The owners of this new in-town San Francisco house “wanted an Edwardian that looked like it had always been there,” says architect Aleck Wilson. And the street façade he penned, with its rounded two-story bay and period-correct trim, gives every indication of having been part of the city’s reconstruction following the earthquake of 1906. Perhaps the greater challenge was to apply the same Edwardian visual vocabulary behind the façade, especially to a kitchen the likes of which simply did not exist in Edwardian times.
Wilson approached the problem as if he were designing an addition to an existing house. The kitchen occupies the full width of the building, with a dogleg toward the front of the house. Wilson used the L-shaped footprint to give the room a set of subtly overlapping multiple personalities. “There are three zones in there,” he points out, “from full private to full public and where they meet in the middle.” A framed opening and soffit delineate a pantrylike storage zone with twin refrigerators, a wall oven, banks of wall cabinets, and a passage to the formal dining area. The crook of the L comprises a semi-public work zone, where the walls open up with windows, bright ceramic tile, and only a small bank of wall cabinets (“You have to have a place to put glasses,” Wilson allows). The public space stretches to the opposite side wall of the building, offering casual seating at a custom trestle table with a built-in banquette and opening into a family room.
Anchoring this three-part composition is an L-shaped island with subtle complexities of its own. The working part of the island, topped with honed granite, spans the storage and work zones of the kitchen. Flat-panel doors at its base yield to open bookshelves facing the public area, lightening the bulk of the island and signaling a shift away from cooking and toward more communal functions. An intersecting butcher block slab extends into the public area as a counter-height table. “It’s all about changing perceptions of what that island is,” Wilson observes. The trestle-leg table base and flat-panel cabinetry build on historic precedent, but the assembly, like the kitchen as a whole, is deceptively post-modern in function. “We’re playing with a more formal and traditional palette and a more open and casual lifestyle,” he says, “and having them support each other.”—B.D.S.
Project Credits: Builder: Ryan Associates, San Francisco; Architect: Aleck Wilson Architects, San Francisco; Living space (kitchen): 400 square feet; Construction cost: Withheld; Photographer: Matthew Millman. / Resources: Dishwasher: Miele; Garbage disposer: InSinkErator; Lighting fixtures: Cooper Lighting; Oven: Thermador; Paint: Benjamin Moore & Co.; Plumbing fittings: Grohe; Plumbing fixtures: Franke; Range: Wolfe; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero.