Exterior view of a house in san francisco. A person is walking a golden retriever in the foreground.
Courtesy Mikiko Kikuyama

Spiegel Aihara Workshop Makes a Sharp Turn in a San Francisco

The San Francisco-based firm transforms a 1931 Spanish Revival building into a contemporary family-friendly home.

In our mostly orthogonal world, curves come as a welcome surprise. “They have this ability to grab the light in a really nice way and continually redirect movement, as opposed to things or people settling in corners,” says architect Dan Spiegel, cofounder of San Francisco–based Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW). For the multidisciplinary design studio, curves were key to bringing a 1931 Spanish Revival home to the present.

The homeowners, a couple with three energetic school-aged children, purchased the  2,300-square-foot home in 2015 with the intent to renovate but still retain a sense of its character. Like the surrounding houses in San Francisco’s Marina District, it had a red tile roof, arched windows, and interior archways. They hired SAW, whose other cofounder, Megumi Aihara, is a landscape architect, to roughly double the size of the house and turn the backyard into a play area.

A family sitting at the bar in their kitchen
Courtesy Paul Dyer
Interior of a home's living room with black walls and fireplace
Courtesy Paul Dyer

Leaving the original facade mostly untouched, the design team tied together the new and old spaces by keeping all of the existing curves and adding more in unexpected places, dubbing the project “Wraparound House.” On the main level, the classic archways to the living and dining rooms were figuratively flipped on their sides to become curved corners of the great room and a semi-circular stairwell. A creamy spiral staircase, with a railing that looks like a thick marshmallow slab, functions as a contemporary sculpture at the center of the house. The kitchen island has a curved corner, but also a countertop with an unusual concave cutout that creates better flow to the dining room.

Interior of a home showing a white dining room and sculptural curving staircase
Courtesy Paul Dyer

To provide the children with the space to sprawl outside (“We wanted to be able to lock the kids in the backyard,” jokes the client), another spiral staircase twines up the exterior, connecting the backyard to terraces on the second and third levels. The freshly designed yard is a kidney-shaped artificial lawn, ringed by a concrete path that functions as a racetrack for scooters. From above, it bears a pleasing resemblance to a swimming pool.

From the back, the curvaceous home connects with another architectural lineage: The neighborhood is also known for its nautically-inspired Streamline Moderne buildings. “By experimenting with the 1931 architectural forms, we rediscovered that the 1930s Marina architecture already had a vision for the future and embracing that might be the way to link these contexts. And of course, we found these forms to be beautiful,” says Spiegel.

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