San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood contains the oldest and most intact concentration of industrial workers’ housing in the city. “It’s one of the last bastions of San Francisco that has warded off some of the tech-y culture present elsewhere,” says interior designer Becky Carter. “It has a strong artist presence and a nice residential feeling, but a spirit of creativity.”
Dogpatch is also where John Ramsbacher, a real estate developer, and Robert Berry, a women’s fashion designer, knew they should invest. So after noticing a few key changes in the area, they swooped up an old Victorian—one of the last remaining original worker’s houses left in San Francisco—to transform it into their own abode. “The previous owners had not put a lot of work into the place in the last 50 years,” Ramsbacher says. “They put some stucco on the exterior walls and some cheap windows in, but when we looked at it, the house was in no shape to [inhabit].”
Admittedly, the couple liked having a blank slate to work from. Through their realtor, Ramsbacher and Berry were lucky to be put in touch with Oakland-based architect Benjamin McGriff. The three instantly got along. “They were looking for somebody who could take this historic but dilapidated home and bring it back to its original spirit,” McGriff says. “They also wanted to add in an expansion and language that was more in line with their aesthetic, and who they are. On John’s side, you have a pragmatic business mind [and someone who also] really values quality and admires art. Robert is the bold artistic punch that John also jives with.”
It took some time to find the right fit in terms of interior design, but when the couple met with Carter, who also designed McGriff’s Oakland home, it was clear that the project would be an enjoyable one. “After Becky met John and Robert, it turned a good project into a great project,” McGriff says. “When they came back to us with their first vision, [it was clear] they really got us,” Ramsbacher says. “They took us in directions we wouldn’t have expected to go, and really impressed us from the beginning to the very end.”
In working together, Studio Becky Carter was committed to giving both Ramsbacher and Berry a space that was comfortable, rich in design and culture, and art-forward. Ramsbacher’s lifelong art collection became a focal point early on. “I asked which pieces of art he really wanted to be showcased,” Carter says. “There were palettes that were pulled out from that selection. With the other colors used in the space there was a real sense and sensibility around having cohesion from the top of the house to the bottom, but we wanted it to be subtle. We drew out a gorgeous sunny ochre chair in the living room that is then in the Fireclay tiles in the upstairs bathroom. No decision was made willy-nilly—it coalesced at once.”
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Berry’s background as a fashion designer made it easy to talk in shorthand with Carter. “We had a lot of conversations about textures and fabrics,” she recalls. Some bold details in the home’s design came from Berry’s idea to lay the flooring on a bias, which is how he designs garments. “He explained that if he and John say something they are going to make a statement,” McGriff adds.