Upstairs, the 10-by-10-foot master bathroom distills the essence of the couple's adventurous tastes. The beige marble wainscoting salvaged from a hallway in San Francisco's Chevron building sets off a pair of century-old, 200-pound janitor's sinks in vitreous china. The bedrooms, by contrast, are clean and spare. "We wanted to keep it simple," Bishop says. Or, says her husband, "Institutional, but not blatant. That's what we're going for."

Throughout the house's 3,400 square feet of living space, tiny but potent halogens spotlight surfaces and fixtures, rather than washing whole rooms with light. "It's a retail-space approach, and it's very dramatic," says Sean O'Connor, who worked with Dvorak on the lighting design. "You get a 'punch' instead of a big, washed-out space." In a Gap store, punch moves turtlenecks. In the house, it creates intimacy in rooms that might otherwise evoke gymnasiums.

Nearly as impressive as Dvorak's design is the structural remediation that supports it. The building—in San Francisco's up-and-coming Eureka Valley neighborhood—presented challenges. The chapel, built just a few months after the city-leveling earthquake of 1906, featured an ungainly two-story addition from the 1940s. As a whole, the structure was "not pretty," Morash says. "It had no yard or garden whatsoever. It had no deck. It was boxy—it sort of loomed out at you."

At the project's start in January, framing contractor J. Gregg spent weeks reinforcing walls and the foundation with galvanized steel straps and bolts to bolster the original chapel building's earthquake resistance. Most worrisome was the union—or lack of one—between the chapel and the addition. "Really, they just sort of leaned against each other," Gregg says. "There was no structural connection at all." It was time for some seismic engineering.

While Gregg and his team implanted $45,000 worth of earthquake-defying steel, general contractor Dan Plummer concentrated on revamping the cavernous interior. He had to. Week after week, he postponed exterior work as El NiƱo cloudbursts pounded the clapboards. "It was a challenge, at times, keeping the whole crew busy inside."

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