Architect David Marlatt, founder of DNM Architect, along with his wife, Sarah, had adored living in their 1936 home in San Francisco’s Parkside District. It was just this summer the couple finally thought it was time to move to a different nearby fixer-upper. But they could not leave without reminiscing in their 17 years as faithful stewards of the beloved house. They were, after all, only its second owners, and felt an obligation to preserve the integrity of its own architecture.

This home served as a happy playground to their three sons along with a blank canvas to its adventurous architect and his wife. Together they breathed life into the home, 1 room at one time. All the time they proved that respectfully remodeling an whole dwelling doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg; it just takes a great deal of patience, know-how and sweat equity.

at a Glance
Who lived here: Architect David Marlatt, wife Sarah and their 3 sons
San Francisco
Size: 1,945 square feet; 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms

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As an architect, Marlatt watched this normal San Francisco two-bedroom, one-bath home near the ocean not as a struggle to live in with his burgeoning family, but more as a series of opportunities to lend his inventiveness to a home he admired.

To stay respectful both to the home and its own neighbors, Marlatt maintained the facade in its initial state, save for a new color, modern address numbers and a picture facelift.

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The first area they made adjustments to was this particular bathroom. “It was a 5-foot by 8-foot bathroom like all the other homes in the vicinity,” Marlatt says. “It’d pink tiles along with a green cast iron tub. What prompted us to reestablish was not its looks much as the dripping shower”

They gutted the toilet down to the studs and waterproofed the whole room to make one giant shower stall with double heads onto the wall opposite the cupboards. The countertop is made from 3/4-inch-thick acrylic inside that fit two stainless steel Kohler pub sinks (to conserve on distance) matched with laundry room faucets. The floor is slate, while the walls are composed of a mirror and stainless steel wainscoting with a diamond pattern for an industrial-looking finish that resists mildew.

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The living area was one of the few rooms to that Marlatt did not make any architectural alterations. He’d refinish the floors and add yellow accents. A curved fire display decorates the original fireplace. Marlatt hand crafted the display out of a security window grill.

Coffee table: Noguchi

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While the dining area still reveals authentic style, the family needed more light, since the room had no direct exterior window. There was only a window to an interior light well that provided only shaded light.

Marlatt additional more natural light with a skylight. A custom chandelier hangs from the ceiling’s present rafter, which Marlatt polished up.

The window to this inner light well was eliminated and expanded to miss a stairwell that Marlatt added to provide access to a new downstairs living area.

The dining table was the first piece the couple bought together when they transferred from Sarah’s hometown, Paris, to San Francisco. It was a black stained conference table bought from an office warehouse store. Marlatt stripped and refinished the bit, revealing its solid mahogany beauty.

Chairs: Ikea; sideboard table: 1990s

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Marlatt made this chandelier that hangs over the table. The cages, designed to function as candleholders, came from Pottery Barn. Marlatt refashioned them with bulbs that are connected to power by means of a simple aluminum pipe used by plumbers.

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As is typical of Depression-era kitchens, this one was split into two regions. Marlatt eliminated a wall to make an open area with perfect flow. Every workstation centers around the round sink, which will be surrounded by the original, but repositioned, cabinets. “We wanted to salvage as much as we can. We stripped each of the cabinets, put a natural stain on them and highlighted their frames in yellow for a fun splash of color,” Marlatt says. The few new cabinets that were needed to complete the area were matched closely to the previous ones.

The backsplash is another work of reclamation. The vertical tongue and groove redwood planks were the backs of their original cabinets that were discovered when the area was reconfigured.

The very functional form of the sink was created by means of a bowl made from a big casserole container that Marlatt bought at a restaurant supply store. “We built our kitchen well before around sinks were common as they are now,” he notes.

Oven: Wedgewood

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Marlatt squeezed even more distance from the kitchen by crafting a storage wall that employs the hollows of exposed studs, painted another cheery yellow tone.

The couple loved the concrete counters they were seeing in magazines at the time of their renovation. But they weren’t excited by the high rates. So they throw in place their own concrete counters with pure Portland concrete; it obviously cures to the dark colour without the help of a stain.

Following 30 days of curing, the countertops have been topped with a food-grade sealer. Subsequent maintenance has meant only an occasional swipe of olive oil applied with a paper towel.

Floors: vinylized cork

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The lower level of the house was committed exclusively to the garage, a more common feature to homes in this neighborhood. Marlatt left a sensible amount of square footage for a working garage, then repurposed the remainder of the bottom level into comfortable living area.

The stairwell (which passes by the dining room’s interior window) lands from the media room. The room benefit from natural light with a new bank of windows. Exposed joists provide the room additional character. Concrete floors were stained and poured yellow for a homey appearance. The kids were involved as well: They stenciled blue art all around the floor.

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Sliding panels of oriented strand board (OSB) separate the media room from the master bedroom.

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Behind the OSB panels would be the master suite. Its secluded location makes for a silent, well-lit space (that the windowed wall, like the exposed ceiling joists, continues from the media room) that overlooks the backyard garden.

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Portland concrete walls keep the master bathroom watertight. Marlatt hand made the canted vanity for a sculptural effect that saves floor space. It is topped with a piece of marble discovered from an old estate.

The couple discovered the mirror at a flea market in Paris. They painted it bright blue to perform the blue glass tiles. “We bought those tiles about 14 decades back. This was glass tile was popular, therefore it was expensive and hard to come by,” says Marlatt. “We bought only a few sheets. Then we allow the kids peel off the mosaic pieces off and place them where they wanted. It saved us money to use the tiles sparingly, plus we have a fun, unique configuration”

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Aside from paint colors and refinished floors, nothing was altered to the structure of the upstairs bedroom, one of two.

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As the family grew, the couple had another area to house their grandparents that were multiplying. Marlatt added a loft that’s accessed by steep but safe staircase. The distance could not accommodate a complete staircase, and the couple did not need their then-young boys scaling a attic ladder. This stair-ladder hybrid was constructed by Marlatt from 1- by 4-inch oak boards. Its treads were re-covered from the joists eliminated to make room for the new attic.

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This third degree was the final phase of their home’s renovation, which was completed in 2009. It was also the only part that required a significant change to the home’s exterior look. Marlatt created the new triangular pitch in a means that wouldn’t be seen from the street.

The interior is paneled with birch plywood placed at an angle. “It was a complicated process for the poor guys who had to install it,” says Marlatt. “However, it adds whimsy to that which would’ve otherwise been a static look.”

The rug tiles were fortunate find. “I just happened to phone a rug company asking if they’d offer me a to-the-trade reduction,” says Marlatt. “I was hoping for perhaps 10 percent off. Turned out I called them while they were changing out their stock and had to ditch their inventory. They advised us to please just take as much as we needed for free”

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“This home became a laboratory for investigating methods to make spaces and objects from simple materials,” Marlatt recounts. “In the earlier times, there was no option for us to use expensive materials, but in the subsequent projects once we could have spent a little more, we came to love the home as a demonstration of the numerous methods of using simple and sterile materials, and color, to maximum effect.”

The family is currently enjoying a new phase of the lifetime on a rented houseboat in neighboring Sausalito. They are carefully contemplating their next home to buy and enhance, taking into accounts all of the lessons they learned for this one. Stay tuned for more.

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