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Moving Up on Potrero Hill


Moving Up on Potrero Hill

May 10, 2014

When architect Cary Bernstein’s client moved into a 1900s cottage in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, he was a bachelor; after his life expanded to include a wife and three young children, the house took the leap as well.

The modest shingled cottage never had pretensions to a particular style, and in the course of the last century, had remained half-hidden behind trees on a wooded lot. It was this low-key presence that Bernstein, who is a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory, was careful to preserve in her extensive renovation of the house. “The trick was to keep some of the quirkiness of the cottage, and to add our own layer of history,” says Bernstein. “We expanded up, adding a third floor, to avoid interrupting the garden surrounding the house.”

Photography by César Rubio.

640 cary bernstein potrero house exterior

Above: Bernstein transformed the cottage into a light-filled modern house. From the street, it appears to be two stories; the first floor steps down the hill behind. The original Dutch door is still in place (now painted black).

640 cary bernstein potrero house garden detail

Above: The front yard and its curved wooden bench were left untouched during the renovation.

640 rm cary bernstein potrero house trellis detail

Above: Adding a third floor did not require any extraordinary measures, thanks to a solid foundation and strategic choices by Bernstein, who used external steel framing to brace the house. A frame around the double-height windows (at left) and a trellis over the front door that anchors the house to a shed are key structural supports.

640 cary bernstein potrero house dining room

Above: The original ceiling, with its mix of planking in three different sizes, became the inspiration for the new faí§ade. The flooring is reclaimed oak barn siding.

640 cary bernstein potrero house kitchen island

Above: The minimalist island is made of walnut butcher block–”We like to design islands as pieces of furniture, rather than looking like wall cabinetry that managed to float away,” says Bernstein. A Blu Dot Knicker Chair is at the built-in desk.

640 cary bernstein potrero house kitchen

Above: To the left of the front door is a side entry that goes straight into the kitchen; the breakfast nook has a built-in bench for shoes. Around Naoto Fukasawa’s Déjí -Vu Table are classic Jacobsen Style Series 7 Chairs.

640 cary bernstein potrero house stair

Above: The stairs are recognizably old-fashioned in shape, but the railing has been reinterpreted with modern steel spindles.

640 rm cary bernstein potrero house study

Above: The third-floor study off the master bedroom takes you up into the trees. The chair is a faithful copy of Hans Wegner’s CH25 Chair.

640 cary bernstein potrero house blue chairs

Above: The top-floor deck has a view of the Bay Bridge to the east. The outdoor furnishings are from Ikea.

640 rm cary bernstein potrero house garden bench

Above: The front yard serves as an outdoor dining room.

For another urban house designed to work for all stages of life, see Modern, Sustainable, and Adaptable (for $117 per Square Foot.) Looking to hire an architect? Consult the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory, and get inspiration by exploring our vast Photo Gallery sorted by architects, locations, and building styles.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 26, 2012 as part of our issue, Wabi-Sabi Week.

Cary Bernstein talks workplace design in The Architect Is In: The Secrets of Workplace Design. If you’re looking for an architect or a designer see our member listings in the Remodelista/Architect Designer Directory. And if you’re thinking about your patio, Hardscaping 101: Brick Patios on Gardenista is a good place to begin.

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Frequently asked questions

What is Potrero Hill?

Potrero Hill is a neighborhood in San Francisco known for its scenic views, diverse architecture, and thriving urban-dwelling community.

What is this article about?

This article is about a family in Potrero Hill who decided to renovate their home instead of moving and shared their experience.

Why did the family decide to stay in their home?

The family loved their neighborhood and did not want to leave. They also thought it would be more cost-effective to renovate their existing home rather than buy a new one.

What changes did the family make to their home?

The family added a new second story to their home, which included a master suite and office space. They also made renovations to their existing living spaces to make them more functional for their family.

What challenges did the family face during the renovation process?

The family faced challenges with the permitting process and also had to deal with unexpected surprises during construction. However, they were able to work through these challenges with the help of their architect and contractor.

How long did the renovation process take?

The renovation process took about a year from start to finish.

What advice does the family have for others considering a home renovation?

The family advises others to do their research and find a team of professionals they trust, including an architect and contractor. They also recommend being prepared for unexpected surprises and to have a clear plan and budget in place.

What is the takeaway from this article?

The takeaway from this article is that with careful planning and the right team in place, a home renovation can be a successful alternative to moving and can help homeowners stay in the neighborhoods they love.

Product summary  

ch25chair 0834
Carl Hansen & Son

ch25 Chair

$3,290.00 USD from Hive Modern

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