October 11, 2016

CCS Architecture and Subject to Change Jazz Up a Party-Ready San Francisco Pad

From the very entrance of this four-story home in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood, it’s evident that something special lies within. The matte-gray exterior of cypress wood, charred using the Japanese shou sugi ban technique, is sober and buttoned-down. But the vestibule is lined in sleek glass panels backpainted racecar-red and framed in mirror-polished chrome. It could be the portal of a Miami nightclub: This is where the party is happening.

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It’s the first residence of a 30-something entrepreneur, who bought what was a developer-built spec house in 2012. Over the course of two and a half years, his close friend and design advisor, Akemi Tamaribuchi, collaborated with architect Cass Calder Smith to transform the 4,000-square-foot abode into a completely customized hangout for social gatherings and work meetings alike. “The client was looking for a sense of simplicity and freshness, as well as fun and delight,” says Tamaribuchi. The resulting spaces, luminous and gallerylike, are punctuated by exuberant bursts of color, strong expressions of materiality, and inspiring views of—and access to—the outdoors.

The house, just a few years old, had been built in a style that Smith, who splits his time between CCS Architecture’s San Francisco and New York offices, refers to as “contractor modern”: streamlined but not finely detailed, with standard-issue baseboards, casings, doors, and hardware. “The site and the views were beautiful, but the house wasn’t on par with them,” he says. To tie together the four floors and infuse the interior with vertical energy, he opened up the stairwell and designed a floating stair. From the second floor up, the zigzag profile, visible through a glass balustrade, has the impact of an art installation. Says Smith, “We thought about all the time that people spend going up and down the stairs”—the living area and kitchen are on the top floor, with the best views—“and what we could do to make that experience more interesting.”

The design team also went about refining the spaces to create a calm, seamless background. The glass doors and many of the solid ones go right up to the ceiling; the baseboards and outlets are flush with the walls; there are no casings on the doors or windows. As a counterpoint to the white sheetrock, wide-plank reclaimed Douglas fir was selected for flooring. The white-stained wood, replete with rustic knots and imperfections, was one of the trickiest parts of the project to get right, according to Tamaribuchi. “We must have looked at more than 100 samples,” she says. “The client wanted a sense of lightness, but everything that was light looked fake—you couldn’t see the character of the wood,” she says. “On an art-buying trip to London, we saw this flooring in the Saatchi Gallery and immediately knew that was it.” The warm material also clads the wall from which the staircase cantilevers.

Tamaribuchi took the lead on furniture and artwork selection. (Her seven-person company, Subject to Change, provides a holistic range of lifestyle services, including interior design, personal styling, party planning, and concierge.) For this particular client, who “wears a hoodie and flip-flops one day and a wild and crazy Dolce & Gabbana suit the next,” as she describes, the appropriate decor turned out to be bold yet casual. The first piece specified was the Mah Jong sofa, covered in a Missoni print, for the home theater. In the airy living area, Patricia Urquiola’s Tufty-Time modular sofa units are grouped together to face different views. Tamaribuchi and Smith also seized the opportunity to turn each of the five bathrooms into a unique design universe: The guest bath features a custom chain-link pattern of black-and-white mosaic tile, a powder room is treated to a colorful geometric wall covering by Sarah Morris, and another is completely lined with mirrors in various shades.

For a home in San Francisco, it made sense to pay a similar level of attention to elevating the outdoor spaces. Local landscape design firm Sculpt Gardens tamed the backyard’s wild hillside with a series of board-formed concrete retaining walls. The resulting terraces each have their own attraction: an outdoor kitchen and fire pit, a hot tub, a sunning area with chaise lounges. A 10-foot mirrored cube lures visitors up the stairs to the topmost level. The startling outdoor sculpture replaces a banal garden shed formerly occupying pride of place. An inspiration was a two-way mirrored installation by Dan Graham that Tamaribuchi and the client had seen at the Frieze London art fair. A bookend of sorts to the reflective entryway, it is a portal to yet another experience. Inside is a small cylindrical room, with a wraparound heated concrete bench, whose oculus admits skyward views. “It’s a contemplative place, where everything slows down,” says Smith. The curved walls are treated with whiteboard paint, allowing for spontaneous doodling, leaving a friendly message—or jotting down ideas for a new business.

Project Team: Björn Steudte, Barbara Turpin-Vickroy: CCS Architecture. Gary Wiss, Aisha Drake: Subject to Change. MT Development: General Contractor. Sculpt Gardens: Landscape Designer. JYASF: Structural Engineer. Benjamini Associates: Civil Engineer. A Shade Above: Audio/Visual. First, Last & Always: Wood Flooring. J.F. Fitzgerald: Upholstery Workshop. Spiral III Design: Custom Cabinetry Fabrication. New Marble Company: Stonework. Luminesce Design: Lighting. Manuel Palos: Cube Fabrication. 

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