A Historic Victorian Home Receives a Light-Filled Transformation

mcm living room

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

What could be better than a light-filled home located in the heart of a vibrant city? Not much, if you ask us!

Andrew Mann, the principal architect at Andrew Mann Architecture refers to one of his recent projects, a Victorian home in San Francisco, as the "House of Light." Why, exactly? When adding a third story to the home, which was built in the 1880s and located on a narrow lot alongside four other row houses, Mann introduced a skylight in the middle of the roof and then opened up the space down to the middle of the floor below. "This introduced a glow of sunlight throughout the house and allowed for the play of light and shadow on surfaces," explains Mann. "This became the heart of the renovated house."

Meet the Expert

  • Andrew Mann is the founder and principal architect at Andrew Mann Architecture, which is based in San Francisco, California.
skylight on third floor

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

But that's not all. As part of this renovation project, Mann also introduced a three-story glass window wall into the home, too. "This became the iconic big-scale element tying everything together," he says. And it's no surprise that this is the homeowners' favorite part of their new and improved living space.

window wall

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

The renovation project began as a means to expand a small, historic home into something more livable today.

Mann's clients didn't want to move, he explains, but they were living in pretty cramped quarters as a family of four and wanted to ensure that their home would stand the test of time.

"The clients have two school-age children and the current house wouldn’t meet the family’s needs as they grew older," shares Mann. "The owners love their neighborhood due to its urbane, walkable character and its proximity to their daughters’ school."

As a result, they hired him to take their home from 1,900 to 2,700 square feet and introduce more function—and of course, light—in the process. The transformation involved building upwards rather than out and resulted in a third bedroom, a full bathroom, a family room, and a new roof deck. Mann's clients now sleep in a primary suite located on the third floor of the home, which also creates a division between them and their children.

simple mcm kitchen

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

The home's narrow size meant that it was quite dark, which resulted in Mann's decision to add the aforementioned skylight and expansive glass window. And the home's layout meant that Mann had to be intentional with his decisions.

"We aimed to maximize space," he says. "There is no wasted circulation; all rooms and small corridors serve the needs of the family."

One of the biggest challenges of the project resulted from a construction issue. "Once the construction team had completed demolition, they discovered that the house shared its exterior walls with the neighboring buildings," explains Mann. "This complicated how the project was to be built, but illustrated the challenges and charms of working with old buildings in San Francisco. It allowed us to marvel at earlier solutions to complex problems."

narrow stairwell with window

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

When furnishing their renovated home, Mann's clients worked with San Francisco designer Cate Grosch of Cate Grosch Studio while also making way for existing pieces.

"The client's style is easy and casual. Since the existing interior of the house did not retain any of the original detailing, we looked for inspiration from more modern sources, where space and light defined the architecture."

One special piece that deserved a prime spot was the client's Eames chair, which had been passed down from her father and had plenty of life left in it. "It was a source of inspiration for the mid-century modern furniture choices," says Mann. "The chair and ottoman have pride of place in the new family room, and maintain the patina from years of use. It's a reminder of the connection to family." The family room opens up to a charming back patio, which is adorned with string lights and is a perfect spot for enjoying an end-of-day glass of wine al fresco.

living room with eames chair

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

In addition to having a family room, the clients also have a living room that's suitable for more formal entertaining. This space contains another sofa and two accent chairs, as well as a window seat that's perfect for kids or adults alike to cozy up with a good read or even an iPad. While the home is kept pretty sparse, plants are thoughtfully placed in the various rooms, bringing the outside in while adding an airy feel.

formal living room

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

A tulip table and Eames-style chairs shine in the sunny breakfast nook, which is larger than many in that it contains seating for five. These replica chairs are lightweight and easy to move throughout the home when entertaining in other rooms if needed. The large, open windows are another nook that allows natural light to filter in anytime guests are over.

eames chairs and tulup table

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

The home's kitchen features plenty of storage and contains a mix of solid and glass cabinetry.

kitchen with storage

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

Mid-century modern style continues into the primary bedroom, which contains a low-profile bed positioned in front of an eye-catching feature wall. Decor is kept to a minimum, allowing for a serene, distraction-free space in which to end the day.

mcm bedroom

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

The living room window seat is already an enjoyable place to relax, but there's another fun—and more private—perch upstairs, too. Mann personally appreciates the window seat in the primary bedroom.

"It’s a sun-filled intimate space, a perfect place to curl up and read a book," he notes. Built-in storage under the window seat makes it easy to tuck books, magazines, and throw blankets out of sight when they're not in use, which is just one example of how this home creatively combines both form and function.

primary suite with window seating

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer

It wouldn't be called the "House of Light" if there wasn't a bit of brightness everywhere. Here, the primary bathroom is completely swoon-worthy due to its tall ceilings and a skylight. When your loo is as fabulous as this one, getting ready for the day feels like the main event.

skylight in primary bathroom

Design: Andrew Mann Architecture; Photo: Paul Dyer