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Photos via Patricia Chang (except where noted).
The list of things that Mission resident Danny has appropriated for one of his homemade lights includes a stovetop espresso pot ringed by five espresso cups and saucers, a military tripod, and a length of rope, which he used to suspend a regular table lamp from the ceiling in his living room. Incidentally, the lamp is not the only thing in the room hanging in midair. There's also a Knoll chair mounted upside-down on the ceiling, which Danny bolted down while his middle-school-age son held it in place with a two-by-four. "The children who come into the room love that," says Danny's partner, Steve (the couple prefer to use their first names only). "It's puzzling. We get a lot of puzzled-little-kid looks."
Danny and Steve made the dining table, which doubles as a Ping-Pong table, for their older son one Christmas.
Though the chair is fixed firmly on the ceiling, Danny and Steve's four-bedroom Edwardian is a place where nothing is quite nailed down, signifier-wise. It's full of hybrid objects that feel totally natural to encounter but, in retrospect and in written descriptions, tend to sound like snippets of someone's dream. The dining room table is also a Ping-Pong table. The doorbell chime is made of wine glasses. The birdcage is filled with toilet paper rolls.
An art piece left over from a Dwell photo shoot hangs on the wall above the stair, near a mobile Danny fashioned out of colored acrylic rods. "I wanted to create something that was a modern version of stained glass," he says.
Since moving in 10 years ago, Steve and Danny—who have two boys, ages 13 and 8—have gradually outfitted their home with designer finds and the loot from years of being in the right place at the right time. Danny has a scavenger's knack for appearing wherever someone is getting rid of something cool. The couple scored a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair from the offices of Oral B (where Steve once worked in marketing), a spindly cruciform art piece left over a shoot for Dwell (where Danny worked in ad sales), and a trove of posters from the defunct 24th Street dive the Attic. In the backyard, they've got the giant light-up shoe that once graced the storefront of a now-shuttered Noe Valley cobbler. Danny isn't shy about asking for stuff, and he's quick to pounce. When a colleague of Steve's was wondering what to do with an unwanted stuffed deer head, Danny recalls, "I called her within 30 seconds and said, 'We'll take Bucky.'"
Clockwise from foreground, left: an Eames chair; a Mies van der Rohe glass coffee table; a table lamp suspended from a rope; a Ted Boerner armchair (behind vase); and Bucky the deer.
Now Bucky hangs above their fireplace, unmounted but surrounded by an over-the-top gilded picture frame. "We're not hunters, and this is something I'd never do, so we wanted to gay it up a little bit," says Danny, explaining that he prefers the head without a plaque behind it. "This way it looks like the other half of it is sticking out the other side."
The house was built in 1916, in a part of the Mission near 24th Street that belonged to Horner's Addition. According to Danny, San Francisco mayor Angelo Rossi (who held the office in the 1930s and early 40s) once owned the home, "though it's not clear if he lived here or his mistress," he adds. The owners before Danny and Steve bought the house in 1974 for $64,000. When they sold it to the couple in 2005, at a twentyfold increase, the $1.265 million sale price was a neighborhood record. It was swiftly broken the following week, by a home on South Van Ness that went for more than $2 million.
When Steve and Danny began doing work on their house, they discovered a cache of Carta Blanca beer bottles from the 20s inside a downstairs wall—which they suspect points to onetime bootlegging activity, notes Danny. "People were saying, 'Open up the newel posts! There might be money in the newel posts!'" Danny and Steve didn't take that advice, but during their kitchen renovation in 2013 they discovered a copy of the San Francisco Examiner from July 5, 1945, buried inside the wall. "It was clearly put there as a time capsule," says Steve. The cover stories that day, which was a few months after the German surrender in World War II, were "Churchill Fears Red Europe" and "Yank Planes Blast 16 Jap Ships."
A snapshot from Steve of the old Examiner cover now hanging in the couple's office.
Steve and Danny reciprocated by leaving a copy of the Chronicle in the wall before they closed it up. (The headline had something to do with the Giants, recalls Steve.) "I put it in a Ziploc," he says. "I might have put a dollar in there, too."
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