San Francisco Repairs Inspired by ‘American Gigolo’

When an interior designer and a software engineer started renovating their new house, they had no idea what it would ultimately mean.

Like many new homeowners, Kevin Sawyers and Peter Steinauer knew they wanted to make some changes when they bought a house in the Dolores Heights area of ​​San Francisco in 2015.

And as an interior designer, Mr. Sawyers, now 53, the founder of Sawyers Design, thought he could go further than most in updating the look of the place. (Mr. Steinauer, 51, is a software engineer at Apple.) But even he did not realize how much the project would eventually expand – that it would include a top-to-bottom, almost total remodeling of the house.

“It was very rustic, with a lot of wood, and in a way dilapidated,” said Mr. Sawyers. The house had been updated and expanded in fit and starts after the original part was built in the early 20th century, which had created a difficult collection of architectural styles.

Still, he and Mr. Steinauer liked the way the home was secluded from the street on a steep hill, and they were struck by awe over the huge Monterey cypress tree in the backyard. They bought the property for $ 2.1 million in March, knowing that the loose floor tiles, beige carpets and 1970s appliances had to be removed.

“I wanted to put a modern layer on the house, of course,” said Mr. Sawyers. “I had great ideas for what we could do on the inside – basically gut it, something we did – but everything eventually changed on the exterior as well.”

The couple moved in before the renovation started, and the longer they lived there, the more they anticipated opportunities to make some major architectural moves. For help, Mr. Sawyer contacted Hulett Jones, a partner in the architectural firm Jones Haydu, with whom he had worked in the architectural and design firm Gensler before the two founded their own studios.

“I went with an architect instead of just trying to do it on my own, because I wanted the bigger vision,” Mr. Sawyers said. “I had some ideas about what it could be, but they really just took it somewhere else and created a much bigger project than we had expected.”

The footprint of the house, which would not be allowed under the current regulations, provided some unique opportunities, said Mr. Jones: “The beauty of the house located at the back of the property is that it gets this amazing view to the center. and north, and great views from different angles, which became a driving factor for the design. ” He and his partner, Paul Haydu, also wanted to make sight lines for the big tree behind.

Jones Haydu eliminated many interior walls and added new floor-to-ceiling windows, along with decks on different levels, to open up the home. On the ground floor, which was raised above the street and had been used as a free-standing workshop, they added a cantilevered addition to the front which contains a guest suite and shadows for a new patio below. Behind the guest suite, they designed the space for Mr. Sawyers’ home office, which is large enough to accommodate a few employees, and added a staircase that connects it to the rest of the house.

In the living room on the second floor, they blew out walls that had only a few windows and replaced them with floor-to-ceiling surfaces of glass under a cathedral roof, pushing again a few meters closer to the street. To create more ceiling height for the primary suite on the third floor, they raised the ceiling and changed the slope. In the primary bathroom, they placed a free-standing bathtub in a corner with glass walls.

“It’s probably my favorite thing in House # 1,” said Mr. Sawyers. «You are sitting in the bath and can look out the window up to Twin Peaks. It just makes you feel like you’re in this glass box. ”

For exterior cladding, Jones Haydu replaced the old cedar shingle cladding with a mixture of metal with standing seams, used as roofing and siding, and cedar slats.

With such a modern, clean architectural envelope, one can expect a series of pristine white boxes inside. But that was not going to happen on Mr. Sawyer’s watch. To create a personal color palette, he drew inspiration from unusual sources: a luxurious Tibetan coat and the sets of the 1980 film “American Gigolo”.

“I was thinking of making us look and feel as good in this home as we could,” said Mr. Sawyers, much as the sets in “American Gigolo” flattered Richard Gere. “I wanted to make this set that was for us – for me and Pete.”

The result includes walls painted in Benjamin Moore colors such as Grape Juice (inspired by the saturated tones in some of the movie scenes); kitchen cabinet finished in blue-green (which served as a foil for the warm colors, as it did in the film); a green wallpaper painting on one kitchen wall; and a living room perimeter of Phillip Jeffries grass cloth painted with smooth clouds.

It took two years of construction, at a cost of over $ 1,000 per square foot, but the couple eventually moved back to their largely rebuilt 3,200 square foot home in September 2020, making sure they had created a one-of-a-kind pearl.

“It’s fun, it’s open and it embraces the outside as much as possible,” said Mr. Sawyers. It is also filled with unexpected personal touches, which is the point: “It really fits our lifestyle.”

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