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SF industry notables and experts reveal which trends grew tired in 2018

From urban McMansions to restaurant murals

To paraphrase Yoda, fear is the path to the dark side—fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering years of Edison bulbs and white subway tile. While San Francisco and Silicon Valley are known for innovation, architects and builders tread too timidly when it comes to adopting bold new looks or ideas when it comes to design.

But with each passing year comes the chance to shed the old. White antiseptic interiors have long been over, even though they remain the most popular look for many new homes and renovation. (Save for popular dark kitchens, a trend we hope to see more of next year.) Low-rise residential buildings are most certainly due to come to a much-needed conclusion. And the less said of reclaimed wood accents the better.

To take a look at the year that was, we asked a handful of people in real estate, urban planning, media, architecture, and transit to offer their thoughts. Here’s what bored them in 2018.


Joe Eskenazi (managing editor and columnist, Mission Local) and Julian Mark (reporter, Mission Local):

Buildings that look like a Rubik’s Cube or the structure on the Stolichnaya label have grown tiresome.

Laura Foote (executive director, YIMBY Action):

“The war on decks. People who don’t watch SF Government TV might not know that there is a war on decks being waged, but in an effort to make housing less expensive by making it more mediocre, the Planning Commission is constantly removing decks from housing proposals.”

Mike Isaac (technology reporter, New York Times):

“It’s difficult for me to see ultramodern apartment complexes being built mostly of large paned glass and concrete. That, next to a Victorian in Hayes Valley, seems somewhat off and incongruous. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a proponent of building new housing in a city that is drastically limited on housing supply while adding new transplants every single day. But perhaps we could be doing some building with a bit more wooden exteriors, or something that plays on the grand tradition of San Franciscan victorian architecture?

I might be alone on that, or just a grumpy old man. But who wants to see someone half-naked in their fourth floor apartment through floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the entire apartment? Not me, no thanks.”

John King (urban design critic, San Francisco Chronicle):

“Glass as symbol of ‘porosity’ and ‘transparency’ and ‘contemporary.’ Which probably was my vote last year, and probably will be in 2019 as well.”

Allison Arieff (columnist, New York Times):

Urban McMansions. I gotta ask these folks—was it always your dream to live in the Apple store? And if you want to live in 10,000 square feet, maybe you should move to the suburbs?”

Mike Chino (senior editor, Dwell):

“The Memphis revival feels like it’s wearing a little thin, and we’re probably approaching peak terrazzo. I also think the Danes would breathe a sigh of relief if we relaxed on hygge and stopped using it to sell candles and sweaters every holiday season.”

Anne Fougeron (architect and founder, Fougeron Architecture):

“Unaligned windows—i.e., when the windows do not line up from floor to floor, It’s so popular there’s even a Pinterest board dedicated to these facades. I could never reach the end with so many examples. Is there an app that just does this to your facade when you’re not looking? Maybe it is a virus—the Unaligned Window Influenza.”

Richie Nakano (restaurant consultant):

“The ubiquitous restaurant mural or neon sign. It’s the Edison bulb of 2018.”

Jon de la Cruz (interior architecture and design, DLC-ID):

Live edge wood tables. Tricky ornamental metalwork on buildings. The modern farmhouse. Postmodern parklets. Scooter vandalism. Ubers that double park.”

Beth Spotswood (digital editor, Alta Magazine; columnist, San Francisco Chronicle):

“I’m sick of downtown buildings falling apart and screwing up traffic for everyone, whatever the hell they’re doing to Van Ness. Also, I’m done with indoor foliage. Enough with the fiddle leaf fig plants. We get it.”

Brian Wiedenmeier (executive director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition):

“Three things: ‘Amazon rooms’ for e-commerce package delivery, value engineering, and mega-conventions at Moscone Center shutting down Howard Street and its bike lane for week-long stretches.”

Kevin K. Ho and Jonathan B. McNarry (realtors, Vanguard Properties):

“Given that climate change is really here to stay, it’s high time we get smarter home heating, cooling and—now—air filtration systems in homes as we’re going to be forced to stay indoors more and more. Green building technologies and materials are oftentimes the exception rather than the rule but should become the rule rather than the exception.”

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