I thought I would kick off this week with a tour of our home in San Francisco :-) Prior to moving to San Fran a few years ago, we had been very nomadic and rarely stayed in a city for more than a few months at a time. By the time we arrived in SF, I was keen to put down some roots. I knew our careers would keep us in the city for a good stretch of time, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to make a home.
We house-hunted intensely, and were outbid on several properties over the course of months. Buying property is always a roller-coaster of emotions, and San Francisco is a particularly challenging market for buyers, with properties often attracting multiple offers over the asking price. In the end we bought a quintessential Victorian (yay!) in the vibrant Lower Haight neighborhood, but the property presented some challenges...
I didn't have a big checklist, but my goal was to find a property that satisfied three criteria:
- the kitchen would be the heart of the home with lots of natural light
- a sunny, South-facing yard
- high ceilings and original Victorian period features
Well, the property we bought ticked one of three boxes. We had high ceilings and original Victorian period features, but the kitchen was small and dark (and strangely positioned in the middle of the apartment), and we had no outdoor space.
In order for us to have a kitchen flooded with natural light, and a yard, we needed to convert the uninhabitable space underneath our apartment. By all accounts this was gong to be a big job, especially because it involved a complete seismic upgrade for the building, including a new foundation. San Francisco has suffered devastating earthquakes in the past, and continues to be considered high risk, so any major construction has to further protect a building from future quakes.
This project ended up taking a lot longer to finish than we had planned, and in that time I fell pregnant and gave birth. Rosie arrived in the world 4 weeks earlier than her due date, and I literally went into labor in the middle of our construction site. We actually couldn't return home when I was discharged from the hospital, and we spent that first night in a hotel. In my sheer excitement to meet our baby, I wasn't fazed in the slightest. Thinking back to it now, I can't believe I was so calm!
Justin took this video of me after my waters broke, and you get a sense of the chaos in our apartment at the time! I'm still not sure why I felt so compelled to download the photos off my camera's memory stick... I guess I was expecting to be taking lots of photos at the hospital?!
Anyway, we got there in the end. A few months after Rosie was born, everything was finished, and couldn't have been happier with the result.
Master Suite - Before
To create our master suite, we had to sacrifice three bedrooms. It was a big call at the time, but retrospectively it was 100% the right decision.
Master Suite - After
Throughout the apartment we worked hard to restore as many of the original Victorian details as possible, and when I was designing the bathroom I knew the vanity, lighting, and fixtures needed to be sympathetic to the apartment's era and character.
We decided on polished nickel for all the faucets and hardware, and Calacatta marble for the vanity surface and shower tiles. I adore the look of the polished nickel, it's much less severe than chrome, but the range of styles available is limited and it was difficult and time-consuming to find the right pieces.
I didn't want the suite to look overly coordinated (or too "matchy-matchy"), so rather than buying a pair of twin nightstands we did a bit of DIY. We found a vintage set of leather drawers and a vintage wooden trunk. Both pieces were around the same height and almost identical in color. We had tempered glass cut for the tops of each, and used matching lamps to bring everything together. Conveniently, they also provide additional storage.
Rosie's Bedroom - Before
We wanted Rosie's bedroom to be right next to ours, so we converted the old kitchen into her bedroom. There was a unusually shaped nook on one side of her room, so to make the space look intentional we had a built-in closet installed on one side, and open shelving installed opposite.
Rosie's Bedroom - After
The other rooms on this level of the apartment didn't require any structural work. We replaced doors, restored the original wood paneling, changed light fittings, and decorated.
Upstairs Living Room
Our main living area is downstairs, but we created an upstairs living room that we used more in the winter months. It's a nice place to sit with the fire roaring. We also put a sofa-bed in this room, for those occasions when we have a really full house :-)