the world's most visited architecture website

H house / Group 41

  • Architects: Group 41
  • Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Architect in Charge: Group 41 Inc.
  • Area: 4500.0 ft2

H house / Group 41 H house / Group 41 H house / Group 41 H house / Group 41

From the architect. Architecture and design firm Group 41 Inc. is proud to unveil the H House, a modern architectural residence whose design is informed by the crisp language of modernism and shaped by the principals of sustainability. In a city like San Francisco where a moratorium on demolition limits most construction projects to being creative renditions of a renovation, a new, ground-up construction is a rarity. Rectilinear and angular, the H House is architect/developer Joel Karr's first ground-up development property and represents a welcomed opportunity to express Group 41's own distinctive brand of modernist design.

Photographs by Ken Gutmaker & Eric Rorer

Set in the hills above Noe Valley, the structure commands sweeping views of the Oakland Hills and the city skyline below. Surrounded by the typical mix of Edwardian, Victorian Italianate, and 1940 renovations, the H House takes a strong modernist stance while still respecting the scale and proportionality of its neighbors. From the street, the house is designed to be purposefully modest - a simple boxy two story structure. However, the deceivingly spacious residence cascades down the hill, making the most of a narrow and down sloping site. The graceful four-level, 4,500 square foot property boasts 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths. A flexible floor plan allows the lower unit to serve as the perfect entertainment space or a separate unit. Beautifully tiered outdoor decks, terraces and gardens make the most of expansive views.

Art as Entry

Group 41 commissioned a local artist to create a one-of-a-kind steel entry gate. The striated swathes of mild steel weigh in at over 600 lbs but nevertheless glide effortlessly open, welcoming visitors into an atrium space, lined with polished black basalt.

Black Stacked Slate Wall Adds Drama and Anchors Structure to the Hill

A monolithic wall wrapped in panels of dramatic black, stacked slate pierces down through two stories, anchoring the structure to the steep hill. Visible in the main living spaces as well as along the exterior breezeway, the continuous feature wall lends majestic scale and proportion.

Curvilinear Ceiling Adds Dramatic, Visual Interest

"The only curvilinear elements in the entire home are the curved shapes of the ceiling plane and the lighting rail," explains Joel Karr, founder and principal of Group 41. "They're meant to soften the planar feel of the ceiling as you enter the house because the living room steps down and ‘away' from your point of view and the ceiling becomes an incredibly powerful visual element in the main living space."

With the Ingo Maurer "Oh Mei Ma" fixture in the foreground of a double high atrium entry, the impact of the subtle curvatures makes a compelling first impression.

All-White Master Bath acts as Gleaming Blank Canvas

The inspiration behind the stunning all-white master bath was to create an absolutely colorless room that was neither "feminine" nor "masculine" but would take on the unique character of the owners. The white oasis was achieved by covering many surfaces with Thassos marble, Inalco white panel tiles, glossy white lacquered vanity elements and Spanish white "bubbles" tile. The white vision is completed with a floating "island" tub on a mat of white glass pebbles and a wall-hung Philippe Starck toilet.

Beauty comes in all shades of green

Behind the clean lines of H's modern architecture, thoughtful design decisions were made to utilize sustainable products and practices. Sustainable materials and systems were integrated into the design whenever possible. Rather than solid exotic wood doors or floors, the design incorporates eco-friendly flooring made from pressed timber scraps and macassar ebony engineered veneer finishes made from recycled sawdust. The home also boasts a state-of-the-art high-efficiency HVAC system and is built to ultimately accommodate solar panels to help make the home energy independent. Additionally, Group 41 implemented a construction waste program from demolition through completion that reduced the amount of construction waste taken to the landfill. For a full list of the home's sustainable features, see attached sustainable features list.

"It's not enough for a home to be just beautiful," quips Karr. "For me, a successful design is one that is both aesthetically challenging and functionally perfect. Architecture must necessarily be sustainable in order for it to be timeless. There is no question of designing a luxury home without these features today."

Cite:"H house / Group 41" 27 May 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>