1465 Vista, El Cerrito

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Carla Della Zoppa, Pacific Union

Our featured home today is lovely mid-century jewel box perched atop the El Cerrito hills with broad panoramic views of the bay below. It was designed by local standout Henry Hill at the peak of his productivity and it demonstrates very readily his mature grasp of scale and massing and his uncanny ability to add unexpected pops of visual interest at will. It is a beautiful piece of architecture by one of the Bay Area’s best.

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89 Southampton, Berkeley

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Maya Trilling, Berkeley Hills

This sizable Berkeley hills mid-century was on the market a few years ago and was just as impressive then. It was originally designed by Gerald McCue but it was substantially remodeled by Joanne Koch of Koch Architects within the last decade. McCue’s trademark glazed gables are still present as is a good deal of exposed wood but almost nothing else has been left untouched. Fortunately the modifications are quite sensitive to the original aesthetic so the home still feels like a unified composition rather than a series of conflicting tableaus. It is rumored that McCue himself even blessed the alterations once complete.

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145 Duncan, Oakland

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Gunilla Lehmkuhl, Dudum

This lovely compact mid-century designed by John Hans Ostwald has some great features. It is sited on the bank of the Temescal creek with access to the house via a small truss foot bridge that spans the waterway. The home itself takes the form of a pyramid with a skylight at its apex and plenty of redwood lining the walls. The public rooms on the open upper level benefit from the views through the trees while the bedrooms down below enjoy the sounds of the creek rushing past.

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95 Parnassus, Berkeley

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Kathy Nitsan, Red Oak

This striking art moderne residence was a very forward looking piece of design when it was built in 1935. It was the result of a competition funded by General Electric to create a model of the “New American Home” complete with all of the latest GE appliances. There was even an electric dishwasher long before they were commonplace in American homes. Of course all of the fabulous vintage appliances are just a distant memory now, but fortunately much of the rest of the original detail remains, including a number of fantastic chrome embellishments in the living room.

The home was designed by local architect John Dinwiddie fairly early in his career and before his long and productive partnership with Henry Hill. Dinwiddie’s design was the winner among a crowded field of competitors likely because of its streamlined and futuristic appearance. Much of the work being done between the wars was still decidedly period revival in style, but Dinwiddie is clearly already taking early steps at this point toward the more fully developed modernism that would characterize most of his later work.

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686 Mariposa, Oakland

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Brian Cheek, Keller Williams

There is no mention of it in the listing, but according to at least one reliable source, this lovely shingled craftsman is the work of Julia Morgan. It is without doubt a highly symmetrical and very finely detailed home, so the attribution seems quite plausible. The grand interiors boast an abundance of woodwork, generous rooms, and an extremely charming inglenook. It is a beautiful example of First Bay Region architecture by a very talented local designer.

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771 San Diego, Berkeley

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Bebe McRae, Grubb

It has been a little over three years since Donald Olsen passed away, but the impact that he had on the architecture of the Bay Area is still palpable. Olsen cut his own path at a time when modernism in Northern California was decidedly woodsy and rustic. His homes were pure and unadorned formal expressions that stood out even in the very crowded field of talented local architects in which he found himself.

The home we feature today is one of a cluster of Olsen-designed structures on San Diego Road. It is a particularly special example because it is the home that Donald shared with his wife Helen for over sixty years, raising their family, and entertaining clients and students alike. It is a fitting monument to the great quality and indeed rigor of Bay Area architecture during the 1950s.

Posted in Architect-Designed, Donald Olsen, International Style, Mid-Century | 1 Comment

515 Miner, Orinda

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Laura Abrams, Coldwell Banker

The Richard Breuner house is a fairly early design by long time dean of architecture at UC Berkeley, William Wurster. It is difficult to discern today just how revolutionary Wurster’s work was at the time because so many of the homes built in the 50s and 60s were based on his ideas; but this home was built in 1938 at a time when most architects were still designing in period revival styles. The Breuner brothers were regular clients of Wurster’s from as early as the 1920s. They had inherited the successful Breuners Home Furnishings from their father and valued Wurster’s simple unadorned spaces in which to display their wares. Richard Breuner would have Wurster back every decade or so to add a little something to this home so it acts as a particularly interesting catalog of his evolving style over the years.

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