Tandem Houses Full of Ideas


I just toured two brand new roughly 1,500 sq. ft. houses that demonstrate strong lessons in making small spaces live large and offer a compelling paradigm for  multigenerational living. Sold within a few hours of going on the market  — part of the “Facebook frenzy” that has turned San Francisco real estate into breakfast-lunch-and-dinner-at-Tiffany’s — the houses were designed by architect Jim Zack, whose design-build firm Zack DeVito specializes in infill developments. Jim explains: “This little courtyard compound consists

2. Floor plans [Sheet Title]of an extensively remodeled two story home set deep on a sunny lot with a new ground-up three story home built at the front of the lot creating a shared garden between.” Here’s the layout on the typical narrow city lot showing the houses at front (bottom) and back (top). The entry to both houses is through a passage along the side of the lot and leads to the open garden court at the center.

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Here’s the front door of the street-side house; and below is the front door of

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cottage across the patio at the back of the lot. Standing here, Jim said: “Why does it feel so open? Because the houses in the distance are on another street perpendicular to this one — so their gardens, and not the houses themselves, back up to the fence. A lucky accident for me.” But now he knows what to look for!

Inside, each house is full of design and storage ideas worth stealing, like the

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book, storage, and desk wall that’s part of the kitchen and surrounds the main bedroom in the rear cottage — wood cabinetry makes an elegant contrast with the

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exposed steel. The book wall idea continues around into the living room with different niches for storage and display. The generous opening and sliding door make it possible to join both rooms — for entertaining, or if the bedroom is used

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as an office. The kitchen in the front house uses plate steel as a frame for the island to hide the work surface and serve as a buffet bar. And in the dining bay you can see how the glass is sandblasted at the bottom for privacy from the street without blocking the light. Bathrooms are similarly sleek, efficient, and airy,

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thanks to simple white subway tile and glass showers. Here light from the high window — into the entry stair to borrow light from the stair’s other exterior window — balances the skylight to dramatically brighten the space. (All photos by John Hayes courtesy Harry Clark & Daniel Fernandez, Realtors)

Bravo Jim — this enclave makes me want to move right in and ask the extended family to join me! Just need a little venture capital…

For more on narrow lot house plans see Time To Build blog.

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