The Big PictureAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Margaret Ash Design pushes through the challenges of the pandemic to curate a posh pied-à-terre
“When we first signed our contract with the client, our goals for the project were very different than the goals they morphed into in March of 2020 with the shutdown of SF due to Covid-19,” says designer Margaret Ash about a gut renovation of a San Francisco pied-à-terre located inside an exclusive co-op building for a couple who split their time between Wine Country and the UK. “The problem was that the residence was in a building with six other tenants and the fear of covid-19 and having contractors and subs coming in and out of the communal elevator required a lot of extra screening, daily cleaning, and large expanses of shutdowns. When most clients would have said, just get it done quickly and thrown all design expectations to the wind, these clients were able to trust the big picture.”
With their adult children expanding their own families in the city, the empty nesters needed the 2,700-square-foot apartment to offer enough space for spending quality time with their family, while embracing what the city has to offer. “Their main focus was not having an abundance of small chopped up bedrooms, but enlarging the public and private spaces so each room feels as expansive as the coveted views that accompany them,” Ash recalls. “This meant reducing the number of bedrooms so that the primary suite could have ample space to relax and read a book and have a large walk-in closet.”
Aside from dealing with the pandemic limitations, the apartment had not been updated in decades and required a complete overhaul. Overlooking the Bay Bridge, Downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, the notable 1920s mid-rise building was designed by esteemed architect T. Patterson Ross. “The views in every single room of the residence are worth a million bucks, or two,” Ash remarks. “There is very little I could have sourced or had made that would be able to compete with the views, so the architecture and sight lines have to be thoroughly thought out.” The team brought the apartment down to the studs, only keeping the existing mantle.
Configuring the furniture and overall flow required a great amount of planning so that the entire family could still feel comfortable even in small spaces. “The smallest room is the family room—an informal TV viewing space off of the large living room—where the clients requested that at least seven adults could sit while also having additional sleeping area since we got rid of one of the bedrooms,” she says. This meant we had to implement pocket doors for privacy as well as fit in a sofa, two lounge chairs and a bistro table with comfortable enough chairs to watch a movie, it was the ultimate Tetris game.”
“Turns out the saying, measure twice cut once, is even better when you measure three times, template twice, mockup once, and hold your breath on installation day,” Ash notes about the final install which was delayed over two years than expected due to the pandemic. “At the beginning of the project the client warned me that she likes to collect art overtime so there probably would not be enough art on the wall to photograph the space. In the end, it all worked out because the client was able to find beautiful art during the downtime, so when the big reveal arrived, we were able to capture the home in all of its glory.”