 feet in the tallest section. Visitors liken the interior to a tree house—an assessment that makes Azevedo proud. “We don’t want to lose the delight in architecture,” she says.

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