Modernity in Hyde Street shack

In 1989, a couple surnamed Godry took a look at a “shed/carriage house/shack” belonging to a set of cottage row houses on Hyde Street and imagined it might be rebuilt as a home.

Architect Mark Horton looked at it and saw a foundation and a canvas for his modern vision.

“It was a couple who didn’t have kids, and who didn’t want to have kids and who wanted to live in The City,” Horton said. “It’s not a family-friendly house … it’s on an incredibly steep hill.”

While not young-child-friendly, the three-level abode is interesting. Horton was able to play with the site, its legal height limits and existing footprint by using a variety of cunning architectural techniquesto make spaces seem bigger, created a second story and provide extra views.

“I’m neither a craftsman or a Victorian,” Horton said, explaining his need for cleaner lines throughout his career. “It’s certainly a very urban house … not appropriate on a street in Walnut Creek. It’s not that hard to imagine this space being replicated six, eight, 10 times … it has the rigor and strength that an urban building requires.”

For example, he used the Frank Lloyd Wright technique of “compression and expansion,” giving the kitchen, hallway and bathrooms low ceilings to allow for more space on other floors, while avoiding an oppressive atmosphere by situating those rooms between areas with high ceilings.

“The high ceilings seem even higher, even though they may not be particularly high,” Horton said.

The eye puzzles extend to the mismatched front windows. A bay window with 36 panes pops out, while a recessed window with four panes retreats. Both are the same size, Horton said. That bay window has water views the house wouldn’t have had with a flat window, he said.

The room behind the windows serves two purposes, with one end working as a living room and the other end as a dining room.

Other details include an ornamental steel cornice atop the house and an interior spiral stair of perforated steel.

Horton designed the house after just two years of having his own firm, Mark Horton/Architecture. He said his initial design surprised the Godrys, but they signed on to it.

“I don’t think they expected to get architecture,” Horton said. “Most people aren’t trying to do that, just get a nice, habitable space.”

Where: San Francisco

Asking price: $1.825 million · Property tax: $23,725*

What: 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 1,900 square feet

Amenities: Wood-burning fireplace, greenery views, off-street entrance, large garage, extra fireplace in upper bedroom, frosted glass north wall.

Agent: David Parry, McGuire Real Estate, (415) 351-4611,; sale is pending.

*Estimate based on 1.3% of asking price.

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