San Francisco bungalow transformed into spacious architectural home

San Francisco-based architecture studio Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) works its magic to turn a tired bungalow into The Fourth Wall, a contemporary urban family home

Dusk exterior detail of The Fourth Wall house by SAW
(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

A San Francisco bungalow has been transformed by local architecture practice Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) into a modern family home. The Fourth Wall, as the project has been titled, expands a 1907 home in the city's Bernal Heights neighbourhood. The square footage addition was not the only goal with this project. The architects and clients also wanted to make the connection between the interior living spaces and the garden more ‘intentional', and both aims are achieved in one fell swoop with a brand-new rear extension and façade. 

With this move, dark, cramped, inward-looking rooms have been reimagined into bright and spacious interiors orientated towards a green garden. An existing, smaller exterior building was entirely removed and replaced with the extension, spanning the home's full three levels and adding a structured, contemporary, geometric look to the rear façade. 

Sunny day rear exterior of The Fourth Wall house by SAW, a San Francisco bungalow transformed

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

The two lower levels contain mostly living and entertaining spaces for family and guests, while the top floor houses bedrooms, with the master suite looking down to the green garden. From there, the façade appears like a stack of windows, terraces and openings, highlighting the ample light and visual connections the redesigned home now has. A new staircase inside also links up seamlessly all interior levels. 

‘Towards the yard, the exterior cladding appears to turn inside out, wrapping the same slatted pattern along the fences and, in turn, framing the backyard as an outdoor room,' the architects write. ‘This fence is often used as a screen for scenic projections. In addition, SAW regraded the backyard for drainage and added raised Corten perimeter planter beds for screening and an edible garden. This all plays out as a big inversion, as the backyard was reoriented to face in, a seat from which to experience the activity playing out across the home.'

From tired San Francisco bungalow to spacious, architectural home; The Fourth Wall is a clever sleight of hand that adds design value to the existing urban fabric. SAW partners and co-founders Dan Spiegel and Megumi Aihara are deft at this kind of feat, as previous projects by the studio, such as the Wraparound House, demonstrate. 

Terrace shot at The Fourth Wall house by SAW

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

Bathroom shot at The Fourth Wall house by SAW

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

Bathroom with skylight at The Fourth Wall house by SAW

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

Front facade at The Fourth Wall house by SAW

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

Kitchen and dining at The Fourth Wall house by SAW

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

Living space at The Fourth Wall house by SAW

(Image credit: Bruce Damonte )

INFORMATION

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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

With contributions from