- Project Name
- Chenery Street Residence
- Cary Bernstein Architect
- Project Types
- Custom Home
- Project Scope
- 200 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- General Contractor: Gelling & Judd, Inc.
- Project Status
- Room or Space
2017 Remodeling Design Awards
Exterior Remodel over $150,000: Grand
After seeing the wood-clad exterior of the 2015 Remodeling Project of the Year, Hill House, in their neighborhood, the owners of a nearby San Francisco cottage looked for a similar design concept for the exterior remodel of their own home. They commissioned the same firm, Cary Bernstein Architect, to transform their undistinguished front into a design-forward façade.
The existing exterior had a simple expression with little rain protection over the front door, two small windows separated by the entrance, and a projecting air conditioning unit. The 8-foot-by-25-foot concrete patio was enclosed with a noncompliant wood fence, and the stairs to the basement had to be accessed via the sidewalk.
“The whole scope of work was the façade and this front setback,” principal Cary Bernstein says. “There was no interior work, there was no expansion. It was just about making something beautiful.”
Given tight property constraints, Bernstein and her team decided to leave the front door in place and set parameters for the rest of the transformation.
After the clients suggested they wanted a “bridge,” Bernstein was able to come up with a plan to make an elevated walkway by excavating each side of the patio space around it.
“The idea of a bridge was something the client had seen in another project,” adds Bernstein. “He liked the idea of walking from the sidewalk, across a bridge, to his front door.”
On the right side, the sunken patio with built-in, recessed planters gives the clients a private outdoor space. On the other side, Bernstein was able to rebuild the poorly constructed basement stairs to ascend toward the street, turn parallel to the home, and function as the other sunken side. The choice of materials helped create the bridge-like feeling: Dark granite tile on the front walkway juxtaposes the lighter concrete stairs on both sides.
The new modular façade was designed to complement the patio strategy. A cantilevered steel canopy with gray, acid-etched glass inserts adds rain protection, lighting, and depth. The small windows were replaced with larger ones to make the interior brighter; privacy film and solar shades allow the clients to maintain privacy.
Western red cedar siding and ipe cover the rest of the front of the home, while an open, airy steel fence and gate provide boundaries.
Although certain project features came down to a matter of inches in some aspects of execution, “it really did seem to answer what the clients had wanted,” the judges said in their commentary. “It was a night-and-day transformation.”
FROM THE ARCHITECT:
The existing façade had small windows, scant expression, poor construction, and projecting air-conditioners. There was little rain protection over the front door. The existing front setback was a flat, impermeable concrete pad enclosed by a non-compliant wood fence. A separate, ill-formed stair from the sidewalk to the basement was accessed by an outswing gate.
The flat ground plane was reconstructed as a sculpted surface with programmatic, spatial and material differentiation. The clients wanted to feel like they were crossing a bridge from sidewalk to front door so an elevated walkway was constructed by depressing the construction around it. Opposing stairs, recessed planters and a sunken patio contribute to the experience of walking above the landscape below. Material selection reinforces the idea of programmatic separation: dark, flamed stone tile at the walking surfaces is distinct from lighter, integrally colored concrete stairs. Ipe furring is a warm liner for the workhorse concrete retaining walls: concealed utilities are accessed by blind panels. Voluminous plantings soften the edges of the walkway with bright green color and suggest an earthen floor below the "bridge".
The new façade is a sculpted, bas-relief made of wood, steel, aluminum, glass and tile. Divisions in function and material complement the landscape strategy. Large windows make the interiors bright and airy: privacy film and solar shades do not diminish the impact of the large openings on the interior. A new deep-set clerestory window and glazed entry door at the basement bring light and air into the workshop below.
The cantilevered steel & glass canopy is a long horizontal counterpoint to the vertical plane of the facade. The canopy adds rain protection, lighting over the front door and expands the sense of architectural entry. Gray, acid-etched glass panels mellow the light. Coordinated openings at the front drip edge send water into the bright green ferns in planters below.
Powder-coated aluminum lattice panels add detail, shadow play and depth. Wall panels faced with small scale glazed ceramic tile above the east window and institutional iron-spot glazed tile under the west window further refine the design. The painted wood front door and trim are quiet surfaces that play a supporting role in the larger composition. The clients asked for a new exterior that would be design-forward and functional. The renovation gave their house a youthful face in a youthful city and a place for their own artwork to find its home.