Originally built in 1917, San Francisco’s Cow Hollow Residence was designed for its original owners by Elizabeth Austin, one of few American female architects practicing in the early 1900s. In the process of remodeling the historic home, local architect Mark English was able to preserve and restore the traditional exterior while remaking the interior to create an open, modern floor plan inside the original footprint.
The undertaking included a rearrangement and expansion of the upper level, with new guest and master suites on either side of the central stairway and skylight. The master bath and bedroom are separated by a single-pane, glazed transom panel and an obscured glass swing door, which both stop just short of the ceiling. The open space creates a continuous ceiling plane of clear tongue-and-groove Western red cedar from one room to the other.
“This arrangement allows for there to be privacy while allowing for the awareness of the ceiling plane and material being shared by both spaces,” says English. “The intent was to make the entire master suite seem like one space.”
The master suite’s brown leather flooring, supplied by Torlys, continues into the bath as well. English says the homeowners like its soft, luxurious feeling on bare feet, and radiant heating underneath adds an extra level of comfort on cold mornings or evenings. While it might seem a daring move to include leather floors in a bathroom, English wasn’t concerned about potential issues with water.
“The wettest portions of the bathroom have a slate slab floor, and the occasional moisture on the leather portion doesn’t have any effect,” he says.
To the right, the sink and shower area moves into Brazilian multicolor slate underfoot, divided by a floor-embedded LED “night light” bar. The Caesarstone slab shower has the same red cedar on the floor, further reinforcing the connection between bed and bath. The toilet is behind the sink console, and the master suite closets are to the left of the bathroom entrance.
The opposite vanity and window continue the wood accents in lighter colors, matching the bright feeling of the space. The cabinets are clear-finished bamboo by Kenwood Cabinetry, and a single frosted window is clad in pine. “The color palette is very neutral to allow the warmth of the wood and leather to be the focus,” English says.
Above, one of the home’s two skylights sits directly over the bath space. This floods the room with natural light, provides a clear view of the foliage above, and connects the woodgrain palette to the natural tones of the outdoors. The dual-glazed panes are framed in black-painted aluminum, a modern touch that extends through the original exterior.
“The design intent of the master bathroom and bedroom is to provide a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city living,” says English. “The skylight is designed to make the bathroom space seem to be an indoor–outdoor space, while maintaining privacy in a densely developed city setting. The size is meant to reinforce the feeling—it’s almost a lack of roof, not an opening in a roof.”
The bath’s features and finishes are repeated throughout the home, even beyond the ceiling and floor in the master bedroom. Many of the windows are finished in the same clear pine, and the home’s central skylight provides a similar upward view, filtered through the same black-on-glass tones in the cantilevered staircase. White walls set off the subtler interior accents, and the surrounding landscape is visible from almost every space.