The Midcentury Home That Daniel Liebermann Built For His Parents Asks $2.8 Million

Architect Daniel Liebermann, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s renowned pupils, made a lasting impact on Northern California’s architecture scene—and you can now own one of the pieces responsible for this fame for $2,795,000.
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Even before learning the backstory of this house that sits at the foot of Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California, we knew that 861 Lovell Avenue is an exceptional piece of architecture—but the behind-the-scenes story is what really makes it that much more covetable. We were lucky enough to be given the true story of the house’s evolution from Jay Little, an artist who actually lived in the house with his family of seven, and ended up becoming a close friend and student of Liebermann's. 

861 Lovell Avenue in Mill Valley, California, is surrounded by redwood trees and offers the California dream of living an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Sounds of the Cascade Falls stream in from the East, while the afternoon sun floods the courtyard and swimming pool to the West. 

The tale begins when Liebermann built this house for his parents in 1962, and simultaneously built another one for himself right next door. He re-milled a railroad bridge from Ukiah, California, and used the wood for both of the houses, while also salvaging windows from World War II bomber planes. However, a year after he completed the homes, his parents moved back to Switzerland, while he remained living in his house next door. After his parents rented out the house for a while, they ended up selling it to Jay's parents in 1967, who moved in with their 5 children, Jay included—who was seven years old at the time. 

The original red front door leads directly into the living room, which has oak parquet flooring and a radiant heating system throughout that still works to this day. 

Even after Liebermann moved to the East Bay, his connection with the house never faded. "When he was teaching in Berkeley, he would bring his students by and tell his stories. For years, he used it like a case study, and my whole family was part of his lab," says Jay. Because these two homes were his first residential buildings—which he completed when he was just 28 years old—he held a special connection with them that lasted until he passed away in October 2015. 

Liebermann and his wife Eva did the brickwork in the house—the most impressive section being the two arches that hover over the living areas and are surrounded by the home’s old-growth redwood structure. 

Jay's father became the caretaker of the residence and ended up building an addition under the house for his three daughters. Jay and his brother lived in the pool room, which shares the same roof with the house but is accessed about 20 yards from the main house. When his father built this addition or made any fixes, he used as many of the original materials as possible—mostly old-growth redwood—and made sure that it didn’t detract from the main house. Jay points out that Liebermann seemed to be happy with this situation that his father set up. He ended up inviting Jay to work and learn alongside him at a remodel he was doing in Piedmont. 

Liebermann had the steel fireplace fabricated off-site, which acts as the center of the house. Jay Little told us that he worked with many local businesses to get the work done on the house, some of which are still in business. 

Liebermann built the dining table himself, which was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s furniture. Jay told us that the original corners were so sharp, that his father rounded them out to make it work better for his large family—without losing the spirit of the table. It’s made with topical hardwood and is held together with epoxy joineries. 

In the corner of the living room sits a round table that the Little family brought from Minnesota. Jay's father made the rounded stools out of garbage cans from Cost Plus, and built the custom corner seat to create a comfortable nook. 

One of the brick arches connects to the master bedroom, which has an accordion door installed by Jay's father that can shut off one side of the room from the rest of the living space.

The only full privacy that exists in the main house—since everything is surrounded by glass—is in a cube that Jay placed in the center of the house. It’s seven feet tall, covered with a thin sheet of fiberglass to let the light stream in from a skylight, and holds two-and-a-half bathrooms. The woodworking here is done with a mahogany finish.

The guest bedroom in the main house holds a built-in desk that was installed by Jay's father, who took inspiration from the lines and shapes of the rest of the house. 

In the kitchen, the mother of pearl light fixture—which was installed by the Little family in the 1970s—is surrounded by three concentric rings of dark blue tiles from Sausalito-based Heath Ceramics. Liebermann installed Heath tiles in the kitchen, baths, pool, and fountain.

Connected by the same room but 20 yards away from the main house, sits the pool or guest house, which has one bedroom and one bathroom. Liebermann built the small round desk shown here, which sits under original porthole skylights.

Shown here is the addition that was built by Jay's father to fit the rest of their large family. He made sure to keep the design, look, and materials as consistent with Liebermann’s main design as possible. They ended up painting the walls white in order to bring more light into the space.

Both the pool and fountain feature original blue vertical tiles from Heath Ceramics, both of which are still functional. 

A huge rock that Liebermann picked out himself acts as a diving board into the pool. Liebermann's design allows the house to reflect in the pool when you first walk in through the front gate. The reflection doubles the size of the house.   

Jay and his father built a tiny office with red Dutch doors under the deck where they could escape from the constant action that occurs when you live with a large family.

The house sits on 1.25 acres of land and has a deck that connects the interiors with the outdoors. Jay pointed out, "Some of the old-growth redwood Liebermann used has up to 25 growth rings in a single inch!"  

Today, everything in the house is either completely original, or was carefully updated by this family who owned and cared for it for 50 years. You’ll find the full listing through Eric McFarland here.


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