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.