A Knitting Mill in San Francisco Becomes an Unbelievable Loft For Two Art Collectors

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By Amy Phare
The vintage bones of an industrial loft serve as a stunning backdrop to a museum-worthy art collection.

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. 

Free-standing walls highlight the couple's noteworthy art collection. "The owner has a phenomenal eye," says architect Martin Marciano. "She could be curating in any modern art museum."

Free-standing walls highlight the couple's noteworthy art collection. "The owner has a phenomenal eye," says architect Martin Marciano. "She could be curating in any modern art museum."

There are few walls in the home that abut, making it difficult to place this neon sculpture—"Untitled (to the real Dan Hill)"—by Dan Flavin.

There are few walls in the home that abut, making it difficult to place this neon sculpture—"Untitled (to the real Dan Hill)"—by Dan Flavin.

"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."

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The lofts's original 1928 concrete is intact, and while they sandblasted it all, not everything was removed—the owners will often find things like nails and pieces of cork in the material.

The lofts's original 1928 concrete is intact, and while they sandblasted it all, not everything was removed—the owners will often find things like nails and pieces of cork in the material.

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.

The custom privacy screen shields unwanted views and places the focus on downtown San Francisco.

The custom privacy screen shields unwanted views and places the focus on downtown San Francisco.

Translucent floor planks allow light to filter through a skylight in the kitchen below.

Translucent floor planks allow light to filter through a skylight in the kitchen below.

"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."

Fiedler Marciano Architecture custom-designed the kitchen to complement the rest of the space, including the custom frames around the cabinets. "That kind of detail—that craft and kind of effort couldn’t happen without the best subcontractors we were fortunate to work with," says architect Martin Marciano.

Fiedler Marciano Architecture custom-designed the kitchen to complement the rest of the space, including the custom frames around the cabinets. "That kind of detail—that craft and kind of effort couldn’t happen without the best subcontractors we were fortunate to work with," says architect Martin Marciano.

Fiedler Marciano Architecture crafted not only the loft, but also many of the industrial design objects. The bookcase here is part of the "black" family of objects, including the closet storage and stair. The "white" family of object include the bathroom, kitchen, and more.

Fiedler Marciano Architecture crafted not only the loft, but also many of the industrial design objects. The bookcase here is part of the "black" family of objects, including the closet storage and stair. The "white" family of object include the bathroom, kitchen, and more.

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.

In the back right, you'll see that one of only two rooms touch the shell of the home. Fiedler Marciano Architecture kept the ceiling open and airy, respecting the integrity of the original architecture of the loft.

In the back right, you'll see that one of only two rooms touch the shell of the home. Fiedler Marciano Architecture kept the ceiling open and airy, respecting the integrity of the original architecture of the loft.

"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."

The main bath falls to the "white" family of objects designed by Fiedler Marciano Architecture and is one of architect Mark Fiedler's favorite rooms in the home.

The main bath falls to the "white" family of objects designed by Fiedler Marciano Architecture and is one of architect Mark Fiedler's favorite rooms in the home.

A sauna completes one of two bedrooms in the loft.

A sauna completes one of two bedrooms in the loft.

"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."

Both the architects and the homeowners credit Steven Volpe Design for the success of this project. "Steven is a wonderful interior designer," says the homeowner. "Every place he designs looks different. Each object is unique, and the fabrics are beautiful."

Both the architects and the homeowners credit Steven Volpe Design for the success of this project. "Steven is a wonderful interior designer," says the homeowner. "Every place he designs looks different. Each object is unique, and the fabrics are beautiful."

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Project Credits:

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.