A Spectacular Roger Lee Midcentury Hits the Market in Berkeley for $1.3M

A Spectacular Roger Lee Midcentury Hits the Market in Berkeley for $1.3M

By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
The home was recently renovated by interior designer Christa Martin, who calls it “a love poem to the Berkeley Hills.”

Set in the Berkeley Hills, this midcentury home was originally built by pioneering Chinese-American architect Roger Lee for concert pianist Jean Gray Hargrove. Lee is known for his minimalist aesthetic and rhythmic style that makes use of natural materials—and these elements shine in the stunning, light-filled residence.

100 Parnassus Road was built in 1958 by Roger Lee. Current homeowner Christa Martin calls it "a love poem to the Berkeley Hills."

The two-bedroom, two-bath home offers beautiful bay views, soaring Douglas fir ceilings, expansive walls of glass, and heartwood redwood walls that were hand sawn on-site. "It’s elegant, graceful, and spare—like a love poem to the Berkeley Hills," explains interior designer Christa Martin, who has lived in the home for nine years with her husband, creative director Geoff Katz.

The open-plan living space features soaring wood-paneled ceilings and expanses of glass. Christa did a deep dive into the architecture of Roger Lee and Bay Area modernism to keep the original design as intact as possible while modernizing it.

The creative couple purchased 100 Parnassus Road in 2011 after searching for the "right home" for two years. They knew that the residence needed work, but they also saw its great bones. "When we purchased the house from the Hargrove estate, it was in good but dated condition," explains Christa. "It had undergone a remodel in the early ’90s featuring tons of mirrored walls and carpeting. The kitchen and bath fixtures were past their prime and needed replacement. We moved in and began planning."

Before starting any work, Christa researched Roger Lee and Bay Area regional modernism, and she reviewed the house plans to understand the principles behind the original design. "I also observed the way we used the space, and how the sunlight moved across the rooms. We wanted to keep the original design as intact as possible while modernizing. The redwood walls are not replaceable, so we decided to work within the existing footprint," she says.

Two years ago, the couple ended up relocating to Los Angeles (their home there was previously featured on Dwell), and although they had hoped to rent out their beloved Berkeley home, ultimately they decided that the house "needs the care of a new, loving owner." Scroll ahead for a peek inside this very special residence.

Before moving, the couple made some quick fixes to make the house livable. "We refinished the existing hardwood floors and installed new matching oak to replace linoleum in the kitchen. I took a chisel to the tile around the Malm fireplace [which is original to the home] in the living room and discovered the original stained concrete hearth below," explains Christa. She also accented the bookcases with black paint.

The living room opens to a deck that features sweeping bay views.

The open-plan layout features a kitchen and dining nook just off the living room. "We debated taking out the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room and replacing it with an island," says Christa. "But after living in the house for a year, hosting parties and cooking holiday dinners for 18 people, we realized that having the partial separation was necessary for our sanity."

The pendant light over the dining area is a GUBI Semi pendant in black.

"We wanted to keep the original custom mahogany cabinets," shares Christa. "I had a carpenter build matching base cabinets to extend the kitchen another 40 inches. We put in a paneled refrigerator, pull-out pantry, and splurged on gorgeous Gaggenau speed ovens and cooktop."

For the backsplash, the couple chose Heath Ceramics crease-in and crease-out dimensional tile. The thin quartz countertop is Caesarstone, and the eight-foot floating shelves are made from solid mahogany and bolted to the studs. The exhaust was custom designed to fit into the tile run. 

The main upstairs bedroom sit at the end of a wood-paneled hallway.

The home wraps around the main bedroom so that it also has direct access to the deck off the living room.

Christa envisioned the main bathroom on the upper level as a sanctuary with a soaking tub. "We opened up the ceiling to expose the volume to its full 14-foot height," she explains. "We kept the same layout, but replaced the shallow alcove tub with a soaking tub and Vola faucets. We found a floating vanity with a matching medicine cabinet, and a wall-mount toilet." The dimensional wall tile is Ann Sacks Context Pillow Mosaic, which comes alive as natural light streams in from clerestory windows.

The bathroom also features heated terrazzo floors from Granda Tile. "The hallway adjacent to the bath has mahogany wall paneling, so we carried that same material above the door height up to the ceiling of the bath."

On the ground floor, the couple installed a concrete overlay over the slab and uses a sectional and area rugs to help define zones in the open space. A Malm ZIRCON 38 fireplace sits in the corner, and clerestory windows and skylights establish a strong indoor/outdoor connection. 

Just off the ground-floor living room is the second bedroom, which can be easily tucked away behind sliding wood doors.

The ground-floor bedroom is clad in redwood and well lit from above. 

100 Parnassus Road, Berkeley is currently listed for $1,325,000 by Thomas Westfall of Compass.

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