While searching for a new home for their family, Beatrix and Mike Seidenberg and their two children looked at many properties, which led them right back home. They loved their current home, but it needed a new life. Butler Armsden Architects were the ones to make that happen. Since completing this thoughtful renovation in 2012, the firm has worked on other properties owned by the family.
Originally constructed in 1902, the Pacific Heights house was purchased by the Seidenbergs as newlyweds in 2001. The 13-month renovation began in August of 2011. Reba Jones, Associate Principal Butler Armsden architect and lead on the renovation project, explains, “Your needs change as your family grows. The house needed to change with them.”
One of the design challenges was balancing the 1902 character with modern changes. Reba says, “The house keeps its formal façade and entry organization but moves eloquently into a modern, playful, family atmosphere where juxtaposing Louis XIV chairs with Maharam stripes and Sol Lewitt styled tables amongst paintings by Marc Chagall and Richard Learoyd photography all feel at home.”
The entryway is one of the best examples of moving seamlessly from traditional to formal modern style. With ample parking available on the street, the majority of the family and all guests enter through the traditional front exterior. Reba states, “The entry into the house is your statement to visitors. In keeping tradition, we saved the existing moldings and trim in the entry but changed the door, art and stair railing to be a bit more fun, light and glamorous.”
Visitors experience a Lucite stair inspired by the David Adler designed glass stair railing in the Reed House, Forest Lake (1931). The transparent glassy railing sparkles by a Holly Hunt Peso table. In the same line of sight, Andy Warhol’s “Queen Beatrix” is a nod to the owners and one of the family’s favorites in their extensive art collection. Also in the entryway, a Roche Bobois table sits beneath Alexandra Grant’s neon “Love.” Mike Seidenberg says that while he and Beatrix may have different tastes in art, “We both have to agree on whatever hangs on the wall.”
That agreement seems to be working. Beatrix took the lead on working with the architectural team on much of the interior design. Mike says, “She has an amazing eye for design, furniture and fabric.” As you transition into the front living room, the modern formal feel is on full display with a few knock-out punches of color courtesy of well-placed orange Roche Bobois chairs and malachite obelisks. A Stephen Hannock painting hangs above the fireplace.
The visual feast around the living room and entryway also includes works by artists Marc Chagall, Susan Derges, Adam Fuss, Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Anish Kapoor, Richard Misrach and Vik Muniz. “The art and family heirlooms are as much a part of the home as the kids’ LEGOs,” explains Reba. “Life would not be the same without them. They are in every part of the house and feel very much alive. This is by design and by personality. The art is family.”
The sitting area in the kitchen-dining room extends to the outside with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Juggling natural light and privacy, Reba notes, “We were very lucky to have the ability to open and enlarge the common room windows on the back of the house since they faced the garden. These floor-to-ceiling windows have no returns at the wall, which makes them that much more dramatic. It really is a complete wall of glass, and that contrasts very respectfully from the traditional living room.”
Mike can often be found in the connecting kitchen that, in addition to the floor-to-ceiling windows, also benefits from a carefully placed skylight. The Bianco Carrara extra select marble countertops are paired with modern upper cabinets and more traditional Shaker lower cabinets. Arne Jacobsen Series 7 counter stools provide both seating and color. Mike, who is the primary chef in the house, says he loves to cook in the light-filled deep room, especially for his children and their friends.
A Swarovski crystal chandelier hangs above the nearby dining room table that seats 10. Mike says visiting kids and adults alike gather in this space that is welcoming, functional and far from decorous. “I always say my wife would much prefer to put the kids to bed rather than put on a formal dress—this area reflects the way we want to live and entertain.”
Reba muses, “Reflecting on the house, I often find myself in the kitchen/dining and family room that features the large floor-to-ceiling windows. I love this room; it is the heart of the home with all the light and activity.”
The dining area skylight opens to the playroom downstairs, allowing light and the sound of family to travel between floors. The playroom is also considered the family room, an area that the children are starting to use more as they get older. This space is on the garden level and is connected from the main floor by a staircase made of material salvaged from a walnut tree that had to be removed from the backyard. Mike had the idea to include built-in storage beneath the daybed, which is located under the stairs and houses the kids’ toys and games.
Floor-to-ceiling glass doors provide inviting access to the rear garden and light for works by Nan Goldin, Rachel Whiteread and Isca Greenfield-Sanders. “The deck off the family room was designed to extend the casual entertaining space out into the trees,” says Reba. “With the glazing extending from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and the garden green with magnolias, you can transport yourself outside without ever leaving the house. It was a way to bring the outside in.”
Continuing the smart use of space, the family bedrooms and bathrooms are located on the upper levels with decks for both the master and children’s bedrooms. The master bedroom, which opens up to views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands, also overlooks the rear garden below.
The master bedroom is another example of blending past and future elements and was the most expensive area per square foot in the renovation. This was mostly due to the installation of the large wall of windows. Reba recalls, “The wood ceilings of the master bedroom were an existing element that, combined with the collar ties, kept the character of the finished attic design. We did remove a large section, creating a dormer and picture window to capture light and an amazing view. The built-in window seat welcomes you into the view and is a favorite reading space at sunset.” And the family really does sit and use the window seating. Mike says he often hangs out in the bedroom to enjoy the sunsets and his kids join him up there.
The renovation that created a “two-faced” house maintaining a traditional front exterior and a modern glass rear façade was a collaborative process. “The biggest surprise to us was how on board the whole family was with the renovation,” says Reba. “The kids even participated in the design review of their garden playhouse.”
As Mike concludes, “It was a team effort. We love our house. And Beatrix and I often email our friends Lewis Butler and Reba Jones to tell them that.”
ABOUT THE DESIGNERS
Butler Armsden designs result from a true collaboration between architect and owner. We begin with our clients’ visions and then translate them into refined architectural concepts through an exceptionally personalized design process. The results are houses which not only are responsive to their owners’ needs, but also exceed their expectations with the highest standard of architectural design. In our projects we strive for the optimum use of materials, architectural forms, space and light to create architecture that will contribute to and fit seamlessly into its surroundings. Drawing from an architectural vocabulary that is uniquely our own, we design homes as individual as each of our clients.