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Excelsior residents Dona Taylor and Bill Hoover turned part of their garage into a light-bathed master suite. Photos via Patricia Chang.
When Dona Taylor and her husband, Bill Hoover, moved into their Excelsior row house in 2000, it was a 1,000-square-foot cookie-cutter plan from 1950, identical to every other home on the block. Despite a big view out to Mount Davidson, Bernal, and even the Farallon Islands on a clear day, just two tiny windows faced out the back of the upper-floor living space. Downstairs was completely given over to a tandem garage, where a concrete slab led out to a petite backyard. The little house could have been in Phoenix, or in Queens, so little did it relate to the landscape around it. Even the sink in the kitchen faced away from the window. "I had a big mirror here so that when I did the dishes, I could see the sun set," says Taylor, pointing to the back of the kitchen.
A friend of Taylor's built the pergola in the backyard.
When Taylor and Hoover set about transforming the house, they started by knocking out many of the walls that had divided the home up into a set of tiny, not-super-livable boxes. Out went the tandem parking spot, too. They enclosed that part of the garage to give themselves a master bedroom, bath, and extra closet space. They added a gas fireplace, and Taylor—who seems to have never met a surface she didn't want to tile, embellish with dangly crystals, or otherwise besparkle—tiled over the cinder blocks.
Where the bed sits now, there used to be a concrete slab that you'd step up to to get out to the backyard.
Taylor and Hoover are makers by nature: Taylor is the decorator-savant behind When Modern Was, a Noe Valley furniture shop that focuses on reinvented vintage pieces and reproductions sourced from craftspeople. Hoover runs Gallery of Jewels, for which Taylor also designs a line of jewelry. Much of their home is furnished straight out of When Modern Was, so even standing in the couple's bedroom feels a bit like going shopping. "This is probably made in Tennessee; it retails for $395," Taylor says of a reproduction tufted semicircular bench at the foot of her bed.
Next to a bench that Taylor tiled over sits a 1930s dog statue. "It used to be a lamp," says Taylor, pointing out the hole in the top of its head. "Who would have that as a lamp?"
The new master suite boosted the home's living space by 60 percent, adding 600 more square feet. But garages by design don't get the best light, so the couple brought daylight into the bedroom by cutting a skylight above the bed. Now, says Taylor, "my husband and I are up every morning at 6 a.m."
View of the living room in the main living space upstairs, now with fewer walls.
Upstairs, the home's relationship with the landscape is much improved, too. Thanks to a sturdy iron beam near the center of the room, Taylor and Hoover were able to open up the rear wall and put in windows befitting the view. They flipped the layout of the kitchen, too, so that the sink now faces the windows—no mirror required.