'Sophisticated yet understated' home in Oakland hills
Updated 8:22 pm, Friday, June 21, 2013
More than 1,000 acres were torched and at least 3,500 homes destroyed when a fire rampaged through the Oakland hills in the early 1990s. Among the homes lost was a traditional Tudor in Rockridge owned by a local couple. When the family began construction on a new home, they reached out to architect William Dutcher to create an elegant space that would not only be welcoming and attractive but also unlike what stood there previously.
"They were very open-minded, and that made it fun for me," Dutcher said of rebuilding 170 Roble Road, a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home featuring walls of glass, clean geometric lines and a copper roof with redwood eaves.
As an homage to the original structure, sandblasted concrete blocks inside the home line up on the same path as the foundation of the original house.
"It was an idea to have a memory of the house that was there but not to repeat that design," Dutcher said.
Other than that, the design of the house is a complete departure from the original Tudor. Wide phalange steel columns support the home, while walls of glass decorate the entryway and Honduran mahogany lines the hardwood floors and forms the doors and cabinetry.
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A barrel-vaulted ceiling lingers above the living room, which is highlighted by a fireplace with a green limestone surround.
Just beyond the dining room is an exterior waterfall which is placed where the original home's fireplace once stood. One could read a sense of symbolism into the placement, Dutcher said.
"It's like the water is putting out the fire," he said.
Aside from representing a piece of the past, the waterfall plays a practical role for the home.
"When it's on, it masks the noise from the freeway," Dutcher said.
With its fountains, concrete block walls and patio, the backyard is one of Dutcher's favorite parts of the home, he said. While the residents decided what flowers and shrubs to plant, he laid out all the hardscaping - the fences, walkways and paved areas.
Mature oak trees and evergreens surround the $2.1 million home on its half-acre lot.
Inside, Dutcher points to the spiral mahogany staircase off the entryway that's illuminated by a skylight, which is a favorite interior design feature. It was inspired by the staircase of a Piedmont home that came to Dutcher's attention when the owner showed him a picture of it.
"They really wanted a grand staircase in their house. It was important to me to give them something they were interested in," he said.
Polished steps play off the cantilever and patina steel frame, while the sculpted handrail adds a dimension of grace to the design.
With a private den, large office and dressing area, the master suite dominates most of the top floor. The upper level also includes two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Though Barkin prefers not to disclose the names of the owners who rebuilt the home, she said the husband is a retired Alameda County Superior Court judge and Dutcher said the wife sang with the Berkeley Community Chorus.
Their careers required their home to be a place that could accommodate fundraisers and parties, Dutcher said, so much thought was put into creating a design that flowed logically and was welcoming.
The two-year reconstruction was completed in 1995, Dutcher said, and Creative Spaces served as the contractor for the home.
"The home is sophisticated yet understated," Barkin said. "It's a contemporary building with exquisite details that is still warm and intimate."
Address: 170 Roble Road, Oakland
Price: $2.1 million
Features: Mahogany finishes, master suite with den, office and dressing room, exterior fountains and waterfalls.
Open home: 2 to 4:30 p.m., Sunday