Before + After / Sunset Kitchen

Not gonna lie, this was one major transformation in one very small, windowless space. Our clients were avid cooks and frustrated with their cramped kitchen and its dysfunctional layout. We opened up a wall to create room for friends and family to gather, and even though we removed a few upper cabinets, the kitchen ended up being more space efficient in the end. Check it out:

BEFORE: What you’re seeing is the length of the kitchen.

BEFORE: What you’re seeing is the length of the kitchen.

AFTER: There used to be a wall and a fridge where the peninsula is.

AFTER: There used to be a wall and a fridge where the peninsula is.

BEFORE: Fluorescent lighting, need I say more?

BEFORE: Fluorescent lighting, need I say more?

AFTER: Recessed lighting keeps the small space clutter free, while the pendant adds some interest.

AFTER: Recessed lighting keeps the small space clutter free, while the pendant adds some interest.

BEFORE: Induced claustrophobia

BEFORE: Induced claustrophobia

AFTER: Room to breathe

AFTER: Room to breathe

What’s your favorite part of the new kitchen? Tell us in the comments below!

Pro Tip: When You Should Hire an Interior Designer

Interior designers create beautiful spaces, but hiring one isn’t right for every project. Here are the top 5 reasons for when you’ll want a full-service designer on your team...
 

1 / YOU WANT A UNIQUE SPACE

Interior designers help make any space uniquely yours due to their vast network of local, domestic, and international sources. They’ll find the exact right pieces for your home that you likely won’t see anywhere else, or they’ll create the perfect custom piece for you in collaboration with expert craftsmen.

Rest assured — your home will not look like your neighbor’s!

2 / YOU WANT FUNCTIONALITY AND DURABILITY FOR SPECIFIC NEEDS

Interior designers take the time to understand how you’ll be living in your space. Do you need to accommodate high-use areas for kids or pets? Do you have light-sensitive sleepers in an east-facing bedroom?

Interior designers apply their extensive knowledge of materials and vendors to help design your ideal space. You’ll get more than just a beautiful and inspiring home — you’ll get one that fits your daily life and is built to last.
 

3 / YOU WANT A COST-EFFICIENT PROJECT

Yes, hiring an interior designer is a considerable investment into your home, but there are several cost benefits too.

  • Interior designers’ relationships with vendors often result in prices lower than if you’d purchased the same items on your own.
  • Form + Field excels at project management and has overseen many projects before yours. We’ll help you avoid costly mistakes so you can have a beautiful space where money is spent on the things you care about most.

4 / YOU WANT A LOW TIME COMMITMENT

With an interior designer you’ll benefit from:

  • A hands-off project that is completed in the most time-efficient manner possible
  • An experienced person on-site to help you avoid time-sucking mistakes that could set back project schedule

With an interior designer on your team, you won’t squander your precious time resolving issues or sifting through countless options. You don’t need to be on-site with contractors or overseeing installations… and your project will be completed more quickly if you aren’t!
 

5 / YOU WANT CONFIDENCE AND PEACE OF MIND

Your interior designer understands building codes, communication requirements between parties, and every other nuance of a design project. They’ve managed the process many times before!

This means…

  • You can trust that your project is in qualified and talented hands.
  • You can live your life as normally as possible during the process.
  • Above all, you can experience stress-free the excitement of knowing your future home will be nothing short of stunning!

Wondering if an interior designer is right for your project? Ask us your questions in the comments below!

Behind the Scenes / Potrero Hill Duplex

"Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan." -Eliel Saarinen

Rendering of the future Potrero Hill Duplex

Rendering of the future Potrero Hill Duplex

I love this quote from Eliel Saarinen because it succinctly describes what is essential to creating great design, and is something I constantly strive for in my work. To walk you through my design process for a building, here's the short story of our Potrero Hill Duplex. 

STEP 1: START WITH THE PEOPLE & NEEDS

When I began designing this project, I began with the interiors of each unit. Who are the families who will be living there and what are their needs? How should the spaces flow to enhance one's daily rituals? What combination of elements creates a well-crafted, comfortable home? What is the feeling we want to create in each room? From there, these considerations had to be married with the ideal interaction of the two units. How much privacy does each unit require? What spaces can be shared and should be shared to enhance neighborliness?

STEP 2: SHAPE THE INTERIOR

In short, these questions led to the design of a top-level penthouse with a roof deck, and a two-level family home with a deck and master suite opening to the yard. With both main entry doors on the second level, a reverse floor plan was designed for the family home with all bedrooms on the first floor. (I'll be sharing floor plans in a future post.)

STEP 3: SHAPE THE EXTERIOR (THEN GO BACK TO STEP 2, REPEAT)

The interior spaces then began shaping the exterior form of the building, creating a dialogue that not only had interior needs informing the exterior form, but also exterior needs informing the interior spaces. In San Francisco, there are strict residential guidelines to how a building must look on the exterior to retain the character of a street. To share a consistent language with our neighbors, we had to mimic the second floor entry ways and bay windows of the neighboring multi-units, even though the existing home has neither. This was not a linear process at all, but involved much back-and-forth, seeing how the interior decisions affected the exterior and vice versa. Dozens of configurations were tried to finally arrive at a harmonious interior and exterior composition that had minimal compromise to function and form.  

STEP 4: CONSIDER THE CONTEXT

The context is always considered from the beginning to provide the boundaries of what is possible. But it's especially relevant when designing the exterior and how it relates to the street. When deciding on the exterior building materials of corrugated steel and stucco, I drew upon the history of the neighborhood. Formerly a blue-collar and working class community next to the factories, warehouses, and shipyards in Dogpatch, Potrero Hill started attracting tech professionals in the 1990's. While mostly gentrified at this point, the character of the houses and buildings in Potrero Hill are incredibly diverse due to development occurring over many decades. Because corrugated steel is affordable and durable, it's often used for industrial and commercial buildings and is still commonly seen in the Dogpatch. The prevalence of stucco buildings in California is tied to the influence of Spanish Mission-style architecture, and it felt right to combine these two very different materials in a modern way given the diverse nature of the neighborhood. The contemporary design of the house is true to its place in time and the way people live today, while the exterior materials give a nod to its history.

STEP 5: PUT IT ALL TOGETHER 

Throughout the design process, these considerations push and pull at each other to create a singular solution that fits the needs of the client and context. It requires a lot of hard work to get there, but you know you've arrived when you stop asking yourself, "what if...?" The design is then, finally, where it needs to be.

Work in Progress / Introducing Potrero Hill Duplex

Just over a year ago, I started a fantastic new project in San Francisco that is somewhere in between new construction and a gut renovation.

Here's a couple photos from the real estate listing to give you an idea of the place:

BEFORE: The non-descript facade.

BEFORE: The non-descript facade.

BEFORE: A diminutive little house in between to two towering buildings.

BEFORE: A diminutive little house in between to two towering buildings.

For this project my client has several high-level goals to hit:  

  1. Add as much square footage as possible

  2. Optimize usability of space

  3. Design a home that will be widely appealing yet unique

Now after one year, I'm a couple weeks away from submitting the permit application. This is what it took to get to this point:

  • Intense studying of the San Francisco Planning Code, Residential Design Guidelines, and various bulletins to fully understand the maximum buildable area we could achieve.

  • Numerous visits to the San Francisco Planning Department to get clarification on said code, guidelines, etc.

  • Creating a cohesive concept for the client's desire to have a sanctuary within the city.

  • Many, many iterations of floor plan designs (first as a single family home, then as a 2 unit building) to optimize space, circulation, lighting, and ease of use.

  • Building a 1/4" scale physical foam core model to help the client visualize the space, see how the spaces fit together, and provide feedback on the design.

  • Hiring and working closely with a geotechnical engineer, civil engineer, structural engineer, and architect to provide input and required documentation and reports.

  • Sending out notifications of the proposed project to all the surrounding neighbors and listening to their concerns.

  • Historical research into the property (using microfiche and going to the public library!) because the building is over 50 years old.

  • Filling out many, many application forms.

Fingers-crossed that this permit submission process goes well....

Before + After / Santa Cruz Surf House Bedrooms

Because 36th Ave is a vacation house that's rented out when the owners aren't using it, one of the first things we did was rip out the built-in closets in all three bedrooms. To the left of the below photo was a closet that spanned the length of the wall. Given that these bedrooms were relatively small and all of them had existing nooks, it made sense to tear the closets down to open up the space and build new closets into the nooks.

BEFORE: The master bedroom.

BEFORE: The master bedroom.

Here's a shot of the offending closet that was taking up precious bedroom space. (Also note the wall-to-wall carpeting.)

BEFORE: The master bedroom closet that was removed.

BEFORE: The master bedroom closet that was removed.

For the bedroom adjacent to the backyard, we performed one additional major change: french doors. The house had one critical flaw in it's layout: it was missing direct access to the backyard. You had to go outside from the front, open the fence gate on either side of the house, and then walk down the side of the house to get to the back, basically making the backyard unusable. We decided to provide better access to the backyard by adding these french doors, and making this bedroom a convertible living/bedroom space.

New Milgard french doors installed in the downstairs bedroom and the carpet ripped out.

New Milgard french doors installed in the downstairs bedroom and the carpet ripped out.

For the floors, we extended the red oak flooring in the main living spaces to the master bedroom which is located on the same floor. For the ground level, where the two other bedrooms are located, we did a "skim coat" of concrete which is basically a special concrete product made for thin layers. It's added directly onto the concrete foundation and creates a durable surface. For the bedroom furnishings, we went with neutrals to create a relaxing, restful vibe, and designed window shades with blackout liners. The bright artwork in the rooms keeps it interesting.

AFTER: The new master bedroom.

AFTER: The new master bedroom.

AFTER: The new french doors give the downstairs bedroom ample light and direct access to the backyard.

AFTER: The new french doors give the downstairs bedroom ample light and direct access to the backyard.

The Before + Afters are almost done for 36th Ave, but I'm saving my favorite Before + After for last: the backyard!