They knew just where to begin: in back, where the Queen Anne's spirits sagged visibly. Indeed, when the house went up in 1896—the first on its block near San Francisco's Presidio—it proudly faced the street while turning its back on an inviting yard. Subsequent owners converted rear porches into rooms with few windows.
"Often, the classic San Francisco house has a disconnection to the garden," says architect Aleck Wilson, who was brought in to help nudge the house into the 21st century. That's especially true, he explains, when the front facade presents two stories and the back three, with the rear exit one level below the front door, as was the case here. A staircase connected the two floors, but it was dark and cramped, and anyone who did step downstairs and out back found the yard consumed not by a garden but by a three-car garage.
Shown: The new kitchen and great room marry 19th-century detail with 21st-century flow and function. An open work area set off by a walnut island was designed to evoke woodwork in the older, formal rooms at the front of the house.