Written By: Tiffany Carboni
After a year of living in their compact house in Noe Valley (a San Francisco district with the city’s highest concentration of row houses), the homeowners decided it was time to expand. The nearly whole-house remodel included their kitchen that they wanted to revamp in a way that would allow them a better connection with their garden.
In a cosmopolitan city as populated as San Francisco, though, space is at a premium. And when it comes to remodeling a home, neighbors often have a great deal of say if their views and privacy are in jeopardy.
As nearby expansion projects were halted due to neighbors’ protests, architects Shen Chiou and Marc Ojanen of Ojanen_Chiou Architects breezed through the permit process with their sensitive approach to both the neighbors’ and their clients’ desires.
The major design choies include quarter-sewn American cherry cabinets that pack a punch. Though there isn’t space for many, the regular-size cabinets and appliances provide good storage and function. The island, too, is furnished with full-depth cupboards, a double sink and pullout faucet for added convenience. “She’s European and he’s accustomed to living in the city so they were already adept at living with compact spaces,” explains Chiou, “but we were able to give them more with this efficient layout.”
The small but sufficient island, for example, comfortably fits four streamlined stools. The Cashmere Gold granite with its generous overhang on two sides even accommodates long legs. A three-foot clearance from the doorway allows the island close proximity to the patio when the continuous door by LaCantina is open. When the door’s closed, the island’s location still allows one to comfortably pass through.
On colder days, the small window can open independently of the door and work as a pass-through to the outdoor barbeque. Ojanen and Chiou maximized the room’s visual space by staining the window-doorway’s fir frame a cherry hue to match the cabinets and American cherry floorboards.
The glass partition they used to separate the stairs from the living room also serves to make the space feel larger. “It multitasks as a guardrail, an elegant modern touch and an ideal way to allow in light to other parts of the home,” notes Chiou. “When you’re working in small spaces, every choice has to count.”
The same is true for creating an energy-efficient home. Both the homeowners and architects are big proponents of sustainability. As a result, the insulation used in the new construction’s walls and ceiling is recycled blue jeans. New radiant heating provides both comfort and lower utility bills—plus, there are no air ducts fighting for precious space on the walls.