I have always been obsessed with architecture. My childhood notepads were filled with pages and pages of facades and floor plans. In almost any impressive or grand building, I would plan how I would transform it into my own home. So, I am always filled with an equal parts awe and envy when I see an impressive public, industrial or institutional space turned into living quarters.
In a place like California, that has a penchant for tearing down and building anew, it is so inspiring to see those that can take an existing structure and make it anew for another generation. As awareness of our ecological impact grows and an awareness of the rapid loss of our historical heritage grows, this re-purposing of existing structures makes more and more sense. Here are some of my favorite “That used to be what?!” spaces:
The Old Butter Factory:
Not all unconventional spaces have to have and unconventional feel. While the dramatic exterior belies its former function the interior of this turn-of-the-century butter factory the inside layout and finishes feel as polished and comfortable as any custom home. The dramatic facade gives way to a spacious but comfortable interior filled with warm wood and plenty of light.
The One-Time Steam Power Plant:
Growing up in Northern California, I have long been jealous of the grand architecture and classic detailing that houses the workings of our power systems and this conversion has me green with envy. This home takes full advantage of the tall ceiling and large rooms, once home to a PG&E Steam Power Plant, and grace them with a much softer and grand feeling outfitted as a living room. Even subsequent Mid-Century additions to the original 1902 structure are given their own shine and polish.
The Once-A-Water-Tank Cottage:
Sometimes you can eke out some extra space to you home by adapting something that might not have always been a living space. This condo in Greenwich has one of the coolest add ons that I have seen. The disused water tank on top of their building was re-worked to make a sleek and modern living space as an add on to the condo below. The most impressive detail is the oversized window that opens up to the sky and the gorgeous rooftop garden, like your own private treehouse in the middle of the city.
The Former Firehouse:
San Francisco is about as hot of a housing market as you can find. This of course means that any standing structure that is not occupied has the potential to converted to a living space. This gorgeous example of new meets old is a update of a classic 1909 Fire House. While the classic San Francisco facade remains in place the interior takes on a much more modern feel. The rich industrial details take on a truly fantastic feel with the glassed in catwalk at the top of the house which allows for the light to come pouring down to the ground floor.
Another example of San Franciscans taking advantage of an existing building is the gorgeous development of the former home of the Second Church of Christ, Scientist. The original structure, built in 1905, was divided into 4 units and the images of the largest unit show a smart blend of original details, rich repurposed woodwork, modern industrial touches, and hints of its ecclesiastical history. While the grand scale of a church might be challenging for a private home but here the architects and designers have managed to create the an excellent balance of space and intimacy.