In Prohibition-era San Francisco, bootleggers routed their liquor to speakeasies via tunnels underneath Barbary Coast, the city’s once-thriving red-light district. One of those passages led to the basement of 560 Pacific Avenue, a 1910 timber-frame structure that began its life as a supper club, saloon, and dance hall (and later served as a showroom and warehouse for the Amtico flooring company). Today that tunnel, long since sealed off, lies beneath the more rule-abiding neighborhood of Jackson Square, where spiffy law firms, antiques dealers, and ad agencies make their money in the daylight hours.

The latest renovation of 560 Pacific, by the San Francisco–based practice Huntsman Architectural Group, is an understated bookend to the block’s boisterous history. In January 2012 the creative branding agency Tolleson left a diminutive office a few blocks away and moved into the building’s top floor, tripling their original space. Principal and creative director Steve Tolleson selected the address, whose airy interior is dominated by an exposed-timber roof structure, in part for its unvarnished atmosphere—a favorite quality of his former office, also in a wood-and-masonry building, which the Huntsman group had adapted in 1998. “Once you go into a brick-and-timber building, it becomes part of your culture,” says Tolleson. “There’s a warmth to it.”

Notably for the Bay Area, where “creative” is frequently conflated with “playful,” the Huntsman team makes the case for subtlety and restraint. When the architects began the project in the summer of 2011, they envisioned a quiet renovation that would call attention to the existing structure and would serve as an elegant backdrop to a few elements of color in the furnishings and artwork.

First, though, they had to rekindle the warmth of all that timber and brick. A prior renovation had hidden the natural finishes beneath layers of white paint. The owner-developer, Birmingham Development, set about restoring the shell while the Huntsman team began construction on an 11,000-square-foot office with a new loft level. Birmingham bead-blasted the wood and brick, added steel crossbracing for seismic support, and removed a central portion of the timber structure to make way for the new top floor. The architects extended the loft several feet beyond what Birmingham’s original plan mandated to accommodate a private office upstairs for Steve Tolleson and a conference room underneath. A new skylit stair with a simple railing of steel and metal mesh connects the two levels.

The designers further carved up the ground floor by inserting walls to close off a video-editing suite, photography studio, and private meeting room, but they kept the timber visible throughout. Instead of adding dropped ceilings to conceal ductwork and messy remnants of the roof structure, they worked with Birmingham to route HVAC conduits away from visual focal points, and painted cluttered portions of the ceiling white. The goal, says Huntsman principal Bill Puetz, wasn’t to hide the building’s guts but to incorporate them in a graceful way, while leaving the ceilings as high as possible.

In keeping with the raw look of the exposed timber, the architects opted for reclaimed barn wood for much of the flooring, as well as for a pair of double-height accent walls bracketing the conference room. “The concept was, ‘What would have been here if it had never been torn out?’ ” says Puetz.

To boost the longevity of the design, the Huntsman team kept the finishes relatively quiet and concentrated the color and pizzazz in the furnishings, which can be changed at any point to freshen the interior. In the kitchen, green and blue molded-plastic Eames chairs pop against the white stone countertops and walnut cabinets. And at the office’s entrance, a lounge with low-slung blue sofas and a library stocked with a color-coded rainbow of books plays off the conference room’s white-lacquered millwork doors. With a light touch, the architects have given the old dance hall-turned-warehouse a modern polish, even as they turned back the clock.

Lamar Anderson is a San Francisco–based writer and a contributing editor at RECORD.

Size: 11,000 square feet

Cost: withheld

Completion date: January 2012

Huntsman Architectural Group
50 California Street, Seventh Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel 415.394.1212
Fax 415.394.1222



Huntsman Architectural Group
50 California Street, Seventh Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel 415.394.1212
Fax 415.394.1222

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Bill Puetz, CID LEED AP ' Principal-in-Charge
Alison Woolf, LEED AP ' Project Designer
Gregory Dumont, LEED AP ' Project Architect
Elise Beaty, LEED AP - Designer

Architect of record:
Huntsman Architectural Group

Building architect:
Christiaan Maarse, Principal-in-Charge ' Studio TMT

Interior designer:
Huntsman Architectural Group

Lighting: ALR

Design Workshops (millwork design and fabrication)
Laura Guido-Clark Design (color, material, and finish consultant)
Coalesse (furniture manufacturer)
One Workplace (furniture dealer)

General contractor:
Birmingham Development (developer/design-build contractor)

David Wakely, David Wakely Photography

CAD system, project management, or other software used:



Metal doors:
Custom millwork by Design Workshops

Wood doors:
Custom millwork by Design Workshops

Sliding doors:
Custom millwork by Design Workshops

Closers: Special order by DORMA

Pulls: Custom by Design Workshops

Interior finishes
Custom by Design Workshops

Custom millwork by Design Workshops

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore

Reclaimed flooring applied to walls (reclaimed barn siding) by Restoration Timber

Plastic laminate: Formica

Solid surfacing: Caeserstone

Special surfacing:
Marble (Mystic White); magnetic back painted glass by Pulp Studios
Reclaimed Wood Flooring: Restoration Timber (reclaimed barn siding)

Floor and wall tile (cite where used):
Kitchen Backsplash Tile: Heath Ceramics; Caeserstone

Resilient flooring:
Kitchen Flooring: Capri Cork
Studio Flooring (storage, photo studio, and editing room): Marmoleum by Forbo

Carpet: Full Volume by Tandus

Private Office
Carpet: Full Volume by Tandus

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Blinds: Blinds & Designs

Sofas: Visalia Lounge by Coalesse (des. by Coalesse Design Studio)
Upholstery: Divina Melange by Kvadrat
Lounge Chairs: CH25 Paddle Chairs by Carl Hansen & S'n (des. by Hans Wegner)
Coffee Table: CG_1 Table by Coalesse (des. by Cory Grosser) in Natural Walnut
Reading Chairs: SW_1 Lounge Chair by Coalesse (des. by Scott Wilson & MINIMAL)
Upholstery: Remix by Kvadrat
Reading Chairs: Bob Chair by Coalesse (des. by PearsonLloyd)
Upholstery: Hallingdal by Kvadrat
Reading Table: SW_1 Table by Coalesse (des. by Scott Wilson & MINIMAL)

Conference Room
Conference Chairs: SW_1 Guest Chair (des. by Scott Wilson & MINIMAL)
Upholstery: Remix by Kvadrat
Conference Table: SW_1 Conference Table (des. by Scott Wilson & MINIMAL)

Reception Desk: custom by Design Workshops
Table: Eames Walnut Stool by Herman Miller
Guest Chairs: PK22 Lounge Chair (des. by Poul Kjaerholm)

Workstations: Topo by Coalesse (des. by Metro Design Group) in Natural Walnut
Task Chairs: Allsteel Acuity
Bar Stool: Enea Lottus Sled Stool by Coalesse (des. by Lievore Altherr Molina)
Upholstery: Leather by Elmo

Dining Table: Big Sur Natural by Crate & Barrel
Chairs: Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair (DSR) by Herman Miller
Barstools: Last Minute Stool by Coalesse (des. by Patricia Urquiola)

War Room
Conference Table: Denizen Table by Coalesse (des. by Jess Sorel & Otto Williams) with Corian top
Chairs: Eames Molded Plywood Lounge (LCW) by Herman Miller

Mezzanine Lounge
Tables ' Sebastopol Tables by Coalesse (des. by Emilia Borgthorsdottir)
Sofa: Millbrae Contract Lounge by Coalesse (des. by Coalesse Design Studio)
Upholstery: Divina Melange by Kvardrat
Lounge Chair: Airport Chair by Carl Hansen & S'n (des. by Hans Wegner)
Upholstery: Steelcut Trio by Kvardrat
Cubes: Trees Tables by Coalesse (des. by Norman Diekman)

Private Office
Lounge Chair: Eames Lounge and Ottoman by Herman Miller

Interior ambient lighting:
Lighting: Motherlamp by Lampa

Wall-mounted Lighting: MLR SideKick by Vode
Pendant Lighting: Limburg by BEGA (fluorescent)

War Room
Pendant Lighting: Beat Lights by Tom Dixon (halogen)

Lighting: Rony Spot by Bruck

Lamp: Skygarden by FLOS (des. by Marcel Wanders)

Wall-mounted Lighting: MLR SideKick by Vode
Recessed Lighting: Stripe (STRP31 & STRP32) by Linear Lighting (fluorescent)

Task lighting:
Studio Task Lights: AJ Table Lamp by George Nelson (YLighting)

Dimming System or other lighting controls:


Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Rex Ray, Barry McGee, Jeff Soto, Blaine Fontana