Published on January 18, 2020

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Courtesy of Jeremy Rushton of Coldwell Banker

The Painted Ladies, a row of colorful Queen Anne–style Victorian homes in San Francisco’s Alamo Square, are already a major attraction for tourists (and Full House fans, obviously). Now renovators have a reason to flock to the famous site, too. One of the properties just came up for sale for $2.7 million, but despite its jaw-dropping price tag, the place is in need of a facelift. 

Don’t get us wrong: The 1,700-square-foot home still boasts plenty of old-world charm, like high ceilings, a carved-wood staircase, and stained-glass windows. But when it comes to the dirty floors, tiny bathrooms, and dingy kitchen cabinets, there’s definitely room for improvement. So we asked a handful of architects and designers: What would you do with this house? The possibilities are practically infinite, but one thing is for sure—playing up the good bones (peep the bay window!) is a no-brainer. Here are their ideas.

Keep the Wood—But Go Bold

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Courtesy of Jeremy Rushton of Coldwell Banker

Caitlin Murray, founder and creative director of Black Lacquer Design, wants to play up all the hand-carved trim work. The designer says she would opt for unexpected paint colors (we’re partial to jet black or bright yellow) and high-gloss finishes to give it a modern twist. “An impactful wallpaper print, like a floral or a stripe, would also be a must for me,” she notes. That big blank wall in the dining area, right off the kitchen, is calling her name. 

Bring on the Natural Light

Drew Lang, principal of Lang Architecture, would lean into the historic elements. He’d preserve the facade (“A mainstay of its architectural significance,” he says) but update and expand the rear-facing windows to allow for more sunlight. Another priority: Integrate an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) into the house’s HVAC to create a cost-efficient, environmentally friendly heating and cooling system.

And While You’re at It, Embrace Roman Shades

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Courtesy of Jeremy Rushton of Coldwell Banker

In spots where privacy is key, Haley Weidenbaum, founder of Everhem, suggests going with inside-mounted woven wood or Roman shades—they’ll block out the sun but also allow the beautiful, intricate detailing of the window frames to stay exposed. 

Tile the Entryway

NYC-based designer Becky Shea has big plans for the foyer. She’d swiftly swap the bland white tiles with a graphic black option (like Fireclay’s Star & Cross pattern) to give the room more depth. Then to really amp up the drama, she’d go with a showstopping light fixture (such as Lindsay Adelman’s Drop System) to greet guests upon arrival.

Balance the Playfulness of the Exterior

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Courtesy of Jeremy Rushton of Coldwell Banker

Designer Ariel Okin would echo the house’s famous pastel and sherbet palette inside, too. To keep the candy-color scheme from feeling too childish, she’d look to cooler materials, like iron, terrazzo, and cerused woods. 

Open Up the Eating Area

In the kitchen, Holly Waterfield, lead designer at The Brooklyn Home Company, has her sights set on symmetry. She would open up the kitchen to encompass the dining area, and place an island in the middle to add storage and anchor the room. 

Give the Walls Character

Waterfield says she’d go with a warm white hue with a Portola plaster finish to give the walls a beautiful weathered look. But she wouldn’t stop there. The designer is also itching to replace the floors with natural white oak and cover them with a super-matte, water-based color. Yep, this Painted Lady is in for a fresh coat. 

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