Artists Need Apply: This Midcentury Home Comes With an All-Purpose Workshop for $949K

A former office building in Oakland, California, is now a charming single-family home with a versatile courtyard and studio.
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In a city known for its gritty, urban je ne sais quoi, West Oakland is a epicenter of hipness in its own right. Its proximity to San Francisco and vibrant cultural scene attract both commuters and artists, a convergence that has driven rapid change in the neighborhood in the form of renovated Victorians and repurposed industrial spaces. A new listing on the market encapsulates this state of flux: built as an office in 1947 by architect Francis Joseph McCarthy, a disciple of William Wurster, the building was later converted into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. The resulting compound at 1185 32nd Street includes the house, a spacious courtyard, and a workshop that is 1,300 square feet of pure potential. Originally a storage area, then a woodworking studio, the space was most recently a shop for the current homeowner Eric Dean’s impressive array of vintage cars and bikes.

A white brick wall provides visual and material contrast to warm wood elements throughout the home.

Clerestory windows, outfitted with stained glass in the living room, allow light to bathe nearly every room.

"Everything's on a dimmer in the house," says Dean. "You can create a really nice, warm environment."

The property retains much of its midcentury flavor. Horizontal wood siding clads the exterior, a material that continues indoors with a vertical brick wall and wood-burning fireplace serving as counterpoint. High vaulted ceilings and clerestory windows lend airiness to the space. "The Mondrian-style stained glass creates a really beautiful light inside the living room," says Dean, "and the clerestory windows in the bedrooms give you a soft, diffuse morning light." When Dean and his partner Gwen bought the residence in 2013, they benefited from the previous owners’ restoration efforts. Dean had relatively little left to do to complete the transformation from office to abode: "It’s a lot of heartwood, redwood, and glass throughout the house, so I did some refinishing and sympathetically changed it to make it more of a single-family home."

Apart from the side-by-side bathrooms, the layout of the home doesn't reflect its commercial beginnings. The kitchen, which features Saltillo tile flooring, used to be a back office. 

All three bedrooms have cork floors. The master bedroom opens onto the courtyard.

A motorsports enthusiast, Dean put most his muscle into reconstructing the workshop— eliminating the individual bays, reinforcing the concrete, rewiring power, and using reclaimed barn wood for the walls. "I wanted it to feel more timeless and rustic," says Dean. "If I were working on restoring a car, all the bay doors would be open, and it’s really warm and beautiful looking outside while working in the shop."

"You can set the whole place aglow," says Dean about entertaining in the courtyard. "You can open all the [bay] doors with the collection of cars warmly lit by Edison bulbs."  

"I couldn’t have put pen to napkin and drawn out a more ideal place." 

—Eric Dean

Dean has an encyclopedic knowledge of vintage cars. "I've always been kind of a collector," he says. "I've been fascinated with 60s- and 70s-era racing. It had more of an element of danger. The guys that were doing it back then were truly laying everything on the line. Aesthetically, they're absolutely beautiful. The forms of those cars and motorcycles of that era are really sculptural and proportional." 

Vintage memorabilia and collector's items decorated Dean's workshop.

The courtyard is the connective space between the home and the workshop. A benefit of the property’s original commercial designation, it provides another blank slate for the homeowner. "Weather permitting, it’s where you spend all of your time," says Dean. "It’s really an oasis—in Oakland, of all places. The property is entirely fenced in so that it looks like a compound from the outside, but inside there’s so much flora and fauna that it doesn’t feel that way at all." Fig, olive, pomegranate, redwood, and palm trees provide a lush setting for backyard barbecues or large parties.

The expansive courtyard is ideal for holding events—or raising chickens, as the previous homeowners did.

"The courtyard is, weather permitting, where you spend all of your time," says Dean.

While Dean and his partner are excited to move south to manage their desert resort, Rimrock Ranch, putting the house on the market is a bittersweet experience. "For me, it was absolutely everything I was looking for," says Dean. "I couldn’t have put pen to napkin and drawn out a more ideal place for my hobby, the way I live, proximity to my friends and my work. I’m going to miss that house dearly. I’m hoping whoever lands there next appreciates it the same way and uses the whole property the way it should be used."

Dean explains that the compound is sandwiched between a private home and an industrial building, making it "literally the transition point from residential to commercial." 

The property is offered at $949,000. For more information about the listing, visit the website.


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