Alamo Square Residence

A House with Two Faces

A client’s iconoclastic imagination helped turn a neglected Victorian into a sculptural showpiece for modern living and architectural preservation.

A Bold Renovation

In San Francisco’s Alamo Square, the site of the world-famous “postcard row” of painted ladies, Jensen Architects brought a classic three-story Victorian into the 21st century, fusing historic restoration with a uniquely bold design. The client, who also was the builder, welcomed innovation, setting the stage for an ambitious collaboration. The result: a distinguished Victorian neighbor dramatically reconceived for contemporary family life, at once proudly traditional and confidently modern.

Let There Be Light

Inside Jensen opened the original narrow layout and let daylight flood in at every opportunity. Laminated glass encloses the home’s elevator, exposing the mechanical parts and introducing a light well on the entry level. The entry level also hosts the bedrooms, while living areas fill the upper floor, an expansive space where light pours in from the windows and central skylight. Open and airy, it couldn’t feel less like an old-world Victorian.

Showpiece Staircase

At the client’s urging, Jensen made a counterintuitive choice for the stairs. Rather than minimize the presence of the staircase with elegant details, the staircase became a sculptural centerpiece for the home, beautifully rendered in oak. Taking the asymmetrical stair from sketch to reality proved challenging, a task requiring design technology and old fashioned mock-ups. But it was worth the effort. The staircase leads up to a roof deck with sweeping views of San Francisco and the Bay, the natural end point of a renovation in one of the city’s most iconic locations.

Tradition Meets Innovation

The first task was to uncover and restore the home’s original 1889 façade, long obscured by a disfiguring layer of wood shingles. A specialist faithfully restored the Victorian details, recreating many elements from photographs, remaining details and historical knowledge. Selecting the color scheme for the facade posed more of a dilemma. Instead of following the lead of the home’s colorful neighbors or the more recent trend of going all dark, Jensen proposed a subtly metallic silver to graciously set the house apart. The silver also offers a nod to its counterpoint, a new rear façade of sliding, laser-cut aluminum screens and glass.

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San Francisco


2018 AIA California Council, Merit Award
2017 Residential Architect Design Awards, Citation Award for Restoration
2017 Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award
2017 AIA California Council, Residential Merit Award
2017 AIA San Francisco, Historic Preservation Commendation


Dezeen, “Five San Francisco house extensions designed to contrast the original architecture,” April 2020
Builder Magazine, ”Stately Victorian Kitchen Gets a Contemporary Update,” February 2019
Dwell, “A Historic Victorian in San Francisco Is Meticulously Transformed Into a Modern Family Home,” September 6, 2017
Domus, “Alamo Square Residence,” 
September 5, 2017
Dezeen, “Jensen Architects adds contemporary rear facade and pared-down interiors to historic San Francisco house,” August 27, 2017
San Francisco Magazine, “A Victorian Rebellion,” June 2017
Wallpaper*, “Jensen Architects gives a Victorian-era House a Contemporary Facade,” December 28, 2016


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Emily Gosack
Yusheen Yang
Project Team
Keri Goodlad
Ricardo Gonzalez


Holmes Structures
Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing
Engineering 350
Tim Kelley Consulting
Victorian Restoration
Surface Design
Hulburd Design
Acoustic Arts & Engineering
CSW/Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group, Inc.


Drömhus General Contractors


Joe Fletcher
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