At Home: Natural light enlivens Potrero Hill flat 

One window can open up all sorts of possibilities.

When Terri McFarland decided to bring more natural light into the kitchen of her Potrero Hill attic flat, the project blossomed into a full renovation.

Construction in the one-bedroom apartment took around 10 months, including navigating the city planning process to get permits for the renovation of the old and winding internal staircase.

“It was obviously just an attic — it was never made as a unit,” McFarland said of the original floor plan.

Much of the renovation involved opening up unused space. The original dropped ceiling was lifted to allow a peaked ceiling to run through the house. Opening up a dormer doubled the size of the bathroom.

Now the flat is filled with light — and art and furnishings that bring reminders of friends and family into the home.

“Pretty much everything I have is given to me by somebody,” McFarland explained. That includes pieces from her grandparents’ mahogany set, which are also replicated in miniature in a dollhouse made by her grandfather that she has saved since childhood.

Friends, such as the architect McFarland worked with, helped with the renovation too.

“I worked with the architect but I also did a lot of it myself. I drew and measured the whole house myself,” said McFarland, who’s a landscape architect and a painter by profession.

“I traded paintings with her for advice,” she added. “I learned so much. It was a whole architecture education.”

Not that McFarland was unacquainted with the century-old house, which includes two additional flats below the attic.

“I actually lived here as a roommate in 1990 ... and two years later my brother bought the house and I moved back in,” she said. Several moves and a decade later, McFarland’s brother sold the house to his sister and moved across town.

With the more expansive windows, the bright, white kitchen takes in rolling views of The City and looks onto a small garden dotted with four fruit trees and a 10-foot-tall maple tree McFarland grew from a seed.

An artist and woodworker friend built the deep, white L-shaped bench that hugs two sides of the room and the windows and is set around a circular dining table.

“At night it’s really cool because you can see the lights,” she said. “You can see the sunset every day of the year from summer to winter.”

Style keys

Favorite piece: Kitchen table — “that’s where friends are”
Favorite color: The soft pale blue of the living room walls
Favorite rooms: Kitchen and bathroom

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Brigid Gaffikin

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