Iconic San Francisco Victorian Remodel

After surviving two major earthquakes — including the catastrophic one in 1906 — and many homeowners, this 1890 Victorian in San Francisco was in need of some TLC. Homeowner John Clarke Mills purchased the house with the intention of restoring and decorate it with sustainable materials and high tech capabilities. With four years of hard work, he has transformed the home to a beautiful mix of old and new.

at a Glance
Who lives here: John Clarke Mills and housemate Brian Harris
Location: San Francisco
Size: 2,500 square feet; 3 bedrooms, 2 baths
That’s intriguing: After the 1906 earthquake and fire, virtually all of the home’s records were destroyed.

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Mills knocked a wall down between the library and the front parlor to allow light stream through the front part of the house. White columns help visually define both of these spaces.

The house is part of a set of five identical Victorians on the block. “I love that the neighbors compare notes and help each other in sharing personality details for renovations,” says Mills.

Wallpaper: Dhongia; chandelier and sconces: Victorian Lighting Works; columns: Pacific Columns; couch: Craigslist

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During the remodel, a number of the original crown molding at the front parlor has been damaged. Mills was able to fix the segments by hand using clay from an art supply store.

This front parlor remains a work in progress. Mills is having new Victorian-style windows made to your room and intends to complete the decoration afterwards.

Wallpaper: Dhongia

Alex Amend Photography

The traditional Victorian library is decorated with a combination of antiques and Craigslist finds. “The history of the pieces I find are incredible,” says Mills. “Some of the things I have are even older than my house.” The roll top desk at the library is just one of Mills’ favorite finds. Regardless of a local estate sale, it still had its original receipt indoors.

Wallpaper: Dhongia; chandelier and sconces: Victorian Lighting Works; couch: Craigslist

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Custom oak shelving has been stained by Mills (with assistance from his friends and family) to match with the oak banister from the entry and the fireplace in the front parlor. A projection display retracts into the ceiling so that it doesn’t disrupt the home’s decor.

Wallpaper: Dhongia; chandelier and sconces: Victorian Lighting Works; ladder: Putnam Rolling Ladder; wood moldings: San Francisco Victoriana

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Originally the home has been split into two separate units — an upstairs and a downstairs, divided by a wall at the very small entryway. Mills opened the entry and restored the original banister with the assistance of San Francisco Victoriana.

Banister and woodwork: San Francisco Victoriana; newel post: The Woodworks Company

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Although Mills could have preferred natural wood from the dining room, the walls were made using a shiny plywood that couldn’t be refinished. The only option was to use several coats of paint. A bold red was chosen as a sharp contrast to white molding.

Wall paint: Old Flame, Behr

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Mills tore out the brick fireplace at this top living and inserted a new Carrara marble unit to better fit the home’s original design. Although he almost tossed the chandelier, a buddy suggested giving it a fresh coat of paint. The bright orange and custom colors gave the item a fresh appearance.

Fireplace: Valor Fireplaces; chandelier lampshades: Lamps Plus; wall paint: Garden Path, Behr; Weston Flax, Benjamin Moore

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Mills utilized clean-lined, midcentury-inspired pieces in the parlor as a bright and colorful contrast to the traditional first-floor parlor.

Art: Another Shop

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The kitchen was transferred up into the next floor through one of the home’s many renovations. “The former owner needed the kitchen close to his bedroom for some strange reason,” says Mills. “One day I’ll need to move it downstairs.”

Alex Amend Photography

The newly finished backyard was designed by Adam Wooley Landscape Design and Construction. Blue slate tiles operate diagonally to split up the square space. Floating benches and clean horizontal fencing are made out of warm and durable ipe. Low-maintenance grasses, vines, succulents and a tree fern were planted for colour, height and solitude.

Alex Amend Photography

Mills shares his answers to some popular questions:

Your final dream-home item? I have everything I have ever wanted and more. That said, I’m excited about constructing a roof deck.

Four famous people that you’d love to have for dinner? George Nelson, Ray Eames, Charles Eames and Buckminster Fuller.

And that which could be in your soundtrack? Stan Getz.

Your proudest moment? Correcting my dad’s mathematics when he makes mistakes in my endeavors. That doesn’t happen often.

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