8701 Don Carol, El Cerrito

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Glen Bell, BHG Reliance Partners

Our featured home today is a rare and exceptional mid-century residence designed by Claude Oakland. Oakland began his career designing homes for Joseph Eichler at Anshen & Allen, but soon Eichler had convinced him to open his own office to carry on the work. This long partnership between Oakland and Eichler makes Oakland one of the most built domestic modernists in all of California but Eichler was certainly not his only client. This imposing El Cerrito home was designed for structural engineer T Y Lin and it is an exceedingly unusual example of brutalist residential design. Here there is little evidence of the typical woodsy Bay Region tropes that were common during this period. Instead we find stolid masses of concrete and masonry and forms that appear far more contemporary today than their fifty plus years might suggest.

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9 Maybeck Twin, Berkeley

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Norah Brower, Pacific Union

This beautifully composed Berkeley mid-century is a typically elegant and restrained design by Robert Ratcliff. Ratcliff would inherit a very successful architectural practice when his father Walter retired in 1955, but it was Robert’s vision that would really propel the firm through the post-war years and make it the local powerhouse that it is today. His particularly polished brand of Bay Region modernism appealed to a lot of clients who weren’t quite prepared for the most rustic work of some of his contemporaries. This home is a good case in point. It is a lovely piece of design: balanced and refined; woodsy, but only very selectively.

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252 The Uplands, Berkeley

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There is no mention of it in the listing but this exceptional late mid-century was the home of Lyman Jee who is probably best known for his long and productive partnership with Jack Anderson in El Cerrito. This home was designed by Jee long after that partnership had dissolved and Jee had mostly retired from architecture but it still clearly demonstrates his immense talent for creating stunning solutions to exceedingly difficult sites. Jee unfortunately passed away last year but we are fortunate to have quite a few of his thoughtful homes around the East Bay to remind us of his outsized impact on our built environment.

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970 Contra Costa, El Cerrito

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Our featured home today is a modest Bay Region mid-century charming for its extreme simplicity. Its single low gable provides ample shelter for the entire structure and its generous overhangs shade the carefully placed glazed openings. The interiors are equally thoughtful with rooms oriented to maximize views and efficient use of space. It is a beautifully pure conception – the home reduced to its most essential elements.

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3367 Freeman, Walnut Creek

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The Breezehouse is a new modern prefab structure designed by perhaps the most recognizable proponent of residential prefabrication, Michelle Kaufmann. The home was the second factory-built design that Kaufmann created for Sunset Magazine and it garnered a great deal of media attention in 2005 for its innovative systems and solid execution. However despite glowing reviews and growing backlog, Kaufmann was unfortunately forced to shutter her fledgling prefab business in 2009 as a result of difficult economic conditions after building only 40 homes. Hers would become only the latest in a long litany of promising but largely unsuccessful attempts at home prefabrication that have been undertaken since the middle of the last century. Kaufamnn ultimately sold her designs to Blu Homes which still offers versions of the Breezehouse and several of her other homes.

Posted in Architect-Designed, Michelle Kaufmann, New Modern | 1 Comment

112 Estates, Piedmont

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Earl MacDonald is not particularly well-known in the Bay Area because most of his solo career was spent in San Diego, but he lived in Oakland for many years and much of his training took place in the local offices of Arthur Brown. This lavish Piedmont home is one of several impressive residences that he designed in the East Bay before making the move down south and it is a great indication of his immense talent for period revival design. He would continue to practice in Southern California for many years, eventually becoming a noted proponent of modernism, but his early Spanish colonial homes remain some of his most charming designs.

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1162 Grizzly Peak, Berkeley

Click picture for additional photos and complete listing courtesy of Regina Jacobs, Grubb

This meticulously detailed and beautifully composed mid-century was designed by local architect John Wells as his personal residence. Wells was a longtime associate of highly regarded Berkeley professor and architect Vernon DeMars, first in the firm of Demars and Reay and eventually as a partner in the firm DeMars and Wells. Their projects together consisted mostly of Civic and University buildings, but both men also designed homes for themselves in the Berkeley Hills that are unique reflections of their own personalities. Wells’ is perhaps not surprisingly less ostentatious than is Demars’ but it is nonetheless a compelling tribute to his great talent and innate ability to create intimate and inviting interior spaces.

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