San Francisco’s Richard Johnson Design took an aging cottage made of materials salvaged from the 1906 earthquake and transformed it into a gorgeous “urban cabin” that opens up to the outdoors and welcomes in lots of natural light and cooling breezes. The tiny 1500 square foot home feels large and expansive thanks to its 16-foot-tall pitched roof, which is pierced by plentiful skylights and topped with a 2.2 KW solar photovoltaic system. Inhabitat recently had a chance to check out this amazing small space renovation during AIA SF‘s Architecture and the City Festival – read on for a look inside!
Richard Johnson Design purchased the Mission Residence in the early 2000s, and when they peeled back the facade they were surprised to find hundreds of multicolored fragments of wood and debris salvaged from the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Although they couldn’t use all of the material, some elements of the original structure still remain in the home’s front and rear facades.
The house is set back from the street in a peaceful alleyway in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District – just a short walk away from Dolores Park, Tartine Bakery, and Bi Rite Market. Richard Johnson Design worked with the home’s shallow depth and wide plan by clearing out the interior and surrounding the home with gardens on three sides.
The original plan was subdivided and devoid of natural light, so the architects opened the home up to the full height of its 16 foot roof and installed slot skylights in virtually every room. This strategy created a bright and airy space that feels much larger than its 1500 square feet – and since the home has a small footprint, it can be naturally cooled and ventilated simply by opening a few windows or doors.
Over the course of the renovation the team added 400 square feet, upgraded all of the home’s electrical wiring, and installed highly efficient modern systems. A flash heater supplies hot water for domestic use and for the home’s hydronic in-floor heating system, and the project’s thick walls are well-insulated with cellulose instead of fiberglass. The Mission Residence gets such an abundance of natural light that artificial lighting is rarely needed during the day, and at night energy-saving LED fixtures illuminate the interior.
The home’s material palette prominently features recycled fly ash concrete and FSC-certified wood, and lead architect and homeowner Richard Johnson actually built many of the home’s sculptural pieces of furniture himself. Although the home isn’t net zero, it’s pretty darn close – and it’s a beautiful example of how a small space can make big strides in green building.
Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat