In addition to a prestigious university and a vibrant counterculture, Berkeley, Calif., is home to some very attractive Craftsman homes. This two-story 1908 charmer, in the Elmwood neighborhood, has retained many of its original features. With about 2,000 square feet, the four-bedroom and two-bath house is listed by Janet Kaplan and Yania Rodriguez Perez at Red Oak Realty.
Set on a city lot of 5,720 square feet, the property is asking $1.45 million. However, it will most likely sell for way over its asking price. In many Bay Area communities including Berkeley, asking prices are virtually meaningless because it’s common practice to considerably underprice a home to encourage multiple offers and heated bidding wars that typically drive the sale price well above the ask.
Original woodwork and built-ins are getting harder to find these days, as DIY warriors, home-flippers and architecture know-nothings ruin 115 years of history by painting or staining antique woodwork. Or even worse, by removing it altogether. In this house there’s much authenticity to appreciate and the the first floor is still inviting, just as it was meant to be — homey and unostentatious. There are still the original wood walls, a window seat, and a stained-glass window, plus a clinker brick fireplace in the living room, and wainscoting with plate rail, box beam ceilings and a built-in china cabinet in the dining room. Some other nice and more modern features include solar panels, a Tesla charging station, and an on-demand water heater. A detached cottage out back would be good for a home office, yoga retreat or art studio.
The current colors are not historically accurate and they don’t really complement the style so the new owners might consider changing some of the bright colors in the house, including the front door and trim. Easy fixes with some paint. Muted tertiary tones, olive green, amber and sienna tend to look better in a Craftsman home, and would likely have been among the original colors. The kitchen cabinets do match the Malibu tile-style backsplash, but it’s all a bit too bright. It would be better and more in keeping with the Craftsman style painted in lighter colors or white. Also, the trapezoidal windows in the master bedroom should go — they’re also not original.
So what is a Craftsman style home, anyway? Around 1900, businessman and furniture maker Gustav Stickley was inspired by the British Arts and Crafts Movement to design and publish small houses (bungalows) in his magazine The Craftsman. He and competitors sold all the furniture, linens, metalwork, carpets and so on to complement the houses. The style is most often seen in areas of the United States with rapid homebuilding between 1900 and 1910 or so, including the Bay Area, Pasadena, Seattle, and Chicago. Regional styles differ; the style used by Greene and Greene in Pasadena was heavily influenced by Japanese architecture, for example, while those in the Bay Area tend toward a less fussy style.
Anyone who comes across one of these houses in original or near-original condition, such as this one, should treasure it. Here’s to hoping the next owner honors the home’s architectural pedigree and language.