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The Farm in San Francisco by Feldman Architecture

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The Farm in San Francisco by Feldman Architecture is a wonderful example of how old homes can be transformed into ecological masterpieces

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

When most people think about ‘sustainable architecture‘, the first thing that comes to mind is usually a new build that’s designed to be energy efficient and set in harmony environmental surroundings.

But Jonathan Feldman and his wife Lisa Lougee are a bit different. They set out to renovate a house built in 1905 for their family in San Francisco. Their New England brick and shingle style residence was sitting next to an overgrown lot, and was dubbed “The Farm,” due to the rarity of backyards and outdoor living spaces in the city. The results of their renovation efforts were absolutely remarkable.

The Farm in San Francisco by Feldman Architecture

The Transformation Process 

Jonathan and Lisa were determined to create a sustainable and functional home for their family, constructed within the building constraints of urban San Francisco. They wanted to reprise the charm of the farmhouse their home used to be at the beginning of the 1900s; they were enthralled by the beauty of the historic mansion and wanted to maintain its grace whilst implementing all the conveniences that modern living requires.

Two different minds complemented each other to give birth to The Farm’s Renaissance: Jonathan’s contemporary aesthetic and Lisa’s traditional sensitivity worked wonders when combined. The result is uniquely beautiful, as state-of-the-art elements coalesce with all the charm of a traditional Edwardian home.

Before the ambitious remodel, the house was a closed-off box. In order to transform the former residence into one that would epitomise sustainable architecture, the structure was rebuilt from the inside out, as the new design opened the floorplan, knocking down walls and filling the interiors with natural light through a new central stairway topped with expansive skylights. The basement was also transformed to include what is now a usable rear yard and deck. 

Ecological Indoors

During the remodel, Jonathan convinced the building department of San Francisco to allow a new type of water system previously unseen in the city: two types of water reuse systems were then implemented on the property. Namely, these were rainwater and greywater harvesting, with the tanks concealed below the rear deck.

Partly thanks to these systems, the house has achieved LEED Platinum status, and it also boasts radiant heat, partially heated by solar water panels, while a Heat Recovery Ventilation system provides the home with clean air without energy loss. The house also features water and electricity monitoring, easily accessible by panels throughout the home and smartphone technology to control energy (something we disagree with for health reasons, though – please click here to see why).

The abundance of these sustainable features are subtly hidden, and in no way compromise the historicity of the building. All the materials for renovation were non-toxic and sustainably sourced, although there is a lot of choice in conventional materials, too.

As much focus was put on the interior design as was on the sustainability of the interior. Lisa opened up the space by choosing not to cover windows with heavy curtains, and covered the ceilings and walls in white paint to brighten each room.

Blonde wood, neutral furnishing fabrics and minimalistic home accessories comprised the background for pops of personality, including sage wall accents and colourful artworks that reflected the natural yellows, blues and greens of the sun, sky and trees surrounding the house.

An Enjoyable Outdoors

While architect Jonathan and designer Lisa redefined the house, the landscape team reconstructed the yard, reinforcing a strong bond between the house and the land — one that would create harmony and balance.

Trees spanning all three stories of the home were interspersed within ground level plants at the floor elevations, creating a leafy refuge within their metropolitan neighbourhood. This allowed The Farm to be protected in the urban setting with its vegetation acting as a natural shield against acoustic and air pollution, as well as providing a sense of privacy and peace.

The result? A highly aesthetic, wonderfully enjoyable outdoor space where friends meet, meals are eaten, and nature is marvelled at in all its verdant glory.

A Living Design Lab

Feldman Architecture is dedicated to encouraging its clients towards sustainable design, and during The Farm’s remodelling process, Jonathan was able to use his own home as a testing ground and laboratory for the work he does with his company.

The Farm not only represents a rare sustainable achievement for a historic renovation of a residence, and acts as a model of sustainable architecture, demonstrating that even the oldest of homes can be given an ecological upgrade.

For more information, please click here.

All Images: Matthew Millman Photography 

Landscaping by Ground Studio

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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