At Home: Architects keep it fun in Bernal Heights design 

Eliza Hart and Stuart Wright have transformed their 1959 Bernal Heights box home from the outside in. Once covered in pink stucco, the facade is now clad in tongue and groove Western Red Cedar.

The couple are architects specializing in residential work, and they brought their love of wood into the home, too.

Hart and Wright did most of the construction themselves over a four-year period, opening up the living and dining areas and the kitchen and removing several interior walls. The floors are a dark stained oak. The open plan is carried through to the lower floor as well, which opens directly onto a backyard sheltered from the elements with a custom-built shed.

“We’re architects who like to experiment a lot and have played around with our own house,” Hart said.

Their downstairs wood shop is an advantage: They built much of the furniture and cabinetry themselves, too.

“The best compliment I ever received on the house was ‘unpretentious,’” Hart said. “We love the idea of having humor and whimsy in there.”

A case in point: a coffee table fitted with a drawer and plexiglass window that can house guinea pigs.

Alongside the open plan are tiny enclosed spaces tailored to fit the couple’s lifestyle. A living room closet is now a built-in music storage unit, and the galley kitchen includes a little hutch and shelf to store kitchen gadgets and recipe books.

Color accents each room and complements the warmth of the wood throughout. A strip of orange fluorescent runs the length of a wall in the living room. Each upstairs bedroom has dimming fluorescent lights at ceiling height — red in one room and purple in the other. The light washes down the wall, and windows glow with color at night, Hart said.

“We like fluorescent lighting for its eco-friendly ways and for the ambient quality — lighting is all about layering,” she explained.

Downstairs, the second bathroom is clad throughout in wood, which lends the room a warm, cosy feel.

“We put a marine grade epoxy on it, so it’s withstood showering pretty well,” Hart explained.

The room is spacious enough to include a hand-poured concrete sink and an expansive mirrored medicine cabinet, which the couple nicknamed “the pharmacy” because of its storage capacity.

“I think a lot of people are intimidated by architects and think that they have these hoity-toity ideas and want to impose on people. We’re not like that; we just have fun,” Hart said.


Eliza Hart and Stuart Wright

Favorite furnishings: Rolling boxes coffee table that opens up to covered seats and book storage with gas spring openings. “I happen to love cars with hatchbacks, and they all use this mechanism,” Hart said.

Favorite architects: John Lautner, Peter Zumthor, Rick Joy

Favorite materials: Among others, Europly — a distinct and durable plywood the couple used for the guardrail bookcase and cabinets, and incorporated in the hand-built dining table.

Favorite outside feature: A planter built into the street-facing facade, filled with native plants and succulents

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Brigid Gaffikin

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