A Second Chance


MDa gives a historic San Francisco home a new life

In the kitchen, the lighting is by RBW and the set of Salt Chairs are from DWR. Photos by Matthew Millman.

“Consistent storylines in MDa’s (Malcolm Davis Architecture) work are warmth and modernity. We find that those two qualities can frequently be at odds,” says architect Malcolm Davis about his firm’s work. Known for curating structures that flawlessly combine contrasting elements, MDa’s projects often playing with solids and voids, rough textures and smooth, open spaces and cozy nooks, an old house with a new interior. “Our work is more a feeling than a specific look and includes both renovations and new houses from the ground up,” Davis notes.

The kitchen island countertops are Soapstone from Caesarstone. The range is by Lacanche. Photos by Matthew Millman.
A built in sofa and a set of Lina Swivel Chairs create the perfect conversation area. Photos by Matthew Millman.

They applied this unique approach to architecture when hired to renovate a 1907 3,800-square-foot, shingled home that was a classic example of the First Bay Tradition. “The existing structure itself had enormous potential, but was in need of some overarching plan organization and daylighting interventions,” says Davis. “The front half of the home had been well preserved and the original details that remained were fiercely protected during the remodel. However, further from the street face a series of remodels and additions left the floor plan disorganized, and the mismanaged square footage left the home living much smaller than its size suggested.”

Dark stained shingles and dark stained vertical wood siding honor the traditional design of the home while adding modern edge. Photos by Matthew Millman.

Located in one of San Francisco’s most family-friendly neighborhoods, the clients were passionate about preserving while modernizing the historic home. “The renovation sought to enhance the home’s character while simplifying its layout, improving the outdoor connection, and introducing daylight in unexpected ways,” says Davis. Aside from honoring the home’s origins, the clients main request was for the team to curate warm, modern, liveable spaces that were useful and not too formal. “We chose to do so by paying respect to the original house by employing timeless details in a contemporary way,” he says. “We weren’t trying to erase the historic nature of the home, and instead chose to use the same finishes one would have expected to see in the original home, but in their modern interpretations.”

Photos by Matthew Millman.
Unlacquered brass fixtures from Watermark glow in the dark powder room. Photos by Matthew Millman.
“Skylights in the attic warm the entry hall two levels below, glass in the exterior deck gently illuminates a basement
bedroom, and a skylight in the pitched roof introduces southern light and a glimpse of sky into a north-facing bathroom,” says architect Malcolm Davis. Photos by Matthew Millman.

Another goal set by the clients was to introduce more natural daylight, which is one of the main reasons they hired MDa, and open the home up to the back garden. “We are extremely happy with the quality of daylight in the newly renovated home,” says Davis. “The reorganized central circulation axis also provided the opportunity to share daylight from new strategically placed skylights between rooms and floor levels. This centralized circulation spine acts as an “interior street” and creates the opportunity to share daylight with adjacent spaces.”

In the primary bedroom, the bed is by Blu Dot, the tables are from Room & Board. Photos by Matthew Millman.
Jade blue tiles from Heath Ceramics reflect light from the skylight above. Photos by Matthew Millman.

Pops of bold color play a resounding role in the dramatic update of the home. “The dark flooring found throughout the home was also a must-have of the clients,” he notes. “She loves the resulting contrast and heightened dynamic nature of all the spaces. We decided to play up that rich dark coloring on the rear elevation as well, using dark stained shingles and dark stained vertical wood siding.”

Photos by Matthew Millman.
Photos by Matthew Millman.

When the house was complete Davis recalls the clients saying “MDa did an amazing job of letting in light from all directions so every time I walk into a room, it feels different depending on the time of day. We also wanted the house to patina over time and with our family living in it—this was a constant underlying theme as we made design choices.”

Custom details continue in the garden seating area. The landscaping was designed by Lutsko Associates.
Photos by Matthew Millman.