Unfinished BusinessAuthor:Anh-Minh Le
Thanks to ingenuity and teamwork, a rough-hewn space now lives up to its full potential
It was a project that Hana Mattingly couldn’t turn down: the partial renovation of a house in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset district, purchased by family friends who share her passion for interior design. “I knew if they ever asked me to help them,” she recalls, “I would say yes.” At the time, however, Mattingly was employed full-time at a firm that specializes in high-end interiors—which meant tackling the personal request at night and on weekends.
“Friends and friends of friends were reaching out to me, and I was super bummed that I couldn’t take on their projects full-time,” she elaborates. In the age of the pandemic pivot, the predicament contributed to her decision to launch Innen Studio in 2021, thus allowing her to embark on ventures of varying size, scope and budget.
The Outer Sunset home was her practice’s “small but mighty jumping-off point,” says Mattingly. Typical of the architecture in the neighborhood, the living quarters were contained in a single story above a ground-level garage. Hence, the area adjacent to the garage was crude. Mattingly likens the before state to an unfinished basement. Think: exposed piping overhead, no insulation, uneven concrete underfoot. “The clients had this grand idea of really utilizing this space,” she says of the couple, both nurses in their mid-thirties, who have a young child.
To supplement the upstairs, where the family primarily dwells, Mattingly transformed the ground floor’s 716 square feet, creating an entry with a “drop zone,” a kitchenette, an office that can accommodate overnight guests, a bathroom and a living room with bifolding glass doors that open onto the garden. By installing those doors, plus windows in the office and the kitchen, “it went from dark and decrepit to light-filled,” she notes. (The garage itself still fits a car.) She describes the redesign as “a modern take on an English cottage aesthetic,” with clean lines (no baseboards or window trims) and the occasional traditional detail (such as wood paneling). Functionally, Mattingly prioritized entertaining and hosting, including improving the home’s indoor-outdoor flow.
The concrete floor was leveled and polished. The walls and ceiling beams are now unified by Benjamin Moore’s Cotton Balls. The all-white backdrop gives the impression that the rooms are more expansive (the distance between the floor and the bottom of the ceiling joists is only seven feet, eight inches). A horizontal beam that runs throughout the ground floor, as well as a pair of structural columns, are unpainted, with the wood imbuing warmth.
The clients had a few belongings they wished to integrate. Mattingly designed the kitchenette around a butcher block–topped steel cabinet from Big Daddy’s Antiques that was repurposed as an island. A wooden trestle desk from Chelsea Antiques in Petaluma anchors the office. And in the living room, a couple of Steven Handelman Studios iron sconces flank Shanghai Fashion Week by photographer Bess Friday, a good friend of the homeowners.
Also in the living room, Mattingly introduced a ledge on one wall as a budget-friendly way to conceal a persistent problem: “The chunky foundation along the perimeter,” as she calls the irregular surfaces.
The four-inch-deep ledge—“just enough for a coffee mug”—also alleviates the need for side tables, leaving more space for seating. An exception to the airiness that Mattingly conjured? The bathroom, where she addressed the lack of natural light by going all-in on a moody vibe, courtesy of a charcoal palette with blue undertones. The walls are covered in Portola Paints & Glazes’ Roman Clay, while the shower is lined with clé Zellige tiles. Behind the concrete utility sink—a Craigslist find— she implemented a ledge again; this time, incorporating a medicine cabinet too.
“Even though this was a small project, it required just as much care and support and thought as a large-scale one,” says Mattingly, who credits exceptional collaboration among her, the clients and Jack Hotho Architecture + Design and Cogent Construction with making the renovation such a fun experience. “Since this was personal, the design meetings felt more like dinner parties. We came up with really interesting solutions that ended up being cool design elements, like the ledges. By bouncing ideas off each other, the result was way better.”