Local architects innovate for both high-end, affordable housing markets

SF Gate | Jordan Guinn

Clerestory windows help illuminate this living room conceptualized by Y.A. Studio that’s warmed by a gas fireplace with a herringbone-patterned mantlepiece. Photo: César Rubio

Since 2004, architects Yakuh Askew and Martine Paquin have collaborated to influence the Bay Area’s architectural landscape.

Askew, principal of Y.A. Studio, partners with Paquin, who helms an eponymous design firm focused on interiors, to develop both high-end residential design and affordable housing.

“We work across the spectrum,” said Askew, who focuses on multi-family structures and new buildings, while Paquin tends to Y.A. Studio’s custom single-family homes and interiors.

As for their style, both Askew and Paquin prefer not to label it.

“‘Modern’ can have people thinking of a design that’s cold, so we prefer not to put a label on it,” Paquin said. “There’s not one word to sum it up. We give a lot of attention to a space’s alignment, views, light and the quality of life it will create.”

The firm recently completed a pair of bespoke residences in Dolores Heights, 4024 and 4026 18th St. Available together for $4.49 million, the duplex’s individual units can also be purchased separately. Both feature oak flooring, oversized windows, enticing owner’s suites and high-end kitchens.

A San Francisco native who grew up in the Excelsior district, Askew earned his degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Paquin, who was born in Montreal, Canada received a degree in fine arts before earning her master’s in architecture.

In this interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Askew and Paquin talk about their design philosophy and how they apply aspects of high-end luxury design to affordable housing.

Q: How would you describe your design philosophy?

Askew: I’m attracted to the spatial aspects of architecture. I think about how a space surrounds and engages someone, how light flows into it, what its views are, how it connects to the exterior, provokes feelings, and heightens your awareness.

Q: How do you incorporate ideas and lessons from luxury design into affordable houses?

Paquin: Working on affordable housing keeps us down-to-earth. The high-end residential provides artistic opportunities to custom design and we’re always trying to provide the highest quality possible in both. One of the biggest similarities between our high-end housing projects and affordable housing are the materials. We push healthy and sustainable materials and avoid toxic and irresponsible ones. The strong connection to light, air and the exterior is also a constant.

Q: What’s the benefit of having an architect perform interior design?

Askew: Our approach is more holistic. We’re thinking about all the details, finishes, layouts and exterior design elements concurrently. From spatial adjacencies, circulation through a home, structural and window locations to textures, materials and colors. We continually bounce between the micro and macro to create a cohesive and more rewarding experience.

Paquin: We connect interior and exterior. Working so intensively on Interiors gives us a more intimate relationship with interior details and scale of the elements we touch and feel.

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