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Bridge House

McElroy Architecture, 7x7 Construction, Knocknock


  • Tom McElroy
  • Pat Loughran
  • Nadja Pentic

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Project Description

When Tom McElroy was faced with a proverbial bridge on a recent historically sensitive renovation, the principal of McElroy Architecture not only crossed it in the figurative sense, he brought the old adage to life literally. The 116-year-old railroad-style Victorian posed a challenge because the property was 5 feet narrower than the typical 25-foot-wide San Francisco lot. So to deliver on the owners’ wishes for an open floorplan that connected the middle floor to the unused attic and the unfinished basement, McElroy came up with a creative solution: build a bridge. And that he did.

To make it all work cohesively, the team dropped the attic floor level by 18 inches and added dormers to the roof. Then, using reclaimed redwood framing from the original attic, he designed a 16-foot bridge with steel rails, which connects the once-divided sections of the top floor while also opening up part of the attic to create a vaulted living space, with skylights above.

“It’s beautiful from below and above,” McElroy says. “It makes the upper and lower stories really shine and have a nice connective quality. It really was the ‘aha’ moment of the project.”

The bridge also allowed for the relocation of the bedrooms to the top level, along with the addition of a full bath and study area. Another challenge was to bring in more light throughout the 2,900-square-foot home, particularly in one of the two new bedrooms on the basement level. A solution came in the form of a skylight shaft enclosed in a frosted glass panel that illuminates the kitchen and continues down to the bedroom below. A new, centrally located staircase connects all three floors.

But not everything in the home was replaced. In addition to reusing the attic’s redwood, McElroy retained as much of the original detail and integrity of the home as possible, such as the trim, flooring, and plaster medallions around the light fixtures. That also included the exposed steel that was revealed during the process, an element that the homeowners agreed to incorporate into the design.

“It creates this really interesting dynamic between the Victorian detailing with these more industrial elements,” McElroy says. “Without clients who are somewhat adventurous and interested in design, this wouldn’t have been possible.”--by Erin Ansley

To see a video of this project, click here.

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