2021 RDAA | Architectural Interiors | El Sereno | Building Lab

El Sereno exemplifies the power of sectional design to achieve the holy grail of vertical living—a sense of space and light. Building Lab generated that quality through elegant built-ins and light and view corridors in this stacked urban house. In a tiny powder room at the entry, the interior of a two-story air shaft was wrapped in light-colored oak and topped with a roof skylight, creating an unexpected light chute. In the foyer, the oak repeats on a custom bench with coat hooks and shoe storage. Other simple interventions ensued, such as in the skylit hall bath, where a ribbon of blue terrazzo and two mirrored cabinets suspended in front of a translucent glass wall create a sense of depth. 

Code allowed more square footage than the team added, but the clients were interested in “an engaging dialogue between the modest and the artistic,” building Lab noted in its statement. This guided the design of the couple’s bathroom, which was added to the existing roof. “There was a wrestling match with the neighbor, and the clients were willing to approach it from a neighborly perspective and not expand as much as code allowed,” says Stephen Shoup. It lives large, though, with 10-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling marble, and a strategically placed mirrored wall. 

“As a design/build firm, we are sometimes more beholden to clients who are driven by budget,” Stephen says, “and who are willing to do something unique to get a strong sense of value out of their home.”

Architectural Interiors


Building Lab
El: Sereno: A Study in Light
San Francisco

Project Credits

Architect: Stephen Shoup, principal in charge; Hideaki Kawato, senior designer, building Lab, Oakland, California

Builder: building Lab, Oakland

Structural Engineer: Nate Williams, Mosswood Engineering, Oakland

Project size: 1,372 square feet

Site size: 0.25 acre

Construction cost: $500 per square foot

Photography: Jason Bax Photography

Key Products

Countertops: Krion

Faucets: Hansgrohe, Grohe

Flooring: Mosa

Lighting: Halo, Sonneman

Lighting Control: Lutron

Radiant Heating: Schluter

Sinks: Krion

Skylights: Crystalite

Toilets: TOTO

Window shading systems: Phifer

Windows: Marvin



Plans and Drawings

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