A trend is spreading across the country, less square footage is more living. As a raging housing market battles for competitive square foot prices, behind the front-lines, a transition targeting quality of life supplied by ease and simplicity stands. San Francisco, Fort Worth and New York City are carrying a new American lifestyle, living large in micro-housing. Tiny house architects and dwellers alike are prioritizing freedom from tiresome property management, favoring an affordable lifestyle choice.
The micro-housing movement is a part of a much larger change. According to these pioneers, like HausBau Architects, the vision behind Cubix-SF, an urban micro-condo building, living in a modest 200-300 square feet in of one of the country’s highest priced locations is very attractive. Even San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener is campaigning for budget friendly micro-accommodations.
He is leading the legalization and construction of existing property in-law units, ranging in size from 200-750 square feet. “Our housing crisis is a complex one, and no one policy proposal will solve it. The units will have to be within existing habitable space – i.e., a garage, a large storage space, a large basement area. The units will have to come from unused space,” said Wiener to The Bay Area Reporter.
With smart and thorough design concepts, narrow spaces lend a cozy, efficiency without sacrificing functionality. Natural light, air and creative storage solutions reduce the tension between acquisition and display for a clean and modern aesthetic. Ancient design concepts are recycled to prove compact quarters save on tidy time, energy costs and encourage a limited footprint alongside Green living. “Even when you’re in these relatively tight areas, the eye doesn’t focus on the smaller moments- you’re getting borrowed views from the other rooms, making the space feel more generous”, says architect Philip Ryan of Studio Modh Architects in Brooklyn, New York. Tiny homes compliment their natural landscape, drawing the outdoors inside to broaden and protect the environment. To further expand the appeal of these small settings, architect Peter Fehrentz of Berlin, Germany encourages the use of a variety of color tones from the same palette to maximize the calming effect. He further suggests removing as many interior walls as possible and installing sliding doors to open and transform a scaled-down home.
San Francisco’s wave of miniature, cost-effective lodging has been borrowed from deeply rooted international traditions. With a historic focus on minimalism due to high-density population, space limits and affordable housing challenges, European innovators Gore, Gibberd and Saunders of Hampshire, England constructed the Emsworth Yacht Harbour in the late 1960’s. 50 elevated, free-standing structures span a modest 538 square feet. Arranged neatly in rows to capture privacy and sea views, residents share a unique and secret community get away. Units are highly desired. Most ownership transactions happen off-market, from word of mouth.
The micro-housing market’s momentum has spawned plans for a community of tiny homes state side in Sonoma County, California. Jay Shafer of Four Lights Tiny House Company is experimenting with the possibilities of micro-dwellings. Set to be completed by 2015, Shafer has zoned 70 houses to each be under 400 square feet. There’s even a conversation for a communal farm for residents. Currently, a restricted, yet active tiny house community in Washington D.C. serves as a teaching ground for Shafer’s big sister west coast project.
As holistic self-sustainability turns critical, will pairing life down to the essentials be the exclusive path to living large?
Blanc, at 1080 Sutter, is a new San Francisco development with occupancy expecting to fill by early December. This 35 unit two- and three-bedroom boutique residence designed by award winning San Francisco Architect, Stanley Saitowitz, is one of 17 new developments on the market or coming up in the next 6 months. I was able to take an early hard hat tour of the development and get a sneak peak into what residents can expect in this new condominium and with over 30% of these luxury homes sold already, this property is going fast.
Saitowitz and developer JS Sullivan have created something truly interesting with this TenderNob building. As Sean Sullivan has stated in a Blanc Q&A, there is a focus on spacious floorplans, reasonable city pricing (a majority of the 2-bedroom floorplans are being priced at under $1 million), and strong consideration of the city and Nob Hill neighborhood. The building is located in an incredibly bustling part of San Francisco. With a walking score of 100, a transit score of 100, and a bike score of 77, this address is a winner in terms of having everything the city has to offer at your fingertips.
The design of this building has brought in real excitement and has much to do with star-architect Stanley Saitowitz. As a beloved Bay Area architect and professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Saitowitz has brought his signature monochromatic aesthetic to Blanc. The balance of modernization with San Francisco’s classic feel was paramount in the direction of this design and has led to a focus on light and views. Throughout each unit large and interestingly spaced windows frame the rooms and draw in light. The interiors contain sleek and simplistic lines with warm wood finishes, while the common areas utilize uplighting and white Italian porcelain.
Blanc interior rendering
Blanc also features such high-end amenities as air conditioning, a design center to customize your space, lotteried bike parking and car parking. Units range in size from 750 to 1300 square feet and prices for initial release range from $680,000 to $920,000. HOA dues are currently ranging from $487 to $594. A link to the buildings various floor plans can be found at the Blanc website. Appointments with the sales office are required at this time, as it is a hard hat construction site at this time. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in a tour in this or any of the other new San Francisco developments.
Beth Sholom Synagogue, San Francisco
Yerba Buena Lofts, San Francisco
1110 Green, San Francisco
PARK(ing) Day, an exercise in creativity centered around the repurposing and reimaging of public parking spaces, is back again this Friday, September 20th, for its annual event.
Founded by the Rebar Group, a San Francisco based art and design studio, this event began in 2005 with a 2-hour “PARK” installation on a metered parking space in the city’s financial district. The event is focused on citizens independently turning metered parking spots into temporary public parks and other spaces that encourage urbanites to reassess the way streets are perceived and utilized.
Back in 2011 the event saw 975 “PARK” installations pop up across 160 cities on six continents. The numbers aren’t in for 2012, but this global guerilla event has only grown since its inception and will surely draw plenty of installations throughout the Bay Area this year.
Here in San Francisco PARK(ing) Day seems to have been largely embraced by city officials and government. “Parklet’s” have been popping up all across San Francisco since the Pavement to Parks program began in 2010 with goals similar to those of PARK(ing) Day, but with a system of more permanent parking space conversion. Thirty-eight parklets have been installed throughout the city as of January. These “parklets” are open to the public, sponsored and maintained by local businesses/community organizations, and are permitted for 6 months with the possibility for another 6 month extension. Some may feel that this is a commercialization of the original movement. One interesting example of this manifestation is a 1 minute IKEA video posted on YouTube of a young hip couple creating a parklet entirely out of IKEA products. Commercialization or no, many seem happy with the overall direction of the movement and that this is a result of people truly reassessing how public space in an urban setting is used. As Blaine Merker, a Rebar principal, mused “What has been really gratifying is that (PARK)ing Day, which began as a guerilla art project, has been adopted by cities and integrated into their official planning strategies. A relatively modest art intervention has changed the way cities conceive, organize and use public space.”
As expected in large bustling cities full of cars and with limited parking like those found across America, an event like this is the subject of much contention. In San Francisco, it appears the use of metered parking is flexible beyond the realm of motor vehicles, but that is not the case everywhere. In many cities across the globe parking day has been outlawed and people run the risk of facing fines. What’s your take?
In any case, the event brings about beauty, creativity, and free space to enjoy so get excited and check out the “PARK” map for listings of the various sites here in San Francisco. Local participation and appreciation is the driving component of this event so get out, enjoy the beautiful late summer weather, and visit some PARK’s.
Some installments to check out this Friday:
SPUR’s temporary park to be set up in front of the Urban Center on Mission Street.
“Pop-up park clusters” by the Greenbelt Alliance in San Jose.
The Wigg Party’s take on PARK(ing) day on Fell Street
PARK(ing) Day 2009: http://vimeo.com/12499955#
Well, that’s how I like to think of it. September is the month that the San Francisco Chapter of American Institute of Architects puts on the nation’s largest architectural festival with showcase tours, lectures, films and more. Really, it’s the 8th annual festival and it’s called Architecture and the City.
I think my favorite event is the home tours. For a whole weekend, you get to step into homes designed by some of our top or up and coming architects. You’ll see new looks and finishes, and eavesdrop on design and architect fans as they tour through as well. You don’t know the addresses of the homes until you’ve paid for the tickets, but I’ve enjoyed the tour every time I went! You can also sign up to do the tour by bicycle.
There’s many other tours, including walking and food tours. Or stop by Stable Cafe for tour tickets, a walk around the collective and maybe a coffee at the cafe as well. There’s lots of films, lectures, family and special events.
Oh, today’s column in the Chronicle written by Tracey Taylor has some sneak previews of the homes that will be featured:
Mission District – Interstice Architects The home of architect Andrew Dunbar and landscape architect Zoee Astrakhan, husband and wife and partners at Interstice Architects, is a laboratory as much as a place to live. The 2,200-square-foot building, originally an early 20th century retail space that they bought in 2000, has been as much a place to experiment with materials and sustainable techniques as it has been an office and dwelling in which to raise two kids.
Witness the facade, a mosaic of reclaimed glass panes that acts as a modern take on traditional shingle, centered by a robust, contemporary Dutch door. The street-level open-plan interior, with its “indestructible” steel-plate floors, was used as a work space until Interstice grew too big and moved out. Now, Dunbar says, it’s where the kids let their creative juices flow, but one day it may be commandeered as a master suite.
The use of cheap thermal plastic to cover the rear facade is typical of the couple’s approach: a willingness to try unorthodox solutions, tackle the labor themselves and be sensitive to budget. (The wall cost a mere $800.) Other examples: the cast acrylic plastic used as room dividers, customized Ikea cabinets in the kitchen and living room, and the giant sliding roof above the bathroom, which allows for passive cooling and the odd drop of rain on the tile when someone forgets to close it.
Excelsior – A+D Architecture + Design
What began as a remodel ended up as a new home for a multigenerational family whose roots lie in El Salvador and who were all closely involved with the home’s design. When the people at A+D Architecture took a close look at the one-story house they had been asked to rework, it was clear that a more efficient solution was to start fresh.
The two-story, 2,100-square-foot home they built offers the large living spaces, natural light and cohesive design the original home lacked, as well as two extra rooms and a garage. The absence of dry rot, fungus and termites is also a welcome change for the client.
On a modest budget, the designers managed to integrate the latest green technology, in particular by managing construction waste of the original home and using pre-assembled panels to construct the new one.
The finishing touch was a custom-made steel screen that is affixed to the facade, providing dappled shade for the interior stairwell. Inspiration for its design was found by studying Salvadoran textiles, and several family members worked on its design and creation.
SoMa – Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
Mission Walk, a total of 131 condos and townhouses in two buildings, is the first sustainable, low-market-rate housing in the Mission Bay redevelopment area. Aimed at working families that want to live close to their jobs and transit, they have been designed, says architect Richard Stacy, with the rhythm of San Francisco’s historic backstreet commercial buildings and Channel Creek houseboats in mind.
The facades steer clear of big-box uniformity. Balconies and bay window projections are arranged somewhat at random, Stacy says, to provide variety. And the occasional intense color accent on recessed balconies breaks up the muted tones of the siding and concrete plaster. Views of Mission Creek were a priority where possible, Stacy says; thus the homes closest to the waterway are set in a U shape facing the water, and there is a vista of the creek from the two-story lobby of the building farther away.
Care has been taken to integrate the buildings into Mission Bay’s master plan with its urban streetscapes, pedestrian walkways and park, and the scale of the project is livable rather than intimidating.
Inside, the one- to three-bedroom flats have above-average-height ceilings and large windows, giving them a loft-like feel. Some open onto water, others communal courtyards. A host of sustainable features has earned the project a LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Nob Hill Residence and Guesthouse
Nob Hill – Kuth/Ranieri Architecture
The site of this home played a big part in its design. It is on a narrow alley, straddling the line between the San Francisco grid and the organic nature of the city’s landscape, and offers views that include Pacific Heights, the Golden Gate Bridge and the hills of Marin.
The facade takes the traditional elements of a San Francisco home and gives them a sleek, contemporary interpretation. The bay window, entry, front-facing garage door and street-side roof terrace are folded into a sweep of clear-sealed mahogany panels and ledges.
Inside, all the rooms were created to take maximum advantage of the vistas, with the central living spaces bracketed by perimeter cores. Cabinetry takes the place of many of the home’s walls, providing storage, stairs and even baths.
The guesthouse was designed to blur the identity between domestic and display space. Many of its walls are given over to art and what the architects refer to as “hybridized” objects whose forms, images and scale challenge their role and relationship to the building.
Yes, it’s time again for the Designer Sample Sale at the San Francisco Design Center! I haven’t been there since remodeling with my designer, but I long to return… and here’s our chance, the center will be open to the public both Saturday June 12th from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday June 13th from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is free and it should be fun! Here’s a partial list of participants and a link to a coupon to print out for 10% off a single select item! The Design center is located at 2 and 101 Henry Adams Street, San Francisco.