Brutalist architecture meets midcentury interiors in this modern San Francisco home
Richard Beard Architects and The Wiseman Group refresh the brutalist architecture of a midcentury San Francisco home originally designed by Joseph Esherick and the 1960s
An early 1960s San Francisco residence by architect Joseph Esherick has been brought to the 21st century by Richard Beard Architects and The Wiseman Group. The team worked with the original midcentury home’s brutalist architecture, implementing contemporary interiors to accommodate the owners’ art collection and make the home suitable for a family of five. ‘[We wanted it to be] respectful of the heritage but looking to the future,’ says architect Richard Beard.
With the home’s main brutalist space, the atrium living room, featuring exposed concrete and a high, skylight ceiling, Beard admits that making it feel ‘cozy’ was challenging. Yet the architecture team balanced preserving the building’s original character and architectural intention with making changes.
‘The character of the house is and was defined by a number of distinctive details and materials,’ explains Beard. ‘Those we preserved, and enhanced. It would have been a shame to turn the house into just another lovely suburban home. What was odd was the compartmentalised plan. At a time when open plans were becoming an innovative architectural approach to composition, this house was comparatively segmented. We carefully opened a few things up, to give a more expansive feeling through the home.’
The Wiseman Group led the interiors. Paul Wiseman had worked with Joseph Esherick on one of the latter’s last projects so there was strong understanding there of the original architecture concept. Still, there were challenges there: ‘visualize Louis Kahn’s Salk Center in San Diego trying to be a warm and cozy living room,’ says Wiseman.
Working with Beard’s vision for an open, flowing interior, the interiors team used midcentury references and fine tuned material choices. For example complex and clashing floor tiles were removed and plain concrete and natural wood were reintroduced where appropriate. A relatively limited palette contrasts the elegantly luxurious furnishings and artwork.
The result is a space that bridges old and new, brutalism and modernism, soft and hard. And, importantly, it’s all done in an effortless way. Beard says: ‘I find it a huge compliment to not be able to tell exactly where original interior intersects new construction; you just know it’s awfully nice!’ §