Some years ago, San Francisco architect John Maniscalco came across one of those opportunities that demand a certain stamina: an aging two-story house was available for a relative bargain price but required lengthy negotiations with the city’s historic-preservation board in order to overhaul. But its location—directly bordering the national parklands of the Presidio—was ideal for his family’s vision of “a country house in the city,” as he describes it. Indeed, the resulting 5,400-square-foot residence emphasizes connection to the outdoors to a degree that would be notable even in a rural setting.

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To take advantage of the expansive views, the architect flipped the floor plan, putting the bedrooms on the ground floor and moving the common spaces up to the second level. The kitchen, which functions as both the light core and the spatial core of the house, opens to the sky above with its 24-by-12-foot glass ceiling. A 17-foot-long kitchen island, with a prep sink at one end and casual seating for six at the other, defines the space. A separate counter with a large sink and double dishwasher overlooks the rear garden, providing an intimate view of lush greenery.

Because the kitchen is open, and flows into the living room, the architect chose finishes that were appropriately muted. A backsplash of Calacatta Vagli lends a natural tone to the space. The pale gray countertops are polished fiber-reinforced concrete and elegantly taper to a ½-inch edge. Custom cabinetry has fronts of white back-painted glass with softly etched surfaces, which are echoed by ovens with white glass fascia. Inspired by his MacBook’s casing, Maniscalco chose brushed aluminum trim in lieu of stainless steel for a quieter, less reflective appearance. “If you squint, the entire palette melds together,” he says.

On the ground level below is a spa-like, all-white master bath, which, like the kitchen, is illuminated by a skylight, this one over the shower and freestanding solid-surface tub. A large glass pivot door opens to the adjacent garden, rendering an arrangement close in feeling to an outdoor shower. Walls here are clad in tiny honeycomb tile with a raised pattern, which sparkles in the early morning light. To create yet another connection between the indoors and outside, a drainage strip around the perimeter of the shower and bath area is filled with the same white rocks used in the landscaping outside. The vanity with integrated sink and the flooring are all made from white engineered quartz, imbuing the room with a sense of seamless purity. “I wanted it to be minimal and extremely serene,” says Maniscalco.



John Maniscalco Architecture


Holmes Culley (structural)

General Contractor: 

Dromhus General Contractors



Hiram Banks Lighting Design


John Maniscalco and Mary Tesluk


5,400 square feet



Completion date:

February 2014




Sozo Studio (kitchen and bathroom)

Dimming system 



Dynamic Windows and Doors

Hardwood floors



Aion (interior);

BK Lighting (exterior);

Lucifer and iGuzzini (downlights)

Paints and stains

Benjamin Moore


Lane-Aire Manufacturing

Wall tile 

Mutina Italia