AIA SF Home Tours: DIY Exuberance

AIA SF Home Tours: DIY Exuberance

When the budget didn't allow for glass, Interstice Architects resorted to corrugated plastic.

Of the 11 projects on the AIA SF Home Tours this year, the breakout sensation was the house of husband-and-wife design team Andrew Dunbar and Zoee Astrakan, of Interstice Architects (Dunbar is an architect, Astrakan is a landscape designer). There were certainly some lovely, finely detailed projects on the tour, but this particular house was interesting because in lieu of slick modernism, it had a freewheeling, “let’s throw something up and see what sticks” feel to it. (Other design publications agree: the project just appeared in the New York Times). It’s DIY, but on a scale that architects can pull off.

Case in point: the whole back façade of the house is made of corrugated plastic designed for greenhouse roofs. The cheap and cheerful material, which filters light much the same way as does channel glass, came complete with wooden battens with scalloped edges that match the corrugation of the plastic for a tight fit. When Dunbar and Astrakan bought the traditional Victorian ten years ago, they knew they definitely wanted to redo the back, so one of the first things they did was to rip off the whole back wall and install this plastic roofing themselves. “What is the insulation value of the material?” asked one tour-goer. “Minimal,” admitted Dunbar, who then launched into the possibilities of insulating the two layers of plastic with see-through fiberglass.

Elsewhere, the unexpected use of materials and architectural elements keeps popping up. The front of the house has a glass façade made of reclaimed windows laid in an overlapping pattern that is a riff on traditional shingles; the front door is a contemporary version of a homey Dutch door.

A Dutch door and a patchwork of reclaimed windowpanes greet visitors.

The main bathroom, located in the center of the top floor, doubles as an open-air bath: the roof slides open entirely thanks to a mechanized skylight.

With the flick of a switch, the shower becomes an outdoor shower.

“Our one big-budget item,” said Astrakan. “Now it’s probably our favorite room in the house.” “We’re from Canada—we like the outdoors,” said Dunbar.  The design also celebrates living with children: the couple have two young girls whose presence was strongly conveyed through the house’s artwork displays and play areas.

Lime-green magnetic paint was used to create a space for poetic inspiration.