A Labor of Love, An Exquisite Restoration

The listing agent on this 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom Edwardian home knows every detail of its restoration. Because this was her baby.

Three Bedrooms, Four Bathrooms, And 100 Years Of History

Photo By Lydia Deitz-Yaffe The opposite of a quick flip, this home was bought and restored, and is now being sold — by the same woman. 

When Lydia Deitz-Yaffe and her then-husband came upon 337 Parnassus Avenue 18 years ago, it was a bit of a mess, but in a good way. "It had only had two owners since 1908," she said. "The original owners, and a couple of medical students from nearby UCSF." What she saw when she walked in the door was good bones: solid, sturdy, strong construction and design with a minimum of fussy detail.

"It was the house that got me interested in architecture, the history of the area and real estate in general," Yaffe says. "It all grew out of my wanting to know about this house." Over a period of years, they restored, then raised their family in, this home, which is now available for sale.

The original owners, a grocery-store owner and his family, were living in earthquake shacks after the 1906 earthquake, remaining in nearby Golden Gate Park until construction was complete. "It's built on bedrock," she says. "Perfect for someone who does not want to deal with another earthquake."

Of course, people updated the house from time to time: the kitchen looked very '70s, and the fireplace had been replaced. "It wasn't functional because when it was built, they didn't use dampers or flues," Yaffe says. "So rather than rebuilding the chimney, they just didn't use it." The update was cheap and drab.

Originally the fireplace wall was an overbearing monstrosity that dwarfed the rest of the room. "It was made of clinker brick," says Yaffe, pointing out that this wrinkled, melted type of brick is usually specially produced by heating bricks until they get distorted. Of course, San Francisco was full of clinker brick after the fire. It was basically rubble that became a popular decorative accent. The same clinker brick studs the front of the house, which was updated to stucco from the original redwood shingle, which would have been expensive and difficult to maintain.

Despite the not-so-great updates, much had been left alone. For instance, there is, as one often finds in San Francisco homes of this age, a door-lever: a long metal bar that opens the front door from the top of the stairs. (These are often accompanied by a speaking tube; both items, of course, were rendered obsolete by the door buzzer, but finding a working one is tons of fun.) 

The difference between Edwardian and Victorian architecture is so clear in this building: Where Victorians tend toward the ornate and overdone, Edwardians are spare, serving as a bridge to the Arts and Crafts movement that captivated the Bay Area. Yoffe's updates adhere strictly to the spirit of the era, and her knowing, loving touch is everywhere.



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