Tradition with a twist

A 98-year-old house opens up without abandoning its past

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White paint and modern accessories throw period details such as the banister into relief.

Thomas J. Story

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"A lot of people want to remove molding and trim to make an old building seem new," architect Cary Bernstein says. "Yet those details are there for a reason - usually for proportion and scale." And a balance between old and new can give a house character. That argument grew on the new owners of a San Francisco row house whose modern tastes weren't reflected in their 1908 Victorian.

When a preference for modern meets architecture that's traditional, the tendency is to eradicate anything old. But to Cary Bernstein, that's the wrong approach. Instead she worked with the homeowners to give their home a modern heart.

After remodeling, the exterior, layout, and molding remain largely intact. But now the molding and walls are all white, forming a neutral backdrop for contemporary furnishings, finishes, and fixtures. The contrast enlivens the interior design.


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