CFAH

39-41 Ord Street: Before
39-41 Ord Street: After
As our plugged-in tipster notes, “what a difference an architect [Phil Mathews] makes.” And as our tipster also notes, rumor has it that it’s either on or soon to be on the market (but not yet on the MLS). Anybody care to confirm (with a price) or deny (with a “that’s my house and there’s now way you’re getting your grubby little hands on it now”)?
UPDATE: For the record, we’re big fans of the renovation (and have no qualms with photochopping the sky). And once again our thanks to Sexy&Sassy for answering Lori’s Halloween request:


39-41 Ord with a special friend

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Wowf

    Does the owner get to keep the always-blue photoshop-ed sky too?

  2. Posted by Lori

    This “after” photo is just screaming for Godzilla’s head in the background … especially on Halloween!
    [Editor’s Note: For those who might not catch Lori’s subtle reference: A Second First (And An Opportunity For Fame).]

  3. Posted by sidney W.

    Any word on how vigorously the neighbors fought every architectural change?

  4. Posted by missionite

    I’m impressed. The architect made a huge difference. Any pictures of the interior? Did he do as good a job there?

  5. Posted by citicritter

    I would argue the architect didn’t make THAT big a difference, in that its still neo-traditional historicist pastiche, now with nicer ‘arts & crafts’ trim and bay windows — yay! more retro-conservatism for SF…

  6. Posted by TheRealScoop

    citicritter, which house – before or after – would you rather have as your neighbor? Seems pretty clear. architects use the term “vocabulary” and it’s analogous to writing something – there are many ways to convey the same idea. how this architect & owner say “new house that fits between the other two houses” will differ from your way of saying it and many other ways. at least the owner cared enough to do something to give the old blah a facelift.

  7. Posted by Tipster

    Spectacular. Really great job.
    And I like the fact that they kept the second floor exit intact. The one with no stairs.
    “Can I go out this
    d
    o
    o
    r
    (splat)!”
    Or is that the exit you use if the earthquake is so strong that the second floor pancakes down to become the first? “Oh, don’t worry about the collapsed first floor. We had a second floor exit built into the design, just step right outside through this door, and remember to shut the gas off when you leave.”

  8. Posted by curmudgeon

    It’s not a door, it’s part of a tunnel entry. I’m sure it’s too high to fall over as you walk down the stairs.
    Phil Matthews does great work.

  9. Posted by Can't think of cool name

    Actually, it’s a door or a tunnel. Its the airlock, to be used in case Hal does not open the pod bay door.

  10. Posted by plantguy

    I think it looks great. I used to live directly across the street and it was a plain Jane house before to be certain. It fits in nicely with the character of the neighborhood, giving it a lot pizazz.

  11. Posted by anondesigner

    I think it is funny that many think only “modern” is acceptable vs. using “historic” design elements which are very well done on this simple remodel. “Modern” is no longer new, in fact what many people are calling modern, is actually “mid-century” style modernism, and already 60 years old. Modern has been around for over 80 years. Go to Chicago and you can see steel and glass buildings over 80 years old, so are they still new or just another STYLE? This architect has a nice vocabulary of both contextural residential work with elements from the existing neighborhood historic fabric, as well as some award winning contemporary homes. Despite what Corbusier and Mies wanted to proclaim, Modernism long ago lost it’s religious dogma when the structure was hidden or placed so as to be “pretty”.
    Craftsman homes have just as much exposed structure as a lot of current “modern” homes and sometimes are a lot more honest in their design in how the structural system is exposed in a simple beautiful way. The Swendenborgian Church in this city is one of the ground breaking American structures where Maybeck and Brown stripped off all traditional decoration and let the structure be the design. NOW, is that church “modern”, I would say so, but some would call it not, just because it is “old”.

  12. Posted by Adam

    Well said, anondesigner!
    This looks like a really thoughtful remodel. I like how details likes the windows for the electrical service and vents are integrated.
    We’re about to do one ourselves and it’s quite a headache of things to think about, shop for, integrate and consider. These folks did a great job.

  13. Posted by Hank

    Interesting group of pics today. I lived on Pacific next to the 20m condo building, I now live in 170 off third. My sister used to live in this building in the bottom flat. It was a pretty cool place, she lived there around 1995 or so, I bet the rent was very cheap. Surely needed an overhaul, the walls were paper thin, great location and great overhaul.

  14. Posted by citicritter

    to TheRealScoop: I know architects use the term “vocabulary”, because I am an architect. So, sticking with your writing analogy, I would ask why in the 21st century we need to use language from the Victorian/Edwardian period of England?
    anondesigner: I never used the words ‘modern’ or ‘mid century’ here, and you’re bringing them up in terms that limits the discussion to STYLE. Great architecture transcends ‘style’ and ‘isms’, and is modern in the fact that it is clearly part of its time in history, not mimicking a past stylistic period. Period.
    Your argument about ‘exposed structure’ is highly suspect. The Swedenborgian chapel may have broken the mold 100 years ago in eschewing some of the typical ornamental crust of its time, but it is hardly spatially or contructionally modern compared to its truly modern contemporaries elsewhere. It still displays very strong traditional forms and applied stylistic biases. Plus, though Arts & Crafts originally sought to strip away some of said ornamentation compared to full on Victorian, that was then this is now, and most of what is labeled “Arts & Crafts” nowadays is almost pure appliqué of trim. Why, in 2007, are those our choices (the Victorian status quo of a century ago or the ooh-isn’t-it-truthfull Arts & Crafts)?
    ‘Exposed structure’ is, a slippery slope on which to attempt to validate the ‘modern’ or any architecture anyway — there’s a lot more to good architecture than structural expression I would argue.
    The sad oxymoronic fact is, when it comes to politics, social issues or technology San Francisco is indeed progressive, but regarding the built environment it is INCREDIBLY conservative and afraid of the new – basically an anti-progressive, retrograde position that both your posts uphold.

  15. Posted by flyerinsf

    To confirm the rumor, there’s now a For Sale sign on the building (with a “Coming Soon” banner at the bottom. Peter Goss with Zephyr Real Estate is the listing agent – 415-552-9500

  16. Posted by Phil Mathews

    Thanks everyone for the interesting comments, some complimentary (hey, thanks!) and some scathing (ouch!). Yes this is the architect the one trying to do the ‘right’ thing given a real problem, a budget, possibly feisty neighbors (none opposed us here), and short time frame to do all of the above. I did a series of sketches, 7 or 8, for the Clients last Christmas and I and they felt this to be to best design direction to go. Prior to this there had been a previous modern design but involving going up one story.
    I like and prefer to do modernist designs but I am also not totally sold by modernism by any means. Sometimes ‘old’ is good, especially when it works ‘better’ than ‘modern’. The Shingle Style is my favorite resource for ‘old’. Why: my own personal preference; it is easy and fun to work within its particular stylistic rules; it is neither ‘modern’ nor ‘old’ in my opinion–it is the start of modern design and the open plan; it is the first truly original American ‘style’ vs. a European pastiche (not another Tuscan style Villa, arggh! lol); it has a ‘comfort’ factor appealing even to me, living in my own modernist house at 21/Eureka.
    As to some of your comments, curmudgeon is correct it is not as tipster notes a ‘door at the second floor: ker-splat’ it is a wall opening at the (exterior) stair to the second floor unit. It is ambiguous, true. (Perhaps someday a hanging planter of fuchsias there would make it less ambiguous.) I like ambiguity too, though. Anyone remember Robert Venturi’s book “Complexity and Contradiction. . .”
    I love the Swedenborgian Church. I think of it as ‘modern’ as anondesigner does, if only for its feeling open and spacious and comfortable, a very successful interior space in a city with not very many good public buildings, in my opinion. I guess the S.F. Airport International Terminal by S.O.M. being one of the few I really like.
    Like citicritter, I wish the S.F. Planning Department were more supportive of modernism, like the city of Miami Beach, where they only wish to see design that is of ‘the present moment’ and frown on re-iterations of the past, even art deco, but this is not the reality of S.F. given its politics, and the tendency for neighborhood ‘NIMBY’ types to lash out at modernists as ‘not in keeping with the (sacrosanct) neighborhood character.

  17. Posted by anondesigner

    Phil Mathews, you did a great job! I was just writing a response myself when yours popped up. I think people often forget how important the budget factor ends up being in a design, and I think your solution is brilliant. If others view your website, they will see you are able to do both modern and other types of design and I think you do both very well. I myself live in a modern house of my design and prefer modernism, but have no problem with clients who prefer otherwise. I think my point regarding the Swendenborgian Church is to question what is truly “modern”. My work is mostly outside of San Francisco so I am able to escape the SFPlanners by doing residences in such places as Laguna Beach and Palm Desert where they allow and encourage new design ideas. BTW, your Noe Street Residence Project is a great design which I have admired for quite some time.

  18. Posted by Phil Mathews

    Thanks anondesigner, as bad as S.F. can be when trying to do a modern house, it is far better than other localities such as Orinda, or Mill Valley where the local powers that be may see fit to ‘run you out of town’ dare the client and/or the architect propose anything approaching modern vs. toe the line vis a vis whatever it is they consider to be good taste du jour, invariably their own idiosnycratic version of tuscan villa or fake victoriana.
    The S.F. Planning Code, thanks to the influence of hardworking members of the A.I.A. SF, and also including the excellent staff organizing the A.I.A Home Tours initiated in 2003, is I’d say, ‘neutral’ in this respect, neither encouraging nor discouraging classic, current or avant-garde modernist trends.

  19. Posted by Evan

    This type of discourse is what I enjoy about socketsite. I forwarded this to my architect friends. It looks like this property has hit the market. Interior pictures are available. Posting

  20. Posted by Josh

    One question for Mr. Matthews…
    You say that you did concept sketches for the clients last December. How did you get plans done, neighborhood outreach, 311 Notification, and construction all done in 11 months? I’ve been working on 2 remodels for myself and found that Planning often took a month just to set up an appointment to submit plans for review!

  21. Posted by Phil Mathews

    Josh, the Owners had actually wanted to finish the work by last April. The facade was 95% finished by the end of August. The ONLY way either date would be possible would be by intentionally avoiding triggering the 311 noticing process and its required 311 pre-app meeting with adjacent neighbors. Reading the Planning Code on what is exempt from 311 and one finds it is ok to do quite a bit, including: new windows, siding, trim, even bay windows and alter the roofline with a dormer and eave, etc. and not have to do a 311 process, which adds another 3 months typically, I’d say, then if someone wants to protest with a D.R. Hearing, figure another 6 months on top of that. If you do any substantial vertical and/or horizontal addition at front and/or back, figure on a 311 Notification being required. Fast track for a major remodel or new construction in S.F., including all the Noticing would be a year for permits, and a year for construction. Add in another year as contingency for possible hearings, negotiating with NIMBY neighbors who wish to drag it out as long as possible. So often a project will be 3 or 4 years start to finish, sad to report this bit of reality. If one is in a hurry at all, try to stay within the built envelope; expand within an existing basement or attic or excavate two levels down into the ground, etc. Don’t expand the envelope if you can help it.

  22. Posted by James

    My partner and I went to the open today. Really gorgeous building and remodel in a prime area. We believe this will go well over asking, and, quickly. This is a very nice property.

  23. Posted by BobN

    2-4 years to remodel a home. Absurd. Absolutely absurd.

  24. Posted by SFDude

    I can’t compete with the architects that have posted on the issue of whether this is “good” or “bad” on theoretical level, but I like it. The place was clearly a dump before, and now it is attractive and interesting. While it is not “steel and glass” modern, it is a great job of using mixing craftsman architecture with some modern design concepts. If all remodels and new buildings were done with this much care and skill, San Francisco would look much nicer.
    Just my $0.02.

  25. Posted by Phil Mathews

    Thanks SFDude I appreciate your opinions and positive comments very much as well as all the others expressed here. (I am new to Socketsite. I did not know it existed five days ago.) I love being right here in San Francisco vs. the ‘burbs’ because this kind of ‘give and take’ keeps everyone’s braincells stimulated. My one last piece of advice to those of you seeking a place to buy and extensively remodel: do not buy any building built prior to year 1914. Otherwise you will get caught up in an awful torturous process where you must do an ‘Environmental Exemption Application’ plus a ‘Historical Resource Evaluation’ and (oh my goodness!) even a ‘Tree Disclosure Form’ all of which add over $ 5,000 or much more to the total Permit Cost and take six months for the MEA Division of the S.F. Planning Department to process. The Planners mean well. They are merely obeying CEQA laws making sure your project is ‘exempt’ from environmental evaluation (i.e. E.I.R. Reports, which cost an arm and a leg, oh about $50,000 to $100,000 and up, seemingly silly for a small remodel project, right? But that’s the way the political cookies crumble here in San Francisco!)

  26. Posted by M Hicks

    As a structural engineer (and the engineer of record for this facelift), I think Phil had a relatively light touch structurally, as he often does, which can also help cut permitting and construction time down.
    I’ve worked with Phil on relatively modern remodels and think he does that relatively well also.

  27. Posted by bgelldawg

    I walk by this house every day. A huge improvement, really a gift to the neighborhood. There is a house across the street from this that also underwent a very well done facelift.
    It seems sad to me that after doing all that work the owners are selling it rather than enjoying it.
    I am surprised by the use of shingles on the front of the building as my insurance was recently cancelled due to shingle siding. Was this a concern for the owners?

  28. Posted by LordDaene

    I think the composure is a great blend of shape and style. Materialistically and stylistically, it will add an enthusiasm to the neighborhood to make other improvements and think outside the box regarding traditional styles and modern formats.
    It is a real shame when people fight so hard against progress when thr result is such a concerned blend of details that enlivens a neighborhood as well as acompanies it with tasteful details. I knwo for a fact that a few times when Phil’s projects had been completed those types of people had realized their old decision and battle as ignorance in the face of openmindedness and trust.
    A well done example of proportioned detail and sophistication added into a neighborhood to diversify it’s architectural styles.

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