A completely rebuilt urban family “Green Home” with indoor-outdoor connections at every level

Bernal Heights Modern

Completely rebuilt with a new foundation in 2010, this house is all new with the exception of one 15’ long section of exterior wall, which itself was heavily reinforced with new wood framing and rebuilt to modern standards. By taking advantage of the nearly full-lot coverage of the existing fire-damaged structure, the new building enjoys greater lot utilization of the extra-wide lot (31.25′ v. the standard 25′) than would be otherwise allowed by current zoning standards.

The floor plan features the rarest of amenities for a San Francisco house—at-grade living spaces with direct access to a two car garage on the same level. Ceiling heights are 10’ minimum throughout the ground floor, which contains a formal living room with fireplace, powder room, and open kitchen connecting to both a large dining room and family room in a great-room like arrangement.

Two amply-sized bedrooms with Bay views and Jack-and-Jill bath, a guest bedroom with en-suite bath and private deck, loft office, and laundry area comprise the second floor. The guest bedroom can be utilized as additional living space by way of smoothly sliding doors which disappear neatly into a wall pocket.

The full floor master suite completely occupies the commanding third floor. With its own private, drip-irrigated green roof garden, south and east facing windows with sweeping views, and a light filled master bath with split vanities, dual linen cabinets, dual wall hung toilets, Jacuzzi tub, steam shower, and his/hers walk in closets, the master suite is truly a retreat from the demands of urban family life.

The design features multiple indoor-outdoor connections at every level. Four room-sized outdoor spaces integrate seamlessly into the floor plan and bring light into the house from all sides. Each outdoor space features landscaping with automatic drip irrigation, water features, and outdoor furniture appropriate to its solar orientation and programmatic function. The front courtyard faces west and provides both security and a viewing garden for the living room, featuring a signature water feature. The kitchen/dining/family room combo wraps around an east-facing courtyard, which has ample space for al fresco dining, as well as an herb garden and another soothing water feature. West facing balconies on the 2nd and 3rd floors offer additional connection to the outdoors and differing vantage points from which to view the City.

Energy costs for the house are kept to a minimum through the use of both active systems and passive solar design, and an improved exterior envelope. Afternoon sun warms the thermal mass of the living room floor through a dramatic, front-facing window. The captured heat in turn radiates up through the double height space and warms the loft office and guest bedroom. The other second floor bedrooms both have an eastern orientation towards the morning sun, while a large south-facing window in the master suite warms that room during the day, minimizing heating requirements at night. Insulation was designed to greatly exceed code requirements all throughout the house. Even the interior floor framing and interior walls are fully insulated to increase soundproofing and improve thermal mass. A six-zone hydronic radiant heat system allows for fine control of the living environment, with state of the art energy efficiency and unequalled thermal comfort. A photovoltaic solar array feeds excess power back to the grid and offsets the great majority of the house’s electrical expenses; for the first two years of operation, the annual electrical costs were less than $200.


  • Scope of Work: 4 BR/3.5 Ba 2,879 s.f. house on 3 levels, with 2 car attached garage
  • Project Year: 2010
  • Project Cost: $750,000 – $1,000,000
  • Location: San Francisco, CA


Photography by Mark Pinkerton, VI360 Photography


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