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An Urban Penthouse Meets a Modern Salon on San Francisco’s Historic Barbary Coast


By Kelsey Mirando, Architectural Digest

For two empty nesters, a BraytonHughes remodel creates a gallery-style backdrop for art and entertaining.

“We wanted to re-look at our space as our family dynamics have changed,” says the owner of a penthouse apartment on San Francisco’s Jackson Street, heart of the historic Barbary Coast. The owner, who is the cofounder and managing partner of an S.F.-based development firm, moved his family of four into the top-floor abode upon completing the building a decade ago. Now empty nesters, he and his wife wished to reinvent the space to better suit their evolved design sensibilities and needs—“and that’s when we sat down with Richard Brayton.”

[post_ads]The owner had worked on past commercial projects with Brayton, the now retired founding principal of BraytonHughes Design Studios, so he turned to him and his team to lead the remodel with two goals in mind: to create a subtle yet striking backdrop to showcase the couple's growing art collection and to create more varied, usable living spaces. “While I’m a self-proclaimed introvert, my wife loves to entertain,” says the owner. Areas for easy mixing and mingling were as equally essential as reading nooks and spaces for quiet retreat.

Pre-remodel, the building’s penthouse elevator opened to a generic hallway with entrances to two units: the 2,950-square-foot family apartment and a separate 554-square-foot studio used to host out-of-town guests. Combining these spaces into one, BraytonHughes created a cohesive, unified space spanning the entire floor—clocking in at 3500 square feet of livability.


Nodding to early-20th-century Parisian salons, a new living room furniture layout enables easy entertaining, while an integrated living-dining-kitchen enhances community in an open-plan environment. The studio was converted to a less formal den.
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“Thirties-style modernism became the backdrop for the client’s expansive photography collection,” says BraytonHughes partner Towan Kim. The owner’s gravitation toward dark-toned, masculine aesthetics sparked a neutral color palette—embellishing the works on display—and a rich material mix with a French-Euro inflection. Period antiques, original rugs and custom cabinets and light fixtures enhance the apartment’s architectural backdrop, as well as objet d’art from the owner’s collection.

“We wanted to balance something appropriate for showcasing our photography, but we were looking for a bit of sophistication,” says the owner.

[post_ads]It’s all in the details. Den walls are fabric-wrapped in milk-chocolate cashmere cushioning, doubly functioning to deaden noise for reading or TV-watching. Deeply stained hardwood floors unify the apartment from room to room with a reflective sheen. (“It took three to five tries to get it just right,” says Kim.) The master bedroom walls received a shimmering lacquer, lending a more feminine sensibility compared to the rest of the space.

The result is a uniquely urban and elevated ensemble. And in this case, neutral is never boring.



Just behind the kitchen island, a built-in banquette serves as both daily breakfast nook and the scene of lively domino games during dinner parties. While the kitchen was updated just prior to the remodel, the BraytonHughes team deepened the banquette area wall treatment with a saturated reddish hue and added bookshelves on either side to house the owners’ robust cookbook collection.

To deal with areas of the living room historically underused when entertaining, the BraytonHughes team reimagined the great room as a European salon. “We created multiple seating areas so people can feel free to wander and sit and perch,” says Kim. A photogram by Adam Fuss—Untitled, from the series "My Ghost," 2001—presides over the large open space.

The living area originally featured three different rugs situated throughout the room, but BraytonHughes recommended a one large rug to unify the space. “This was a big design decision,” says Kim. “Historical French great rooms have moments of sitting groups in suspending space.” To achieve this effect, the team used a crane to bring this 650-square-foot rug through one of the fifth-floor windows.

The next step was arranging an array of sitting areas, grouping together a potpourri of period furnishings, original pieces, and custom lighting. While each piece is elegant in its own right, the collection allows the owner’s art to remain at center stage.

Minneapolis-based road photographer Alec Soth’s Park Hyatt, Tokyo (curtains), 2015, mirrors the great room’s floor-to-ceiling windows while providing a glimpse into another urban cityscape across the globe.

High-gloss lacquered walls in Benjamin Moore’s Pigeon Gray create a shimmer-like effect in the remodeled master bedroom, bringing a lighter, more opulent and feminine sensibility to the apartment’s palette. “It’s a unique and airy look compared to the rest of the apartment,” says Kim. A work by L.A.-based photographer Sandy Kim—Untitled, 2015—hangs above the bed.

“My wife and I keep slightly different hours,” says the owner. “So we wanted a sitting room where I can stay up and read if my wife wants to go to sleep.” Pocket doors separate the space, featuring another piece by Soth, Horse and Bus, 2017.

A star of the remodel is a his-and-hers bath—a brilliant contrast of light and dark, feminine and masculine—joined by a shared closet space and unified by dramatic graphic flooring throughout. In Hers, a skylight allows natural light to reflect off the lacquered walls, illuminating a polished marble and nickel vanity—featuring stone from L.A.’s Stone Source—and the black-and-white marble floor.

His pays homage to the old men’s club, where the wall panels and vanity stained in a dark Macassar ebony veneer contrast with punches of white.

The studio apartment turned den allows for a space to entertain guests in a less formal way. Vintage wooden stools were topped with leather cushions to create versatile pull-up-a-chair seating for just the occasion.
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“The living room and kitchen is a wonderful place to have a dinner party,” says the owner. “But by converting our studio into a more informal lounge, we now have a place to watch football games in a slightly different environment.” The focal point? Steven Klein’s Rio Bravo and Centurion, 2004, pairing.

The floor’s original two units are now connected by a gallery of photographic masterpieces, beautifully lit from the ceiling coffers above. A longtime undefined space, the shotgun hallway was transformed into a foyer, made usable with tufted seating. Featured works from the owner’s collection include Major, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, 2012, by Charlotte Dumas; and Trophies Used As Targets, 1987, and The Race Track, 1995, both by Mark Klett.

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Lifestyle Magazine: An Urban Penthouse Meets a Modern Salon on San Francisco’s Historic Barbary Coast
An Urban Penthouse Meets a Modern Salon on San Francisco’s Historic Barbary Coast
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