Steelhouse – Two Unit Property Designed, Developed and Built by Zack/de Vito

Published on June 6, 2017 | by Archipreneur
Steelhouse1: a new, ground-up three story home built at the front of the lot.
Steelhouse1: a new, ground-up three story home built at the front of the lot. © Bruce Damonte
Welcome to our projects series where we present benchmarks of urban living – self developed by architects and creative city makers. This week we want to present to you Steelhouse 1+2, designed, developed and built in-house by San Francisco based Zack/de Vito.

We recently spoke with Jim Zack, founder of Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction, an expert in design/build development. His practice’s projects cover residential, restaurants and small commercial sites, but also takes on their own residential developments.

But vacant parcels of land that offer a clean slate for development are rarely available in San Francisco. Committed to finding opportunities to design and build in one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city, the development team of Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction have proven that vision and creativity can address this challenge.

Inspired by a standard city RH-2 parcel with a modest cottage positioned at the back of the lot on the popular Church Street corridor, the development team recognized the potential. While lot coverage of this sort cannot be created on vacant land, this existing dwelling was ripe for change. The large flat front yard offered a footprint for a new structure. And by working imaginatively within the envelope of the existing structure, the designers could create two urban homes in the heart of the City.

In 2014 the team unveiled two of the most innovative modern dwelling designs in San Francisco. Two unique, freestanding condominiums share a single lot while maintaining their individual architectural identity. Maximizing the function of a 7.6-m/25-foot wide lot, both homes are accessed from a common courtyard, a deviation from the traditional street-front entry. The unapologetic modern design is planned for maximum spatial efficiency with unsurpassed attention to detail and craft, expressing handmade quality at every turn.


Steelhouse1 as seen from the shared courtyard.
Steelhouse1 as seen from the shared courtyard. © Bruce Damonte

Occupying the front of the lot, a new, ground-up townhouse, with an impressive modern façade, stands out from the more traditional buildings along this urban corridor. Clad with Corten steel, fiber cement siding and stucco, this building encompasses two full floors of light-filled living space accommodating three bedrooms and two full baths.

© Bruce Damonte
© Bruce Damonte
© Bruce Damonte

The dramatic open floor plan is enhanced by clean lines and sophisticated modern finishes, including industrial structural steel complimented by warm oiled-oak floors and custom walnut cabinetry. The master bedroom boasts a private roof deck illuminated by its desirable western exposure. The ground floor includes one car parking and a private office space, nicely isolated from the main living levels.

Steelhouse1 interior, development by Zack/de Vito Architecture
© Bruce Damonte


Steelhouse2: an extensively remodeled two story home set deep on the sunny lot.
Steelhouse2: an extensively remodeled two story home set deep on the sunny lot. © Bruce Damonte

Occupying the back of the lot, the fully renovated, two-story structure has been transformed to fit perfectly into this modern context. This building also encompasses two full floors of living space, with the entertaining spaces positioned at the top level.  The open floor plan is enhanced by extraordinary light with modern steel and wood details that visually connect the two floors.

© Bruce Damonte
© Bruce Damonte

This building accommodates two bedrooms and two full baths on the lower floor, with a third bedroom with en-suite bath at the upper, main living level. A private south-west-facing deck is directly accessed from both the kitchen and the upper bedroom at this level. Finishes include walnut stairs, oiled-oak flooring, custom rift-cut white oak cabinetry, and composite quartz counter-tops. One car parking is provided for this unit in the front building.

© Bruce Damonte

Both buildings incorporate green design which includes radiant floor heating that is zoned for efficiency; state-of-the-art thermal-rated windows; material selections that are driven by sustainability; and mechanical and structural systems that are ‘solar ready’.  The two modern buildings live like single-family homes, while offering a unique opportunity for an extended family or single owner to enjoy the entire compound.

The shared garden in-between the houses.
The shared garden in-between the houses. © Bruce Damonte


Church Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Project Data:

  • Architect: Zack/de Vito Architecture
  • Architects team: Jim Zack, Lise de Vito
  • Client: Zack/de Vito Architecture
  • Structural engineer: Don David
  • Planning/Construction: 2012 – 2014
  • Residential units: 2
  • Storeys: 2 and 3
  • Parkings: 2, one for each house
  • Floor area of the lot: 232 sqm (2,500 SF)
  • Net saleable/rentable area: House 1: 270 sqm (2,900 SF), House 2: 167 sqm (1,800 SF)

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