San Francisco, California

An ordinary row house becomes a lookout for the perfect wave

Merit Award: Nick Noyes Architecture, San Francisco (415/512-9234) 

Challenge: Give two busy doctors who like to surf on their downtime more space while adding architectural character to a nondescript row house near Ocean Beach in San Francisco's Sunset district.

Solution: Thanks to a new, open third floor, a boldly colored and patterned exterior, and large windows that capture the ocean views, the house appears to "shoot the curl" with elegance and sophistication.

Special effects:
• The house mirrors the owners' personalities ― serious but in touch with the fun side of life. You can see it in the striped exterior made of colored cement-based shingles. Serendipity played a part: the supplier didn't have enough shingles in the color the owners first picked out, so the owners chose two. Tough and long-wearing, the shingles make sense in the area's windy and foggy climate.

• The new skylighted third floor contains the living room and kitchen, where the best views are. Ceiling trusses keep the floor plan as open (and therefore as bright) as possible.