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On the Market: The Historic Filbert Cottages in San Francisco’s Russian Hill

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On the Market: The Historic Filbert Cottages in San Francisco’s Russian Hill

July 22, 2017

San Francisco’s Filbert Cottages were built in 1907 by William Bush to house survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; over the years, the four modest structures—at 1338 Filbert St. in the city’s Russian Hill—have served as apartment housing and even a design school, but by 2000 they had fallen into complete disrepair. A controversial development proposal around that time prompted the city to designate the property landmark status in 2003. Four years later, a San Francisco family bought the property with the intention of making only modest improvements—but soon realized the landmark status would demand a far more rigorous approach.

They engaged Oakland architect Jerome Buttrick of Buttrick Projects A+D—a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory—to head the rehabilitation, and the architect walked a long and winding design and approval path with the owners. “We had innumerable roadblocks thrown at us regarding approvals and technical construction matters,” Buttrick says. “But restoring a decaying, historic part of the city with a garden visible from the street gives the project a purpose greater than itself.”

Ten years later, the Filbert Cottages are now for sale as four condominiums with a shared garden and underground parking, three bedrooms each and 12,000 square feet in all. Let’s take a closer look.

(View the listings at Realtor for more.)

Photography by Andres Gonzalez, courtesy of Buttrick Projects A+D.

Buttrick added cathedral ceilings with shiplap paneling in each space.
Above: Buttrick added cathedral ceilings with shiplap paneling in each space.

“The tenacity of the owners in seeing this through cannot be overstated,” said Buttrick. “They had no idea when they started, but they stuck with it all the way.”

The living room of the streetside cottage has black accents in the fireplace surround, chandelier, and structural I-beam overhead. The light fixture is Gear Suspension from McEwen Studios in Berkeley, and the fireplace surround is a Buttrick design of steel with patina and wax, fabricated by Irongrain in Oakland.
Above: The living room of the streetside cottage has black accents in the fireplace surround, chandelier, and structural I-beam overhead. The light fixture is Gear Suspension from McEwen Studios in Berkeley, and the fireplace surround is a Buttrick design of steel with patina and wax, fabricated by Irongrain in Oakland.
In the living room of the same cottage: a gray Venetian plaster detail wall by Level 5 Design in Berkeley.
Above: In the living room of the same cottage: a gray Venetian plaster detail wall by Level 5 Design in Berkeley.
The kitchens are by Bulthaup, with Miele appliances and quartzite countertops.
Above: The kitchens are by Bulthaup, with Miele appliances and quartzite countertops.

Natural light enters the kitchen via a split skylight that feeds light to both the kitchen and the master bedroom immediately above it. The compact cottage design allowed for only one window in each kitchen, so Buttrick augmented it with the bi-level skylight. “You want to fight for more, better daylighting, always,” he said.

The windows and doors in the main areas are single glazed, reused from the original cottages. The interior walls are painted in Benjamin Moore&#8
Above: The windows and doors in the main areas are single glazed, reused from the original cottages. The interior walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s China White, with ceilings in White Heron. The floors are wide plank French white oak from First, Last & Always.
Each cottage has a powder room made of the same French oak. For the design, Buttrick was inspired by a project he visited in southern France (see Travels with an Architect: A Restored Chateau in France, Farm Included). &#8
Above: Each cottage has a powder room made of the same French oak. For the design, Buttrick was inspired by a project he visited in southern France (see Travels with an Architect: A Restored Chateau in France, Farm Included). “Always look to the South of France for inspiration,” he said, “especially if your client is French.” (His is.)
A steel and oak stairway connects the three floors in each unit.
Above: A steel and oak stairway connects the three floors in each unit.
Each master bedroom has built-in cabinetry designed by Buttrick and fabricated by Brian Eby.
Above: Each master bedroom has built-in cabinetry designed by Buttrick and fabricated by Brian Eby.
Each master bath has radiant underfloor heating with white ceramic tile from Ann Sacks.
Above: Each master bath has radiant underfloor heating with white ceramic tile from Ann Sacks.
A ground-floor bathroom has a Calacatta d&#8
Above: A ground-floor bathroom has a Calacatta d’Oro marble bathtub installed in a walk-through shower. The white glass tile is from Ann Sacks and the floor tile is white thassos marble.
Immediately in front of the first cottage is a car lift linking the street to an eight-car garage beneath the cottages. The lift rises to street level to receive (or deliver) a car through the fence gate, at right. The lift is camouflaged with a green roof of succulents.
Above: Immediately in front of the first cottage is a car lift linking the street to an eight-car garage beneath the cottages. The lift rises to street level to receive (or deliver) a car through the fence gate, at right. The lift is camouflaged with a green roof of succulents.
The exterior siding is reclaimed redwood shiplap from the original cottages, paired with new cedar siding cut to match and painted in Benjamin Moore&#8
Above: The exterior siding is reclaimed redwood shiplap from the original cottages, paired with new cedar siding cut to match and painted in Benjamin Moore’s Floral White.
Though not visible here, parts of the exterior have zinc rainscreen siding—which creates an air gap between the screen and the building to allow for drainage and evaporation of moisture—as well as zinc downspouts running the height of each cottage.
Above: Though not visible here, parts of the exterior have zinc rainscreen siding—which creates an air gap between the screen and the building to allow for drainage and evaporation of moisture—as well as zinc downspouts running the height of each cottage.

The landscaping by Marta Fry Landscape Associates features boxwood hedges and plum trees and is visible from the street. Around 70 percent of the brick pavers were reused from the original cottages.

Before

Housing as many as  apartments at one time, the Filbert Cottages had fallen into a state of disrepair by 00. Photograph by Frank Deras.
Above: Housing as many as 10 apartments at one time, the Filbert Cottages had fallen into a state of disrepair by 2000. Photograph by Frank Deras.
 During the 40s, designer and artist Marian Hartwell lived in one of the cottages, where she headquartered the School of Basic Design & Color. Photograph by Frank Deras.
Above: During the 1940s, designer and artist Marian Hartwell lived in one of the cottages, where she headquartered the School of Basic Design & Color. Photograph by Frank Deras.

For more historic rehabs, see:

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