1960’s Box House Revised

When interior designer Chris Choy bought a typical 1960’s San Francisco box house, it was not in a great shape, it desperately needed updating. This didn’t stop Choy buying the house though as he saw potential in the house. Instead, he asked Terry&Terry architects to join him turning a boxy house into a modern dwelling.

The house before renovation

Even though Chris Choy’s house was in a bad shape, it was a good size so there was no need to extend it; rather the plan of the house was out-dated and odd and it needed re-arranging as it did not meet Choy’s lifestyle who wanted to create an open plan house.

With some innovative design ideas, Terry&Terry architects succeed to modernise the floor plan and turn a box house into an open wood tube form.

As Choy is an interior designer, he naturally did the interior design for the project. He also had some ideas how to renovate the old building. Collaboration between Choy and architects was very fruitful as their ideas “clicked” and they agreed on most decisions. “We had a similar design philosophy so brainstorming design ideas and making decisions was relatively easy”, architect Alex Terry says.

Comprehensive Renovation

The house after renovation

Renovation started straight after Choy had purchased the house. The whole house, except the garage needed to be renovated, so the work was going to be very comprehensive. During the renovation existing walls and some parts of roof were removed to make the plan more open, let more natural light into the house and improve circulation throughout the building.

Terry&Terry got their inspiration for the Choy residence from the surroundings of the house, the views from the house were that spectacular that they needed to be literally brought into the house. An outdoor terrace was integrated into the living room with big glass doors that provide amazing views and allow light inside the house. Some of the interior space was “carved” off to expand an exterior terrace deck into the living area resulting in part of the terrace actually being inside the house and therefore protected from wind and weather.

Carving was introduced in the centre of the house where an entry way was carved to allow more natural light to spill into the main floor. This is Alex Terry’s favourite detail in the house: “The stair and the light shaft above work well together, light washes down through the cantilevered stair case and sandblast glass panels produce glowing light which refracts the light down to the lower floors.“

Some of the original features of the house were retained but enhanced. For example, the front of the house was kept but the material was changed to Ipe wood strips. Furthermore, the roof structure and longitudinal walls that are against neighbours were kept as they worked with the overall design idea.

To seamlessly connect old and new parts of the house together, Terry&Terry used minimal material palette in the project, therefore the new structures did not stand out from the old parts.

Sustainability in the Project

During renovation some sustainable features were added to the house. Choy residence is now designed to accommodate Future 56” x 25” Photo Voltaic solar panels and the roof is designed to collect rain water run-off for garden irrigation during dry months. Other sustainable building methods were also used, for example, thermal efficiencies were gained with a double wall system made of Ipe wood skin, which is a sustainable and durable material.

Happy with the Result

Overall the renovation project was relatively painless with only a few minor problems, for example, some structural steel needed to be changed to accommodate existing conditions; this was needed to increase the amount of steel in the mid-floor structure.

Choy residence really stands out from its’ neighbours. Not only does it stands out visually, but it also uses unusual building materials for the area as most buildings do not tend to have clear hardwood on their exteriors but instead painted wood.

Both Chris Choy and Alex Terry are very pleased with the result. The positive feedback has been most rewarding for Alex Terry who commented “when the client was settled in his dwelling, I stopped by and saw that my client was so excited about how well the new spaces worked”.

Choy Residence

Location: 4356 25th Street, San Francisco
Gross square footage: 2,300 sq. ft. (213.5 m²)
Architects: Alex Terry and Ivan Terry, Terry & Terry Architecture
Engineers: Santos Urrutia Structural Engineers Inc.
General contractor: Quick Connect Construction
Interior designer: Chris Choy Design
Landscape consultants: Charles Smith, Gentry Landscapes
Completion Date: March 2009

More about Terry&Terry Architecture: terryandterryarchitecture.com

This article was published in the 2/2012 issue of ArchiMAG in May 2012. Get your copy of ArchiMAG from App Store!

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