Craig O'Connell Architecture

Studio Updates


Lower Pac Heights Victorian Home Receives a Modern Makeover with Whimsicality


When it comes to San Francisco home remodels, there’s an element of history that should be honored. That’s why Craig excitedly took on a three-story single-family unit home remodel two years ago, finished this December, where he could honor the intrinsic Victorian style while breathing fresh, modern life into the home.

“The scope of work was exciting to me – this was a substantial project. I got a sense of the owners, Alyson and Scott’s unique style, and they were fun to collaborate with,” says Craig. He says their openness; unique style and willingness to go against the “norm” really resonated.

 “Alyson and Scott really wanted their home to be cool and unique despite this, admitting they didn’t want their house to look like everybody else’s. That can be rare these days, and I found it refreshing.”

“The word ‘whimsical’ comes into play – Alyson picked out some really cool wallpaper patterns for the space, and when given a choice of design direction, she’d pick something with a bit more character and something that had its own personality. To be honest, I find that some people are more concerned with what everyone else is thinking or what the resale value might be. Alyson and Scott really wanted their home to be cool and unique despite this, admitting they didn’t want their house to look like everybody else’s. That can be rare these days, and I found it refreshing.”


It starts with a questionnaire

From blueprint to finished project, there are many steps involved in a total home remodel, especially for a down-to-the-studs three-story renovation. Craig first begins with a questionnaire he sends to all of his clients, asking things such as: their favorite color, artists that they love, childhood spaces that they liked, etc. “I got really inspired because Alyson and Scott had intriguing answers,” he says.  When Craig receives the questionnaire, he writes down key words, verbs and things that pop out to help him when he goes into design mode.

“I really love the schematic design phase, which is the early process of me coming up with a floor plan with all of the elements that the owners want in there – it involves a lot of colored pencils, markers and tape.” Craig and the owners then go back and forth to fine-tune what will become the new design.

And then the hammer swings

“The true fun begins after you get the building permit and the hammer starts swinging,” says Craig. “When you’re out in the field and things start to open up, it gets interesting. In this case, it was an old San Francisco home, so there were existing conditions that were surprising – it’s how you re-calibrate and adjust and solve problems with keeping the design intent, with the road map in hand.”

As far as design, Craig kept a lot of Victorian detailing, but updated the kitchen, for example. The details around the kitchen were unique and industrial: black tube steel and wire glass skylight above the stairwell and a beautiful arch opening into the kitchen that matches the casing detail around the old Victorian house – a way to pay homage to what was.

Throughout the process, Craig was able to show Alyson and Scott 3D views of the home with hi-resolution renderings. The couple was renting a spot nearby, so they were able to visit the site regularly, if not daily.


“Getting to the finish line on this was tremendous and part of what I love about what I do is seeing people get so excited about moving in. It makes all the challenging parts of the job worth it. I love hearing about their first couple of months in the space and how much they love it.”

Stay tuned for more pictures and stories of the kids’ rooms, lofted reading nooks and renovated ‘man cave’ in a future article.   

 And to follow Craig’s work throughout the Bay Area, follow @craigoconnellarchitecture on Instagram.


Photos: Helynn Ospina

General contractor: Matt Wadlington

Custom concrete: [RE] Union Creative

Custom cabinets: Cabinetsnmore

Custom steel door: Jada

Brittany NelsonComment