Category: Coastal Style

Universal Design at San Francisco Home

For general builder Jeff Kann, universal design goes beyond outfitting the space for wheelchairs. It is about allowing people take part in family and community life for much, more. Sound universal layout avoids early moves and generates safer and sustainable spaces, she states:”It is about making the living spaces easier and simpler for all ages.”

This remodel was conceived to make a comfy and expanded living space on the first degree of a two-story home in San Francisco’s Sunset district, creating an choice to get around the use of stairs entirely as the customers grow old. Meanwhile, the homeowners can use the remodeled first degree now as a guest suite for visiting family members and friends.

at a Glance
Who lives here: An active retired couple
Location: San Francisco
Size: 2,100 square feet
That is interesting: The home was part of a housing project done from the early 1920s through 1950 using a production technique modeled on Ford assembly lines.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

From the outside, this Sunset district home appears to be a typical home constructed on a 25-foot by 120-foot lot by Henry Doelger or the Gellert brothers — as were homes in the city between 1920 to 1950. But indoors, the active homeowners have remodeled with the intent of living out their lives here, and possibly giving the home another life as a multigenerational home for part of this year.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

“My customers know that lots of aging baby boomers will not wind up in a wheelchair, but it does not indicate they won’t need assistance sooner or later,” states Kann.

The design and construct contractor first dealt with the ease-of-use issues by making the halls and doors larger; doors were piled at 36 inches to allow clearance for any assistive devices. Having bigger hallways and doors also reduces injuries, which Kann points out may also benefit parents carrying infants and toddlers.

Kann addressed the other issue of allowing light to the first-level space using multiple broad, narrow windows along the upper portion of the wall (this picture), installing a skylight over the staircase and using plenty of LED lights.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

Universal design features allow the first-level toilet to work for anyone: a child, a teen, an adult and anyone with mobility issues. A number of characteristics make the room comfortable and safe: a barrier-free shower; a shower door that swings both in and out, making it easier for a caregiver to assist; and enough space for getting around with a wheelchair or a walker.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

Kann installed all lever-type door fixtures and pipes for ease of use.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

A curbless shower with a trench drain leaves the zero-threshold toilet and shower area safer; the homeowners do not have to step over a threshold or risk tripping over a sill.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

The bathroom floors are heated using a Nuheat radiant floor-heating mat and a programmable thermostat.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

Kitchen cabinets containing food items are 15 inches above the counter, at least 3 inches lower than the standard, for easier accessibility. Overhead lighting and the light across the bar area were improved to address safety issues; task lighting under the cabinets illuminates the sink space, making it safer for the customers to prepare and handle food.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

Kann modified the connecting stairs from the upper level to reduce their steepness and slope, added better lighting with skylights and artificial lighting, and put in a railing. The homeowners are extremely active and have no plans of installing a wheelchair lift on the stairs. “Again, [the additions] are part of a universal design strategy that rewards all ages,” states Kann.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

Kann opened up the limited mobility space in the laundry area by shifting the wall toward the living room in the laundry area to make enough room to walk around the drier, despite the door open.

HOUSEworks Design/Build General Contractor

Kann’s customers might well remain mobile and active for a long time, without ever needing to use or live on the first floor. But by integrating universal design into their home, Kann worries, they’ve improved the home’s resale value, planned for potential future needs for customized and themselves their home to accommodate various lifestyles and life cycles.

See more universal layout ideas

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Designs from India Into Your Decor

I have never been to India, but I have always been drawn to Indian design. I adore the textiles — everything from brilliant saris to dull block prints — and the colours. I love the classical architecture, the garish billboards, the woodwork and the religious iconography.

Because India has been crisscrossed by so many people across the years, Indian design has components from the Middle East, China and Europe. It is a rich tapestry that has taken thousands of years to grow.

However, as with almost any modern design based in a place or a culture, you need to proceed with care, using the components of Indian design as inspiration or as a launch pad. To acquire an Indian appearance that is not overly “India World USA! ,” go less literal, more suggestive. Kind of like flirting.

All these 14 rooms are extremely different from one another, but all of them use India as their starting point. Some are diverse modern, while some are more overtly cultural motivated. All of these are beautiful.

Marie Burgos Design

Ornate Carvings

The ornately carved classic doors include thickness and a tiny grandeur to this plain space.

Lenkin Design Inc: Landscape and Garden Design

The carved doors leading to this breezeway are in abundant contrast with the modern building. To me they feel like a hot invitation to enter.


Indian Antique Damachiya – $1,095

If you can’t swing a large, classic architectural element, furniture can add the same richness and texture. A bit such as this could be the inspiration for an entire room.

Burnham Design

Cosmetic Furniture

This amazing inlaid dresser is at home in this modern eclectic room. The space is not obviously Indian, but this piece adds a little hint of spice.


Bone Inlay Chest

An ornate piece such as this could live comfortably into a white, modern room in addition to in a richly coloured, layered room filled with texture.

Chakki Dark Walnut – $450

This ottoman is a beautiful mixture of subtle, modern fabric and traditional Indian design. It may work almost everywhere.

Mac Free

Arches and Architecture

The corbel arch is one of the very telltale Indian architectural components. This chamber uses that shape, in addition to screened panels, intricate textiles and traditional furnishings to bring India to mind in a modern, Western room.

Louie Leu Architect, Inc..

White corbel arches and filigreed panels. It’s almost like the Taj Majal.


India is renowned for its textiles. Many modern designers (Madeline Weinrib, John Robshaw) and even firms like Hermès have turned to Indian textiles, in all their patterned, sequined, metallic-trimmed glory, for inspiration.


Blue Sari Tapestry – $860

A tapestry created from bits of vintage saris. Drool.


Indian Cotton Pillow Cover by ChezVies – $15

A block print in indigo. Simple, modern, Indian.

One Kings Lane

Kantha Handstitched Pouf, Patriot

A pouf created from bits of Indian madras and hand-stitched kantha cloth.

Calypso St. Barth

Elephant Tablecloth – $165

Metallics, either printed or woven, are common in India textiles, as are block prints of iconic Indian pictures, such as these elephant riders.

Carson Poetzl, Inc..


Just look at this blue. And ceiling! Swoon. So much of India is all about color — bold, vivid, mixed up-color. Oh, and a bit of bling too.

The Loaded Trunk

Indian Gujarati Bolster Pillows – $80

If you are not ready to go for full-on painted ceilings with glowing blue walls, then you can at least add a little shade with some throw pillows, right? India “lite.”

Trinetra Candleholder – $99.95

Elegant bling — it’s every woman’s dream.



Not all Indian textiles are glowing or blingy. This chamber is lively, airy, modern and definitely motivated by India. That is what judicious but still exuberant use of pattern can perform. I love this room.

Hand-Blocked Leaf Quilt + Shams, West Elm

A simple block-print bed set can add texture and pattern without adding more color than you’re comfortable with.

West Elm

Hand-Blocked Diamond Pillow Cover – $39

Modern, geometric pillows with block prints from India. They’ve an cultural vibe, but they’re still quite laid back.

French Colonial Mansion in India

Guest Picks: India

Moroccan Style

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Art Dealer's Modern-Native Mix in Canada

When discussing native artwork, the word traditional might come into mind. However, contemporary first-nations art dealer Douglas Reynolds of the Douglas Reynolds Gallery shows how nicely the historical artwork form fits into modern settings. This summer he plans to host an exhibition titled Modern Edge, that will showcase the development of Northwest coastal design. At home, his contemporary décor blends seamlessly with his private art collection.

Reynolds sold his prior condo unexpectedly, and the buyer desired all the furnishings, therefore Reynolds started his home search using a clean slate. The first real estate he looked at was love at first sight. Reynolds says, “I knew I needed it the minute I walked in, and have had no regrets because.”

at a Glance
Who lives here: Douglas Reynolds
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Size: 1,525 square feet (main level); 1,400 square feet outside living (upper level)

Heather Merenda

“I like relaxation, I like modern furnishings and I despise mess, at least for this home,” says Reynolds. He just stopped renovating and refurnishing a different property in Mexico and says, “If you compare Vancouver into my home in Mexico, you would think they were owned by two unique men and women. Everything in Mexico revolves around frescos on the ceilings and thick ornate furnishings and curtains. Although the areas are very different, they’re both very comfortable to be in.”

Art preceding fireplace: Robert Davidson

Heather Merenda

The simple beauty of this Alder dining table by Brent Comber brings an interpretation of this Pacific Northwest aesthetic into the space.

Coffee table: Alder around, Brent Comber; couch: B&B Italia

This polka dot etching is a special art piece signed and given to Reynolds by artist Damien Hirst as a Christmas gift. If you like the look but do not have personal ties to Hirst yourself, try Hirst-inspired wall decals from Blik.

Table lamp: Miss K by Philippe Starck for Flos

Heather Merenda

One of Reynolds’ Most Up-to-date artwork pieces is Gunarh and Whale, a bronze sculpture by Don Yeomans. “I always emphasized a houseguest will knock their thoughts on the underside of the stairs,” Reynolds claims of this sculpture’s positioning.

Heather Merenda

Luckily for Reynolds, the finishings inside the condo by Townline Developments were to his own liking. He did not have to touch the kitchen, baths or tile flooring.

Heather Merenda

The silver-tile backsplash is a nice contrast to the wood finishes in the kitchen.

Kettle: Richard Sapper for Alessi

Heather Merenda

The wood bar stools at the kitchen were imported from Italy.

Heather Merenda

The massive Dancing Frog canvas by Shawn Hunt injects a playful personality to the contemporary dining room.

Dining table: Brent Comber; chandelier: Brand Van Egmond

Heather Merenda

Intense tasteful elegance is interjected by this bold avant garde lighting palaces hand-picked by Dutch design duo Brand Van Egmond.

Heather Merenda

The custom closet doors at the main hallway are carried through in the kitchen area into the bedroom.

Custom Closets: A.J. Drury Custom Millwork

Heather Merenda

Kelly Deck made the space. “I met Kelly socially a couple of years before we started the renovations on my condo, and we worked together in designing the space,” Reynolds says. “In my bedroom, I told her I needed a low bed with a headboard that ran the length of the wall. I wanted the mattress to be drifting with lights lifting it off the floor. Kelly took that notion, made the mattress frame and indicated we pad the wall to finish the look off.”

Heather Merenda

Lamps: Josephine from Jamie Hayón for Metalarte

Heather Merenda

Outdoor space was a priority however Reynolds had no idea he’d discover a condominium. Since he entertains frequently, he took complete advantage of their private rooftop and gave it a makeover. The pergola was customized with glass to weatherproof the lounge area, and an integrated barbecue pit and pub area were inserted.

Coffee table: Paul Tellier

Heather Merenda

Above the pub outside is a bronze item Named Bear Panel by Beau Dick.

Heather Merenda

The Canasta Outdoor Lounger by Patricia Urquiola has been a welcome addition to the rooftop.

Lounger: B&B Italia

Heather Merenda

Close to the back of the room is a den with a TV and a couch.

Couch: Flexform

Heather Merenda

A remarkable white raven sculpture by Jim Hart graces the rear patio from the master bedroom. Reynolds considers this one of his pieces that are main. Hart is one of the Northwest coast’s most accomplished Haida artists; his work is found in collections throughout the world and is appreciated for its beauty, ethics and innovation.

In-ground LED Lighting: DGA Italy

Heather Merenda

Architectural features such as the rooftop pergola are highlighted by LED lights.

Heather Merenda

With crops, an outside fireplace, furniture and lighting included, the rooftop became an enviable, fully livable outside space, rain or shine. Reynolds says, “Although I’m surrounded by high-rises, once you are sitting in front of the fireplace onto the roof, it appears very private.”

Reynolds told himself that this renovation could be it for awhile, but only last week, he started to go over a new job with his contractor. The plan is to rip off the front of his gallery and reconstruct it, giving it a modern edge. “I feel the modern facade I have in mind will create an impact into the South Granville area of Vancouver,” Reynolds says, “and will tie into the modern artwork I carry and juxtapose the historical”

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