Inside a Historic San Francisco Home Inspired by Its Lush Private Garden

There is greenery everywhere one turns at architectural designer Abigail Turin’s 1925 Italianate manse
Inside a Historic San Francisco Home Inspired by Its Lush Private Garden
Turin in the lower-level sitting room that overlooks her back garden.

“This level is meant to feel like it’s carved out of the ground, not built up from it,” says Turin, whose transformation added around 2,000 square feet to the three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom abode. Large sliding glass doors with linen sheer curtains by artist Martin Thompson now allow seamless access to the yard, with a small swimming pool, cabana, and a lush jungle of split-leaf philodendron, leopard plant, bird of paradise, and bamboo realized with the help of local landscape designer Ken Mendonça.

A large Heji Shin inkjet print dominates a wall in the kitchen. Minotti chairs surround a Studio BBPR dining table topped with a terrarium by Paula Hayes. Ignazio Gardella pendants; Studio BBPR counter stools.

Art: Heji Shin

Turin’s interior color palette and material choices enhance this indoor-outdoor transition. Inspired by the pebbled ground of the garden and a love birthed two decades ago during visits to Milan for the annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair, the architectural designer employed Ceppo di Gré, a light-gray dolomitic breccia stone with a terrazzo-like appearance, for the lower-level flooring, bathroom walls and bespoke sink basin, and block-like stair that leads to the original two stories. In the first-floor kitchen, it also makes up the backsplash, countertops, and island, set with stools by Studio BBPR for Arflex and lit by Ignazio Gardella pendants.

Shades of green in the new and reupholstered furniture continue the theme, in playful combination with Turin’s fascination for Italian modernist design. On the garden level, a statement-making Camaleonda sofa by Mario Bellini wears a forest green mohair and surrounds a custom cocktail table made of salvaged walnut burl from Marin County–based Arborica. In the primary bedroom, there is a custom teal lacquer bed. The color is picked up again in the lacquer back of a 1980s Ettore Sottsass Donau chair at Turin’s desk, a custom design with steel legs and a Verde Alpi marble top. Blocks of the same stone are used as a step at the front door, for the dressing room vanity and showers of the upstairs bathrooms, and in the bespoke door handles to Gans’s wine room, where two 1951 Gio Ponti Triennale leather-and-wood armchairs cozy up to a brass-and-glass Ponti cocktail table. A 1970s Gabriella Crespi floor lamp lights the custom walnut millwork for Gans's extensive collection of bottles.

Turin designed the primary bedroom’s teal lacquered drawers, bed, and side tables. In corner, Gaetano Pesce chairs; curtains of a Dedar sheer.

Though the project required the home be taken down to its studs, Turin was careful to preserve original details where she could. The curving staircase and banister now share space with artworks by Sigmar Polke and Richard Wright, two of many in the family’s ever-growing contemporary collection, which also includes pieces by Tauba Auerbach, Piotr Uklanski, and Paula Hayes, among many others. The house’s historic stepped baseboards were maintained and replicated in the expansion. In the moody, slate-colored living room, light still filters through leaded glass windows, and the old marble mantel presides over a space now furnished with a pair of B&B Italia sofas in army green mohair and a 1975 Gabriella Crespi cocktail table.

And everywhere one turns—indoors and out—there is greenery, especially visible through the large windows that puncture the back walls of the house. “You can’t argue with a view in San Francisco,” says Turin, “but I think that the south-facing warm garden in our foggy corner of the city is worth its weight in gold.”

This historic San Francisco home appears in AD’s October issue. Never miss an issue when you subscribe to AD.