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Reach for natural light: mandate for old cabinet shop.

You could call it a suitcase remodel. The architect gutted and "unpacked" a box-shaped, 36- by 80-foot cabinet shop built in San Francisco in the 1920s, then repacked it as an up-to-date single-family residence. This novel sleight of hand gave his clients exactly what they wanted in their living quarters: abundant natural light, privacy, a painting studio large enough for oversize canvases, and easy access to such urban amenities as art galleries and cafes.

This remodel proves that-in spite of high and constricting side walls-some commercial structures can become comfortable, functional houses.

Architect William Leddy, of Tanner VanDine Architects, made reaching for natural light the organizing principle of his design. At the center of the new house, a small, square, glass-walled atrium brings daylight into all major rooms -including the twostory studio, which occupies almost the entire back half of the house.

Two floors of living space fill the front of the house, with the more public rooms on the ground floor and three bedrooms and two baths above. The garage, entry, and kitchen line up along the street. Directly behind them, spanning the width of the house, are the living-dining space and an adjacent family room and study. i

To compensate for the lack of windows in the structure's exterior walls (due to the abutting side walls of neighboring buildings), Leddy made tbe interior as open as possible. From the front door, you can look past the living room to the atrium and glimpse the studio at the back. The upstairs hall is actually a bridge overlooking the entry and the living-dining space, further emphasizing the feeling of airiness. Skylights over the stairway, studio, and bedrooms add still more lightness.

Leddy treated the three existing bowstring trusses as focal points, retaining something of the original building's industrial character. Originally used to keep the floor area as open as possible, the trusses continue to perform that function in the studio, allowing this large space to remain unobstructed. Where additional support was needed, such as under the new bridgebalcony between the entry and the living-dining room, wooden and steel 4-by-4 posts were put to work, serving as a kind of functional sculpture.

The house's symmetrical organization along a central spine permits through views and, more practically, lets large canvases be transported from the front door to the studio without making an turns.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1989
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