Jonathan Feldman and his wife Lisa Lougee were determined to create a contemporary, sustainable, and functional home for their family within the building constraints of urban San Francisco. The home, built in 1905, is a New England brick and shingle style residence sitting next to an overgrown lot. It was given the tongue-in-cheek name The Farm, due to the rarity of backyards and outdoor living spaces in the city. “We fell in love with the farmhouse charm of the home” says Jonathan, “Lisa and I enjoyed imagining how the house must have looked out in the countryside of San Francisco in the 1900’s; we started joking around and calling it ‘The Farm’ and it stuck!” To further the play on the home’s name, the Feldman family often lovingly refers to their band of rescue animals as their “flock.”
In order to transform the older house into one on exemplifying sustainable architecture, the structure was essentially rebuilt from the inside out. Jonathan and Lisa both loved the character and grace of the older home and wanted to continue its visual continuity; their excitement towards the historic home combined with their conflicting design styles ultimately directed the course of the home’s restoration.
The modern aesthetic of Jonathan’s work as an architect at times came into direct confrontation with Lisa’s more transitional design sensibilities. Thus, they were faced with the challenge of fusing contemporary elements with the traditional character of a classic Edwardian home. Through a constant dialogue and blending of styles, each room and each piece was hand selected, debated, and critiqued. The result, a stunning compromise, complete with strong contemporary and classic pieces throughout.
Before the ambitious remodel, the house was a closed-off box. The new design opened the floor plan, flooding the interiors with natural light through a new central stair topped with expansive skylights. The basement was also transformed to include what is now a usable rear yard & deck.
Designing appealing yet sustainable landscaping in an urban setting required multiple iterations between Jonathan and the team at Ground Studio Landscape Architecture. Due to the size and proximity of the surrounding buildings, a vertically layered approach was applied to the landscaping. Trees spanning all three stories of the home were interspersed within ground level plants at the floor elevations, creating a leafy refuge within their metropolitan neighborhood. The hardscape detailing is transitional, in harmony with the architecture of the site and designed for how we live today. While architect and designer redefined the house, the landscape team reconstructed the yard, forging a strong relationship between structure and land.
As a firm, Feldman Architecture is constantly pushing and encouraging its clients towards sustainable design. During this remodel, as green building in San Francisco was beginning to pick up speed, Jonathan was able to use his own house as a testing ground and laboratory. Throughout the process, he was constantly asking himself and his team: “How can this home be at the leading edge of sustainability while staying true to its historic roots?”
The Farm now has an abundance of sustainable features, many of which are subtly hidden. During the remodel, Jonathan pushed the SF building department to allow a new type of water system previously unseen in the city. Two types of water re-use systems were then implemented on the property; rain water and grey water harvesting, with the tanks concealed below the rear deck. An HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation) system provides the home with clean air without energy loss. All materials are sustainably sourced and non-toxic and the house also features water and electricity monitoring, easily accessible by panels throughout the home and smartphone technology.
The house also achieved LEED Platinum, and boasts a mechanical system, partially heated by solar thermal panels. “They key to achieving LEED Platinum or any kind of green standard is to identify and commit early on to the features of interest,” comments Jonathan. “We didn’t push for the passive house standard because we didn’t believe it made sense for this particular project.”
As with many of Feldman Architecture’s projects, the sustainability goal was and is to reach net zero. Through monitoring and constant testing, Jonathan is confident that he’ll learn the steps to achieving it within a metropolitan area. By striving for excellence in sustainable architecture while incorporating the design aesthetics of all members involved, Jonathan, Lisa and their team have been able to create an elegant structure perfectly fitting for unique and forward-thinking San Francisco.
PROJECT TEAM: Architect: Feldman Architecture Interiors: Feldman Architecture Landscape Architect: Ground Studio Landscape Architecture Contractor: Jeff King & Company Structural Engineer: Strandberg Engineering Mechanical Engineer: Monterey Energy Group Photography: Matthew Millman