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Concrete Jungle Gym

A boring old parking spot becomes a private playground.

Nico (left), six, and Winter Libeson, eight, play in their home's carport turned

Nico (left), six, and Winter Libeson, eight, play in their home's carport turned playland.

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Nico (left), six, and Winter Libeson, eight, play in their home's carport turned

The family enjoys alfresco meals on the concrete-tiled patio. A mini two-story playhouse at the edge of the deck provides a place for the kids to play.

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Nico (left), six, and Winter Libeson, eight, play in their home's carport turned

A glass-and-aluminum garage door maximizes light. The stained glass window above the courtyard entrance features a character from Space Invaders—an arcade video game that owner Kenneth played as a kid.

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Nico (left), six, and Winter Libeson, eight, play in their home's carport turned

Owner Marie Libeson salvaged the Mission street sign that nods to the surrounding neighborhood.

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Faced with a side yard consisting of a cracked concrete slab, most city dwellers might cut their losses and rejoice in the extra parking. But when homeowners Kenneth and Marie Libeson moved into this 1910 home in Noe Valley with their two children, ages six and eight, they decided to make the most of the limited outdoor space.

“We wanted our carport to be more than functional,” says Kenneth, an IT director with a creative streak who also pitched in to renovate the home’s interior. He envisioned a private outdoor space where he and his wife could entertain guests and let the kids run wild. Contractor Jeff King of Jeff King & Company built out the playful architectural elements on Libeson’s must-have list—including kid-friendly synthetic grass and a two-story brass fire pole, which is also frequented by adults during cocktail parties. (“I’ve used it several times,” says Kenneth. “It’s super-fun.”)

King tore out the dilapidated concrete pad, enclosing as much space as zoning permitted for a courtyard and carport. He topped the new stucco garage with a roof deck and designed a textured glass catwalk that allows access from the second-floor bedrooms. “Now, if they park the car on the street, the carport becomes their personal barbecue joint, play space, and movie theater,” says King.

At ground level, the carport flows into a bluestone-paved pathway leading from the sidewalk to the kitchen door. A small, elevated lawn bears a porch swing, and two more swings dangle from the carport overhang. “We eventually bought gymnastic bars and hammocks as well,” says Kenneth. “We switch them out whenever the kids ask.”

 

Originally published in the July Issue of San Francisco.

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