Curbed’s weekly original tours series takes you inside homes with eye-catching style and big personality—from modern tiny homes to pedigreed midcentury gems and everything in between.
The name Christian Robinson is familiar to legions of parents and children across the nation. He’s the illustrator of 10 children’s books, including bestsellers such as Last Stop on Market Street, Leo: A Ghost Story, and, most recently, School’s First Day of School. His work, usually a mix of painting and collage, is instantly recognizable for its joyful, almost childlike, quality.
Many of his books include sweet interiors, such as the vaguely Victorian rooms in Leo: A Ghost Story. Robinson says that details in Leo’s haunts were partly inspired by his own home: A four-bedroom apartment in the Mission District he shares with three other roommates. To understand what his place means to him, you have to know the home of his childhood.
When Lloyd and Dana Taylor’s six children departed, the couple left their suburban family house and began searching for a space in San Francisco. They weren’t looking for just any empty-nester condo, they were after something different; and several months in, they realized that they wanted a warehouse. The Taylors are involved in a number of organizations that support t arts and ideas, ranging from We Players (a group that turns public spaces into site-integrated theater) to Jeffersonian Dinners (gatherings of thought leaders to discuss issues).
Two years ago, San Francisco artist and art director George McCalman found himself living alone for the first time in many years and grieving the end of a long-term relationship. His road to recovery involved reimagining the apartment he had shared with his partner and reinvigorating his three community-building groups.
Although Tina and Jochen Frey had committed to a house, they kept looking longingly at the neighbor’s dwelling. It made no sense to abandon their remodel plans and move next door—or did it?
The couple had relocated from the Marina (like the name suggests, a neighborhood along the San Francisco Bay) to Forest Hill (located atop the hilly area on the city’s southwest side) just two years ago. They loved many things about the new house, but it needed updating, and they were busy planning a remodel with architect George Bradley. It was increasingly clear that the plans were shaping up to be a major project.
“For some people the big dream is to have a baby; for others, it is to have a career. My dream was to own a house,” says Windy Chien. For Chien, a product designer and fine artist, that dream came true five years ago, when she purchased a Victorian in the Mission District.
Chien’s home is both a creative expression and a creative home base. She purchased it at a fortuitous moment for potential home owners. “It was during the downturn, and it was a great time to buy,” she explains.
Alicia Cheung loved Niles Lichtenstein, but she wasn’t crazy about his black leather sectional sofa. That’s not to say it was a deal breaker, but to her, one of the founders of sfHEIMAT, one of the city’s best new interior design firms, aesthetics matter.
Alicia admits that she had low expectations when she first visited his Russian Hill apartment in San Francisco. That says nothing about him and everything about her previous experiences. “I was used to single men living like they were still in college, in not-that-clean apartments furnished with hand me downs,” she says. “When I visited Niles at home for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. He even had flowers on the table.”
When architects Robert Edmonds and Vivian Lee moved from New York City to San Francisco, they discovered something many outsiders don’t know about the City by the Bay: The fog is not distributed equitably.
As anyone who has spent time in SF will attest, there are parts of the city that are warmer and sunnier than others. This couple, partners in life and in the firm Edmonds + Lee Architects, found this fact out the hard way—they moved to Twin Peaks, a neighborhood that’s foggier than many.
Looking back, it seems that interior designer Gina Gutierrez and Max Maloney were destined to remodel together. After all, how many couples go to the paint store on one of their first dates?
“We were having a nice time and talking about what was going on in our lives,” recalls Gutierrez, principal and founder of Gina Rachelle Design. “I mentioned that I had to run by the paint store later and look at colors for one of my clients, and he asked if he could go with me. I thought, ‘wow, he’s genuinely interested in what I’m doing.’”
San Francisco’s Alamo Square is most famous for its iconic row of Painted Ladies, the colorful Victorian homes that run along its east side, which became a pop culture icon when they appeared in the title sequence of the late-’80s, early ’90s television show Full House.
But just on the other side of the park sits another stately building, with an arched entryway of marble and dark wood, its large bay windows hugging a corner of the building. This yellow-brick pile has been home to architect John Toya for the last decade.
When Jim Siegel was just eight years old, he saw his first episode of The Addams Family, and fell in love during the opening sequence. Not with the “creepy” and “kooky” characters shown snapping their fingers in a staccato cadence, but with the gothic Victorian house pictured in the first frame. Siegel, watching in his parents’ suburban ranch house, was smitten.
”I was obsessed with that show and the house,” he says. “I think it was because the family and their home were quirky and different. Even back then, I knew I was gay, and I felt different from everyone around me — maybe I identified with it.”
He was still a boy when he saw the Westerfeld House, a Stick Italian Villa in Alamo Square, from the window of his parents’ car. “To me, it looked like the Addams Family house,” he says.
Watch this space for more peeks inside gorgeous homes in San Francisco, across the U.S., and around the world.