Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: Richmond Guide To Marina-Style Homes

In the past we’ve broken down the history of Victorian and Edwardian architecture in the Richmond, but this week we’re inspired by a new listing on 42nd Avenue to explore the old Marina style more closely.

According to Yama Architecture, originally “Marina style homes were marketed by developers as a way to lure new home buyers with the promise of a big house at a low price point.”

(We’ll just pause to let the irony wash over everyone. And now we’ll continue.)

These days the hallmark of the Marina style is that big first-story garage opening, which then per necessity is flanked on one side by stairs leading up to a second-floor entrance.

We say “these days” because Yama also notes that originally many of these places simply had “an unimproved first floor” and “the idea was that an owner could live on the second floor, and easily convert the lower floor into a finished basement, garage, additional living space, or in- law unit,” and over the years owners have filled in pretty much all of those spaces.

The long, marching row of second-floor windows above the garage entrance is another ubiquitous sign of Marina stylings, often (but not always) part of a bowed or even barrel-fronted facade. Bay windows are common, although occasionally you’ll also see just one giant picture window take the place of the traditional window row, particularly when opening right onto the living room.

(Marina homes in, well, the Marina. l0da_ralta)

Tile roofs are usually either flat or slanted toward the street, and these homes can borrow a lot from Mediterranean or Spanish-style houses in the same neighborhoods, incorporating decorative balconies, stucco facades, and sometimes interior courtyards with small gardens.

SF Architects notes that this look became popular in the ’20s and ’30s, following the Panama–Pacific International Exposition (World’s Fair) in 1915–hence why so many of them ended up in the Marina.

But that was also the time of building booms in the Richmond and Sunset, and today pretty much all of us have been inside if not lived in a Marina-style home somewhere in the western neighborhoods.

Architect Sean Levy points out that the appeal of the Marina style was its simplicity–“one story over a garage”–but as the century wore on and home values increased there was incentive to expand, with third floors or swelling first floor additions. Results vary, but it did push prices up.

It’s interesting that although almost every San Franciscan can spot Marina houses on their commute, unlike, say, Victorians, the style has never become famous outside of SF and isn’t a look non-San Franciscans seem to associate with the city.

What do you think–is it an underrated aesthetic, or do you prefer it stay obscure?

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