9 Stellar San Francisco Renovations

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell
If you've ever embarked on a renovation in California, you know how challenging the historic preservation laws can be.

And with so many historic properties in the City by the Bay, renovations and remodels are par for the course. Architects and designers must collaborate with homeowners to work with these laws and make sure that their visions align with the reality of the constraints. However, a look at these beautiful San Francisco renovations from our community prove that the final results are well worth the struggle.

Selected homes were submitted by members of the Dwell community through our new feature, Add a Home. Add your home to Dwell.com/homes today. 


1. Pacific Heights Historic Renovation

Architect: Benjamin Farrell, Location: Pacific Heights, San Francisco

From the Architect: "This house was designed by Houghton Sawyer as a commission by Adolf Spreckles in 1912. Sawyer was tasked with building the house for the notable family of five and the exacting standards of Alma Spreckles. Upon completion, she promptly rejected the house, but retained it for her extended family and moved up the hill to the more famous house on Washington at Octavia—now owned by Danielle Steele. The Vallejo house was left untouched for nearly a century, until we remodeled the whole house, including the addition of twin three-story bay windows that look out over the San Francisco Bay, a roof deck, guest suite, art studio, gymnasium, and outdoor terraces. Extensive landscaping of the entire property created a unique outdoor space for family use."

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2. Noe Valley Residence

Architect: Martinkovic Milford Architects, Location: Noe Valley, San Francisco

This aging single-family residence in San Francisco’s sought-after Noe Valley neighborhood was transformed into a contemporary, light-filled home—taking advantage of the site’s entire square footage and stunning city views.

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3. Golden Gate Park Residence

Architect and Interior Design: Eliot Sutro of Sutro Architects, Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

The "down-to-the-studs" total renovation of this 1920 Edwardian top floor flat across from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco's Inner Richmond district, transformed it into a breathtaking contemporary residence. New double-paned windows and casements were manufactured to fit into the existing window design to match with the flat below. 

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4. Grandview House 

Architect: Ryan Leidner, Location: Grandview, San Francisco

With an emphasis on its expansive views of the city, Ryan Leidner Architecture reimagined this 1941 property as a minimalist modern residence. The home’s footprint had to remain the same, due to strict zoning laws—which meant they couldn’t add a deck. So, the top floor living room and kitchen area were designed to become an outdoor-like space with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that slide to either side, making the room feel completely open. 

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5. Nob Hill Residence

Architect and Interior Design: Imbue Design, Location: Nob Hill, San Francisco

When a San Francisco couple left their high-rise property after losing their view to a crop of new construction, they were thrilled to find a Nob Hill unit with charming architecture, a great view—and most importantly—strict zoning ordinances. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, and Sutro tower, their (now secure) view became the focal point of the design process. The renovation opening up the unit, allowing natural light and a stunning view to permeate their space.

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6. Randall Street

Architect: YAMAMAR Design; Interior Design: Alison Damonte, Location: San Francisco

From the Architect: "Give us an urban oasis—something minimal and modern, but warm with a seamless flow from inside to out." This was the mandate that came from our clients for this San Francisco home remodel. The existing house did not have a usable top floor, so we added a third story, freeing up the main floor for open plan living, dining, and entertaining. An in-law unit is tucked under the street-front deck above a garage. The family of four can now enjoy al fresco dining in the wind-protected back garden, and take in city views without sacrificing privacy from the street."

9 Stellar San Francisco Renovations - Photo 6 of 8 - Add a caption/p /figcaptioncite data-user-id="6173639428518469632"Photo by Bruce Damonte<br>/cite/figureh37.&nbsp;a href="https://www.dwell.com/home/a-to-z-house-cd578612" style="font-family: Theinhardt, sans-serif; font-size: 30px; font-weight: 700;"A-to-Z House/a/h3 pbArchitect and Landscape Design: a href="https://www.dwell.com/home/a-to-z-house-cd578612"Spiegel Aihara Workshop/a, Location: Golden Gate Heights, San Francisco/b/p piFrom the Architect:/i "The A-to-Z House proposes an alternative to conventional approaches for expanding an outmoded San Francisco home. Perched on a hillside in Golden Gate Heights, a modest single-story 1934 home had limited space and failed to take advantage of expansive views of Sutro Tower, Golden Gate Park, Sausalito, and the Bay. But rather than replacing or merely attaching to the existing structure, the A-to-Z strategy seizes upon the existing forms—scaling, repeating, and manipulating found objects into a contextual collection of structures, comprising a dynamic home immersed in its surroundings."&nbsp;/p figure data-photo-id="6258409193487654912" data-layout="wide"img style="min-height:500px" data-photo-id="6258409193487654912" src="https://d3df8ea8ea59eq.cloudfront.net/photos/6133459562306322432/6258409193487654912/large.jpg"figcaption data-placeholder="true"pAdd a caption

Add a caption/p /figcaptioncite data-user-id="6173639428518469632"Photo by Bruce Damonte
/cite/figureh37. a href="https://www.dwell.com/home/a-to-z-house-cd578612" style="font-family: Theinhardt, sans-serif; font-size: 30px; font-weight: 700;"A-to-Z House/a/h3 pbArchitect and Landscape Design: a href="https://www.dwell.com/home/a-to-z-house-cd578612"Spiegel Aihara Workshop/a, Location: Golden Gate Heights, San Francisco/b/p piFrom the Architect:/i "The A-to-Z House proposes an alternative to conventional approaches for expanding an outmoded San Francisco home. Perched on a hillside in Golden Gate Heights, a modest single-story 1934 home had limited space and failed to take advantage of expansive views of Sutro Tower, Golden Gate Park, Sausalito, and the Bay. But rather than replacing or merely attaching to the existing structure, the A-to-Z strategy seizes upon the existing forms—scaling, repeating, and manipulating found objects into a contextual collection of structures, comprising a dynamic home immersed in its surroundings." /p figure data-photo-id="6258409193487654912" data-layout="wide"img style="min-height:500px" data-photo-id="6258409193487654912" src="https://d3df8ea8ea59eq.cloudfront.net/photos/6133459562306322432/6258409193487654912/large.jpg"figcaption data-placeholder="true"pAdd a caption

8. Diamond Heights Eichler

Architect: YAMAMAR Design, Location: Diamond Heights, San Francisco

Previously the home of the American figurative painter Joan Brown, this San Francisco Eichler was purchased by a senior director at Apple. 

From the Architect: "The house was large, but was suffering from a lack of natural light, a funky layout, and hodgepodge finishes. When we discussed the owner’s wish list, he asked that, in addition to solving the programmatic and functional requirements, we also provide interesting, unexpected details. We added more glass at the front, and a new landscaped and fenced garden that would provide warmth and cheer in what is a notoriously foggy and windy area of the city. The radiant floors were repaired, and a new topping slab of concrete was added. The kitchen is now a hub of activity for the owners and their two small children. A second phase for the house is currently being designed."

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9. San Francisco, Cow Hollow Remodel

Interior Design: Julia Goodwin Design, Location: Cow Hollow, San Francisco 

A bright and airy stairwell leads to the lower level of this remodeled two-story contemporary home in Cow Hollow.

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Add a Home 

We're excited to announce our new, free Add a Home feature that enables anyone to easily create a beautiful page that showcases a home or home project in front of the amazing and highly engaged Dwell community. For architects, designers, and proud homeowners, adding a home is the best and easiest way to submit your home for Dwell editorial consideration, both online and in the magazine. Now architects, interior designers, realtors, builders, and homeowners can easily showcase their homes and projects on Dwell. See Featured Homes.