An Amazing Tree-Covered Glass House For Sale in the Berkeley Hills

An Amazing Tree-Covered Glass House For Sale in the Berkeley Hills

By Sarah Akkoush
For the first time ever, the personal residence of the late influential architect Donald Olsen is on the market for $1.795 million.

Built in 1954, the Donald and Helen Olsen House was designed by Berkeley architect Donald Olsen and is a well-preserved example of International Style. A modern masterpiece in Northern California's Berkeley Hills, the architecturally significant dwelling was landmarked by the city in 2009 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

The home gracefully sits among the surrounding canopy of trees.

Olsen studied under Walter Gropius at Harvard before settling in Berkeley in 1953, where he erected his own residence. He also designed both neighboring homes on either side of the property. Though the house enjoyed great views of the bay when it was first built, the perspective was steadily obscured over the years by increasingly dense tree cover. The Olsens actually enjoyed the shelter and "tree house" feel of the surrounding foliage, and chose to let the trees grow unrestricted instead of cutting or trimming them to restore the view.

The cantilevered extension appears to float above the hillside.

Carefully positioned on a sloped lot, the dramatic 2,205-square-foot, glass-and-steel residence features three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and a studio/office. Though much of the home remains intact as it would have looked when it was built, a few alterations were made over the years that, today, appear as seamless elements of the property. Notably, the front of the house originally included an exposed balcony, which was later enclosed. Additionally, the lower level, consisting of a painting studio for Helen and one additional bathroom, was added later.

On the main level, the home's dining room is open to the living area and the outdoors.

The dramatic glass curtain wall, spanning an impressive 37 feet, allows the main living level to be flooded with natural light.

With plants both inside and out, the house feels immersed in nature.

The home's cozy kitchen boasts period charm and leads to an adjoining deck.

The deck is supported by a large beam that's bolted and tied to the main part of the house with steel cables.

An architectural photo collection adorns an entry wall.

Though there are many parts of the home the family felt were special, they had a particular fondness for the original mural by artist Claire Falkenstein, which was prominently installed at the home's entrance.

The lower level art studio, where Helen painted, was a later addition to the house.

A corner bedroom's floor-to-ceiling windows allow sunlight to stream in, while the mature trees help maintain privacy.

A full bathroom on the main living level is bright and functional.

A flexible bedroom/office includes a built-in desk and bookcases.

Listing courtesy of Bebe McRae and Alexis Thompson of the Grubb Company.


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