In San Francisco's conservative Pacific Heights, a town house by Olle Lundberg and Wendy Tsuji cuts quite a figure.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 2/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design clad the powder room of a San Francisco town house in volcanic silicate, then punctuated it with strips of beveled glass.
The exterior combines a basaltlike Italian stone and steel.
In the dining area, Antonio Citterio's leather-covered oak chairs surround Frost Tsuji Architects's custom mahogany-topped table; a linen-wrapped wall backs Anne Appleby's paintings in oil and wax on panel.
Lundberg's staircase combines volcanic-silicate treads and stainless-steel balustrades with a random-orbit finish.
Wendy Tsuji chose the living area's chairs, covered in a cotton blend, and the 19th-century wool Oushak.
For the gas fireplace's surround, Lundberg specified a Japanese fusion-glass product, Neopariès. Near the fireplace sits Subodh Gupta's aluminum twig sculpture. The rosewood table is a Jules Wabbe design circa 1960.
The fireplace's 25-foot-wide surround reflects San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz.
On the ground level, Lundberg built a 600-bottle wine cellar with stainless-steel rods and steel back plates.
In the master bathroom, a custom stainless-steel grab bar accompanies Benedini Associati's tub made of Exmar, a composite of resin and quartz powder. The electronic glass of the window, which faces Alta Plaza Park, becomes translucent at the touch of a button.
In the powder room, Lundberg's granite-topped anigré vanity incorporates a stainless-steel sink. The cast-glass pendant globes enclose LEDs.
Tsuji outfitted the master bedroom with a custom cashmere-wrapped headboard and Cedric Hartman's polished-nickel lamps.
Henry Dean designed the master bath's glass side tables.
An area dedicated to jigsaw puzzles contains Mario Bellini's leather-covered chair, a custom table with a cast-acrylic top by Tsuji and steel base by Lundberg, and Irit Batsry's mixed-media work.
In the rear garden, tinted-concrete blocks slice across gravel inset with stainless-steel strips; blue LEDs mark the five level changes at night.
Lundberg's custom desk for the husband's office has a limestone top and a steel base. Carsten Gollnick designed the lamp.
With a 32-foot setback and 36-foot height, the house respects its neighbors. The front facade's windows are also electronic privacy glass.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ART GRAY
Olle Lundberg wouldn't think to compare himself to Richard Serra. The architect is far too modest. However, no visitor who sets eyes on the sculptural spiral staircase in this San Francisco residence by Lundberg Design could help but make the comparison.
However, stunning as the Serra stair is—in terms of both aesthetic statement and engineering feat—this 4½-ton Torqued Olle represents just one plot line in a five-year-long saga that essentially began with the Pacific Heights design-review board. Convincing its tradition-bound members was a tough sell, despite Lundberg's previous success with Oracle CEO Lawrence Ellison's house, a few blocks away. Key to Lundberg's strategy this time was pointing out that, technically, the project was a remodel: combining two 1952 row houses, one of which the clients had lived in for 17 years. (And filled with antiques and flocked wallpaper.)
There's scarcely a vestige of the originals now. Though both setback and height give a respectful nod to the scale of surrounding houses, everything is new, from the foundations and seismic upgrades to the finishes. "They requested surprise," Lundberg says. And they certainly got it. Imagine their reaction when they first confronted plans for a 7,000-square-foot box almost completely transparent in the front, overlooking Alta Plaza Park, and the back, surveying San Francisco Bay. But this house isn't all about the views. It stands on its own, inside and out.
To sculpt the front facade, Lundberg explains, "We used a variety of forms and textures." On sunny days, a stainless-steel fin casts an oblique shadow on a balcony sheltered by the roof's overhang; on the clients' first night in the house, the circular aperture in that overhang perfectly framed a full moon. Texture and shine are created by the cladding, a basaltlike Italian stone and super-sleek Japanese fusion-glass panels. "They're reflective and have a zero coefficient for absorption," he says—in plain English, that means they never get dirty. Too bad that's not the case for the rear facade's primary material: two 9-by-16-foot panels of glass.
The interior story is an edited one. "We didn't change the program of the original house, just doubled the size," Lundberg explains. In a first-time collaboration with Wendy Tsuji of Frost Tsuji Architects, he basically limited the materials palette to wengé, anigré, flecked gray volcanic silicate, black granite, and, of course, stainless steel. That goes not only for the third floor's master suite and the ground floor's wine cellar and guest rooms but also for the public level in between.
Connecting all three levels is the self-supporting ribbon of a steel staircase, with its treads of volcanic silicate. The first structural engineer consulted gave a flat no. "He said it would cost $100,000 just to computer-model it," Lundberg recalls. So he went back to his own metalwork shop, a key component of his studio, and built a one-story mock-up. For $3,000. After a few adjustments, it worked. (Lundberg happens to have earned one of his Washington and Lee University undergraduate degrees in metalwork sculpture.) A shop in Oakland produced the main structure in a single piece, which was trucked circuitously into San Francisco at 3:00 AM—heft precluded crossing any of the bay bridges. "Then we lowered it in by crane with only 1 inch clearance," he recounts. His own shop made the railing and accompanying shelves for the living area and top floor's landing.
Installed, the stair's monumental curve counteracts the public level's horizontal thrust while counterbalancing the weightlessness of the endless views, seen directly out the window and simultaneously reflected in the living area's 25-foot-long fireplace wall, clad in the same glass panels as the front facade. The stripped-down simplicity of the surrounding furnishings is a studied affair. "We worked for two and a half years with the wife, who values comfort," Tsuji says. Ergo, the sofa and armchairs' down-filled seats, upholstered in the softest of blues. A French rosewood cocktail table, circa 1960, and a pair of stainless-steel side tables complete the seating group, anchored by a 19th-century wool Oushak that brings a blush of faded peach to the deep-brown wengé flooring. In the contiguous dining area, Antonio Citterio's stained-oak chairs surround Tsuji's custom table, a mahogany top set on a cast-bronze base. The spare mix is completed by a series of six pastel-toned color-field paintings.
Upstairs in the master suite, there's no shortage of grand gestures, including, near the stair, an open area specifically designated for working on jigsaw puzzles. Flooring is 3,200 square feet of hand-knotted Tibetan carpet, a story in itself. "The gray color was crucial, and strike-offs were just not working," Tsuji says. So she went to the source. During 10 days in Kathmandu, she worked with dyers and weavers to get everything exactly right. "That carpet," she adds, "was enough to sustain 120 families for four months."
The bedroom shares the back of the top floor with the husband's CEO-worthy office. In front, his wife's office opens onto a small square balcony overlooking Alta Plaza. The 270-square-foot master bathroom also faces the park—and boasts two enormous windows, directly in front of the freestanding tub. Luckily, at the mere touch of a button, the electronic glass fogs up, San Francisco–style.
PROJECT TEAM (LUNDBERG DESIGN): CORY COVINGTON; JEFF LOEHMANN. CUSTOM TABLE (DINING AREA): PLANT ARCHITECTURAL WOODWORK. CHAIRS (DINING AREA), LOUNGE CHAIRS (OFFICE): B&B ITALIA THROUGH LIMN. CHAIRS (LIVING AREA): DESSIN FOURNIR COMPANIES THROUGH KNEEDLER FAUCHÈRE. RUG: THROUGH STARK CARPET CORPORATION. COCKTAIL TABLE (LIVING AREA), SIDE TABLES (BATHROOM): THROUGH MARCH. GLASS TILE (LIVING AREA, EXTERIOR): NIPPON ELECTRIC GLASS CO. TUB (BATHROOM): AGAPE. TUB, SHOWER FITTINGS (BATHROOM), SINK FITTINGS (POWDER ROOM): DORNBRACHT. CUSTOM GRAB BAR (BATHROOM), CUSTOM RAILING (EXTERIOR): KYTIN DESIGN AND FABRICATION. PENDANT FIXTURES (POWDER ROOM): BOCCI THROUGH LIMN. LAMPS (BEDROOM): CEDRIC HARTMAN THROUGH RANDOLPH & HEIN. CUSTOM BED: MARCO FINE FURNITURE. BED LINENS, PILLOWS: THROUGH SUE FISHER KING. CHAIR (PUZZLE AREA): CASSINA. TASK CHAIR (OFFICE): HERMAN MILLER. LAMP: ANTA. CUSTOM WINDOWS: THROUGH KENNER-USA. STONE SUPPLIER: ASN. CUSTOM STAIR: NOR-CAL METAL FABRICATORS. CONSULTANTS: MARGOT RICHARDS LIGHTING CONSULTANT (LIGHTING); ANDREA COCHRAN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE (LANDSCAPING); ARTSOURCE CONSULTING (ART). STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: TUAN & ROBINSON STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS. MECHANICAL ENGINEER: CT WANG. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: VAN ACKER CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATES.
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