10 Modern San Francisco Homes

Mention San Francisco and you might stir up images of steep streets lined with colorful and historic Victorian townhouses—however, the times are a-changing in the City by the Bay.

Stringent historic preservation laws and difficult geography have always made San Francisco renovations a process—but challenges beget creativity and hillside homes make for spectacular views. So, take a look at our roundup of 10 stunning contemporary properties, some of which have been submitted by our community through our new feature, Add a Home

Slatted Wood-and-Glass Home Overlooking the Mission District

Architect: Craig Steely

Mechanical engineer Jan Moolsintong and industrial designer Peter Russell-Clarke enjoy epic views of San Francisco from their 1,800-square-foot house overlooking the Mission District. The distinctive facade has operable porthole windows and a slatted garage door that was custom-built by Raimundo Ferreira.

For his family’s recently remodeled home in San Francisco, designer Peter Liang undertook a two-part landscaping renovation. He planted a living roof, then, with the help of landscape architect Andrea Cochran, redid the backyard. "I wanted to plant a green roof for its thermal mass, but I wanted it to be as natural as possible," Liang says.

The houses that circle San Francisco's Buena Vista Park run the gamut from wedding-cake Victorian to Scandinavian modern. Architect Cass Calder Smith aimed to create a facade that contextually relates to the adjacent ornate ones—yet is purely modern.

Scott MacFiggen and Regina Bustamante, tech industry veterans from Silicon Valley, called on architect Christi Azevedo to rebrand a fusty house in San Francisco’s Noe Valley—starting with the street view. Plywood siding was replaced by cedar boards that have been charred using the Japanese technique shou sugi ban.

Conrad Residence in Noe Valley

Architect: Jon Peterson

Tom Conrad and Kate Imbach’s first bedroom redo created as many problems as it alleviated, blocking their view of Noe Valley behind a wall, for instance. Their second attempt, shown here, opened up the balcony, which has a Frame lounge by Francesco Rota for Paola Lenti. A Grand Repos chair by Antonio Citterio for Vitra faces the bed.

This new four-level house on a steep street in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood is designed to respond to opportunities presented by its site. These include the possibilities of a walkout rear yard and distant views in a downhill direction to the east and north. 

Studio VARA explains, "the project’s success lies in the judicious use of carefully executed moments," such as a wood screen that recreates the privacy of now-trimmed tree branches. Studio VARA also cites a "subtle palette of ‘warm’ mixed with ‘cool’ that recurs in both tone and materials: wood juxtaposed with glass and metal against stone."

After multiple renovations, this home had become a pseudo-Brutalist pink stucco box. However, its location on a sloping corner possessed both views and parking—two hot commodities in San Francisco real estate. Architect George Bradley seized the opportunity to make something great. "The house was designed to complement the challenging triangular corner site and its context," he explains.

One of the greatest design challenges, according to the design team, was reimagining the dark, unfinished garage space in a way that would "establish [it] as primary, instead of an afterthought to the original floor above." This was achieved by layering open linked spaces on the ground floor and sticking to a few carefully-selected materials for cohesion and fluidity. There are hardly any hallways in the home—every space serves a function. Polished concrete floors continue throughout the new living level and a bent metal dining chair with a reclaimed Douglas fir backrest made by Scholz sits in front of an open white oak staircase.

The contemporary renovation of this 1930s fixer upper resulted in a 1,800-square-foot residence that feels expansive, thanks to an ingenious use of natural materials and space-saving design. For the facade, architect Cary Bernstein used Ironspot clay tiles and FSC-certified cedar. The entryway was also reconfigured for the street level.  Guests then ascend straight to the main living space. 


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