The founders of the US company Edmonds + Lee Architects designed this urban apartment for themselves, including a bright white facade, a sloping roof and retractable glass walls.
Switchback House is located in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco on a steep, low-rise street. There used to be a modest, one-story house on the site.
Vivian Lee and Robert Edmonds, a married couple and founding partners of the local Edmonds + Lee Architects, designed the house for themselves and their two young children.
Instead of occupying the full residence, they decided to split the three-story building into two separate units. The upper floors are used by the family, while the lower floor is rented to a tenant.
“The lower floor can – and is currently – used as an income-generating rental, but the house is designed to be flexible enough that owners can convert the structure back into a single family home,” the studio said.
The maisonette is clad with white, prefabricated cladding boards, with the elevation facing the street having a large area of dark glass. A straight volume protrudes from the front of the residence and forms a contrast to the steeply sloping roof of the house.
Inside, the architects attached importance to quality rather than quantity. “They worked not only as their own clients, but also as their own developers. They were able to avoid the typical market pressures of maximizing square feet and instead focus on quality issues,” said the studio.
The overall goal was to create a home that took into account the urban context while also feeling “light, airy, spacious and open to the sky”.
On the upper floor there were three bedrooms on the first floor while the common areas were on the top floor to create a loft feel.
In the front part of the top floor is the kitchen, which opens onto an outside terrace. Wide wooden stairs lead down to the living room, which also opens onto a terrace and offers sweeping views of the city.
The master suite and rental unit also have outdoor terraces.
Thanks to the retractable glass walls throughout the residence, the interior spaces can be fully opened to the outside. Gallery-style white walls and streamlined furniture add clarity and serenity.
Inexpensive materials were used throughout the project, including drywall and painted steel. “Everyday materials were used creatively in many details of the house,” said the team.
As with many commercial projects, the team turned to Ikea about storage requirements.
“The architects undertook the ultimate Ikea hack: They measured the standard size of the big box retailer’s shelves and built cabinets to the nearest inch – creating a bespoke mill-level aesthetic at a fraction of the price,” the studio said.
Other homes in San Francisco include an IwamotoScott residence with an angular wood facade and a galvanized maisonette by Stephen Phillips Architects that aims to “challenge the normative house typologies of San Francisco.”
The photography is from Joe Fletcher Photography.