A tiny 900-square-foot house on a steep hill in San Francisco offers a bevy of clever tips and tricks for small-space living.

Built as an infill shack between two larger buildings at the turn of the last century, this 900-square-foot San Francisco house is a model of small-space living, thanks to a renovation by Holey Associates. “Rather than playing to its Victorian heritage—small rooms, lots of doors, bitty tiles—we aspired to design a modern translation of the house, one that suits the way [residents] Erik and Susanna live,” says architect John Holey. The firm managed to slot ten rooms (or functions) in about 900 square feet, thanks in part to replacing doors with translucent scrims of fabric that open up to let in light or pull closed to confer privacy. “If the classic Victorian house is a railroad flat—a long corridor sprouting tiny rooms—we think of this as more of a matchbox,” Holey explains. “It can extend or condense to suit your need.”


Although there are no doors to truncate the space, the kitchen and guest room close off with translucent fabric panels that filter natural light by day and glow like lanterns at night.
Once a split-level jumble of small, dark rooms, the main floor now offers a clear sight line from the patio straight through the kitchen, dining room, sitting area, and spare room to the street-facing window (with two skylights for added illumination).