THE SILVER LINING HOUSE IN THE BERNAL HEIGHTS NEIGHBORHOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO WAS DESIGNED TO SERVE AS A SHOWCASE FOR THE REMARKABLE FURNITURE AND ART COLLECTION OF ITS OCCUPANTS, AS WELL AS A LABORATORY FOR THEIR WORK. THE PROJECT IS THE PRODUCT OF A LONGSTANDING COLLABORATION AND FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN MORK-ULNES ARCHITECTS AND THE OWNERS, ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER BRUCE DAMONTE AND INTERIOR DESIGNER ALISON DAMONTE...

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

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From the architect: This new house designed by Mork-Ulnes Architects, with interiors by Alison Damonte, is located in Bernal Heights, a residential neighborhood in San Francisco, at the southern edge of the Mission valley. The district survived the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed much of San Francisco, thanks to the hill’s bedrock foundation. And in fact it bloomed after the disaster, as there was plentiful land to build houses for those displaced by the fires that ravaged the city.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

As demonstrated in numerous projects by Mork-Ulnes Architects, tradition is reinterpreted here with a decidedly contemporary perspective, where formal research and construction techniques are integral to creating an original and innovative outcome that engages its surroundings while also prompting further inquiry.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

The exterior of the house features a black finish - not merely as a nod to the fire that spurred its regeneration, but rather as a means of defining an abstract backdrop for the vast and vibrant collection thoughtfully curated by Alison Damonte in her interior design scheme.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A home for art and experimentation

The three-story home, designed by Mork-Ulnes Architects, was conceptualized as a container for the couple’s art and furniture collection, and a laboratory for their work. The project’s brief was a 3 bedroom 3.5 bath home that showcases scenic views of San Francisco’s twin peaks and westerly sky, the intimate view of Bernal Heights neighborhood, and highlights the couple’s impressive art and furniture collection. In 2010, interior designer Alison Damonte and architectural photographer Bruce Damonte purchased a modest wood residence more than a century old in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. As the years passed, the couple slowly began the extensive process of renovation. A friend and early champion of Bruce’s photography career, architect Casper Mork-Ulnes, founder of San Francisco and Oslo-based Mork-Ulnes Architects, was a natural choice to lead the redesign.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

We had been visually collaborating with our friend, architectural photographer Bruce Damonte, for over 15 years when he approached us with his wife (and also friend) Alison Damonte, interior designer, to renovate their house in San Francisco. We knew from the outset that this project would be an interesting collaboration, balancing our reductive tendencies with the more exuberant and maximalist impulses of our client/friends - whose style we had always admired and wanted to celebrateCasper Mork-Ulnes.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

While the project was deep in the stages of redesign, a fire ravaged the home on Christmas Eve 2017. While the incident forced a reevaluation of scope and scale of the redesign, the couple’s goal remained the same— to create a home that acted as a capsule of art and inspiration.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

The original 1908 wood house, built for a roofer and his family of five, had a single-story with a low-pitched roof, and stood out among more traditional two-story gabled rooflines flanking the steep San Francisco street. The fire forced a critical rethinking of the design goals. Mork-Ulnes proposed a new structure with the proportions, scale, and exterior massing that took cues from the gabled Edwardian neighbors. The exterior cedar cladding echoes the local vernacular, in particular the horizontally paneled siding of the neighboring homes.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

We are grateful to have escaped the fire and to have found a phoenix in the ashes of our home,” say the home owners, Bruce and Alison Damonte. “The house became seen as a vessel for our collection of material ideas and furniture and art collected together over the years.”

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

Mork-Ulnes Architects’ contemporary touch

The previous small and purple Victorian house was replaced with a modern house that harmoniously blends with its San Francisco streetscape.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

For the exterior, the charredblack painted silhouette of this Bernal Heights home was intended to take cues from its quintessential San Francisco neighbors. The proportions, scale, and massing is derived from its gabled neighbors that step up the steep typical San Francisco streetscape, but reinterpret Edwardian design cues into more abstract decorative elements like siding patterns and solid-void composition. The intention being that the house would slip into the void that was created when the fire destroyed the former Edwardian homeCasper Mork-Ulnes.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

The new house shares a similar silhouette with its gabled neighbors that line the steep streets and reinterprets Victorian design elements into modern features such as siding patterns and graphical fenestration. While replicating the roof forms, entry portal/ stoop, and massing of the Victorian homes, the new house also breaks from tradition with a black-painted facade and ribbon windows that visually connect the interior of the house to the neighborhood.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

As demonstrated in numerous projects by Mork-Ulnes Architects, tradition is reinterpreted here with a decidedly contemporary perspective, where formal research and construction techniques are integral to creating an original and innovative outcome that engages its surroundings while also prompting further inquiry.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

The volume of the home is thoroughly modern; abstracted and simplified, it is a large geometric object giving a hint to the architectural language and collection of objects inside. The interiors of the house were designed to create a vitrine for the couple’s art and furniture collection, and a space to showcase their interest in materials and textures. The house’s central curved and sculpted staircase allows light from the third-floor skylight to funnel and refract down to the ground floor, creating an ambiance that reflects the couple’s creative spirit.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A unique program

Initially conceived as a gallery for art and furniture and a laboratory for decorative experiments for two design enthusiasts, this 3 bedroom 3.5 bath home also includes a disco-inspired music parlor, a photography studio, and a penthouse great room which opens to views of both a San Francisco panorama and its Victorian neighborhood. A central curved and sculpted staircase allows light from the third floor skylight to funnel and refract down to the ground floor with half-polished chrome slats bouncing mirrored reflections around the stairwell — a request of Alison, to mimic the experience of walking through a disco ball.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

Ribbed textures are repeated throughout the project in tambour clad pods, mirror slats, and custom resin tiles. Mirror is used in playful elements like a black disco ball, but also for spatial and light-generating effects with the stair slatting, underneath kitchen cabinets which appear to float, on a ceiling in a powder room, and over a tambour clad pod in the great room.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

After several rounds and iterations of plans and variations, we found what the project needed: an organizational system of objects that could be used to showcase the various and eclectic materials and finishes that Alison wanted to use. While we often minimize the number of materials in a project to create and refine the essence of a space, this project needed a structure or framework of objects that could become sculptural and textured objects within the blank canvas of white walls and white terrazzo floors – much like the Damontes’ wildly varied and exciting collection of modern art and sculpture. We thought of the home as a Gallery to showcase the materials and experiments that Alison Damonte wanted to push and play with, so that their art collection would also include pieces of the house itself.” Lexie Mork-Ulnes

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

Already with fantastic city views from the original home’s second level, the owners wanted to capitalize on the even better views from the new third level and celebrate the vast views west of San Francisco’s Mission and Twin Peaks, and east towards the more intimate view of Bernal Heights.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

Rigorous architecture, vibrant interiors. The interior architecture, a collaboration between MorkUlnes Architects and the studio of Alison Damonte, is also based on objects. Mork-Ulnes set the formal and volumetric stage with an organization of simplified objects, allowing Alison Damonte to outfit them with materials and finishes in line with her vision for the interior.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

The owners opted for a flipped floor plan with the lowest level providing privacy for a primary suite and small, sunken garden; the second level containing the entry, guest room and more intimate rooms for entertaining and leisure; and the new third story penthouse living space and kitchen offering the most transparency with both distant views of Noe Valley and Twin Peaks and closer views of the neighboring houses and Bernal Hill.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

Offering a compelling counterpoint to the restraint and rigor of the architecture, each room in the home offers a tactile, vibrant experience of color, furnishings and art. Objects clad in textures, patterns and materiality reflect the owners’ collective creative spirit. The finishes and furnishings are quirky, tactile, and colorful complementing the owners’ collection of emerging and established artists and Art Deco, Mid-Century Italian, Scandinavian, Post-Modern and Contemporary furniture.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house designed with sustainability in mind

The house is built with sustainability in mind, with over 65% of the original vertical wall structure preserved and re-used. It has operable glazed walls on the upper floor to allow complete cross-ventilation, and the central stair void acts as a chimney circulating air through the whole building. Operable exterior solar shading provides respite from the home’s sunny southern exposure.

The house features solar panels covering the roof that provide electric energy to the house, supply a power wall battery with energy to use during peak surge hours and feed power back to the grid when not in use. The project also has highperformance energy-efficient windows and low-energy emitting appliances.

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

Architect: Mork-Ulnes Architects 
Location: Bernal Heights, San Francisco, California, USA
Year: 2021
Site size: 152 square meters
Building footprint: 262 square meters
Interior Design: Alison Damonte
Project design team: Casper Mork-Ulnes, Lexie Mork-Ulnes, Phi Van Phan, Gregoriy Ladigin
Construction Manager: Raffi Nazarian
Landscape Architect: Terremoto
Structural Engineer: Santos & Urritia
Lighting Design: PritchardPeck
General Contractor: Rico’s General Construction, Inc
Photography: Bruce Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

A house as an art gallery by Mork-Ulnes Architects with interiors by Alison Damonte

THE SILVER LINING HOUSE IN THE BERNAL HEIGHTS NEIGHBORHOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO WAS DESIGNED TO SERVE AS A SHOWCASE FOR THE REMARKABLE FURNITURE AND ART COLLECTION OF ITS OCCUPANTS...

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