5 Most Popular Architectural Styles in San Francisco

5 Most Popular Architectural Styles in San Francisco

  • Post Author
  • 06/7/19

From Victorians to Italianates, explore the most popular home styles in the Bay Area.

San Francisco has it all: widespread gables, shingled siding, and the all-brick warehouses of your tech-startup dreams. With each era, San Francisco adds a little more character without ever losing its eclectic charm. Let’s look at five of the most popular architectural styles in San Francisco today.  

1. Victorian

Victorian architecture is easily one of the most notable in the city, and you know it when you see it. The most famous exhibit in San Francisco is The Painted Ladies, a row of adorable pastel homes in Alamo Square. The sweeping gables and gingerbread colors on these houses come in a variety of hues, atypical to traditional Victorian-era architecture. This picturesque line of elegant houses oversees a brilliant skyline view.

While those homes may be among the most notable in the city, they are not alone. Up and down the hills, you can find peaks of pointed roofs and wraparound porches. 

2. First Bay Tradition

Art is reactive, so it’s no surprise that after the wild excess of dynamic Victorian architecture came the shingle style of First Bay Tradition. Rather than the dramatic effect of baroque-inspired facades, shingled siding offers a modest approach to exterior design. It creates a uniformly flat surface that emphasizes horizontal space and values a demure, understated, and natural approach to design that looks weathered--even if it’s brand new. 

This type of architecture emerged from New England during the 1800s but eventually made its way over to the West Coast, where this Colonial design took off near the turn of the century. 

3. Rousseau

Fairytales do come true in these Oliver Rousseau-created masterpieces. Dive into the Sunset District for a charming escape to European romanticism. Drawing inspiration from Spain, Germany, and France, Rousseau sought to spark new life into the district during the 1930s. 

During the Depression, Rousseau dropped splashes of pastel in an otherwise drab neighborhood. Vaulted ceilings, tilting turrets, and ornate porches evoke an effortlessly whimsical storybook appeal to a quiet slice of town. 

4. Brick

Brick became a hit in the 1990s. Although some all-brick buildings date before the 1906 earthquake, like the Gold Rush building Daniel Gibb & Company Warehouse, they gained popularity as people began congregating in SoMa. The demand for spacious and highly customizable areas skyrocketed in interest in this previously overlooked neighborhood. 

Exposed brick immediately evokes an industrial tone. Combine that with trendy concrete fixtures--like a rock-solid countertop that holds its design weight--and you’re looking at the home of your Dot-Com Era daydreams. 

5. Italianate

As early as the 1850s, Italianate homes began sweeping through San Francisco in one of the city’s first major architectural movements. Frequently opting for wooden exteriors rather than traditional limestone, San Francisco adopted the trend to suit its rows of houses.  

Features like bay windows, narrow, vertical panes, and roofs with hidden gables are all telltale signs of an Italianate homestead. You’ll find homes like these dappled throughout Mission real estate, surrounded by innovative art and delicious taquerias. 

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