written by:
photos by:
January 15, 2009
Originally published in Renovate! Reuse! Recycle!

Tom Hanks is not known for horror films, but his 1986 flop, The Money Pit, has a terrifying premise: A seemingly small renovation consumes a couple’s life, devouring their reserves of time, money, and sanity with nightmare contractors, intractable plumbing problems, and general calamity–like Boston’s Big Dig project in a living room. But as San Francisco residents Lisa Koshkarian and Tom DiFrancesco found in their third-floor addition, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a thoughtful architect and good communication they opened up a whole new vista by building upward.

The third-story addition to Lisa Koshkarian and Tom DiFrancesco’s San Francisco home blends seamlessly in both height and scale, giving the couple 500 square feet of extra space without disturbing the surrounding context.
The third-story addition to Lisa Koshkarian and Tom DiFrancesco’s San Francisco home blends seamlessly in both height and scale, giving the couple 500 square feet of extra space without disturbing the surrounding context.
Photo by 
1 / 4
Koshkarian and DiFrancesco lounge on their Poliform bed with their daughter, Zia. The large windows annex an outdoor patio, which extends the already light-filled space into the outdoors.
Koshkarian and DiFrancesco lounge on their Poliform bed with their daughter, Zia. The large windows annex an outdoor patio, which extends the already light-filled space into the outdoors.
Photo by 
2 / 4
The vertical full-length window offers a slice of the outdoors in the custom-outfitted master bathroom (save for a tub and sink by Kohler; faucet and showerhead by Vola).
The vertical full-length window offers a slice of the outdoors in the custom-outfitted master bathroom (save for a tub and sink by Kohler; faucet and showerhead by Vola).
Photo by 
3 / 4
The office cubby, outfitted with a diminutive window (as per Koshkarian’s request), is furnished with Atlas shelving.
The office cubby, outfitted with a diminutive window (as per Koshkarian’s request), is furnished with Atlas shelving.
Photo by 
4 / 4
The third-story addition to Lisa Koshkarian and Tom DiFrancesco’s San Francisco home blends seamlessly in both height and scale, giving the couple 500 square feet of extra space without disturbing the surrounding context.
The third-story addition to Lisa Koshkarian and Tom DiFrancesco’s San Francisco home blends seamlessly in both height and scale, giving the couple 500 square feet of extra space without disturbing the surrounding context.
Project 
Koshkarian-DiFrancesco House

Nestled on a well-kept block in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, the Koshkarian-DiFrancesco house looks like many of the 1930s houses on their street, complete with white trim and a traditional façade. “Remodeling wasn’t on our mind when we bought the house,” says Koshkarian, standing in her colorful living room with her eight-month-old, Zia, “but after a while, we realized the bedrooms were just too small and the closets were in different rooms. We were thinking of having a family, and if we had a child, we’d definitely need more space.” Koshkarian, a psychologist, and DiFrancesco, the CFO of a real estate company, wed in 2001, and bought the place the following year. “We really liked the location, the neighborhood, everything, except for the space issue,” says DiFrancesco. “We wanted to build up. We just didn’t know how hard it could be.”

After deciding they wanted an addition, Koshkarian solicited referrals from friends at California College of the Arts, her former employer. Though the couple had never renovated before, they both had a strong design sense, if not actually possessing technical skill. They needed to find someone who understood their vision and who could help realize it under budget. “It’s like choosing a new roommate,” jokes Koshkarian. Although the couple conducted the interviews alphabetically, Neal Schwartz, from the award-winning firm Schwartz and Architecture, surmounted his surname with a stellar resume and a genuine enthusiasm for the project.

Schwartz’s first order of business was to find out how much the homeowners wanted to match the style of the new master bedroom to that of the existing structure. Not much, it turned out. “I would drive around the neighborhood to see remodels,” says DiFrancesco, “They would carry the same ’30s style. I wasn’t interested in that.”

The architect couldn’t have been more pleased. “It was great to have clients be so supportive of a modern addition. They wanted to tie in the addition to the existing style but not replicate it,” adds Schwartz.

As construction began, so too came the inevitable, largely unexpected side effects of adding the third story. Decisions were made: where to put the staircase, how much work needed to be done to firm up the foundation, what kind of railing should snake up the entry into the master bedroom. The size and shape of the addition was determined partially by building-code requirements (anything more than 500 square feet would have required yet another staircase) and by neighborly concerns (including one incredibly close-by window). “We shifted the light to come over the [front of the] stairs,” says Schwartz. “In any organic system, [light] has a ripple effect that changes how you move through space.”

Ascending the new staircase, whose bamboo flooring was painstakingly matched to the hardwood of the original house, it’s clear you’ve hit new ground. The new master bedroom is showered with natural light by a series of eight-foot-high windows that open the addition to the outdoors, affording spectacular views of San Francisco’s skyline. The muted green and gray shades of the interior walls and siding create a sense of play between the public and private nature of the addition. “You feel like you’re both part of the city and apart from it,” notes Schwartz. The bed sits in the center of the room, framed from behind by a walnut-panelled wall that opens, in part, to a walk in closet.

The new addition shows the idiosyncratic touches that come from being able to design to one’s own specifications. “I insisted on this,” Koshkarian says, touching the small window above her desk, next to a computer. Schwartz, too, has his glory moments throughout the space, like the translucent medicine cabinet that doubles as the bathroom door. All parties agree that prioritizing the details in the master bedroom at the expense of, perhaps, redoing the foyer or straightening the downstairs hallway made for a more fully realized end product. “I would much rather reduce the scope of the project than the quality,” says Schwartz.

In the end, the hassles, the compromises, and the unforseen expenses of building another floor were worth it. The addition stands out from atop their very ordinary home without compromising the integrity of its context. “It’s a piece of my life that I’ve managed to do something creative and unique with,” says DiFrancesco. “It’s a reflection of us, our creativity,” echoes Koshkarian, reclining next to him. There is a pause before DiFrancesco says, chuckling, “I mean, I might not do it again. But I’m very glad we did it.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016