Stephen Sutro - Sutro Architects

A Native Approach

BY JOSEPH LUCIER

Year after year the ubiquitous orange and white signs of Sutro Architects dot San Francisco’s highly sought residences.  As a native son, Stephen Sutro embodies the elegance, longevity, and quiet pride that San Francisco is known for the world over.  Sutro’s constant stream of well-heeled clients enjoy his soft business touch, creative design solutions, and his all-important understanding of the dance between San Francisco building codes and the perfect home.  A look inside Sutro Architects downtown offices reveal a passionate man who looks after the heart of the city with his careful stewardship of our picturesque residential neighborhoods.

 Stephen Sutro

Stephen Sutro

Joseph Lucier: Being a native San Franciscan, how does your connection to the City inspire the work you do in town every day?

Stephen Sutro: Its great to see some neighborhoods that are changing dramatically and others that change subtly with small improvements.

JL: Before starting your own firm, you worked with local classical architecture firm.  Do you still incorporate the principles of classical proportion and scale in your current designs?

SS: Of course. Understanding fundamentals of proportion is important, no matter what the style.

JL: You have just acquired a building downtown next door to Jay Jeffers atelier on Post Street.  What are your plans for the look and feel of Sutro Architects offices?

SS: We are transforming an auto body repair shop into a light-filled open architecture work space. We’re lucky to have lots of light and southern exposure. We are maintaining the beaux arts facade and use the large, previously auto-entrance as a large steel and glass pedestrian entrance. Its exciting!

 Millennium Tower Penthouse

Millennium Tower Penthouse

"I’m currently interested in exterior materials with aesthetic and functional durability - natural materials that can be used with contemporary or traditional detailing."

JL: Many of the homes my residential real estate colleagues and I sell go through complete gut renovations.  With these types of blank canvases, how do you guide homeowners through the process of creating a new home?

SS: We help clients define their goals, understand the opportunity and challenges each property presents and create an action plan to bring it to fruition.

JL: Do you have a particular look or do you try to stay away from a formulaic approach?

SS: I think the context of the project and goals of the clients are the most important. A condo in a contemporary high rise or a new home in the city is a perfect context for a contemporary design. Working in the context of a early 20th century house with similar structures adjacent, would suggest an approach of keeping the details in tact while creating a more fresh plan and juxtaposing more contemporary materials and details.

JL: What is it about your profession that you love?

SS: The creativity!

JL: Are you working on any “ground up” projects?

SS: Quite a few… some in town and some in the country.

 Cole Valley Cool

Cole Valley Cool

"Its always fun to learn about a particular function or interest in a project, or work with different climates and environments."

JL: What materials are you most enjoying integrating in your current interior/exterior designs?

SS: I’m currently interested in exterior materials with aesthetic and functional durability. For me, this means brick, stone, metal - natural materials that can be used with contemporary or traditional detailing.

JL: Do you have a dream project that you would like to have someday?

SS: Its always fun to learn about a particular function or interest in a project, or work with different climates and environments. We’ve completed a fly fishing guest ranch in Montana, which was awesome. We also have worked on some hospitality projects, which are super interesting and new. It would be fun to work on a horse ranch, beach house in Hawaii or mountain house or lodge.

JL: Favorite travel destinations (past and future)?

SS: Argentina has been a highlight — both for fishing and architecture. I’m looking forward to going to Japan.

JL: What are you reading?

SS: Mostly historical fiction.

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