Renovating Historic Firehouse for Family of Four


Remodeling a Converted Firehouse

What better place to raise two active sons than an historic San Francisco firehouse? That’s what our clients were thinking when they moved into this 1890 vintage firehouse that was converted for residential use in 1963. Since then, local figures including interior designer John Dickerson and former Governor Jerry Brown have called this firehouse home. The problem? The living quarters were designed for two – not a growing family of four – and the outdoor living space was a haphazard patchwork of failing structures.

Aleck Wilson Architects brought smart answers to each of these problems, and we carried out the design with craftsmanship that matches the Victorian building’s original grandeur.

The Existing Structure

When the firehouse was first converted, a wall separated the large engine room from the bedroom and bath. The back of the house had small windows overlooking a sunken concrete courtyard that led to an exterior staircase – all of which was near falling apart.

Rec Room for Kids Play and Entertaining Guests

2 rec room remodel

To make the most of the downstairs level, we tore out the wall between the engine room and bedrooms to create a connection from the front door all the way to the back façade. The front room has new woodwork, crafted in keeping with the original bead board paneling that extends from wall to ceiling. The new woodwork blends so well with the original paneling that one can hardly tell it’s been remodeled.

Small Addition to Make Room for Two Boys’ Rooms

hallway remodel before after v2


We also carved a laundry room from part of the engine room, while building a small addition to the back of the house for a second downstairs bedroom. The highlights of the two boys’ rooms are floor-to-ceiling aluminum Fleetwood windows overlooking a stone courtyard and garden wall.


6 floor to ceiling steel windows

courtyard v5

For two active boys with a wide variety of interests including baseball, music, and reading, the bedroom design needed to incorporate diligent built-in storage solutions.


4 boys room remodel


We crafted custom storage for each room including cabinet-enclosed laundry hampers, hanging racks and drawers; and the larger bedroom features a built-in desk and shelving unit.


5 boys room custom storage

Modernizing the Outdoor Living Space

The most dramatic changes to the home came on the upstairs deck connecting to the second and third floors.


10 steel wood staircase remodel


The existing courtyard, deck, fence and exterior staircase were miserable to look at and difficult to navigate from the interior living spaces. The homeowners wanted a backyard that was fit for entertaining guests and giving the boys an outdoor play area, all the while preserving the back façade’s classic Victorian style.


11 blue stone patio renovation


Thoughtful on-site planning helped us carry out Aleck Wilson’s design intent while balancing durable materials and beautiful finishes for a blue stone patio, cedar privacy fence, and ipe stairs with galvanized metal railings.


Cedar privacy fence galvanized steel railings


“Our biggest challenge was to make the backyard feel contemporary while integrating it with the rest of the building,” says Jeff King. “The cedar fences really make an architectural statement. They modernize the whole backyard area while complimenting the façade’s classic period look.”


rear facade remodel before after


In addition to remodeling the indoor and outdoor living spaces, we also redefined the home’s infrastructure including a new electrical system, new radiant heating and high efficiency hot water delivery.


8 steel window remodel


See progress shots and find out more about the history of Engine Co. No. 23 here.

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  • Latest Comments

    • western
      3 years ago - Reply

      Jeff, the galvanized railing with the IPE fence and stairs look great. Do you know the dimension of the steel bars that make up the railing (both the posts and the slats)? Thanks!

      • Jeff King & Co
        3 years ago - Reply

        Andy, the posts are 1 1/2” and the slats are 1/2” in diameter. Hope this helps!

    • steve dells
      3 years ago - Reply

      Jeff What did it take to convert the firehouse into a residential building? Does it require the planning commission approval? thanks for any insight Steve Dells

      • Jeff King & Co
        3 years ago - Reply

        Steve, this building was converted in 1963. One would definitely have to apply to a municipal planning board for approval to do this conversion today.

    • Terry
      3 years ago - Reply

      Wow, I always loved this house from the outside, and your work is so artistic!

      • Jeff King & Co
        3 years ago - Reply

        Terry, thanks for checking it out. We always strive to bring a sense of art to our remodels!

    • Stephanie Peek
      3 years ago - Reply

      Bravo Jeff! I have always loved The Firehouse. Remember going through when John Dickenson ? owned it in the 70s. Your work is exquisite!

      • Jeff King & Co
        3 years ago - Reply

        Thanks Stephanie! Yes you’re right, John Dickerson lived there for a period.

    • Stephanie Peek
      3 years ago - Reply

      Jeff, Bravo! I have always loved The Firehouse, went through in the 70s I think when John Dickenson?owned it. Your work looks exquisite!