Movable and space-saving design elements define this creative family home in the Mission District.
In San Francisco’s Mission District, owners Zachary Scholz and Felisa Preskill fell in love with the potential of a 1954 home, despite it being just over 1,100 square feet and lacking the warmth and functionality they needed for their growing family. Initially a single level of living space over a garage, typical of many homes in San Francisco, they sought to increase their livable square footage by tapping into the unused potential of the cavernous garage below. The couple enlisted design team Seth Paré-Mayer and Kelli Franz of atelier KS to drive the transformation of the underutilized space into a new first-floor living level with a library, media room, and new master suite—all within a limited budget. Scholz, an artist, and Preskill, a reproductive health advocate, were enthusiastic about being involved in the design process from the start, a sentiment warmly embraced by Franz and Paré-Mayer. Through the collaborative design process, the team conceptualized a creative, functional home that would thoughtfully and beautifully bring together family, books, and art.
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The option of having an extra bedroom for their growing family was an attractive one for Scholz and Preskill as they looked to expand the living area of their cozy home. In doing so, they found themselves “cramming a full program into not that much space,” says Scholz. To achieve this, and still maintain a sense of fluidity and openness, the new master bedroom and bathroom were designed as a nontraditional open-concept space, without a continuous dividing wall between them. The light, airy bedroom features a custom LW bed and wall-hung side tables, both by San Francisco-based OHIO Design, along with a steel-and-white-oak lamp by Rich Brilliant & Willing.
The owners, who describe their design aesthetic as “comfortable minimalism,” envisioned a space with “clean lines, simple materials, and straightforward methods,” an vision shared by Franz and Seth Paré-Mayer. The new master bathroom features custom, locally built rift cut white oak cabinetry, consistent with many of the other spaces on the renovated level. The bathroom vanity floats above polished concrete floors. A bold cutaway was chosen in lieu of an anchoring wall. Unique fold-out mirrors lay flush against the side wall and cabinet when not in use, and swing towards the open center when needed. A custom cast concrete sink by It’s Concrete, Hansgrohe Puravida faucet, and Heath Ceramics soap dish complete the space.
Averse to the idea of a television being the centerpiece of a space, the owners instead opted for a clever alternative in the library/media room. Continuing the theme of movable and multi-functional design elements, a rolling chalkboard panel was designed to conceal the TV when not in use. Throughout the home, the family’s furniture is an eclectic mix of purchased, custom built, inherited, and self-made pieces. The room is accented with a reclaimed red office chair with custom white oak armrests made by Scholz.
The sliding wall panel is seen in its open position. In addition to several design elements serving multiple functions, great care was taken to develop a compelling design within the constraints of existing conditions. The remodel was confined to the existing building envelope, leaving the original footprint unchanged, but adding about 650 square feet of habitable space in the process. “The plans,” explains Paré-Mayer, “respected existing structural conditions where possible to save on cost.” The finished concrete floor is, in fact, the structural slab, an efficient choice from a cost and materials perspective. The existing footings, which were wider than the framed interior walls, were kept intact in their original condition and location. The team was able to cleverly design around them by building usable closed storage to conceal the protruding foundation, as seen at the base of the media built-in.
One of the greatest design challenges, according to Franz and Paré-Mayer, was reimagining the dark, unfinished garage space in a way that would “establish [it] as primary, instead of an afterthought to the original floor above.” This was achieved by layering open, linked spaces on the ground floor and sticking to a few carefully selected materials for cohesion and fluidity. There are hardly any hallways in the home; every space serves a function. Polished concrete floors continue throughout the new living level, and a bent metal dining chair with a reclaimed Douglas fir backrest made by Scholz sits in front of an open white oak staircase.
Boxes and boxes of Zack’s books found a new home in the custom library wall, fabricated with hot rolled steel, white oak, and aluminum. In the middle of the wall-to-wall bookshelves is a flat white oak panel where every board was custom-milled to perfectly fit the space. Franz and Paré-Mayer worked strategically to elevate simple materials. Design details such as the custom steel in the built-in bookshelves and aluminum handrail on the stairs were developed exclusively by Franz and Paré-Mayer for their clients, not to be repeated or reworked in any other projects.
A new operable skylight above the stairs offers an alluring visual connection to the outdoors, while providing passive climate control. On cool days, light floods the space from above and warms the home, while on warmer days, the open skylight allows air to circulate. The skylight is one of the owners’ favorite part of the home—seeing the changing light through the opening, catching glimpses of the moon at night, or listening to the rain on its surface.
The kitchen was given an economical revamp by adding new drawer and door fronts to the existing cabinet boxes. Countertops were replaced with custom fabricated white oak butcher block surfaces, and a complementary white oak kitchen island was installed. A Wolf range, Vent-a-Hood hood, Franke stainless steel sink, and Bosch dishwasher complete the space.
Though the home had obvious midcentury charm when they found it, some of the period details were masked by architecturally incongruent additions over the years, including crown molding and a traditional fireplace mantel, details that seemed out of place within the context of the modern redesign. Through the renovation, the molding was taken down, as was the cast plaster mantle. The sleek new fireplace features a white oak custom bench made by Zack, accented by a vintage carnation milk crate from his mother’s childhood.
The focal point of the home’s modernized exterior is a custom wood-and-steel entry gate designed by atelier KS and built by DeFauw Design + Fabrication, a local fabricator who also made custom closing hardware for the piece. Franz and Paré-Mayer paired angled cypress slats with an industrial metal frame to create the entryway. A few paces behind the gate, a large glass door provides direct access to the home, fulfilling the owners’ wish for an entry vestibule that would be separate from the street. The angled wood slats offer privacy from the exterior, while selectively allowing light to penetrate through.