A Knitting Mill in San Francisco Becomes an Unbelievable Loft For Two Art Collectors
The collection is impressive. Works by Alexander Calder, Dan Flavin, John McCracken, Gary Hume, Francis Picabia, and many more dot a series of freestanding walls and surfaces in this renovated San Francisco loft. Built in 1928, the former knitting mill has become home to the private gallery of the owners, a husband-and-wife team who worked closely with Fiedler Marciano Architecture on the thoughtful transformation.
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"They have impeccable taste in design," says the firm’s cofounder Martin Marciano, whose clients were inspired by Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre in Paris. "To have clients with such astute knowledge of this masterpiece of architecture—and to put it in your hands—is rare."
And while the owners’ notable collection of some 300 pieces of work informed many of the art-hanging elements, "[The homeowners] didn’t want to live in a gallery," says Marciano. "They wanted a home."
And what an exquisite home the design duo delivered. From the revealed concrete walls to the open plan and steel trusses, many design elements of the original mill remain. But it’s the four-story, blackened, tubular steel stair that unites the loft so graciously. The feature leads you to a private roof deck, enclosed by a custom aluminum screen crafted for both privacy and airflow. The design-forward solution features downtown San Francisco as a focal point—and provides a safe space for the owners’ cat.
"What makes this home successful is the integration—the conversation—between the art, architecture, and design," says the owner. Along with Fiedler Marciano, she credits Steven Volpe Design for the home’s stunning results. "It’s so airy and spacious, yet still has a kind of intimacy," she says. "It just physically and emotionally feels great."
That airiness is thanks to the architectural integrity of Fiedler Marciano. A previous intervention disregarded and enclosed the roof trusses—not to mention blocked out much of the light. Post-demolition, it became clear the original design was crucial to integrate. "We wanted to get a sense of the original open plan while creating sections of privacy and art," says Marciano. "That’s why at the end of the day the only thing that should touch the underside of roof is the master bath and powder room." With only those two rooms spanning the full height of the home, the loft’s trusses are in full view.
"That was a leap they took with us since it’s a home for the two of them," coounder Mark Fiedler says about their efforts to leave the shell unbothered. "The owners came to this building and saw these wonderful, industrial bones. It became modernism with a focus on craftsmanship and evolved into a project that crosses the line of industrial design and architecture."
"Art, architecture, and design—that’s what living here is all about."
The firm’s object-based approach incorporated their own custom-designed hardware, bookshelves, cabinetry, and even the kitchen. "It would have been the only product brought in," says Fiedler. "If it didn’t grow out of the project, it would have seemed out of place. The end product is a holistic environment that works well with everything else. That’s a lot to say about Steven Volpe, the homeowners, and the contractors."
"I’m happier living where we are and more comfortable and more me than anywhere I’ve lived in my whole life," says the owner. "Art, architecture, and design—that’s what living here is all about."
Design Architect: Fiedler Marciano Architecture
Interior Designer: Steven Volpe Design
Architect of Record: Francis Gough Architect, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Fulcrum Structural Engineering
Construction Manager: Van Acker Construction Associates Inc.
Project Manager: Joseph Darriau
Digital Design and Fabrication: S/U/M
Design/Fabrication: Andre Caradec
Lighting Design: Truax Design Group
Mechanical Consultant: Monterey Energy Group
Landscape Design: Loretta Gargan Landscape + Design
Metal Fabricator: Complete Fabrications
Millwork: Design Woodworking Inc.