Mother Earth Living

A Small Renaissance: Renovating a San Francisco Cottage

In San Francisco, a tiny Earthquake Cottage grows up by going underground.

Radiant coral-red trim and red and pink pillows on Alma Hecht’s front porch bench welcome visitors, creating one of many small seating or outdoor entertaining spaces around her San Francisco cottage.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
Alma used repeating tones and textures throughout the house to create a smooth, elegant flow between the old space and the new.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
Alma styles small corners of her house and garden as their own distinct pocket spaces. Here, a small shady retreat is nestled into the far side of her front porch—replete with furnishings, art and plantings.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
Alma’s Earthquake Cottage is flanked on three sides by her garden, an integral part of the overall style. A spill jar welcomes visitors on the right; small trees, shrubs and vines shape an oasis. An evergreen clematis drapes the front porch, one of many scented plants that bloom at different times of the year.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The stairwell between the original and new lower levels became a blank canvas for Alma to display this carved Moroccan panel and lantern; the antique shop owner said the lantern was from Rudolph Valentino’s estate.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The view from the front door through the living room and into the dining room showcases the oak parquet floor, which dates back to the 1920s. Alma had multiple layers of flooring removed to reveal the original fir floor in the kitchen.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The kitchen has the original painted wooden cabinets and tile countertops. The large gilt mirror adds a sense of space, light and elegance to the room.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
A terraced outdoor seating area features brightly colored pillows. The wall’s painted trim, sculptural objects and a mirror liven what was once dead space.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The vignette along a painted ledge in the main floor bathroom is of an antique painted vanity and a three-footed copper pot with an orchid.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The kitchen opens into the living room, where Alma’s dog and constant companion, Sabu, keeps watch over her front door.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The walls of the media room, part of the new lower level, are finished with earth-friendly plaster. Because of the grade of the property’s natural slope, the new lower-level rooms have abundant windows and natural light.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The deep color of the dining area’s walls suggests a sense of separation from the kitchen, offering vibrant contrast to the green foliage and blue sky outside.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
Alma hand-stained the concrete floors in her new studio and designed the watering can fountain outside on the patio.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
Oil paintings by Esta Kornfield harmonize with the wainscoting in the master bathroom.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
Alma displays a few of the watering cans from her extensive collection on her front porch.
Photography by Barbara Bourne
The tea and knife niche in the wall beside the stove, original to the kitchen, is painted in the dining nook’s pumpkin- spice tone.
Photography by Barbara Bourne


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