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Craftsman + Wolves

Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction

San Francisco

Tough Cookie: A new bakery forgoes the soft, sweet approach for a moodier sensibility.

By Lydia Lee

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“The Rebel Within” is a soft-boiled egg magically cooked within a savory muffin of ham and cheese—basic ingredients presented in a delightful new way. Such is also the case with the bakery/café that produced it, which uses the raw materials of architecture—wood, concrete, steel—to clever effect. Co-owner and chef William Werner labored over Craftsman & Wolves, located in San Francisco's Mission District. He went through three false starts over four years—and as many design concepts—to get his own place off the ground. “The wolves in the name nods to past trials and tribulations,” says Werner with a laugh.

Like other metropolises, San Francisco has its fair share of upscale bakeries, offering enough pink cupcakes to fortify a whole squadron of runners in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. But Werner wanted Craftsman & Wolves to have a more masculine feel.

So what does a man-bakery look like? The overall aesthetic is rugged and industrial. The counter is not Carrara marble but black engineered quartz. Breakfast pastries are artfully positioned on log sections, and black steel shelving displays bags of “Damn Fine Granola” and jams. Touches of the homespun pop up elsewhere: Werner taped a Frank Lloyd Wright quote about the price of success onto the wall.

The notably tight $150-per-square-foot budget helped produce the space's “high-end DIY” ambience. Occupying a portion of a hotel that survived the 1906 earthquake, the double-height store had previously been stripped down to its bare brick walls and timber beams and rafters, and reinforced with steel framing for use as an auto-repair shop over the last couple of decades.

Architect Jim Zack of the San Francisco firm Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction, which had collaborated with Werner on other projects, knew that his client had a strong design sensibility. For example, after Zack came up with a simple gypsum-board-on-wood-frame box surfaced in steel-trowel stucco cement for the prep kitchen, Werner and his contractor added diagonal white seams. Countering the machine-age surface is the preprimed wood boarding below it. Also, Werner wanted the wall along the main seating area to be paneled, but not with “the same old reclaimed barn wood”: instead, he chose wood trim in different widths to create a simple but distinctive plane. The modest construction cost didn't include furnishings and shelving, or Werner's one big splurge: two Italian-glass refrigerated cases that display eclairs and cakes as if they were jewelry in vitrines.

Zack kept costs down by using such items as cabinetry from IKEA. The lower sections remain just as they came from the store, but the architect covered the upper cabinets in sheet steel so they can function as magnet boards. A steel rolling ladder allows access to these upper reaches.

Zack's subtle tailoring includes cranking the counter out about 6 degrees so that it funnels people toward the register; the dropped ceiling above follows the same angle. It's just one more move adding to the sense that this is a bespoke space—part of the overarching experience that distinguishes a Craftsman & Wolves pastry from, say, an Egg McMuffin.

Lydia Lee is a San Francisco–based architecture and design writer who has also written on technology.

Architect: Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction

Size: 1,230 square feet

Cost: $175,000

Completion date: June 2012

July 2013
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