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Monica Sanga Cleverly Bridges Past and Present in Her San Francisco Home

In a city of hills, it’s all about the views. That’s certainly how architect Monica Sanga approached her recent redesign of the 1886 Victorian house in San Francisco that she shares with her husband, software engineer Arjun Banker. From the street, the home appears to be a one-story cottage atop a bluff. But inside, original doors open onto three levels of terraces, with panoramic vistas of the city and the East Bay.

“It just feels like this little antechamber that takes you to another world,” says Sanga, who founded her own firm in 2017 after cutting her teeth at Snøhetta and Spiegel Aihara Workshop. Banker and Sanga purchased the home four years ago, living in it for a year before embarking on a renovation to emphasize the surrounding natural beauty. The goal was to balance its historic layout with the needs of contemporary living, incorporating technology and enhancing that quintessentially Californian indoor-outdoor feel.

The storage unit forms a room divider.

The storage unit forms a room divider.

Art: Jon McNeal

Sanga’s biggest changes to the interiors are in the common spaces. The kitchen, once totally walled off, now cleverly flows into the living and dining areas, maximizing natural light. A three-sided storage unit serves as a central room divider, with integrated appliances and a coffee bar. (That partition, like the kitchen’s limestone-topped cabinetry, was crafted by Bay Area woodworker Kai Lundgren-Williams, who mixed laminate fronts and black walnut.) Automated window blinds rise at the tap of a phone. In the living area, a cast-iron Jøtul fireplace mingles with a Muuto sectional, setting the stage for family gatherings when the couple’s parents are in town.

A Muuto sectional anchors the living area.

A Muuto sectional anchors the living area.

Art: Jean Nagai.

The residence’s private spaces, meanwhile, were designed with relaxation in mind, taking inspiration from Sanga and Banker’s visits to onsens in Japan. In the primary bath and adjacent dressing room, a black palette—realized in Benjamin Moore’s Black Panther paint and Nero Marquina tile—allows the hickory cabinetry to shine. The couple’s light-filled bedroom opens onto an oasis-like garden created by the local landscape firm Talc Studio. Hanging above the bed is an artwork of Krishna that, family legend has it, was gifted to Sanga’s great-great-grandparents by an Indian maharaja.

Throughout the home (which includes a top-level apartment with its own balcony) historic detailing has been maintained but often pared back, a necessary negotiation in an old house. Says Sanga, “We wanted to respect what is there but also not be too timid about making it work for our modern life.” The terrace doors, however, felt too integral to lose. “With an accordion door, we’d get more of the view,” she explains, “but for us, it was more about the marriage of historic and contemporary.”

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