Category Archives: In The Field

A Pair of (Custom) Kitchens

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In late June I spent a day with Custom Kitchens in Oakland, and Kensington, California shooting a pair of recently competed projects. These kitchens are typical of Custom Kitchens designs — practical, rooted in traditional materials and layout, but not “cookie-cutter”. Lead Designer Joy Wilkins and her team are great at bringing a unique vision (and often) the homeowner’s existing needs and even hardware into the equation. The results are kitchens that are both beautiful and approachable. You can easily imagine yourself wandering in here in your bathrobe, pouring some coffee, and reading the paper.

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The gorgeous center island featured here is by Bentwood Kitchens, based in Lancaster Texas. We left the louvered doors open at rear to show the washer-dryer – this sort of remodel feature matters a lot to older clients!

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Our second location was even more traditional:

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I’ve been shooting a lot of cool  projects this summer — much more to come!

Los Altos Traditional, by Brownhouse Design

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I loved this scene from the moment I first scouted this shoot. The mirrored grid pattern of the floor/ceiling, the arched doorways, and the swirling swooping sweeping curve of the staircase make for a very dynamic composition! We used blackout cloth to kill the daylight coming in from camera left, and re-lit the stairs from above with continuous light “boomed” out over the risers. Strobes in the adjoining spaces maintain good color and draw the eye into the living room.

More design happiness from Julie Brown, principal of Brownhouse Design. Here’s a Los Altos Traditional done by Julie and her team that we photographed back in May. Built by Matt Komo at MJK Homes, this place was TIGHT.

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Other than removing some electrical outlets, this is straight out of the camera. We more or less emptied the lighting cases for this shot! But the real challenge of a complex space like this is the styling.

More photos, and behind-the-scenes, click here!

70s Makeover by Brownhouse Design

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A little drama never hurts! Tod Detro’s cabinetry is pretty special stuff, so we really wanted to make it the star of the show.

Here’s a fun half-day project we shot in May with Julie Brown (Brownhouse Design) in Los Altos, California. This was a condominium complex built (we guess) in the 1970s and Julie gave it a modern look with devastatingly awesome millwork from Knotty Hole Woodworks throughout the place. The rest of the photos, plus Behind The Scenes, click here!

Nob Hill (San Francisco) Elegance

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More Muratore goodness today, with a project I first scouted last year but only shot last month — high atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill.

Venetian plaster, white oak floors, handsome laminated wood columns, marble floor inlays, and some striking vertical stripes in the kitchen woodwork made this space exciting to shoot — lots to work with! Full write-up, LOTS of photos, and Behind-the-Scenes, click here.

(Another) Mid-Century Modern by building Lab

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Nobody “gets” mid-century modern like Stephen Shoup of building Lab. His Eichler remodel (which I shot last fall) has received acclaim and is being published in multiple venues.

So I knew that this project would be a good one — a mid-century house with the building Lab design touch. Stephen created a flowing, connected space along this ranch house’s long axis with peaked-ceiling spaces at each end and a lower, flat-ceilinged central area in between, encompassing the kitchen and eating area. This space is clearly the “heart” of the structure, where the family will spend 80% of its time.

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Looking back towards the playroom we can see the intricate architecture and the way the ceiling lines interact to help define the spaces.

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Stephen is absolutely brilliant when it comes to defining discrete spaces even within a fluid or open floorplan. Here, the kitchen is separated from the foyer and dining room by a slot skylight that channels light straight down in the wide pass-though. When you walk beneath it, you can’t help feeling that you’ve left one space behind and are entering another, despite the lack of structural boundaries.

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This project features the trademark building Lab book-matched wood paneling, although in a much more subdued way than other of Stephen’s designs.

We’ve already got the next building Lab project on the calendar, so stay tuned for more architectural happiness!

North Beach Residence by Muratore Corp

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It took quite a bit of effort to get this shot lit. Balancing the exposure for the dazzling light high above San Francisco looking out towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, while still showcasing the dark wood cabinetry, was a challenge. We kept the illusion that everything is motivated by the windows that wrap around the living room in the background; there are multiple strobes and hotlights placed for this photo.

I’m always grateful to work with someone who is willing to be adventurous in the styling, and when it works, it works well. In this shoot of a San Francisco highrise condo (in North Beach), we purposely added some “sloppy” notes — the carelessly draped dishcloth, the slightly disheveled napkins — and implied an eat-in kitchen with the discordant radishes-and-tomato bowls. It’s a way of adding interest and meaning to a photo, without triggering the wrong response; if those had been bowls of steaming hot beef stew, you might get stuck in your reaction to beef stew (whatever that is) and never get the real point of photo, which is the design and cabinetry. But who has a pre-programmed reaction to raw radishes and tomatoes? You might well have a WTF moment, but that’s cool with me; I’ve kept your attention for an extra few seconds and hopefully made you notice a few other things along the way.

The casual elements also lend a bit of life to an interiors photo, which can all too easily be sterile. Adding a live human to the mix is even more tricky — we’re hard-wired to look at each other, so that figure is sure to be a focal point, even if it’s blurry and in the background.

We also made a more “traditional” kitchen shot, below:

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With almost all the “natural” light sources controlled, we were left with the VERY bright (and un-dimmable) under-cabinets fluorescents to contend with. We effectively dimmed them using a technique Alan calls “Dummy-Dimming” in which he flips the lights on (or off) at a precise moment during a long exposure.

The second element of this project was this stunning bath, located just off of the large entry foyer.

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This shot presented several challenges. The backlit mirror, strong downlighting on the vanity top (from the ceiling spots) and the delicate sconces all had to be controlled and brought into a balance the camera could handle. I also wanted to clarify the shapes and geometry of the space, since they’re so integral to the design. Nearly every surface visible in this shot has its own light, each tuned to create the 3-dimensionality we wanted to emphasize. The blurred figure in the mirror is actually out in the foyer; his posture echoes the the shape of the sconce, his shirt works with the color scheme, his motion brings your eye back into the center of the image. I allowed the distant foyer to go slightly bluer to create a pleasing effect that emphasizes the separateness of that space.

In this unbelievable bath, we wanted to do two things; make sure that the viewer understood what was happening in the mirror, and give the eye a focal point that kept the eye in the middle of the photo. The walls of this room are venetian plaster; but in this case it’s been hand-tooled by an artist to mimic alligator skin. I’ve never seen anything like it. The designer had two words for this: “It’s expensive.”

And worth it — this bath was really amazing. The cube & slab design elements (check out the sconce lights) go together with mathematical precision, which I tried to bring out with my composition, and the wall treatment echoes the texture of the stone. Beautiful.

The detail shot below shows the plaster even more clearly, as well as the angular sink:

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SF Infinity Condo, by Muratore Corp.

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Carefully hidden lighting brings this interior up to match the exterior brightness, while maintaining the illusion that all of the light pours in through the wrap-around windows.

Several weeks ago I shot my first project in San Francisco’s Infinity Towers, a minimalist condo with killer views of the Bay Bridge, One Rincon, and (eventually) the Transbay Tower and complex.

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A mirrored cabinet hints at the scene outside, while the clean minimal aesthetic of the interior is summed up perfectly with this vignette.

With it’s subdued color palette and comfortable but not excessive furnishings, this space was an interesting challenge, photographically. I emphasized the geometry and clean, crisp feeling of the place, while showing off the view and staying (mostly) true to the owner’s aesthetic.

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An over-dyed and mottled round rug emphasizes the curved outer wall, and helps partition the living room in this open floor plan.

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Muratore will custom design and fabricate pretty much anything, including this counterweight for an armchair head pillow.

The Murphy bed in the spare bedroom was a Muratore custom build, and I loved the way it, and the sconce lamps above the built-in, mirrored the dense urban construction scene outside.

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These wall-mounted storage shelves/cabinets deserved special attention, and we spent the better part of an hour getting the light perfect to show off the shapes and tones properly.

Piedmont Residence by Custom Kitchens

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A large window behind the camera had to be blacked out to preserve the left-to-right flow of light; this allows the shape of the oven doors to really “pop” (it’s also augmented a bit with added lighting). Under-cabinet lights are gelled to color-correct them from fluorescent to daylight; and fill light is added to the distant room.

Just a couple of weeks ago I photographed this killer project with Custom Kitchens, based right here in Oakland California. Joy Wilkins and her team designed this space around the homeowner’s Aga range; this is the second Aga I’ve photographed and they’re pretty cool!

Actually, the more accurate description would be “pretty hot”, because a cast-iron Aga range pours out heat 24 hours a day. It’s a bit like a brick oven: once it’s up to temperature, it stays there with minimal input.

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Again, window light behind the camera is blacked out, and a combination of strobe and continuous light is added from camera right to bring out the texture of the backsplash and the shape of the oven doors.

The thing about an Aga is its robust shape; unlike most modern cooktops, which are sleek and almost aerodynamic, the Aga retains its industrial-era look and is almost voluptuous in its curves and protrusions. Joy recognized this as well and designed a gorgeous scalloped tile backsplash (reminds me of ripples in beach sand!) that showcases the range perfectly.

I worked hard to retain that textural quality by staying conscious of where the light was coming in; and that meant imposing an iron control over the (abundant) ambient light in this kitchen, and augmenting it with strobe and continuous lighting.

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Joy and Natalie did a killer job of styling this room as a baker’s paradise, and we couldn’t resist getting a little action in the shot:

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Our last shot of the day featured the “eat-in” part of the kitchen, as well as the practical aspects of the layout (note the good-looking laundry station).

Strobe lighting is brought in (via a large V-flat) through the window to simulate diffuse daylight on this tabletop.

Thanks to the team at Custom Kitchens for another great project!

 

San Francisco Loft by Muratore Corp

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Muratore Corp. is best known for its work in San Francisco highrises, especially the Millenium, but also in the Infinity Towers and many more scattered across Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and other neighborhoods.

So this project was different: a ground-floor loft in a brick-and-timber structure in the South of Market, just a few blocks away from the rarified air of the SF Millenium Tower.

I photographed this loft in April, and knew that the images had to convey the real feeling of this place, which is at once industrial and yet also beautiful. The dark ironwork (and “built” pieces that match that patina) are offset by the amber glow of the timber and brick, and the huge windows on two sides let light pour in from the street.

Too much light, actually, and we had to get creative to control it. We used many yards of black cloth in this loft! Many more photos, write-up, and some behind-the-scenes pics, click here!

Qualified Remodeler Magazine

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Pleased to see the photographs I made for my friends at Custom Kitchens in the April issue of Qualified Remodeler, a trade magazine for the home remodeling industry.

Click the image above to see a PDF of the issue (jump to page 20 to see my stuff).

San Francisco Residence by Leslie Arnold Architecture

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Leslie Arnold Architecture brought me into this outstanding midcentury-esque residence in San Francisco a few weeks ago, to document the extensive remodel they did.

Leslie did a complete remodel of this 1959 structure, top to bottom, and the really remarkable thing was that she did it for an astounding $150/sq. ft.  — which is really, really inexpensive. Green materials were used extensively, there’s natural ventilation drawn through the house from the front end windows and up through a large operable skylight at the rear. Solar panels were installed on the roof, and radiant floor heating added. A bearing wall was removed from the living room to create a large open space, which involved new truss joists spanning the entire width of the house to transfer the load to the exterior walls.

The west wall is floor to ceiling glass, and the light pours through it like a tangible force.

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That light, combined with frequent skylights and a translucent lightwell mean that you would never need artificial lighting during daytime hours. This place GLOWS.

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Leslie designed a kitchen that responds beautifully to this flood of light. Back-painted glass backsplashes, white composite countertops, and clean, simple lines give it a light and airy feeling.

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Design in the bathrooms follows the kitchen’s lead — with the addition of gloss-finshed cabinetry fronts and excellent storage solutions.

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A pocket door separates the foyer from the steps leading up to the main level. In the background is the family room and an excavated  level-out backyard that’s now being landscaped — a future photoshoot!This is a stunning project, both in terms of the finished result and the design work that went into it — I was thrilled to photograph it!

Oakland Residence by Bleu Leman Design

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The only thing better than shooting for Diane Leifer (Bleu Leman Design) is when it’s only five minutes from my apartment in Oakland! We spent the best part of an afternoon working this lovely Tudor style living room and came away with these photos.

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Dee makes rooms comfortable. She works with her clients’ existing possessions and taste, and everything she does from there riffs on that foundation. The result is a room that feels amazingly relaxed, but which reveals it’s depth on closer examination.

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We’re planning another shoot in May…stay tuned for more great stuff from this talented designer!

GitHub.com by Pfau Long Architecture

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A few weeks ago I spent a couple of days working with Pfau Long Architecture shooting their latest project, the GitHub.com headquarters in (where else) San Francisco’s SoMa district. This building is owned by Hudson Pacific Properties, which manages buildings throughout the West Coast.

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A project this size has a lot of players, and Pfau Long’s role was primarily on the outside of the building, including the facade, entries, structural work, and a truly spectacular roof deck. SoMa (South of Market) is a wonderful mix of old masonry warehouse and industrial structures alongside some of the most exciting new construction anywhere. The Millenium Tower is here, as well as the future Transbay Tower which will be the tallest building in San Francisco.

Click the link…

More photos and write-up after the jump!

Mulberry San Jose

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Mulberry opened their latest store in San Jose in January, and as usual it presented some killer compositional opportunities. Mulberry puts as much thought into the store designs as they do the fashion merchandise, so these stores are a real pleasure to photograph.

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As usual, we only had a few hours to shoot before the Grand Opening, and building contrast in the otherwise flat lighting was a challenge. We worked with just a couple of strobes to keep things moving fast. Mulberry staff were putting the finishing touches on things at a furious pace even as we shot; there is activity right outside the frame of many of these shots. The excitement is contagious; some of the staff had literally been up all night getting things ready.

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Today

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Scouting photo (Fuji X100) in San Francisco. This was actually Tuesday…the title “Today” should be interpreted very loosely….

Holga!

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I like to bring film equipment along with me on shoots — and sometimes it’s my trusty Holga. If you haven’t played around with a Holga, run-don’t-walk to your camera store and drop $40 on one (a box of Tri-X will run you another $30).

Thank me later. And if you’re looking for inspiration, try David Burnett.

San Francisco Workshop Recap

PFRE_SF_03Berkeley workshop, to be perfectly accurate, as we changed venues at the last minute to take advantage of a terrific bit of new construction by one of my favorite and longest-term clients, Dogtown Development. Designed by award-winning architect Matt Baran (also my client), this place was outstanding, with plenty of lines and angles, and just challenging enough to keep everyone on their toes.

We built the shot above towards the end of the first day, and liked it so much that we decided to step in and make a group photo out of it! More write-up, and LOTS of photos, click here!

Kitchen by Houseworks

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Back in November I shot this nice kitchen remodel for my friends over at Houseworks, a San Francisco design/build firm. Unpretentious, low-key, livable…design that doesn’t draw attention to itself but lets you “do your thing” un-disturbed.

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What I loved, though, was the way the under-cabinet lights made the grey backsplash and neutral countertop glow — and anything you put there seems like it’s a piece in a museum display. The backdrop is so unassuming – and the lighting so plain, that you don’t realize anything is happening until you place a bowl of oranges on the counter – and then, BAM! It’s like they’re Oranges From The Garden Of Eden.

This was a combination of LED and warm fluorescent lighting, which we gelled strategically into a truly color-neutral zone that the camera liked.

First quarter of 2014 is starting to come together, with a few really cool projects lined up! But first up is next weekend’s PFRE workshop, right here in my back yard. More on that soon!

Eichler Living — with building Lab

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If you’ve been seeing a lot of building Lab work here this year, it’s because Stephen Shoup and his team have been on a tear – lots of amazing projects, and the recognition that comes with doing fantastic work.

This project is, in many ways, the epitome of what Stephen is all about. A Joseph Eichler home in California’s Marin County, this structure has seen extensive work but still feels 100% authentic. We shot this house over the course of two and a half days in November and created a set of photos I’m quite proud of. More photos, and some behind-the-scenes, after the jump!

San Francisco Swank by Muratore

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I found myself back in the SF Millenium Tower at the end of October, shooting a very nice residence by my friends at Muratore Corp. We shot the spaces “straight” and then did a round of lifestyle images. Lots of photos, write-up, and behind-the-scenes images, after the jump!