The Silver Lining House in the Bernal Heights Neighborhood of San Francisco was designed by Mork-Ulnes Architects for an architectural photographer and interior designer. The three-story home was conceptualized as a container for the couple’s art and furniture collection and a laboratory for their work. The project’s brief was a 3 bedroom 3.5 bath home that showcases scenic views of San Francisco’s twin peaks and westerly sky, the intimate view of Bernal Heights neighborhood, and highlights the couple’s impressive art and furniture collection.
In 2010, interior designer Alison Damonte and architectural photographer Bruce Damonte purchased a modest wood residence more than a century old in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. As the years passed, the couple slowly began the extensive process of renovation. A friend and early champion of Bruce’s photography career, architect Casper Mork-Ulnes, founder of San Francisco and Oslo-based Mork-Ulnes Architects, was a natural choice to lead the redesign.
While the project was deep in the stages of redesign, a fire ravaged the home on Christmas Eve 2017. While the incident forced a reevaluation of scope and scale of the redesign, the couple’s goal remained the same— to create a home that acted as a capsule of art and inspiration.
The original 1908 wood house, built for a roofer and his family of five, had a single-story with a low-pitched roof, and stood out among more traditional two-story gabled rooflines flanking the steep San Francisco street. The fire forced a critical rethinking of the design goals. Mork-Ulnes proposed a new structure with the proportions, scale, and exterior massing that took cues from the gabled Edwardian neighbors. The exterior cedar cladding echoes the local vernacular, in particular the horizontally paneled siding of the neighboring homes.
The previous small and purple Victorian house was replaced with a modern house that harmoniously blends with its San Francisco streetscape. The new house shares a similar silhouette with its gabled neighbors that line the steep streets and reinterprets Victorian design elements into modern features such as siding patterns and graphical fenestration. While replicating the roof forms, entry portal/ stoop, and massing of the Victorian homes, the new house also breaks from tradition with a black-painted facade and ribbon windows that visually connect the interior of the house to the neighborhood.
As demonstrated in numerous projects by Mork-Ulnes Architects, tradition is reinterpreted here with a decidedly contemporary perspective, where formal research and construction techniques are integral to creating an original and innovative outcome that engages its surroundings while also prompting further inquiry.
The volume of the home is thoroughly modern; abstracted and simplified, it is a large geometric object giving a hint to the architectural language and collection of objects inside.
The interiors of the house were designed to create a vitrine for the couple’s art and furniture collection, and a space to showcase their interest in materials and textures. The house’s central curved and sculpted staircase allows light from the third-floor skylight to funnel and refract down to the ground floor, creating an ambiance that reflects the couple’s creative spirit.
Initially conceived as a gallery for art and furniture and a laboratory for decorative experiments for two design enthusiasts, this 3 bedroom 3.5 bath home also includes a disco-inspired music parlor, a photography studio, and a penthouse great room which opens to views of both a San Francisco panorama and its Victorian neighborhood.
A central curved and sculpted staircase allows light from the third floor skylight to funnel and refract down to the ground floor with half-polished chrome slats bouncing mirrored reflections around the stairwell — a request of Alison, to mimic the experience of walking through a disco ball.
Ribbed textures are repeated throughout the project in tambour-clad pods, mirror slats, and custom resin tiles. Mirror is used in playful elements like a black disco ball, but also for spatial and light-generating effects with the stair slatting, underneath kitchen cabinets which appear to float, on a ceiling in a powder room, and over a tambour clad pod in the great room.
Already with fantastic city views from the original home’s second level, the owners wanted to capitalize on the even better views from the new third level and celebrate the vast views west of San Francisco’s Mission and Twin Peaks, and east towards the more intimate view of Bernal Heights.
The interior architecture, a collaboration between Mork-Ulnes Architects and the studio of Alison Damonte, is also based on objects. Mork-Ulnes set the formal and volumetric stage with an organization of simplified objects, allowing Alison Damonte to outfit them with materials and finishes in line with her vision for the interior.
The owners opted for a flipped floor plan with the lowest level providing privacy for a primary suite and small, sunken garden; the second level containing the entry, guest room and more intimate rooms for entertaining and leisure; and the new third story penthouse living space and kitchen offering the most transparency with both distant views of Noe Valley and Twin Peaks and closer views of the neighboring houses and Bernal Hill.
Offering a compelling counterpoint to the restraint and rigor of the architecture, each room in the home offers a tactile, vibrant experience of color, furnishings and art. Objects clad in textures, patterns and materiality reflect the owners’ collective creative spirit. The finishes and furnishings are quirky, tactile, and colorful complementing the owners’ collection of emerging and established artists and Art Deco, Mid-Century Italian, Scandinavian, Post-Modern and Contemporary furniture.