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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sketches for Residential - New and Renovations

Sketches and Designs of Homes – New and Renovated


Part of the fun of architecture is not only living in what is built - but designing it.

This architect listens to her clients about what they want, and marries their ideas and needs with the architecture of the existing home or neighborhood, and in compliance with building and fire codes.

It is a "dance" between ideas and the unique characteristics of the site.

Hear are some examples, below.


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A Contractor's New Home in Piedmont, California

in the Canyons above Oakland, California


The problem was that there was a very steep hill with zoning setbacks impacting the buildable area and particularly the heights as the building stepped up the hillside.

A number of alternatives were done.

You can see the side elevation first, showing the maximum heights that were

to be designed to – in the various heights stepping up the hill.


This drawing shows what the contractor had designed, with a driveway that would

come straight out to the sloping street.

Generally, it is better to gracefully curve in a driveway, and in this case, in so doing,

there was better access to the sloped street.

You can see how the driveway curves here to meet the natural street elevation.

Also, the stepping up of the stairs and forms worked out better, for all the rooms involved.

Note that a number of alternates were done, to arrive at the best possible solution.


The house was not built - his wife preferred the flatlands of earthquake-prone Hayward

to the fire-prone hills of Piedmont.

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A Contractor's Home Renovation in Burlingame, California

A contractor bought an older, Art Nouveau-style home in Burlingame, hoping to add considerable square footage to it.

This is the original home:



After looking it over, he said he wanted it to become gabled facing the front, keeping the porch in the front, opening it back up, and continuing it around the side.


He had in mind more Arts Nouveau/Arts & Crafts “look” with the boards under the eaves showing, a more “Irish” interpretation – and he was from Ireland.


Here is what he chose from the alternates as his idea of how the front should look:


We were to keep the massive front door and bay on the right side, add floor area behind that to the rear and a whole new second floor – to a new rear deck.


On the rear, we were to add a porch and have nice views out the

new Master Bedroom on the top level.




And on the right side, we were to continue the look of the Art Nouveau style - and did so with the new, historical "eyebrow" window detail added in the rear on this side as well, breaking up and creating great interest to the long faces on the sides.


The contractor never built it out due to slow business.
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A Real Estate Broker's Home Renovation in Millbrae, California

The Real Estate Broker had bought a unique, 1930's-style stucco home in a well-established neighborhood on a very large lot. She had a boyfriend that demanded a large area to live in, and with her family, decided to expand on one side,

while leaving large trees and a nice yard area on the other.

In addition, she wanted to "mimic" the look of her father's home country, Palestine.

Here was one of many solutions she specifically asked for - she wanted that turret!

(Her own fun/Disneyland!)

The existing house is in the front with the large window, the area behind the turret,

and the area behind the chimney with the porch.

The main addition to the far left carried on the Old English/Tudor feel,

as did the Turret to the right.

The porch on the left was expanded to the left, around the existing structure

and to the new addition at the rear.

Because the addition was so far to the rear, not seen this way here, it would hardly be seen by those at the street and all but one neighbor.

She did not build out her dream, but moved with him to a 1950’s ranch home

in the town of his dreams, Hillsborough.

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A Doctor's Party Deck for after the 49-er games, with Potting Shed,

in the Seacliff/Lincoln Park Area of San Francisco, California

A Doctor who has an art studio in a rear shed on his property near the ocean in San Francisco asked me to take an overgrown steep hill beside it, facing an alleyway, and turn it into a place for barbecues and for his gardening equipment.

Here is what was designed and built on the side facing the rear yard.

The latticework at the top is doubled, with a piece of plexiglas between, to stop the wind off the ocean - too cooling. That piece of plexiglas can be pulled straight up out of the top of the trellis to be cleaned - or on hot days (rare). The built-in benches have storage for his long tools, and are great for his parties. He's had 49-er tickets on the 50 yard line since the early 1970's! And to the left, is his potting shed - he loves to garden.

At the rear, the brilliant white structure is his new shed.

He has storage underneath, where they put a 2 inch layer of concrete down

(ratproofing) with special drainage to get any water off to the alley.

Nicely kept, he has sports and car equipment in the bottom area.

To the right is his car garage, under his art studio.




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A Marketing Executive's Home Renovation in Palo Alto, California

The client in this case needed to take her 1950’s ranch home and add a second floor, while opening up the lower rear area for a kitchen, dining and great room combination. She used some very modern kitchen cabinetry and countertops, in a very large, open area.

The front room remained a formal Living Room.

A number of different "fronts" were designed with the tough height requirements in Palo Alto, this one
being my favorite of the possible solutions.

Palo Alto’s height requirements affected the addition’s heights and roofline at the rear.

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An Insurance Agency Owner’s New Home in the

West Portal Area of San Francisco, California

The Owner had bought a vacant lot on Knockash Hill, above West Portal. Their desire was to take a façade they loved, from another in the neighborhood, enhance it, and not upset

the neighbors the way the new, adjacent three homes had.


The neighbors did not like the huge cut into the hill made by the contractor developing the property, nor the looming overhead of the three homes.


So the Owner wanted to go with a front that looked like one in the neighborhood, and we did it but with more authentic French Renaissance detailing, and listen to his neighbors about what they wanted. We did it so well that not one neighbor complained as it went through Planning.


Here is the new Front Elevation:


So we set about pushing back the face of this house, well back of

the other homes, and lifting it up out of the ground.

We did not cut into the hill nearly as deeply as the adjacent homes.


You can see what we did in this crossection:



And here are the other exterior elevations:







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Another Marketing Executive and Florist's Home Renovation

in Burlingame, California


This young couple with two young children needed to add another bedroom, a new

Master with Master Bath, overtop a family room down, in a new rear addition.

The garage was to be used by the wife in her florist business.


Here you can see the existing front of the house with just a peek at the addition to the rear.

The roof is a “Dutch Hipped Roof” and we repeated the same forms on the new addition.


Here is the Addition – beyond the front Dutch-Hipped roofed Bay:

The new Addition, lower level and terrace:

The Florist Shop in the old garage, renovated:

A view from the addition area towards the front at the new gate and trellis above:

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A High-School Wrestling Coach’s Deck Addition in the

Lakeshore Area of San Francisco, California


A young man with a fun heart and lots of friends wanted to add a deck off the

rear of his home, so that he could use his rear yard - by

adding a stair down to the yard from the new deck.


The existing face of the rear of the building is shown here:


He also wanted to remove a stair blocking the side yard, seen here:

The offending side stair beyond the gate to the left, with the mini-porch,

all within the side yard setback, is being removed.


We did a couple of rail designs after ascertaining where the deck and stair

could be placed, and he chose the Chippendale Rail.


Here is the drawing of the new rear face of the house, with the new deck and stair:


The approval for the deck is going through the Planning Dept. and

should be under construction as of March, 2010.

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A Real Estate Developer’s Home Renovation in the

Pacific Heights Area of San Francisco, California


The Owners of a beautiful, Pacific Heights Victorian decided to take a 6 foot high basement area and turn it into a Media Room, with Bathroom and Laundry for the home.


No change would be made to the front, as pictured here:



The plan is shown below, with the street side at the top of the plan.

Cabinetry is to line the walls. No Planning issues were involved, so the Permits were

received fairly quickly once the Owners decided to go ahead with the plan.


Construction begins in January, 2010.




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A Real Estate Developer’s Two-Flat Carriage House Renovation

in the Pacific Heights Area of San Francisco, California


The same Owners of the house above own a through-lot, and on the rear, the former Carriage House that is rented out in two flats has room below for a garage to be added.


Although the garage adjacent to the Carriage House is part of the property, more

space is needed and the Owners are requesting Planning's approval

now for the new garage space to be added.


See the photo of the existing conditions below:


The proposed plan is shown below, with the street side on the bottom of the plan.

Access from the front house comes down through the existing garden between the two structures, through a new laundry area and into the new garage.


Construction should begin in the Spring of 2010.

A section through the space and how the new Garage will work,

with the maximum slope permitted by the City, is shown below:



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A MUNI Worker’s inherited Apartment Building Façade Renovation

in the Parnassus Heights Area of San Francisco, California


This is one of those simpler projects, caused by a Notice of Violation

the Building Department gave to the Owner.


The Owner called us when City street repaving had caused their original brick half-wall façade to fall down from the heavy construction vibration. Neighbors called in to get a Notice of Violation put against the Owner while they immediately did the restoration work – a half-height brick wall façade at the base of the structure put back up into place.


As it was a historic structure, we were not allowed to amend the design at all – only copy it, and were required to add rebar in the brick tied to concrete in order to brace the brick from future damage.


Here is a photo of the final installation - done to its' historic "look":


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A Real Estate Developer’s new Three-Flat Building in the

Buena Vista Park Area of San Francisco, California


A former high-tech guy decided to get into the Real Estate Development business. For those of us with many years' experience in the field, and with an MBA in Real Estate Development like myself (and I have done development of high-end cluster housing in Atlanta), we are aware that years of training in architecture and engineering cannot be circumvented - without making major mistakes.


It's like the proverbial doctor that invests in real estate, and loses his shirt.


Well, that's what has happened here, although we hope in this economy this

new developer will survive. He may not.


So what happened?


On two lots that had been owned by one owner's family since the early 1900's, a beautiful old Georgian was on one street backed up to a property they owned facing another street - with a garage for the Georgian on the latter property.


Here is a picture of the Garage to be torn down, on the lower of the two lots:




And here is the front of the house on the upper lot, who will use the new garage to be built on the lower lot below the new three flats. The two flats on the upper lot are in the flat-top Georgian, the whitest one in the shot, with the bending glass and corner to the right, hard to see here:

Unfortunately, when the property was bid out in a sale, one person who lost out that lived in the neighborhood threatened to stop/delay the winning bidder.


And "somehow", it was done.


At the beginning of the process, since no clear style was dominant on that block where the garage would be razed and a new, three-flat building was to be built with a garage below for the housing on both lots, we approached Planning with a common-sense design - separating the house from the one above, similar to the ones below - and widely where property line windows were located.


Planning had refused to give us the outer limits of the development and style we were to do, based on the surroundings, with no reason, in the Preliminary Design Meeting.


Subsequent requests over three years showed a lack of knowledge of construction materials, architectural conventions and an understanding of their own requirements, on the part of the revewing Planner and her boss.


Instead, although the through lots were two, billed to one owner, and the legal description from the surveyor and title companies - and the City Assessor-Recorder's Offices - showed them as two lots - Planning insisted that the Owner do a Lot Split.


On a "lot" that was already two lots.


We protested at the outset.


Planning refused to listen.


And the Developer/Owner listened to Planning.


But worse, the Owner assumed the Civil Engineer, one who had done work in the city for almost half a century, was wrong, and the title companies were wrong.


I have never yet seen a Civil Engineer/Surveyor or Title Company

Legal Description of a lot in 32 years be wrong.


But I have seen numerous Planners be wrong.....


That is where education and years of training make a difference - and he never communicated that point - his beliefs - to us until very late in the process.


After three years, he finally heard us - as he was being forced towards bankruptcy. A key point here: he acted as the Agent for himself, rather than an architect. So he took the decision-making process out of the hands of professionals, trying to train himself - and literally could not do it. He may have cost himself all his investment.


The project, although now passed through Planning, may not get done.


In the process, neighbors on either side got a lawyer, and demanded thousands of dollars of concessions. Including a new, $30,000 kitchen for the two Wells Fargo Bankers who lived next door to the property.


Those concessions - payoffs - would not have been necessary had Planning not insisted on doing a totally new design, not based on the fronts of homes on the street. Planning's requests changed constantly, and despite a preliminary meeting at which we requested what they wanted, they never would be open about what they would allow.....dragging the developer through incredibly wasteful and very time-consuming efforts.


Even worse: The lawyers and neighbors worked out a series of changes to the design that impacted good, basic building and fire code laws regarding exiting - and so a huge mess was created - unnecessarily. They didn't bother to ask the architect what to do.


It was the wierdest set of circumstances I have ever encountered in my 32-year career. Completely unnecessary.


The final solution for the exterior (front) is in the middle of the drawing below - every part of it micro-managed to death by Planning, with no clear direction at the outset, and changed again and again by them.



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A Computer Guru and Genetic Scientists’ Home Renovation

at the top of Bernal Heights in San Francisco, California


A young couple with two children - and who were extremely tall -

had bought a house with very high ceilings, great views, and a nice

garden on two lots at the top of Bernal Heights.


See the existing photos below:



The Owner needed a two-car garage, although by Zoning required

to provide a four-car garage, and needed a new family room

and a new bedroom upstairs.


A garage will be provided in the design at the street level, at the far left

of the property, and as the hill sloped up towards the house,

a family room above that, with a deck above the Family Room

for the Living Room in the existing home.


And on the south face of the house to the west of the major Gable,

an extension on both floors was added to allow for another bedroom

at the top and a larger Living Room. It is to the far left of the structure,

above the new Family Room.


Here is the Garden and Rock Wall that will remain:

The Garage will be to the far left, out of the picture, and the extension on the

house above will be to the left of the existing tall gable.


See the New Front (South) Elevation below:

And the New West Elevation, below:


Planning and the Neighbors have approved the project,
Construction Documents should be done soon, and
construction may begin in the Spring of 2010.


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An Economic Forecaster's Home Renovation

in Ansley Park, Atlanta, Georgia



A middle-aged couple with two children needed to make their California-style

ranch home into a more livable home.


He was on CNN and in the Wall Street Journal, and needed to have a quiet

place to work. The kids needed to learn computers.


We expanded the Master Bedroom and added a Master Bath,

took a large hall closet and turned it into a large computer room - with skylights,

took the Breakfast Room and opened it up to make a much larger Kitchen,

and enlarged and open up the Living Room to the outdoors -

particularly to the forest just beyond their lawn.


Sketches were provided and in the photo below, two of the

Living Room Alternates are shown. The top alternate

was chosen to be constructed.




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A Real Estate Developer's Residential Brokerage Building

in Macon, Georgia


A For a Residential Brokerage, they wanted an Italianate Building.


Two Alternate exteriors to the plans were presented.


The top drawing in the photo below shows the Stucco version,

while the lower drawing shows the Brick version.


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