Living Off The Edge

A house in San Francisco iterally makes living off the edge a wonder as it sticks out from a cliff supported by concrete piers. The house is nearly invisible to those in the streets and also from its immediate neighbours. Inside the residents find it difficult to believe that they are in a densely populated zone.

The credit goes to architect John Wong specializing in landscape works. He is known for integrating some of the tallest buildings in the world (the Burj Khalifa of Dubai pointing 2,717 into the sky) with the surroundings.

Wong bought this dilapidated three storey property having four bedrooms perched on a cliff top peering into the Pacific Ocean in Sea Cliff district. Wong knew that although the location could not be improved upon the building could be bettered. In 2003 he bought the house for $1.9 million.

Together with his interior designer wife Mildred Sum-Wong and his Harvard class mate Michael C. F. Chan they crafted this marvel. It took them four years. The house now covers 4,000 square foot – the rear side overlooking the Presidio National Park.

The inside is connected with the outside with the help of innumerable glass walls as well as skylights. During the day they hardly have to turn on the lights. A 23′ high wall of glass in the kitchen provides an unobstructed view of Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach and Marin Headlands. The house also has a view not of the windows of neighbours but their back yards.

A visitor and close family friend Gaylord Dillingham remarked, “It feels completely private like being in a tree house”. The furniture stands out as all the walls are white. The powder room on the main floor has its wall coloured Imperial Red – an acknowledgement to the Imperial Palace of Beijing.

The interior focuses on the stairway – the railings being made of steel cables. On either side the walls have cubicles filled with knick knacks and books. The stairway gives the impression of a ramp. The material used is laminated teak brought from China. He was inspired by a similar stairway in the Vatican – it gives the feeling of winding up to heaven!

The original entry was through a basement garage. Wong carved out a 100′ long walkway lined with stone just next to driveway but at a higher level with a hedge bordering the two. This hedge concept he borrowed from the French.