Can This Home Be Greened? Condo Conversion

A San Francisco apartment transforms from a bachelor pad to couple's nest.

| July/August 2006

  • The bathroom’s cold colors and hard surfaces lack the earthy feel the couple wants.
  • Alex was concerned that Patrick’s ELECTRONICS might be creating harmful electromagnetic fields, but a preliminary screening assuaged her fears.
  • Just where the couple would like privacy and quiet, the bedroom window overlooks a noisy courtyard.
  • PATRICK AND ALEXANDRA are turning their condo into a home that reflects their shared values.
  • THE LIVING ROOM’S RED WALLS were painted by a previous tenant. Alex and Patrick will cover them with earth plaster for a warmer feeling and less contrast with the bright sky.
    Photos by Jeremy Harris
  • PATRICK AND ALEXANDRA are turning their condo into a home that reflects their shared values.
  • PATRICK AND ALEXANDRA are turning their condo into a home that reflects their shared values.

“My fiance and I are struggling to implement house-greening ideas into our apartment. We can’t control other units, yet I feel compelled to do the best I can where I do have control.”
—Alexandra Tower 

Alexandra Tower and Patrick Ewers have interconnected backgrounds: Patrick was born in the United States and raised in Germany, while Alex was born in Germany and raised in the States. Both have dual citizenship, and they speak “a strange mixture of English and German” when they’re together.

Six years ago, Patrick fell in love with San Francisco; as a high-tech entrepreneur, he found it the perfect balance between European lifestyle and American commerce. Meanwhile, Alex was getting a master’s degree in holistic health education at John F. Kennedy University and writing her thesis on the effects of surrounding environments on human health and well-being.

When the couple met two years ago, Patrick was living in a rented apartment with a view of the San Francisco Bay. “I wanted us to move to a new place together,” Alex says, “but we decided to buy Patrick’s apartment and stay here for a while.” They’re making the place theirs by transforming one room at a time. “Remodeling the kitchen and rearranging the closets has shifted my relationship to this place, which formerly didn’t reflect who I am,” she says. “I have a more romantic, eclectic taste, whereas Patrick prefers modern, clean design. We’re discovering that our separate personalities can be expressed with furniture and colors that reflect nature. Our rule is that whatever we buy has to be practical and beautiful. That way we both feel part of the space we create.”

1. The carpet

Problem: The 15-year-old wall-to-wall carpet looks funky, and Alex suspects it might have contributed to a bronchial infection she had for seven months. (Carpet is infamous for harboring dirt, dust and mold). Though the couple would like to replace the carpet with hardwood, the homeowner’s association requires that 60 percent of the floor area be carpeted to keep the building quiet.

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