Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The House That Craigslist Built
When we first bought our home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights the backyard was nothing but an uneven slope of weeds. But in spite of the fact that I'd never taken to gardening, I was driven to do something spectacular with the space. After decades of apartment life, I finally owned land in San Francisco and I wasn't about to let the potential go to waste.
I wanted a lush garden I could enjoy year round. But I had to overcome the fact that our fifties four-square only provided access to the backyard via the garage.
What was missing was an enclosed space that provided immersive views of the garden that I was determined to create. I needed a place to relax and entertain comfortably and feel like I was still in the garden even on the many San Francisco days that aren't sunny and warm. What I needed was a back porch.
I made a call to the city, and when I discovered that I didn't need a permit for what they termed a 'shed' - an unattached structure that did not exceed 100 square feet or 8 feet in height and had no plumbing or electrical - I was thrilled.
ALL MY LIFE I'D WANTED TO BUILD A HOUSE FROM SCRATCH.
HERE AT LAST, ALBEIT ON A TINY SCALE, WAS MY CHANCE.
The only problem was we'd poured most of our cash into transforming the house from a total dump into something livable and we didn't have much money for the extravagance of adding a garden and a back porch to enjoy it.
But I was burning with determination. So for nine months I scoured the free section of Craigslist, finding all manner of useful things from landscaping rocks to furniture and plants. I found building materials, flagstone pavers, bricks and even fresh sod.
I spent several months designing and redesigning. Exploring the most pleasing way to fit the materials I had collected not only into a lovely and lush garden but also into a functional structure that met the city's parameters.
In the end, the building incorporated tons of free stuff, including 3/4 of the total lumber, three sets of french doors, all the furniture and even two unique "Mondiran" style metal and plexiglass panels that had been fabricated as a backdrop for a Wired magazine photo shoot.
Now, four years later, I sip my morning coffee and enjoy the view of my private paradise sitting cozy in the house that Craig's list built.