AT $300,000 TO $425,000 PER unit, Magnolia Row may not seem like affordable housing. But when you consider that the project is located in the San Francisco Bay area and consists of two-and three-bedroom townhomes, affordable seems like an appropriate term. “The units are inexpensively priced, but they are market rate,” architect David Baker says.

Even though the units are affordable, Baker detailed them with finishes that are normally found in higher-end homes. “It is a simple concept,” the architect says. “We spent the money on the interior where it shows.” Consequently, the units have hardwood flooring, granite countertops, and undermount sinks. An open-riser staircase adds a nice detail to the interior and becomes a focal point at the entry.

A hybrid of urban lofts and residential townhouses, the project bridges the gap between industrial and residential neighborhoods. The façades are punctuated by large window openings and low-sloped roofs that echo the nearby warehouses, but the scale of the buildings, lap-board siding, and exterior gardens blend with the adjacent Victorian homes.

Baker did not neglect the exteriors, however. Painted fiber-cement siding creates a tough exterior that will withstand the elements, and a painted trellis over the entry adds visual interest. Concrete wheel strips (instead of full pavement) and a garden break up the street frontage.

CATEGORY: Townhouse, less than 2,000 square feet; ENTRANT/ARCHITECT/INTERIOR DESIGNER: David Baker + Partners, Architects, San Francisco; BUILDER: Branagh, Oakland, Calif.; DEVELOPER: Pocket Development, San Francisco; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: GLS, San Francisco

Builder Tip Simply Elegant A tight budget doesn't mean that a project has to be boring, says architect David Baker. Magnolia Row, for example, was inexpensive to build, but it includes simple details that give the units a high-end feel. Painted fiber-cement siding is a straightforward and affordable way to add interest, an open-riser staircase changes the entry experience, and the wheel slivers in the driveway help soften the street elevation. These items are economical to add but make a big difference, Baker adds.

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