San Francisco isn’t known for just one architectural style. Owing to the unique topological challenges of the city’s highly variable terrain, the intensive development phases that dot the city’s rich history, and the rebuilding following the 1906 earthquake, the city sports a variety of highly distinct architectural styles. Indeed, stark differences are seen even when comparing neighboring streets. San Francisco luxury real estate owners and buyers have a wealth of different classic architectural styles to choose from.
Some of the architectural styles are quite modern, but here are five that are “classic” San Francisco:
“Victorian” is something of a catch-all term for several similar styles from the same period. As many San Francisco luxury real estate owners will surely be aware, this era in architecture predates the destruction of the ‘quake. Victorian properties are rich in history, and proudly display their heritage.
This style was in vogue during the 1849 gold rush, which spurred the city’s first major development phase. With hooded doors and windows, and brackets along the roofline, these ‘villas’ were the backbone of the city’s earliest architectural statement. Though most burned down in 1906, clusters remain, particularly in the Mission’s southwest quarter.
Making use of the once-abundant redwood forests surrounding the city, these row-houses distinguished themselves for their cleverly ornate use of machined trim, which was used to add geometric patterns to every free surface. Relatively common in the Mission, Potrero Hill, and the Noe and Eureka Valleys, many ‘Stick’ homes survived the fire, and have become a great investment for San Francisco luxury real estate.
These are the most ornate of the Victorian styles. Predominately found in Pacific Heights, as well as Ashbury Heights, Alamo Square, and Cow Hollow, Queen Anne homes were built to showcase turn-of-the-century wealth and opulence. With flashy trim, and fanciful combinations of turrets, bay windows, and decorated roof lines, these extravagant homes have a very distinct character, and, at least in terms of architectural fancy, are perhaps the most ‘luxurious’ example of classic San Francisco luxury real estate.
The Edwardian period had begun by the time of the city’s rebuilding, so they’re most common today in the areas that were most damaged after 1906: the downtown core, SOMA, and the Mission’s eastern quarters. Though still quite lavish, Edwardian homes are perhaps more ‘masculine’ than their Queen Anne counterparts. They tend to feature more ‘great rooms’ and open spaces than the more compartmentalized Victorian styles. These homes were built for entertaining guests, taking cues from the grand temple architecture of antiquity.
These English-style mansions were inspired by the sprawling Renaissance buildings of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. Immediately recognizable by their sharply pitched roofs with several intersecting gables, their casement windows, and their general asymmetry, these homes have a timelessness about them that rounds out the San Francisco luxury real estate market. Often sporting facades of stucco, rubblework masonry, or patterned stonework, Tudor revival homes look stalwart yet refined, and seem full of character.
Sometimes called “Spanish Colonial Revival” this style echoes the construction philosophy during and following the Spanish Conquest of the Americas. Particularly developing in Mexico, these buildings reflect a hybridization of design, incorporating elements from Mediterranean antecedents and indigenous building practices.
Houses of this style are distinguished by their intricately patterned clay roof tiles, porticoes and colonnades, arched windows often with balcony railings, and cantilevered balconies. Their stucco exteriors were originally set onto adobe brick walls, but by the time this style came to San Francisco, these house-walls were more likely to be made from timber.
Very open, beautifully framed by gardens, houses in this style range from sprawling estates to close-knit row houses. They were chiefly built in the Marina District and in the Sunset, but can be found scattered about the rest of the city as well.
Outside the original city center, the Art Deco houses, with their bold designs in glass, chrome, and steel, can be frequently found in Pacific Heights, the Sunset, the Marina, and Sea Cliff. Originally built as statements celebrating technology, capitalism, and pre-depression optimism, these homes are perfectly at home in Silicon Valley. Their geometric patterns and stretched aesthetics evoke a sense of verticality, as though the houses are reaching upward into the sky.
San Francisco Luxury Real Estate
San Francisco luxury real estate comes in many shapes, styles, and places, but each of these shares in common the senses of civic pride, community, optimism, flair, history, and character that San Francisco is known for.
If you’re looking to move to the city, or to upgrade your current living situation, give Danielle Lazier + Associates a call and let our team help you decide which type of luxury San Francisco home is right for you!