Haight Street, USA

2012-12-06 17.04.21World famous, Haight Street, is in my backyard. Well practically, a short bus ride over the hill and I’m there. Unlike my neighborhood, homes in the Haight come straight out of the collective imaginations of everyone who thinks about what a San Francisco home looks like.

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They’re tall and stately, beautifully painted with a lot of unique, painstakingly painted detail. It’s impossible to imagine anyone building houses like these today however, there are plenty of ideas that can be lifted, updated and applied to any home that could use a little kick in its ho-hum face (if you know what I mean and if you don’t see previous posts concerning feng shui and home faces).

An unflinching dedication to detail is what sets these homes apart from the rest. Having lived in San Francisco since the early 80s, I fail to notice all the attention given to the smallest detail that can’t be ignored in the photographs I’ve taken. Take a look at the photo above. Do you see how the thin stripes on the pillars flanking the door have been painted? Who has time for that these days? Nonetheless, it’s this sort of painterly treatment that kicks up the overall impression of this home. Imagine for a moment if instead of those thinly painted lines, the entire pillar was simply white. That small change would visually subtract from entry and call negative attention to itself. It would stand out and give the impression that the house was incomplete.

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This small home took me by surprise. Here the contrast of light and dark, finished and raw work great together and love being surprised. Normally, I dislike looking at a home and seeing a garage but in this case, I don’t seem to mind it so much and I think it has to do with the element of surprise. To find a small home nestled in between two, much larger structures, is a delight that transcends the truth of what I’m seeing, a door and a garage.

I know I said this before and it’s true, the more I look, the more I see all the details that start popping up all over the place. Look at these examples of detailing.

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You rarely ever see such attention to  this kind of exterior decoration anymore. Its as if houses were a kind of confection to live in. Sweet and beautiful, deliciously created with the intention that nothing bad would or could ever happen inside. A storybook house that always had a happy ending. And why shouldn’t one think of their home that way? A home is a refuge from the world. Some call it a castle and for the 1%, it probably is but for these homes in the Haight, I view them as pathways to fantasy for they can’t help but tickle my imagination. Who is sandwiched between two points on high? There must be a story somewhere about it. You can see, as I do, the invitation it presents to create a story about it.

When people think of San Francisco, after the bridge and the cable cars, their ideas eventually come to Haight Street. The home of the 60s, where peace, love and rock and roll took root. It’s a place where young hipsters come to connect face to face and where aged hippies live, shop and connect. There’s a lot of history here, real and imagined, and all of those memories get somehow painted on the houses.

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Below are some houses that have taken advantage of unique color opportunities.

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Their colors inspire me to push my ideas of what’s acceptable, what’s possible and what’s unique. Every house has the opportunity to express its individualism the trick is for the homeowner to find it. Sometimes what’s most obvious is what’s most hidden.

A simple stripe along the wood, a painted square, rectangle or triangle. Outlines, frames, stairs, sills, motifs they’re all up for grabs and they don’t have to look garish or outlandish. Whatever makes you happy that’s the direction you should head. And if a white house is what rings your bell the loudest, then white on!

For me, it’s all about colors. Big, bold, beautiful color that brings out the most in your home. Follow me if you will but set your own course. Be daring, push your envelope. Learn to see, discover what excites you and then copy it! That’s how all the best ideas start; a copy of someone else’s idea.

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Until tomorrow, I remain your design detective,


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2 Responses to Haight Street, USA

  1. summer233 says:

    I want to be there now! 🙂

  2. I love it when I recognize the houses! It’s like an architectural treasure hunt.

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