For San Francisco, “Green” is Synonymous with Kitchen Remodel

From on August 01, 2011 in Kitchen Remodel


A bizarre looking bicycle-powered machine occasionally wheels through the streets of San Francisco. Constructed with a hodgepodge of spinning wheels, barrels and buckets, the word “contraption” springs to mind, and indeed, the thing is known as the Compost Contraption. Sponsored by the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the Compost Contraption, and other creative installations like it, are used to promote the practice of recycling and reuse throughout the city.

San Franciscans are serious about ecology, with a history of innovative eco-friendly practices, products and technology. They’ve had to be. With more than 7 million residents living on hills stacked high within a 50-square-mile area, space and resources are at the minimum. New construction is virtually nonexistent. Renovation is everything.

It seems fitting that the first issue of a new magazine called Small Kitchen features a kitchen designed by San Francisco architect Andre Rothblatt. In a city where walk-in closets are sometimes sublet as studio apartments, interior designers and architects have become adept at making the most out of small spaces.

“By using the space creatively, you can turn a cramped, inconvenient kitchen into a warm, welcoming environment,” Rothblatt said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “It just takes a little imagination.” And contractors are often willing to work strategically within your budget.

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Function, imagination and conservation are the hallmarks of kitchen renovation in San Francisco, driving design trends. When space is scarce, it is all the more valued, and kitchen remodels typically aim for a deconstructed, de-cluttered look.

Cabinets and counters are clean, streamlined affairs. Tastes run to functional stainless steel and eco-friendly materials. Color palettes may be monochromatic, to further expand the sense of space, or may take cues from the city’s own color scheme: concrete grays, mission wall whites, garden greens and bay blues.

This dual conservation and celebration of space reflects a culture of values, of careful choices, of attention to priorities. Protecting natural resources trumps consumerism, even when it comes to something as basic as a small kitchen renovation.

San Francisco has several highly patronized recycling facilities that offer everything from building materials to plastic zip ties for reuse. Broken tiles craftily arranged into a new pattern might show up as a backsplash, and will be valued as much – or more – than a purchased model. Businesses, homes, apartments and old Victorians frequently undergo green renovations, not only installing proven green technologies like solar power, but altering existing configurations to make better use of natural light and air circulation.


Home to many of the technological innovators of Silicon Valley, the city has a culture of embracing technologies that simplify, beautify and enhance life. The city also has a conscience, a collective awareness that as a community, they have the power to effect change. San Franciscans take pride in renovations that take a small space, and rather than mask its size, celebrate it. It is a lesson well learned.

Photos via Houzz