New Ways to Cook Consistent with the loft concept in its layout and space efficiency, the home's galley kitchen offers accessibility and openness to other rooms and the outdoors while also offering lessons in space planning and storage applicable to any housing type.

The long island that forms the galley, for instance, is necessarily multifunctional, with a non-porous, quartz-based counter balanced by a restaurant-quality stainless steel sink and fittings. The low and lean island presents no visual barrier into and from the kitchen--a trademark of the loft concept--while maintaining maximum accessibility from nearby rooms and especially the main terrace (or entry courtyard), where outdoor meals and gatherings are encouraged through a series of three, 9-foot-tall patio doors.

The kitchen's efficiency is extended by the mosaic tile hearth servicing the multipurpose room a half-level down, the top of which provides a deep buffet surface for a casual eating area. Meanwhile, a butler's pantry is tucked behind the elevator, partially concealing full-height storage for long- and short-term needs and a prep area featuring a wine chiller and counter space with an appliance garage.

The efficient but well-appointed kitchen hides its utility without blocking views or hindering access to the casual dining area and spaces beyond. A butler's pantry to the left of the refrigerator provides additional storage.
James F. Wilson The efficient but well-appointed kitchen hides its utility without blocking views or hindering access to the casual dining area and spaces beyond. A butler's pantry to the left of the refrigerator provides additional storage.

All of these elements combine to create an elegant, if unobtrusive, kitchen--one that focuses more on efficient function and clean, simple finishes than a dramatic first impression that eventually fizzles from lack of practicality.

Product Specs: Kitchen Help

* A full line of stainless steel appliances from KitchenAid supports the clean, contemporary feel of the loft's galley kitchen and butler's pantry.

* The granite-look countertop is actually a quartz-based solid surface from DuPont Zodiaq, specified in a Storm Grey that offsets both the stainless steel appliances and accessories, as well as the maple cabinets.

James F. Wilson

* Flush-front maple cabinets from Armstrong deliver a warming, natural effect in the kitchen and butler's pantry.

* The dual-basin, stainless steel sink from Kohler extends along the countertop for easy cleanup and long-term durability, and is serviced by a variety of fittings, including a commercial-grade, pull-down spray nozzle.

* Recessed lighting fixtures by Nora Lighting feature a combination of standard-voltage, low-voltage, and compact fluorescent fixtures with contemporary trim finishes.

* In-Sink-Erator supplied food waste disposers and instant hot water dispensers for the kitchen, as well as in other areas inside and out.

New Ways to Use Space On one of the initial iterations of the floor plan, the large, high-volumed space located a half-level down from the entry and kitchen was labeled the "everything room." Truth is, no one really knew what to call it ... which underscores its value as an eminently flexible space.

Interior merchandisers Jiun Ho and Allisanne Frew viewed the room as a blank slate from which they could furnish and style a variety of uses. "You can bring in so many different things," says Jiun, a globally renowned interiors, furniture, and lighting designer based in San Francisco. "It makes it easier to transform the house, versus the house dictating how you live."

The multipurpose room can easily accommodate a casual dining arrangement, serviced by the outdoor kitchen on the dock, as well as the kitchen a half-level above.
James F. Wilson The multipurpose room can easily accommodate a casual dining arrangement, serviced by the outdoor kitchen on the dock, as well as the kitchen a half-level above.

Playing off the "chameleon" label attached to the room by Frew, owner of Source Francaise, an antiques dealer and interior merchandiser in Oregon House, Calif., the room was merchandised in three vignettes to illustrate its versatility: as a dining room, as a studio, and as a living room. And more uses are possible.

The room extends its use even farther by opening onto the waterfront dock area through a trio of 9-foot-tall patio doors. A connection with the exterior is further established by the northeast wall of the room, which replicates the concrete-washed stone finish of the outside walls.

Marta Borsanyi, principal of The Concord Group, a housing market research consultant in Newport, Calif., and the design/build team anticipate that such flexibility will be the next round of evolution in housing customization of production homes. "There's no such thing as a 'mass market' anymore," says Borsanyi. "Every [consumer] product, from computers to cars and clothing, is changing styles more frequently."

Housing design is a bit behind that curve, she says, but it is catching up as home buyers in nearly every segment and market put more value on being able to manipulate spaces instead of spaces manipulating them.

Product Specs: Multipurpose Room

* Mosaic ceramic tiles, designed by Moberg Fireplaces and supplied by Daltile, finish the hearth, which contains a high-definition, flat-screen television from Pioneer and a prebuilt gas firebox from Lennox Industries. Lennox also supplied the outdoor fireplace on the dock.

For the target market of active and affluent couples, the multipurpose room might well serve as a studio, with ample space and light, but also some separation from the rest of the house.
James F. Wilson For the target market of active and affluent couples, the multipurpose room might well serve as a studio, with ample space and light, but also some separation from the rest of the house.

* Windows and out-swing patio doors designed and supplied by Loewen deliver extensive light to the entire main floor, and specifically the multipurpose room. The clean, contemporary lines of the windows and doors maximize views of the basement's patio/garden, the entry courtyard, and the dock area ... not to mention spectacular sunsets and starry evenings.

* Stair risers and upper-level floors are a commercial-grade engineered hardwood in umber brown ash from Armstrong.

* Area rugs by Shaw Industries adorn several rooms in the house, softening the concrete floors.

New Ways to Retreat Though still firmly grounded in the loft concept, the upper level presents a transition into more intimacy and privacy. Specifically, the master bedroom resides on this floor, affording the owners a retreat from the wide-open spaces and shared functions of the main floor and the bustle of entertainment options on the lower level.

Master suite retreats are nothing new to mainstream suburban housing, of course, and are legendary in their grandeur in today's custom homes. But this one is distinctive for downplaying size in favor of sizzle and for extending a bit of playfulness even when no one but the owners are looking.

Though small compared with other custom homes, the master bedroom is no less luxurious, with an in-wall fireplace and plasma TV, as well as a private terrace and a decked-out, walk-in closet.
James F. Wilson Though small compared with other custom homes, the master bedroom is no less luxurious, with an in-wall fireplace and plasma TV, as well as a private terrace and a decked-out, walk-in closet.

Case in point: One of the two jetted tubs in the bathroom sits on the open terrace, partially shielded by copper-cladded louvers on the balcony and protected by a deep eave above. "What we heard from potential buyers of this house was to make it fun," says Borsanyi. "They wanted things open and were less concerned with privacy."

The master suite enjoys a bit more space across the stair landing. There, the flexibility of the loft design returns with an open area that can be used as an easily accessible spa/gym, comfortable lounge, or home office for the owners. It could also serve more public uses, such as a family room or an entertainment area for a smaller number of guests, especially with another deep terrace and hot tub just a few steps away.

Like many areas of the house, says van Straten, this one allows the owners to develop and alter spaces as they want or need, even over the course of a day. "If a space is good, you can do almost anything with it."

James F. Wilson

Product Spotlight: LiftSlide Door System

The first time you see the LiftSlide door system literally erase an entire corner of the house between the upper-level spa and the northwest terrace, you think it might be an illusion. Closed, the doors look like a fixed window wall; with a slight pull, they slide apart on a hidden track set into the floor and ceiling, exposing a full-height, 9-foot-wide frameless opening that exemplifies the easy and intentional indoor/outdoor relationships found throughout the home. The system features a multipoint locking system that not only provides safety, but is weathertight. Weep tubes help direct water away from the tracks. The doors' metal-clad, Douglas fir frame and their insulated glass provide thermal efficiency. Loewen.

Product Specs: Master Suite and Bath

* An extensive master suite closet, custom furnished by California Closet Co., incorporates the Personal Valet from Whirlpool, among other space-efficient, if luxurious, storage options.

* A custom-designed gas fireplace from Moberg Fireplaces, set into the wall of the master bedroom, features a soapstone firebox and a metal chimney.

* A flat-screen, high-definition television from Pioneer, set on the opposite wall from the fireplace, gives the owners a "dual hearth" and can be viewed from both the bed and the bathtub.

* The entire master suite was outfitted with fixtures and fittings from Kohler, most dramatically by the twin Cielo jetted tubs at the terrace end of the bathroom.

* Flush ash interior doors from Masonite complement the contemporary design of the home.

The New American Home Part I
Part III
Part IV

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.