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Small never lived so large as in this 840 sq. ft. luxury cottage. Tucked away mid-block on an alley bordering San Francisco’s Mission and Noe Valley neighborhoods, this project was commissioned by Flora Grubb to be near her original garden nursery. An adaptive reuse remodel, the choice to work with the existing modest structure was intentional—even though zoning allowed for much more—to minimize waste and explore a creative opportunity for smart, small-scale design.

Every square inch of Ames was designed to be a peaceful, elegant and purposeful urban sanctuary. The super efficient living spaces have an indoor/outdoor feel with copious natural light from new windows and skylights, while ensuring privacy and retaining the open feel from the building’s original use as Betty Mae's School of Tap in the 1940's.

The home’s open interior is anchored by a full-height partition wall clad with re-purposed Douglas fir—with flush-mounted fireplace and skylight on the living room side, and built-in cabinetry and closet on the master bedroom side. The simple kitchen and bath feature FSC-certified cherry cabinetry with flush doors, and plaster walls that run uninterrupted out to the patio with its espalier garden and custom cast-in-place, concrete soaking tub. A redwood-trimmed, wall-mounted ladder leads from the patio to the roof deck and its container garden oasis.

This project offered the opportunity to experiment with new and re-imagined materials, collaborating with the builder as he crafted everything by hand. It became the foundation for two our longest relationships—with Flora Grubb, leading to our design of Flora Grubb Gardens, and with Kevin Smith, with whom we’ve built a number of projects including three Sightglass cafés.


Flora Grubb

BBA Team

Bonnie Bridges

Seth Boor


840 SF


Kevin Smith


Plants: Flora Grubb Gardens


Studio BBA

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