creative decentralization

January 2017 Newsletter

a different perspective: our clients' take on their home remodeling

In the two previous editions, we discussed the structural design, the craft of building as well as the management and scheduling of special trades in a unique residential project in San Francisco. Hope you will enjoy this unfolding as we bring you to the very beginning (the conceptual stage) and find out what were the needs and desires that helped shape this project. For this edition, we are super excited that we get to sit down with our clients Lee Byron and Ash Huang and hear their take on this year-long experience.

creative decentralization

It is not often that someone would tell you he decided to buy a house because of the basement. Lee and Ash recall having looked at many properties. When they came upon this one in Bernal Heights, they recognized the value of the fantastic location and the views, and sort of ignored the 'builder's grade' finishes of the interior. But what really clinched the deal was the potential they saw in the barely finished space at the bottom level of this four-story building. Being creative and tech savvy (he works at Facebook and she is an independent artist), the couple wished to have a spacious in-home studio where they could engage in a variety of digital and analog works. So, they asked a contractor friend to inspect the property and assure them that their remodeling plans were realistic. Originally, one had to go down a flight of stairs from the main level, pass the small laundry area, and double-back to the back of the garage to enter an in-law space, then go down another narrow set of stairs to access the lowest level which is connected to the back patio through a small door. That explains why they had never gone down there during the first year after they moved in, except when they gave a tour to their friends.

So, when building Lab's designers suggested flipping all the stairs to the opposite directions to improve the flow up and down to different levels , Lee and Ash jumped at the chance of radically transforming the building. The result is an open interior with distinct and yet connected spaces spreading through all four floors. Tailor made for a young professional couple's lifestyle, the house serves multiple functions as dwelling, work stations, artist studio, as well as entertaining venue. Elegant sets of stairs become the star features that seem to enable the burring of the boundaries between work, play, and relaxation.

what happens to that basement?

According to Lee and Ash, everything seemed to have fallen into place after the stairs were flipped. A portion of the original extra wide garage has been coopted as a new hallway that provides access to the laundry, a half bath, and a closet. The floor of the original in-law space is cut back from the exterior wall and the entire mezzanine is suspended from the ceiling with a steel rod. This technical feat allows the bottom level to be clean and without structural obstruction, and the entire back wall to be filled with glass windows and sliding doors. A custom built work top along the full length of the mezzanine is fitted with all the techie bells and whistles. Ash expresses much delight when she tells us she is really happy to have a real desk. Working from home, she does all of her digital stuff at this level, overlooking this dramatic space with a two-story wall of glass. The lowest level is where she does her physical studio art. She has her tools, books, and samples strewn all over the concrete floor. From this level, 10' high NanaWall® folding glass doors (inspired by similar setup at the Facebook headquarters) open up the entire space to the outdoor patio. Simple planting and seating, a custom fire pit, and strings of lights complete the picture for easy al fresco entertaining. Looking back up, the suspended floor above with the minimalist glass railing seems to have a dialog with the sleek dark wood stairs gracefully flowing down to earth. For both Lee and Ash, this realm below street level is obviously their pride and joy. They feel it has turned out exactly as they had imagined it, truly a dream came true.
Stay tuned to hear about other favorite parts of the house, and Lee and Ash's tips for homeowners who are planning a remodel.

lee and ash with nuri

Lee is a design engineer. He joined Facebook eight years ago and is responsible for designing some of their coolest apps. He credits his aesthetic sensibilities to having an architect mother. He has to travel quite a bit, working and coordinating with engineers at many different locations all over the world. He says that with this new house, he wishes to stay put more often.

Ash is a writer and artist. She has done product design and brand work for Pinterest, Twitter, and Dropbox. Her essays have been featured in Fast Company, Offscreen Magazine and Lean Out. Her first novel, The Firesteel, won First Place for literary fiction in the 3rd Annual Writer's Digest Self-published e-book Awards.
Photo captions L - R 
Profile image: a mile-long desk floating above the mezzanine floor
1. Before: existing garage   2. Before: existing in-law space
3. Before: small door to the patio at the lowest level   4. New stairs to the bedroom level
5. New stairs from mezzanine to main floor and bedroom level   6. Mezzanine   7. Artist space at lowest level   8. View from patio 
Presentation photos by Scott Hargis Photography

bL welcomes evan bowman to our design team

a bold art piece sets the tone for a master bath

Click here to read an article on Remodeling Magazine.

share this newsletter

Forward to Friend

This email was sent to *|EMAIL|*
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences