Anne & Lars Build a House

Chapter 1: Landfall

By this time, you might have heard that we are the new owners of an old property in Sausalito. On the lot is a falling-down cottage of unknown age. Unlike nearly all the houses in this part of town, ours is almost completely obscured by trees. From our current apartment, you can look across Hurricane Gulch to the property's location, but you can't see the house itself:

The house is at point 'A'

After a short trek up a few blocks, you are rewarded with this exceedingly modest facade:

Curb appeal

As you descend from the street into the front yard, the existing house doesn't look so bad. It has some Old Sausalito charm:

Main entry

But as you take a closer look, it's a different story. There is no foundation, and the rear wall hangs in mid-air, causing the floor to dip over a foot within a six-foot span. Exterior stairs have disintegrated, huge swaths of shingles are missing, and the house is open to the weather in all sorts of ways. Structural, siding, electrical, and plumbing systems are all far short of modern standards. Our realtor, architect, and builder strongly & unanimously recommend replacement over renovation. We agree.

Rear wall - exterior

So why did we buy this near-wreck of a house on a steep hill in earthquake country? Well, in the photo above, you can see a glassed-in porch and an attic dormer. From the inside, here are those same windows:

Glassed-in porch below, attic dormer above

Adventurous types can hoist themselves past the last few missing attic steps and peek out the attic dormer, which is the one place on the property from which you can start to appreciate its secret attraction:

North Beach and the Bay Bridge from attic window

It is this view that we aim to access and make part of our daily lives. There is the potential for a sweeping panorama to the east across San Francisco Bay, encompassing San Francisco's North Beach, the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, Alcatraz Island, Oakland, Berkeley, Angel Island, and possibly a bit of Tiburon -- and of course the ever-changing parade of ships large & small that enliven this hard-working harbor.

We plan to demolish this house, salvage what we can, and replace it with a new dwelling. This blog will chronicle that process. Join us for the highs and lows.