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Design Spotlight: History In The (Re)Making

By Jennifer Massoni Pardini

See Arch’s integration of skylights in the foyer allowed Wendy Thysell to incorporate deep hues and wall finishes. | Photo courtesy of Photographer: Vivian Johnson; General Contractor: Aj Roston & Associates; Millwork: Greenport Designs; Stager: Studio D

From front to back, the restoration of a San Francisco Victorian considers its past and future.

Architecture firm See Arch and residential renovation company Foreverhome had much in common before they began collaborating on projects, from a Berkeley restaurant to residences on both sides of the Bay Bridge. They were founded in 2016 and 2015, respectively, by young entrepreneurs with driving ideals. Architect Sarah Ebner intended the womenowned and -operated firm to improve the work-life balance of her field without compromising craft. Spouses Niko and Wendy Thysell, both at all of 23, were elevating the perception of flipping houses, starting with an East Bay three-bedroom fixerupper they watched “transform from something nearly uninhabitable to something beautiful,” says Niko Thysell, Foreverhome’s operations director. It’s an ethos that has carried the company ever since. “We’re taking uninhabitable homes, revitalizing them, bringing life back into them,” he continues, “and making very thoughtful, creative designs while also making sure to highlight the structural integrity of the home itself.”

The classic façade and contemporary rear of this remodeled Victorian showcase architectural contrast, with square footage added in back. | Photo courtesy of Photographer: Vivian Johnson; General Contractor: Aj Roston & Associates; Millwork: Greenport Designs; Stager: Studio D

The collaborators’ most expansive project to date is the soup-to-nuts rehabilitation of an 1895 Pacific Heights Victorian. It was completed in February, after four years of work that included raising the roof for the addition of a third story and raising the home itself to replace the brick foundation — with several sizable upgrades in between, aided by ZFA Structural Engineers. Steel columns now support the front bay window so a garage could be added. An entry stairway that was likely demolished in the 1960s or ’70s was restored. And three bedrooms and one bath became five and four.

“Victorians are known to have elaborate wood wall treatments, and I took a modern play on that by choosing rift sawn-oak in the downstairs hallway and kitchen cabinetry.” — Wendy Thysell

“The nature of these lots, with no side yard, lets us have the opportunity to treat the front and the back differently,” Ebner says. “It really is a very San Francisco design challenge.” In this case, the 4,260-square-foot solution, double that of the original home, is a study in thoughtful juxtaposition. The historic façade captures its innate character, while the contemporary rear of the home highlights terraced additions and amenities for modern living: a family room that opens to the backyard, a reconfigured second floor with enlarged kitchen and a bumpedout primary bedroom on the new third floor. “You got the benefit of all that natural light of the rear addition and all that extra space,” says Ebner, who as principal worked with See Arch project manager Karina Andreeva. Andreeva in turn worked closely with the City throughout the project and sees this as a San Francisco home “that will now stand another hundred years and transfer that character into the future.”

The classic façade and contemporary rear of this remodeled Victorian showcase architectural contrast, with square footage added in back. | Photo courtesy of Photographer: Vivian Johnson; General Contractor: Aj Roston & Associates; Millwork: Greenport Designs; Stager: Studio D

While the property has since been sold to a couple looking to grow their family, Foreverhome design director Wendy Thysell relied on that character, rather than an existing client’s desires, for inspiration. “I played off of a traditional Victorian home by integrating trim work and dark colors in the great room and dining room while also keeping the rest of the home light, bright and airy,” she says. “My true client in every project is the structure itself.”

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