14 of the Best Midcentury Renovations Setting the Bar in San Francisco
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14 of the Best Midcentury Renovations Setting the Bar in San Francisco

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By Kate Reggev
These renovated homes in the San Francisco Bay Area stay true to their midcentury roots while reaping the benefits of modernization.

Whether it be an Eichler in need of a new kitchen, or a hillside home suffering from years of muddy remodels, these renovations make the best of their midcentury bones—as well as their scenic locales in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.

Midcentury Mash-Up in Russian Hill

In 2005, Gretchen Rice and Kevin Farnham acquired a 1908 home in San Francisco that had been remodeled in the 1940s by well-known local architect Henry Hill. Their series of small interventions have kept the design intent of the 1940s renovation—including an enclosed atrium, wood wall paneling, and unusual built-ins—while updating the home for contemporary living. In the dining area, Metropolitan side chairs by Jeffrey Bernett for B&B Italia surround a Surf Table designed by Carlo Colombo for Zanotta.

A home in Belmont underwent a transformation by building Lab for a young and growing family. The renovation upgraded existing interiors, enlarged the master bedroom, and updated the home's spacious outdoor areas. In a bold and unusual stroke, the clients decided to forgo a formal dining area. Instead, they opted for an eat-in kitchen with custom-built benches and a live-edge waterfall table; the kitchen looks out and opens directly onto the backyard. 

Constructed in the 1960s and named after famed California builder Joe Eichler, this outdated one-bedroom was renovated into a minimalist studio apartment with open sight lines to the double-exposure windows.

Josh and Moeka Lowman of San Francisco branding firm Goldfront reached out to Michael Hennessey Architecture to renovate the interior of their two-story residence in Diamond Heights, which was built by Eichler in 1965. Michael Hennessey explains, "We struck a balance between the positive, inherent qualities of an Eichler structure with modern improvements that enhance rather than compete with the existing building."

This 1962 home exemplifies Eichler's typical post-and-beam construction. The home, renovated by LAPNOG architecture in 2014, retains much of its original exterior concrete block and interior features including wood beams and paneled ceilings.

Completed in 1953 by architect Harry Nakahara, this home sits at the end of a cul-de-sac in Berkeley Hills and was specifically designed to take advantage of the panoramic views of the Bay Area bridges, city skyline, and Mount Tamalpais. The majority of the home's original features—including the layout, finishes, and light fixtures—are still intact, while specific updates to the kitchen have been made.

Designed by acclaimed Bay Area architect Joseph Esherick, this magnificent midcentury modern in Oakland, California, communes with its wooded setting. Situated in Oakland's secluded Montclair Hills, the home was designed in 1963 and was carefully designed to take advantage of the views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Although the home retains the majority of its original character, spaces like the kitchen have been modernized, and includes plenty of well-designed storage space. 

An Eichler just south of San Francisco was carefully renovated to improve livability while maintaining the essence of Eichler style. When a young couple with two small children and a deep appreciation for their midcentury-modern Eichler came to Klopf Architecture, they were looking for ways to mindfully update the materials within the home and add a bit more living space. The team embraced the idea of creating an updated modernist home that would respect the original design while increasing functionality.

Originally designed by the famed Bay Area architect Joseph Esherick in 1958, this home is located in San Francisco's iconic Sea Cliff neighborhood, where it overlooks the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay. The midcentury home was renovated by the local architecture firm of Edmonds + Lee for bakery entrepreneurs. Fortunately, the existing structure had good bones, so the architects were able to maintain the dwelling's original footprint, and focus on opening up the interiors.  Photo by Joe Fletcher

Designed around a specimen oak, this renovated midcentury has walls of glass and a natural palette to achieve a seamless connection with the outdoors. When a pair of nature lovers purchased a hillside midcentury home south of San Francisco in Portola Valley, they were admittedly more taken with the stunning valley vistas than the house, whose original 1960s design had been long covered up by mismatched remodels. Yet, after living there for a few years, the couple decided to start a family and realized a renovation was finally in order. 

For Jerome Buttrick of Oakland-based Buttrick Projects, the aim of this renovation was simply to update an already well-designed 1958 midcentury home. Situated on a steeply sloping lot, the home boasts views of the Bay from the comfort of a sheer buttressed living room, a move inspired by the one from the original plan. Keeping much of the original layout, the extensive remodel involved replacing almost every wall to introduce modern insulation, appliances and materials. Not only has the remodel made room for the kids, it also incorporated subtly sustainable features such as sun shading eaves and operable windows. As Buttrick explains, "The original project was a future forward-looking stage for domestic life that remains relevant today."

At this 1956 home in Oakland, an open-plan living space features floor-to-ceiling windows, tongue-and-groove beamed ceilings, an original brick fireplace, hardwood floors, and sliding doors that lead out to an expansive and beautifully landscaped garden.

Originally built in 1964 by architect Albert Lanier, this home overlooking the Mount Sutro Open Reserve in San Francisco has been renovated by Feldman Architecture for an active, yoga- and travel-loving couple. The residence features a triangular alcove, sloped gardens, and a plunge pool, channeling a Japanese ski cabin with updated materials like sleek white oak and steel.

Halfway through a pregnancy isn’t exactly the ideal time to buy a house. So after spending months scouting San Francisco’s Victorians and turnkey cookie-cutters—and almost defecting to the East Bay—Lorena Siminovich and Esteban Kerner decided to put the hunt on hold until after their baby was born. But then one afternoon Kerner, a design director with Old Navy, logged on to Craigslist on a whim. He saw a below-market listing for a single-family home in Noe Valley, their neighborhood of choice.

With crumbly brick cladding, peeling rust-brown paint, and rotting garage doors, the house lacked curb appeal. But the Argentine couple was drawn to the interior. "It was amazing and strange at the same time," says Kerner of the 1,485-square-foot, multilevel, midcentury maze. "Mind-boggling," adds Siminovich. "It was just a knot of doors and a series of insane stairs to nowhere."

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