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Jonathan Pearlman
Design Principal

Jonathan Pearlman is the design principal of Elevation Architects (EA). In the 1990’s, he worked with numerous non-profit agencies in San Francisco in the capacity as consultant, executive director, and board member. He founded his practice in 1995 as Architecture Design Studio which has evolved into EA. In addition to the residential and commercial projects that EA specializes in, Jonathan continues to work with non-profit agencies on their building projects. Jonathan consults on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) historical building evaluations and has served on the San Francisco's Landmarks Preservation Board. He holds a BA degree in Architectural History from Tufts University and has a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he also taught Design Studios.

1. What is your favorite architectural word or phrase? "Architecture's task is to make vivid who we might ideally be."
2. What is your least favorite architectural word or phrase? "Really, no one will ever notice. (they always do!)"
3. What turns you on creatively? "Like good jazz, when synchronicity emerges in a group"
4. What turns you off creatively? "Typical suburban development"
5. What sound or noise do you love? "Wind through the leaves of tall trees in New England in August"
6. What sound or noise do you hate? "The crunching of car against car"
7. Who or what inspires you? "Jimmy Carter and anyone who lives by their integrity"
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? "Automotive Designer"
9. What profession would you not like to do? "Forest Ranger"
10. What word or phrase would you never use in an interview? "No, I've never done that, but how hard could it be?""
11. What's you favorite pastime? "Exploring a city I've never been to before"
12. What's your idea of an exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon? "Getting a sandwich at Molinari¹s and then going to a great bookstore"
13. How would you spend a one-year sabbatical? "Completing "Great Houses", an architectural murder mystery"
14. If Design heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearl inlay, steel and glass custom press latch gates? "Your lot is the one between Frank's (Lloyd Wright) and Corb's (Le Corbusier) and across the street from Louis' (Sullivan) and H.H.'s (Richardson). When you're ready to build, just go ahead ­ no permits required!"

Alan Aurich
Managing Principal

Alan Aurich is the managing principal of Elevation Architects (EA) and contributes to client projects on interiors, managing the selection and coordination of materials – appliances, fixtures and finish applications. He graduated with a BA degree in Interior Design from San Francisco State University. During college and upon graduation, Alan worked with Werner Design Associates, a firm specializing in interiors, lighting and landscaping. He left Werner to open his own firm, a private consulting practice, specializing in the spatial and operational organization of residential and office environments. Alan joined EA in 2004, winding down his practice in 2007.

1. What is your favorite architectural word or phrase? "Structure"
2. What is your least favorite architectural word or phrase? "Cozy"
3. What turns you on creatively? "Distressed real estate with good bones"
4. What turns you off creatively? "Cookie-cutter design"
5. What sound or noise do you love? "Cascading water"
6. What sound or noise do you hate? "Unattended car alarms"
7. Who or what inspires you? "Conversations that expand my awareness"
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? "Peace mediator"
9. What profession would you not like to do? "Train conductor"
10. What word or phrase would you never use in an interview? "It is not possible." (said w/ Italian accent)
11. What's you favorite pastime? "Searching the MLS for distressed properties"
12. What's your idea of an exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon? "Visiting showrooms, stores or outlets with kitchen and bath appliances and plumbing fixtures"
13. How would you spend a one-year sabbatical? "On an architectural pilgrimage in Italy"
14. If Design heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearl inlay, steel and glass custom press latch gates? "We have your reservation; your party's already here."


Practicing architecture today is a complex endeavor. Solving problems and fulfilling dreams for our clients is part of our charge as we seek to create places for "home". While values embedded in our memories are revealed in the design process, we also must be mindful of our effect and impact on our community and the environment.

At ELEVATIONarchitects, we take our responsibility seriously to be good stewards for our clients and the world of which we are a part. Our highest client compliment is when we are told that we gave them something they didn't even know they wanted. Our goal is to discover that nugget, that core value that transforms a building into your home.


Each of us brings a treasure trove of information to a project: first, feelings and emotions, deep within our circuits that keep us grounded, and ideas – long-held over the years, or new.

These memories may be just a feeling of how the sun washed a room, the colors of your bedroom or the sensation of how your hand felt as it bounced along a particular brick wall as you walked by. Ideas start to formulate whenever we fantasize about what our home will look like, whether the fantasy begins in childhood or beyond. Each of these perspectives help to shape the house we create with you, imbuing your home with an authenticity that is not available in the developer-built house that you passed on to build your own.

Beyond your own personal memories, your house may have history as well. Its’ story is revealed in its architecture, its style, when it was built, and how it was modified through the years. Some clients come to us with the desire to expand their period home and to have a finished house that is respectful of its time and place; this has value too.

Our vision, joined with your memories and ideas, guides the process of the initial design and design development. We’ll instill “what could be,” in the context of honoring you and the context of it’s placement within the broader landscape.


There is so much excitement in the “before” and “after.” Buildings age, but many do not age gracefully. Buildings built in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, now feel dated, tired and sometimes, just plain ugly. At times, we have all thought, “what were they thinking?” when looking at some of the quirky and odd solutions from that time. Of course, there is no completely timeless design; it would be hubris to think that what we are designing today, the color palette and the technology, would last forever.

Engaging you, whether it’s a new house or renovation, is where the transformation begins. As we discuss how you live today and anticipate how your life will evolve in the coming years, we look for the essence of what is important to you, your values and aspirations; we strive to create an authentic “sense of place”, a warm and rich environment. These are the considerations that have “staying power.”

We are committed to a personal and modern approach to design and planning; while reflective of you, our designs are also responsive to the context of local customs, culture and environment. We possess the experience, ability, and commitment to provide hands-on attention to your project, from preliminary design, through construction; we are a full-service firm. We know that thorough service, specific to your needs, is essential for quality and on-budget construction.

To the uniformed, the “after” picture is often startling, having known the “before”; if we’ve done our job well, your new home is a reflection of what you’ve imagined, and more. Your spirit will delight in the design, and hopefully, the seemingly subtle details that make you smile and feel grounded and connected.

Care, Consideration & Consequence

“Sustainability”, “green building”, “carbon footprint” are words and phrases interwoven in the context of an evolving dialog, locally, nationally and globally. The aforementioned terms should not encapsulate a “trend” or leverage the “buzz” of our times; their meaning is much more significant if we are to truly pay attention and be responsible in deeds, as well as words, to this critical conversation.

One’s awareness and deeper understanding of their place in the world, and within a community, evolves over time. Relative to conception, design development and ultimate construction, the means and methods evolve as well. With each project, we endeavor to maintain the “sustainability” dialog from the onset, cognizant that most clients are receptive. It’s a dialog rich in opportunity to practice and impart the knowledge we have, and where lacking, to learn and stretch ourselves, collectively. Our commitment is to be responsible from the beginning and throughout the process, making headway within our sphere of influence, duly noting its impact in a larger context.

1099 23rd Street, Suite 18
San Francisco, CA 94107
v: (415) 537.1125
f: (415) 821.1121

Principal: Jonathan

Houzz Website
2303 Filbert Street

This small corner house in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood spent the first 130 years of its life as a corner grocery and upholstery shop. Now, the fully renovated house has three bedrooms, three baths, a slick kitchen and full roof deck with hot tub. The dramatic staircase, directly across from the entry, features all glass guard rails and a skylight over its entire length.
429 Douglas

Our client, G’dali, lived down the street from the ramshackle Art Deco house that was built by the elderly lady and her husband in 1941. When her estate put the house up for sale, he was first in line to get this house that he loved.

His mandate was to re-conceive the house for 21st century living, while retaining the stylistic character. The original 1,400 square foot house was expanded to 3,600 square feet, with the addition of the 3rd floor master bedroom suite and the expansion and use of the original basement as a large family and music room. Wood corner windows, unique metalwork for stair railings and gates, aluminum fins and a cobalt and black mosaic tile reflecting pool, all reinforce the Art Deco character. The steeply sloping site allows for two levels of yard below the lower floor, and there are expansive downtown and Bay views from all floor levels.

3715 22nd Street

We weren't too surprised when we got the call to renovate this dilapidated house because we had already completed the two neighboring and identical houses over the previous few years. The basic program for all three houses was to raise the house to build a garage and an apartment unit below and transform the house into a gracious, contemporary home.

During the construction, the property was sold to Deborah who brought her great ideas and excellent taste into the process. There were a number of modifications that included adding a master bedroom suite and roof deck in the tall attic space. The completed house has living space on the first floor, three bedrooms on the second and the master suite on top. With a steep downhill slope to the back, we were able to add a 1 bedroom apartment with a sleeping loft behind the garage.
1847 Scott Street

This must be one of the narrowest lots in San Francisco! At only 16 feet wide, this 1887 cottage had only a facade standing when we were asked to design a four story house behind it. Because it was considered historic, the facade had to stay. We added a contemporary three bedroom home with a den and two decks on four levels within the very confined envelope.
4031 19th Street

As a developer and contractor, Gerry was not scared away from this falling down, 1880’s Victorian in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood. With only the facade salvageable, the interior was completely created in period style with contemporary planning, yet with scale, proportion and trim detailing as if it all were original. Period lighting, inlay wood flooring and marble and limestone in the bathrooms complete the imagery. This small, one-story house that sat high on the hill, was held in the air as a new garage and small apartment were built below, and a second- story master bedroom suite and outdoor deck were added behind the tall parapet of the front facade.

2821 Steiner Street

When Bill hired us for this project, this Pacific Heights home had been used as a bed and breakfast inn for more than three decades. With a rabbit-warren of rooms, the tired old house was transformed into a high-end luxury single family home. The bottom-to-top interior renovation of the house brings traditional luxury back to this home with rich finishes, gracious spaces and upscale amenities. Each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom and the master bedroom has its own fireplace, exterior deck and lavish bath, with large steam shower and claw-footed tub. Tumbled limestone finished decks from the spectacular, pitched ceiling rooms on the top floor offer eye-popping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.

212 Edgewood Avenue

Located on one of the most beautiful and hidden streets in San Francisco, this 1908 California shingle-style house was begging to be relieved of its1950’s lemon, aqua and brown remodel. Leslie asked that we create a gracious home for her growing family that was true to its original style and to reincorporate a lower apartment into the house, created in the 1960’s. The rickety studs were fully exposed before rebuilding could begin. A new entry porch was created, based on the designs of renowned San Francisco architect Edgar Matthews, and is complimented with a custom Arts and Crafts style door.

47 Levant Street

When Gerry bought this house, it was hard to imagine that anyone could have ever lived in it. What appeared to be a tiny one story cottage was nothing but deceptive with four full levels down the hill to the yard and garage below. With nothing left but a vague reference to an Arts and Crafts style, this house was completely rebuilt with an entirely new interior on three levels with four bedrooms, generous living space, four full baths, a study, a sauna and a skylit three-story stair hall.

2127 Broderick

In our first meeting, Allison asked that her abandoned, half-renovated barn of a house, known throughout Pacific Heights as the “Pepto-Bismol” house due to its flamboyant hot pink paint, be completely rebuilt perfectly true to its Victorian roots. Exploring this idea further, Allison relented a little when we showed her images of real Victorian kitchens. She then requested that it be modern in function, Victorian in style!

Blessed with photos of the house from the 1920’s, EA was able to reconstruct the grand front staircase and entry porch that had been demolished decades before. A free-standing three-car garage that took up the entire rear yard was demolished, and a two-car garage was discreetly inserted on the Washington Street side of the house. The only thing left after a botched and unfinished earlier renovation was the hand carved three-story wooden stair rail and newel posts, which was lovingly restored and matched with wood stair treads.
Mill Creek Road

You could be in Tuscany atop this private, 10 acre, modern sanctuary, but you are nestled in the heart of Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. No need to go to Italy for this experience.

Jonathan and Alan have been clear from the time that they purchased the property that they wanted to create a sanctuary for whomever they had the pleasure to share their home with; a desire to have an experience that nurtures and sustains the spirit.

Arriving at the property, you drive up the hill and take in the striking architecture not visible from the road. The slot window in the front door only hints at the dramatic interior – rich materials, color and art. Inside you'll find the breathtaking, all encompassing views from every space – vineyards that wrap the hills, mountains in the distance, hawks that hover in the updrafts of the valley below. The design offers a “warm modern” ambiance and graciously expands the indoor/outdoor living experience

619 Benvenue

Steve and Alison had many differing ideas and visions for their home. Alison loved the courtyards and indoor/outdoor style of their Eichler home, while Steve needed a huge garage for a workshop to support his racing habit; Alison wanted to have places for their extensive art collection, while Steve wanted the house to reflect his local California heritage.

The design that emerged combines conceptual and detail elements of Eichler Homes, meditative, serene Japanese courtyards, specific locations for each art piece, and curving concrete walls that lead to an underground “man-cave,” with its aluminum and glass garage door and car turntable. All elements of the house, including building materials and site landscaping, support the design intent, emphasizing responsibility and respect for the California environment and the simplicity of Bay Area Modern and Japanese planning.
315 Alicia Way

Mary and Gary came to us after working with two other architects, frustrated with designs that gave them but a mere expansion of their 1960’s ranch house. What we discovered in our conversations, was that they really wanted a new house, but were concerned that tearing down and starting from scratch would be out of their budget.

EA completely re-imagined the house in a modern design vocabulary, while retaining much of the existing plan. The living/dining room and den were expanded both up and out to the expansive yard, and in the master bedroom suite, we added a new bathroom and closet, and a private reading room for Mary’s escape on football Sundays. Mary loves the curved concrete room as she looks out onto her yard from her Saarinen Womb Chair! An Italian-designed kitchen, single-slab granite entry foyer, 15-foot folding door and an EA-designed Mondrian-esque, custom front door are some of the details that Mary enjoys, and the new 100-inch projector screen keeps Gary occupied and content.

875 Echo

David and Sonia left a note on the mailbox of one of our other houses in Los Altos asking for the name of their architect. Their 1951 ranch house was way too small for their family. They liked the "mid-century" elements of their home and wanted their renovation and addition to reflect that architectural vocabulary. The 850 square foot addition of a new living room, den and bathroom gave them the space they needed along with a new kitchen, entry and laundry room. Rich materials including Heath tiles, rift-sawn Ash and Walnut cabinetry and India Mist slate contribute to quality of the spaces in their new home.
Portola Valley House

Avi and Anu wanted to create a home for their multi-generational family that included his parents and their future children. Starting with a typical 1960's ranch house in the Ladera neighborhood, the house gained a new identity with a dramatic entrance. The project included a new master suite on the basement level that opens out to the garden and pool below. The dated kitchen was renovated and opened to the main living space and included a new patio and water feature on the street side of the house. A pavilion at the pool is topped by solar panels that heat the pool.
455 Upper Terrace

Jonathan and Alan completely renovated this San Francisco condominium in 2001 to eliminate its 1970’s flower-power Formica and avocado green appliances to create a refined and comfortable contemporary, Manhattan-style penthouse. The circular entry rotunda is paved in slate and leads to the living room whose backdrop is a stunning “three bridge” view of San Francisco and the Bay. The material palette features cherry cabinetry, stainless steel details, granite counters and brushed aluminum windows and hardware. All of the technology is built-in, hidden in custom cabinetry to create a clean and uncluttered impression in every room.

674 Teresi Lane

The last renovation of this Los Altos house in 1964 converted the garage into the classic suburban family room, complete with fake brick wall, large fireplace and exposed ceiling beams. Steve and Jane were clamoring to tear it all out to transform this low-ceilinged, small-roomed tired ranch house into a modern contemporary home for their family. Planning restrictions limited the form changes that could be made on the front, but with no limitations on the back, the flat stucco wall with high windows was summarily dismissed!

Only the kitchen remained in the same location, as the house was expanded and reorganized to have five bedrooms, three baths, a large living/dining/kitchen area and that old den was returned to its original purpose as a garage. The exterior was re-sheathed in stained wood and clear-finish aluminum siding. The rear yard has become an additional entertainment and play area, with the complementary modern design by OuterSpace Landscape Architecture.
246 Sanchez

Berni hired a contractor to redesign his just purchased, rundown 1980's condominium. When they asked for plans, he said he thought that's what they did! They suggested he hire an architect and we came in to guide him through a complete redesign of his space.

The design evolved from a renovation of the bathrooms and a kitchen update, to a full, down to the studs renovation. The long dark living/dining and kitchen space was enlivened by a 20'-0" long skylight. The fireplace was updated with a custom slate mantle with a custom wood bin and audio cabinet. The kitchen was replaced, new decorative lighting throughout and a glass railing at the central staircase. The small deck was rebuilt with ipe wood decking, benches and custom cushions.
256 Willard North
East Sunset Drive

A speculative design for a local real estate agent in Los Altos as an enticement to prospective buyers, this house steps down the steep hill with all spaces in the house facing dramatic views. The upper level features a large living room with space for an audience at piano recitals. One level below are three bedrooms, a large master suite and a family room with stone walls buried in the hillside. The lowest level caters to the pool with a large activity room and generous changing rooms. The pool has an infinity edge and a surrounding patio that looks out into a meadow below.
3100 Pacific Avenue
3110 Pacific Avenue
740 Washington Street

Originally created as a “War On Poverty” program, Self-Help for the Elderly (SHE) began serving seniors in San Francisco's Chinatown community in 1966. SHE provides social services and hot meals to low-income and isolated elderly. Today, SHE serves over 25,000 seniors each year in San Francisco Bay Area counties. They are a multi-service organization providing programs along a wellness continuum ranging from employment/training and social activities to in-home assistance and residential board and care to those who are more frail.

The Tom Do Hing Senior Center is a new building located on Portsmouth Square in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown. The new facility will feature meeting halls on the ground floor and counseling offices on the mezzanine level. Eighteen independently accessed, low-income apartments are on the top three floors. Along with designing the project, Elevation Architects will participate in all community, fund raising and media presentations. The project is expected to be completed in 2010.
Octavia Boulevard

This is a competition design for new housing at the corner of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard. Responding to the ever-escalating housing prices that forces artists to leave the City, the ArtCOOP offers live/work housing in a cooperative setting. The American Academy in San Francisco, modeled after the famous one in Rome, features a prominent corner building that is a combination of cafe, bookstore, gallery and housing and studio space for visiting artists from all over the world. A large outdoor performance courtyard space links the two groups of artists in a public venue. The form of the building responds both to the new Octavia Boulevard and Haight Street with heights, setbacks and bay windows that relate to neighborhood patterns.
Los Altos Hills House

Our clients considered buying other homes in Los Altos before buying this house way up in the hills. Fortunately for us, when they were looking for an architect to renovate their home, they went back to look at Teresi knowing that a significant remodel was needed just to live in it. They wandered by just as we were completing its renovation. We were hired shortly after.

The Los Altos Hills house is a melange of parts from 1920, 1960 and 1982. Our clients were looking to remove the early portions due to their deteriorated condition and merge the 1982 portion into one comfortable new home for their family. Complicating the situation was the fact that to achieve their goals, we would need two variances – a near impossible task in Los Altos Hills.

The design capitalizes on the topography as the new elements step down the hill incorporating the 1982 house into a "village" or hill town. With success in obtaining approval for the variances, we are ready to move forward.
3000 Lakeshore

3000 Lakeshore Avenue is a new 11-unit residential building to be built one block south of Lake Merritt in Oakland. A variety of unit types gives the building its form with townhouses at the ground and 2nd floors, flats on the 3rd and 4th floors and a large penthouse with large decks on the 5th floor. Exterior materials are a combination of concrete, wood and stucco with clear glass and steel railings and channel glass used for privacy.
2103 Scott Street

Three separate buildings in San Francisco¹s Pacific Heights neighborhood have been joined and transformed into an office for Sackett Design Associates, one of the city’s leading graphic designers. Two of the three structures, a small retail space from 1914 and a garage built in 1958, were merged to create the first phase of the project completed in 1997.

The genesis of many of the plan elements derive from the work of the graphic designer. In addition, a palette of ten paint colors reflects the complexity the designer brings to his projects. The expansion is anchored by a central circular conference and presentation space that links the reception, offices and workroom. The design of the new space echoes themes established in the
first: the circular circulation path, off-angled bathroom and matching materials.