A research scientist with an eye for detail approached Studio VARA to transform a 1908 cottage in San Francisco’s Noe Valley into a modern dwelling. According to the architects, the result is a quiet house of 3,500 square feet with two distinct faces: one that provides privacy from urban street traffic, and another that opens up to expansive bay views.

Traces of the original cottage are preserved in the massing and circulation of the end result. The grand staircase marks the separation between the public spaces to the south and the private spaces to the north, as you can see in the architecture plans. The new garage is incorporated into the “public” volume, with guest suites above and below.

To the north, the open living area at the heart of the home expands past the folding window wall to the east-facing deck beyond. It is here that one can take in the panoramic views of the city and the East Bay, or contemplate the juxtaposition of urban and natural in the garden below.

Above this main space is the master suite, which takes advantage of even grander views through framed openings and a lofty private deck. The design team worked toward creating a calm and peaceful retreat, with a balance of restraint and supple details.

A wall of custom cabinetry, clad in veneer hand-picked by the client, unifies the kitchen and living room. The subtle palette of warm mixed with cool recurs in both tone and materials: wood juxtaposed with glass, metal against stone. [Information provided by Studio Vara; photography by Bruce Damonte]