Switchback House is a minimalist architecture project located in San Francisco, California, designed by Edmonds + Lee Architects. A loft-style flipped-plan rhythmically-organized house designed by the architects for their own family, this budget-sensitive human-scaled project wove together the architects’ deep knowledge of San Francisco’s urban context and codes with their crisp and clear material and architectural aesthetic.
The designers, who have two children, needed (at least) three bedrooms and enough living space for their family to feel perfectly situated: close enough that their now-youngish children didn’t have to be sidelined into a basement or attic, but ultimately spacious enough that as they do grow up, they can become independent – from each other, and from their parents.
Working as not only their own clients but also their own budget-sensitive developers, the architects were able to avoid the typical market-driven pressure of maximizing square feet and instead focus on qualitative issues. As a result, they were able to work creatively—by flipping the plan to place the living room on the top floor and bedrooms on the lower level— to bring to life the feeling of loft-style living that they wanted, without giving up the intimate neighborhood feel of their immediate surroundings or the connection to San Francisco’s vibrant streets.
Their familiarity with common architectural constraints led to innovative cost-sensitive solutions: the guardrails are simple drywall, the stair is painted steel, and much of the house’s detailing made creative use of everyday materials. The facade is built from a rhythmic display of pre-manufactured trim boards; the sinks are molded Corian; and the architects undertook the ultimate Ikea Hack: measuring the standard size of the big-box retailer’s shelving, and building closet spaces to fit to the centimeter.
Photography by Joe Fletcher Photography