The matching properties, each about 1,325 square feet, share an open courtyard and a unique collection of exterior materials.
Principal Jim Zack had an idea when he first saw a small cottage in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The old cottage was situated on the far end of a 25-by-100 foot lot, and Zack knew the space would allow for two units. So, alongside Lise de Vito, the other principal of Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction, the firm renovated the cottage and built a complementary second property. “We wanted to explore the idea of living small: how to put two detached houses on a lot that typically has one building,” Zack says. But “living small” doesn’t mean feeling cramped, even when seven people share the space. Both owners work for start-ups – the front unit has two children and the back has two musicians – and their homes open to a courtyard. And just like the lot it sits on, the architects made sure that certain rooms could be used in a variety of ways.
“We are always interested in doing unapologetic modern design in an architecturally conservative city,” Zack says. The front unit’s door to the courtyard is painted in Sherwin-Williams’ “carnival” shade.
“Church Street is a pretty busy through street, [and] now everyone knows the ‘rusty steel house,’” Zack says. The front unit’s exterior is made of acrylic stucco, custom wood siding, and Cor-Ten steel.
Pre-finished Varmland oak by Berg & Berg cover the front unit’s living room, dining room, and kitchen floors. A CB2 Capitol Pendant Light hangs above the dining table.
“The rear unit was about 90 percent rebuilt,” Zack says. “We added a full floor of living space in what was the garage.” Black walnut was used to make the home’s stairs and handrails.
“I came up with an idea of making steel parts with ‘mortise and tenon’ joints, used in woodwork, to make it easy to fit parts together,” Zack says. Custom shelves in the rear unit were made with plywood parts by Dawson Wood Interiors and steel from the firm, Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction.
The rear unit’s kitchen has storage space and a desk made of rift oak.
Dawson Wood Interiors of Truckee, California built the rear unit’s kitchen cabinets with rift white oak. Cornerstone quartz countertops and Ikea parts complete the space.
The rear unit’s front entrance faces the courtyard, and has the same acrylic stucco and painted wood siding as the front unit’s exterior. The door, which has a custom-steel awning over its frame, is painted in “hep green” by Sherwin-Williams.