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Suburban Oasis

A 1960s ranch home in Hillsborough is reimagined for a family retreating from the city.

SLIDESHOW

Opening up the house to the landscape was a key goal of the remodel.

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Steel-clad beams were added in order to remove load-bearing walls that divided up the interiors.

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“Roofs that direct your eye downward are depressing, but roofs that make you look up and out are inspiring,” archi- tect Addison Strong says.

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Most of the main floor feels like one space, with no doors between kitchen and den or den and foyer. The custom kitchen is by SieMatic.

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Ligne Roset’s Ruché sofa sits across from two Barcelona chairs re-covered in tan suede.

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The master bedroom has an internal window that overlooks the den.

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The pool pavilion features outdoor seating and a grill, along with a bathroom and an outdoor shower.

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The secluded property in lower Hillsborough, a flat acre lot ringed by redwoods, was exactly what Dmitri and Heidi Krakovsky were looking for. The house itself, not so much. The split-level ranch, originally designed by Robert Onoroto in 1963, had tiny windows, no real connection to the outdoors, and interiors that included carpeted bathrooms with pastel sunken tubs. But the Krakovskys’ architect, San Francisco–based Addison Strong, assured them that it could be transformed into the modern home that they envisioned sharing with their young sons, Cole and Ben. Most of all, they craved sunlight and outdoor space.

“We’d been living in this dark Victorian in Hayes Valley, and we wanted tons of light and to have nature as a backdrop,” says Heidi, a former director of merchandising at the Gap who now does interior design. Their move down to the Peninsula was also driven by the desire to shorten the commute for Dmitri, an executive at Google.

When the Krakovskys bought the Hillsborough house in early 2012, Strong had clear marching orders: a fast move-in to get the boys situated by the start of the following school year. Propelled by the tight timeline, and hemmed in by a strict budget, Strong advised a less-is-faster approach: They would do a gut renovation of the 3,700-square-foot house and avoid additions, which would keep the permitting process simple. “It’s great when you get to build whatever you want, but it’s also great when you have a house that has good bones and is big enough. You can focus on making it work for the modern era,” Strong says.

Because natural light was such a priority for his clients, Strong leveraged a wide range of architectural strategies to bring in the sun. Those included some obvious moves: enlarging the existing windows, removing deep roof overhangs, adding giant skylights, and installing a wall of sliding glass doors to the backyard. He also played with the roofline, tilting the downward-sloping roof up like a check mark to make room for a set of clerestory windows that extend the wall of glass upward. (Architects might call this a partial butterfly roof, but the Hills­borough planning code classifies it as a dormer, which doesn’t count as an addition.)

Another addition/non-addition by Strong was glass “bay windows” for the master bedroom and front bedroom. In the pop-out windows, the glass wraps around the corners, creating a captivating sense of being outdoors. “It feels like you’re camping,” Heidi says. Interior windows in the living room allow the parents to keep an eye on the kids in the playroom and also bring additional light into the below-grade space.

Heidi, who did the interior design, went with crisp white walls and ceilings to accentuate the volume and angles of the spaces and to provide a neutral backdrop. “I’d seen this approach in a number of homes by Sou Fujimoto and other Japanese architects,” she says. “I also wanted to blend the inside and outside, so I chose a color palette for the furnishings that reflects nature—greens and grays, with notes of blue and ocher—and added mirrors in many places to reflect the outdoors.” Illuminated by natural light, the white walls and wide-plank oak floors set the stage for classic mid-century modern furniture and contemporary counterparts.

Among her favorite pieces are a marble-topped Saarinen Oval dining table paired with a Gubi 3D wood base, a gray steel-and-wood sideboard from Johannesburg-based Dokter and Misses, felted wool rugs from San Francisco’s Peace Industry (now closed owing to U.S. sanctions against Iran), and a medicine cabinet with a mirrored door that lifts up softly from Russian bath-fixtures company AM.PM. The custom kitchen by SieMatic features an expanse of white cabinetry and a niche with a coffee bar. In contrast to the white interiors, the exterior of the house is clad with black-stained rough-sawn cedar in differing widths, contributing a subtle texture.

Since the initial remodel, the Krakovskys have gone on to tackle the outdoor spaces. Where there was once just a lawn and a forlorn brick firepit, there is now a pool with an ipe-wood deck and a pool pavilion designed by Strong, along with a terraced landscape of succulents by S.F.-based Outer Space Landscape Architecture. From the kitchen, there is an expansive view of this resort-like scene, which includes an existing tulip tree that was carefully incorporated into the design. For the holidays, Heidi decorates its bare branches with lights, and in the spring, it produces large pink blooms. While there is art on display, including paintings by French artist Denis Polge, the color really comes from the outside. “Because of all the glass, the trees are the artwork in this house,” Heidi says.

 

Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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