California Dreaming: Noe Valley Residence

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it also seems like the longest. And it doesn’t end today; 2020 being a leap year, February is sticking around for one more day. One more cold, wintery, frigid day.

Our readers will know that we’ve been trying to spread a little warmth and sunshine in our DESIGN & DÉCOR section this month. Specifically, we’ve been looking west to the Pacific, focusing on the works of Malcolm Davis Architecture. Three projects located throughout Northern California—Camp Baird, a Sea Ranch residence, and a treehouse-like Portola Valley home—have offered us a much-needed visual escape. Each residence by the award-winning, eponymous firm of Malcolm Davis (himself a Bay Area native) caught our attention for their harmonious integration with the landscape and strategic relationship with natural light. Each also impresses with a unique blend of modernity and history, paying homage to regional architectural styles and materials while at the same time serving as contemporary homes fit for the 2020s.

For the final instalment of our four-part series, we’re turning our attention to San Francisco, where the architecture firm is based. In stark difference to the past three projects, which have been located in serene locales near the coast or among secluded, foliage-laden hills, this Noe Valley residence is situated on a dense urban street. Despite the challenges of the location, MDA has succeeded in creating a tranquil oasis—this time in the middle of a bustling city.

Noe Valley Residence

Noe Valley is a neighbourhood situated in central San Francisco. It began as a working-class neighbourhood that saw a surge of development following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and today it still bears many examples of the Victorian and Edwardian architecture that has become so much a part of the city’s visual identity. Noe Valley boasts some of the city’s best weather thanks to the protection of surrounding hills, which is just one of the reasons why it has faced waves of gentrification over the years. Today it is considered a rather affluent area and is home to many young families. (It is sometimes colloquially known as “Stroller Town” or “Stroller Valley” thanks to the number of children in the area.)

The clients who purchased this residence were a young family themselves. The home had previously fallen victim to a lacklustre flipping job, an overhaul that had stripped the house of its heritage and original character. The expertise of MDA was enlisted to help restore some of that charm and honour the old bones, while also re-working the floor plan to maximize access to daylight and views of the garden.

In the living room and dining area, skylights were placed strategically along the northern walls over existing exposed framing. This choice dramatically affects the original volume of the home, allowing light to visually alter the space. Long bars of light and shadow shift throughout the day, lending a dynamic quality to these communal areas. They, along with a large fireplace, also help to organize the open concept area and aesthetically separate the living and eating areas.

The kitchen bears MDA’s signature streamlined, Scandinavian-influenced aesthetic. We love the interplay of white and warm wood tones. We especially love that the latter was carried upwards to the ceiling, where pot lighting keeps sight lines smooth.

The floor plan was completely updated and reworked to create new interior volumes, with an updated design vocabulary that fights urban claustrophobia with an open, airy feel. For the young family, it now offers plenty of space to live and play, taking on a new visual identity with a foot in both the past and the present.

If this series on the Northern California architecture of Malcolm Davis Architects leaves you wanting more, check out Rob Lowe’s classic California estate, a sprawling abode fit for an A-lister.