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Two for One: A Courtyard Connects Old and New in a San Francisco Home by Architect Ryan Leidner

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Two for One: A Courtyard Connects Old and New in a San Francisco Home by Architect Ryan Leidner

August 2, 2019

How to turn a small, dilapidated single-story former saloon from 1888 into a modern family home for a design-minded couple and their two young children? Where most would see a project that was practically impossible and challenging, at best, architect Ryan Leidner saw an irresistible puzzle to solve.

Sweetening the deal was the clients’ request for a new build on the property, alongside the renovation of the older building. “The project brief called for adding a ground-up structure, which is very rare in San Francisco—making the project very compelling,” Ryan shares.

The original building had been designated a Historic Resource by the San Francisco Planning Department, a good thing but one that added another layer of complexity. “We had very strict guidelines from the Planning Department regarding how the buildings would relate to each other (mainly in terms of height as the new house couldn’t be taller) and the amount of open space we kept between the structures,” he explains.

The solution: A courtyard connecting the existing building with the new one, allowing for easy indoor-outdoor living and an interesting interplay between the two structures. “In my opinion, the project succeeds in creating an interesting harmony and juxtaposition between old and new,” Ryan says.

We couldn’t agree more. Let’s take a tour.

Photograph by Joe Fletcher, courtesy of Ryan Leidner Architecture

The Exterior

The street view, with a peek of the new building, painted white. The property is located in the Mission District of SF. The sidewalk plantings are lush, as the owners, avid gardeners, wanted to give back to the neighborhood through the creation of a public green space.
Above: The street view, with a peek of the new building, painted white. The property is located in the Mission District of SF. The sidewalk plantings are lush, as the owners, avid gardeners, wanted to give back to the neighborhood through the creation of a public green space.
The street entrance opens into the private courtyard. “The custom-profile painted siding echoes the typical horizontal lap siding seen throughout the neighborhood while playing with scale,” says Ryan.
Above: The street entrance opens into the private courtyard. “The custom-profile painted siding echoes the typical horizontal lap siding seen throughout the neighborhood while playing with scale,” says Ryan.

The Old Building

The original building was painted a midnight blue “to create more of a dynamic contrast to the new structure, painted white,” says Ryan. “The existing building on the site, while very run down, had been classified as a Historic Resource as it’s one of the oldest, single-story commercial buildings in the Mission, and as such we couldn’t alter the exterior other than paint and replace windows in-kind,” says Ryan.
Above: The original building was painted a midnight blue “to create more of a dynamic contrast to the new structure, painted white,” says Ryan. “The existing building on the site, while very run down, had been classified as a Historic Resource as it’s one of the oldest, single-story commercial buildings in the Mission, and as such we couldn’t alter the exterior other than paint and replace windows in-kind,” says Ryan.
“I’m regularly inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian design, and the tradition of respecting natural materials, the craft of building, and the beauty of a well-considered space,” Ryan says of his design sensibility. The older building was reimagined for easy entertaining, something the clients do often. The original rafters in the open living room were painted over and the timber columns refinished. The Extrasoft Sofa is a Piero Lissoni design.
Above: “I’m regularly inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian design, and the tradition of respecting natural materials, the craft of building, and the beauty of a well-considered space,” Ryan says of his design sensibility. The older building was reimagined for easy entertaining, something the clients do often. The original rafters in the open living room were painted over and the timber columns refinished. The Extrasoft Sofa is a Piero Lissoni design.
The adjacent kitchen. The white oak dining table and wall storage system were built by the owners’ good friend, Anthony Zollo of Studio Zollo. The dining chairs are by Borge Mogensen.
Above: The adjacent kitchen. The white oak dining table and wall storage system were built by the owners’ good friend, Anthony Zollo of Studio Zollo. The dining chairs are by Borge Mogensen.
An onsen-inspired bathroom features a hand-painted mural of bathers by local painter Rob Moss Wilson. Sliding doors open into an outdoor bathtub and shower.
Above: An onsen-inspired bathroom features a hand-painted mural of bathers by local painter Rob Moss Wilson. Sliding doors open into an outdoor bathtub and shower.
The cedar-lined outdoor shower and bath.
Above: The cedar-lined outdoor shower and bath.

The New Building

The new two-story structure, designed with its own open living room and kitchen. The exposed concrete flooring continues into the garden with a series of linear pavers, interspersed with rows of sedum. A fig tree grows in the center of the courtyard.
Above: The new two-story structure, designed with its own open living room and kitchen. The exposed concrete flooring continues into the garden with a series of linear pavers, interspersed with rows of sedum. A fig tree grows in the center of the courtyard.
The windows and doors are from Quantum Windows & Doors.
Above: The windows and doors are from Quantum Windows & Doors.
The white-oak cabinets in both this building and the older one are custom. The countertops are Neolith.
Above: The white-oak cabinets in both this building and the older one are custom. The countertops are Neolith.
Concealed in the wall of cabinets is a powder room. The “Japan Sofa” by Finn Juhl, a multi-legged coffee table, and a pair of armchairs by Takeshi Nii—all vintage—make up the living area.
Above: Concealed in the wall of cabinets is a powder room. The “Japan Sofa” by Finn Juhl, a multi-legged coffee table, and a pair of armchairs by Takeshi Nii—all vintage—make up the living area.
Private living quarters comprise the second floor: two bedrooms (pictured is the master bedroom) and a bathroom.
Above: Private living quarters comprise the second floor: two bedrooms (pictured is the master bedroom) and a bathroom.
Off the nursery is a lightwell, which offers an easily accessible outdoor space and fresh air.
Above: Off the nursery is a lightwell, which offers an easily accessible outdoor space and fresh air.
“The extruded white oak window boxes on the new structure give a nod to the more traditional approach to window casings while making them more three dimensional,” notes Ryan.
Above: “The extruded white oak window boxes on the new structure give a nod to the more traditional approach to window casings while making them more three dimensional,” notes Ryan.

For more inspired San Francisco homes, see:

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