Like many new homeowners, Kevin Sawyers and Peter Steinauer knew they wanted to make some changes when they bought a house in the Dolores Heights neighborhood of San Francisco in 2015.
And as an interior designer, Mr. Sawyers, now 53, the founder of Sawyers Design, figured he might go further than most in updating the look of the place. (Mr. Steinauer, 51, is a software engineer at Apple.) But even he didn’t realize how much the project would eventually expand — that it would include a top-to-bottom, almost total rebuild of the house.
“It was very rustic, with a lot of wood, and sort of dilapidated,” Mr. Sawyers said. The house had been updated and expanded in fits and starts after the original portion was built in the early 1900s, which had created an awkward hodgepodge of architectural styles.
Nevertheless, he and Mr. Steinauer liked the way the home was set back from the street on a steep hill, and they were awe-struck by the enormous Monterey cypress tree in the backyard. They bought the property for $2.1 million that March, knowing that the loose floor tiles, beige carpeting and 1970s appliances would all have to go.
Jones Haydu, whom he had worked with at the architecture and design firm Gensler before the two founded their own studios.
“I went with an architect instead of just trying to do it on my own, because I did want that bigger vision,” Mr. Sawyers said. “I had some ideas about what it could be, but they really just took it somewhere else and created a much larger project than we had anticipated.”
The footprint of the house, which wouldn’t be permitted under current zoning regulations, provided some unique opportunities, Mr. Jones said: “The nice thing about the house being sited at the rear of the property is that it gets these amazing views downtown and north, and great views from different angles, which became a driving factor of the design.” He and his partner, Paul Haydu, also wanted to create sightlines to the big tree in back.
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