Step Inside A Preserved Painted Lady

During Design San Francisco, California Home + Design along with The Luxury Marketing Council of San Francsico and Dacor hosted a tour of one of San Francisco's hisotric Painted Ladies, with Million Dollar Listing's Beverly Hills Expert, Josh Flagg. Guests enjoyed a detailed tour of the home, from the current owners Come and Charlene Lague, whose family spent a great amount of time updating the Bay Area gem. Come shared his history with the home and experiences bringing it into the modern world. 

What inspired you to purchase the home?

We made a family decision to move from the suburbs to the city in order to be close to our children’s high school. The house had been on the market for a while, which is unheard of in this market in San Francisco. I think many people could not see beyond the challenge of the work needed to bring the house up-to-date and the complexities of dealing with the city planners. We have always had the ability to see a diamond in the rough and this truly has been one. We were initially concerned about the disturbances of tourists snapping photos all day long, but our neighbors ensured us that they keep a distance. It actually makes you feel quite good to hear and see that your house is so liked. We knew owning and living in a Painted Lady, especially the anchor one that the original builder lived in who built all the Painted Ladies, would be an experience of a lifetime for our family.

How long have you owned the home?

We purchased the home in June 2014 and immediately began renovations when we moved in July. We engaged with Lewis Butler of Butler Armsden, who is very familiar with remodeling Victorians and the preservation rules in a designated historic house. This allowed us to secure permits quickly and move on to the actual work, in a city notorious for permit delays. We had an exceptional construction team, ORB Construction, who we had worked with before, that were all excited about the potential for this project to be a crowning achievement for their portfolio. They focused on keeping a tight schedule and solving the many challenges we encountered along the way. We were done with construction in about 14 very intense months, with hundreds of decisions to make along the way. We decided to live in the home during the construction, perhaps not something we would repeat, as it meant constantly moving around the house and dealing with dust. However it did allow us to be on site every day for these decisions.

Share with our readers the original pieces/features you kept in tact and why?

We were very concerned about keeping the original gas chandeliers, that surely were not safe anymore. We managed to find an expert in these, Paul Ivazes of Quality Lighting who works on these chandeliers at the White House, the UN Building and more. He suggested taking them down and giving them an overhaul, cleaning the gas tubes, valves and for safety adding a gas shutoff close by for all three of our tied together chandeliers.  We followed his advice and are so glad we did. It is truly magical to see these lit up and to think back to the days before electricity existed.

We also decided to keep all the original doors in the house which are actually handmade redwood and mahogany “Eastlake” patterned doors. This meant taking them to an industrial paint stripping shop to remove 125 years of paint, patching, repairing, respraying and searching all over the world for replica hinges, knobs and locks to replace the worn out hardware. Since we added more closets and rooms, we needed to find additional doors, which is something you just can’t walk down to the hardware store and purchase. We found them on Craigslist and at salvage yards. It was much more expensive than just buying new doors but we felt the doors are very unique and visible, and help define the history of the home.

The grand staircase was another defining element we kept. It was stripped down to the original Mahogany and Douglas Fir planks. There was a missing finial cap on one newel post that had been removed to place a gas lamp which was not safe. Again, a finial cap like this is not something you can find today so we located a woodworker in the Mission who hand carved a replica using one of the others as a model. It was a perfect match and completed the staircase. With ceiling heights of 12’, you are immediately drawn to this staircase as you walk in, complemented by one of the most spectacular gas chandeliers.

To match up to the Eastlake patterns throughout the house, we had baseboard and trim milled to replicate the worn out trim. It was necessary to change it as we did electrical and plumbing upgrades behind walls, rebuilt the floor plan to improve flow and lighting, and changed all the hardwood flooring. We kept the plaster crown and cornices in the parlor, painstakingly repairing cracks from prior earthquakes, as these would have been very difficult to replicate.

While we kept many of these historical elements, we did bring the house up to date. A key part of that effort and because of the celebrity status of the house was getting sponsors involved including Shaw Floors, DXV American Standard, Dacor, Nanawall, MrSteam, Benjamin Moore and Hunter Douglas. Their generous partnerships and products helped achieve our design objectives of a modernizing a Victorian while preserving the historical elements.

What was the biggest challenge in preserving a Painted Lady?

This Painted Lady, and the others on the row, survived the major earthquakes in 1906 and 1989. They are very well built but they took a beating. Ours also changed hands fifteen times, including a period of time when the city was being left behind for the suburbs and was nearly condemned in the 1970s for lack of repair. Given the large turnover, it’s hard to know exactly what was original to the house as each owner made their own mark. The only way to truly tell was when we found “square nails” used in the original construction! With the age and a lack of maintenance over the years, it made it that much harder to fix things as problems required going back to the “bones” of the house. We would get that sick feeling as we peeled off layers. This is where having a creative construction team to problem solve and our being present to make decisions was critical. We are believers that if you are going to fix something, you should do it right the first time, so while we had certain expectations of what it would take to bring this house to date. It did take more effort and cost than expected, but balancing what was important to keep of the historical elements against the modern functionality was also a challenge. We did not want to live in a museum. I think the end product speaks for itself – it is a nice balance between old and new, it will last and be appreciated for decades to come.

What is your favorite area of the home?

My favorite room is actually two rooms, the kitchen and family room. The kitchen used to be dark, lacking in space and cabinetry, and blocked off in the back of the house from the rest of the rooms. We opened it up by removing a wall between the kitchen and the family room and adding an island. We also placed a Nanawall in the rear which completely opened up the light in that area and has this wonderful indoor/outdoor feel when you are cooking in the kitchen. We added two giant pocket doors between the kitchen and dining room/parlor, using beautiful salvaged redwood historical doors we found. Making the family room one big open area allows us to connect with our kids and keep an eye on their computers. We extending cabinetry all the way to the ceiling along the main wall, utilizing a library ladder to reach the top cabinets and greatly increase our storage space. We have a suite of state of the art cooking appliances from Dacor which we love. Our whole family is passionate about cooking and having such a great space that integrates into the rest of the house is a wonderful improvement.

 Are there any interesting historical stories about your specific home?

The previous owner Michael Shannon had the home for 45 years prior to us. It was Michael who gave us an indication of just how much star power this home had, with a website he built cataloguing the over 70 movies, commercials and articles it had been featured in. Tour buses (now banned in Alamo Square) used to stop in front of the house and he would run tours of the inside of the house, which explained some of the wear and tear. He convinced HGTV to film an episode of Curb Appeal while repainting the house. Dacor also filmed a commercial inside. 

Your home is a perfect example of integrating innovative technology in a historical home. Has this been challenging?

We input CAT6 internet cabling throughout as wifi does not work well in old Victorians and this allows us to have wifi routers at each floor. We added an HD security camera system, an iSteam shower with Bluetooth music and chromatherapy and the Sonos music system throughout the home. We distributed cable for HD TVs to each room, installed an alarm and fire monitoring system and smart thermostats with zoned heating systems. Our smartphones control the garage. LED efficient lighting andsmart washlets in the bathrooms were added in addition to an instant hot tank for our attic loft shower. We had to update electrical throughout to replace the old “knob and tube” and power all this. The time to do all this was while walls and floors were open, yet it was still very challenging to route cables, conduits and ducts in a house that was not built with all this in mind. In a way we also felt like the pioneer Matthew Kavanaugh who built the house – he installed some very cool early technology in this house such as floor to floor pneumatic speaking tubes and room to room telegraph wires. He also hedged his bets on gas/electricity by installing hybrid chandeliers!

How have the Dacor pieces complimented your way of life, in the space?

Our family has deep roots in French Canadian and Asian cuisine. We are passionate about cooking and trying different things, and the Dacor suite of appliances is wonderful for high performance and flexibility. For example, Charlene loves to make sourdough bread with walnuts and blue cheese. She has her own starter named “Paco” and makes the dough from scratch. It helps with her busy schedule to be able to preheat the oven through it’s smart IQ interface with her phone. I like making tomato sauces and hot pepper sauces and we grow our own heirloom tomatoes and peppers for these. The Dacor rangetop has amazingly precise and responsive control for any range of cooking. With space being tight, we were thrilled to be able to integrate a 48” Dacor fridge/freezer into our kitchen, to meet the needs of our family and meal schedules. The Dacor microwave drawer fits perfectly into our compact island and the dishwasher makes for a quiet and quick cleanup. As we are constantly entertaining here, Dacor’s winestation allows us to keep a range of wines available to pour at any time and preserve them, tucked into our dining room. I would say it is the perfect combination of the grand space and high performance of Dacor’s products. 

 

From the cocktail tour: 

The homeowner and the Wine station from Dacor

Josh Flagg and Charlene Li

Come Lague, Kelly Stucker, Brenda Forman, Ali Grosslight, Debi Hammond, Lindsey Shook

Alf Nucifora, Kelly Stucker, Ali Grosslight, Lindsey Shook and Josh Flagg

 

Joe Baldanzi, Brenda Forman, Josh Flagg

Judy Cooper, Judy Dinkle, Lilley Yee, Trace Kannel

Josh Flagg, the homeowners and the Dacor team

 

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