A Native Approach
BY JOSEPH LUCIER
Year after year the ubiquitous orange and white signs of Sutro Architects dot San Francisco’s highly sought residences. As a native son, Stephen Sutro embodies the elegance, longevity, and quiet pride that San Francisco is known for the world over. Sutro’s constant stream of well-heeled clients enjoy his soft business touch, creative design solutions, and his all-important understanding of the dance between San Francisco building codes and the perfect home. A look inside Sutro Architects downtown offices reveal a passionate man who looks after the heart of the city with his careful stewardship of our picturesque residential neighborhoods.
Joseph Lucier: Being a native San Franciscan, how does your connection to the City inspire the work you do in town every day?
Stephen Sutro: Its great to see some neighborhoods that are changing dramatically and others that change subtly with small improvements.
JL: Before starting your own firm, you worked with local classical architecture firm. Do you still incorporate the principles of classical proportion and scale in your current designs?
SS: Of course. Understanding fundamentals of proportion is important, no matter what the style.
JL: You have just acquired a building downtown next door to Jay Jeffers atelier on Post Street. What are your plans for the look and feel of Sutro Architects offices?
SS: We are transforming an auto body repair shop into a light-filled open architecture work space. We’re lucky to have lots of light and southern exposure. We are maintaining the beaux arts facade and use the large, previously auto-entrance as a large steel and glass pedestrian entrance. Its exciting!
"I’m currently interested in exterior materials with aesthetic and functional durability - natural materials that can be used with contemporary or traditional detailing."
JL: Many of the homes my residential real estate colleagues and I sell go through complete gut renovations. With these types of blank canvases, how do you guide homeowners through the process of creating a new home?
SS: We help clients define their goals, understand the opportunity and challenges each property presents and create an action plan to bring it to fruition.
JL: Do you have a particular look or do you try to stay away from a formulaic approach?
SS: I think the context of the project and goals of the clients are the most important. A condo in a contemporary high rise or a new home in the city is a perfect context for a contemporary design. Working in the context of a early 20th century house with similar structures adjacent, would suggest an approach of keeping the details in tact while creating a more fresh plan and juxtaposing more contemporary materials and details.
JL: What is it about your profession that you love?
SS: The creativity!
JL: Are you working on any “ground up” projects?
SS: Quite a few… some in town and some in the country.
"Its always fun to learn about a particular function or interest in a project, or work with different climates and environments."
JL: What materials are you most enjoying integrating in your current interior/exterior designs?
SS: I’m currently interested in exterior materials with aesthetic and functional durability. For me, this means brick, stone, metal - natural materials that can be used with contemporary or traditional detailing.
JL: Do you have a dream project that you would like to have someday?
SS: Its always fun to learn about a particular function or interest in a project, or work with different climates and environments. We’ve completed a fly fishing guest ranch in Montana, which was awesome. We also have worked on some hospitality projects, which are super interesting and new. It would be fun to work on a horse ranch, beach house in Hawaii or mountain house or lodge.
JL: Favorite travel destinations (past and future)?
SS: Argentina has been a highlight — both for fishing and architecture. I’m looking forward to going to Japan.
JL: What are you reading?
SS: Mostly historical fiction.