A Berkeley Home Designed by Two Frank Lloyd Wright Protégés Seeks $2.65M

Conceived by Wright students Donald Hoppen and Daniel Liebermann, the radial design revolves around a central skylight and numerous floor-to-ceiling windows.
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The late Bay Area architect Daniel Liebermann is often noted for his radial designs, a home archetype he perfected beginning with the well-known Radius House in Mill Valley, California. Liebermann, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, often took an artisanal approach to the construction process, carefully selecting materials such as recycled lumber, hand-hammered copper, and multi-paneled windows to reflect natural light. That's why, when fellow Taliesin student Donald Hoppen designed a similar structure, he called on Liebermann to bring the idea to life.

The entrance to 150 Bret Harte Road in Berkeley. According to historical records, the upper part of the home was originally built in 1980 as a three-bedroom, two-bath residence, while the lower-level was fully excavated and completed several years later.

According to an article in the SF Gate, it all began when Hoppen met up with his friend, Tomak Ulatowski, in Venice, Italy. The two discussed Ulatowski's recent purchase of a lot in the hills of Berkeley, inspiring Hoppen to sketch an idea for a home on a cafe napkin. The rough idea materialized when Liebermann was asked to join the team and flesh out the plans with his characteristic style.

The home's radial core is immediately in view upon entering the home. Liebermann's organic style was also influenced by time spent living in Scandinavia and working with local architects, including Knut Knutsen, Alvar Aalto, and Reima Pietilä.

Completed in 1980, the home grew to become an exceptional example of Liebermann's work. His influence is obvious, from the stunning radial core to the integration of natural materials and local craftsmanship. The one-of-a-kind property overlooks expansive views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Ulatowski and his family lived in the home until 2000, after which time renovations were completed by the new owners.

Like a starburst, light radiates from the home's central core, expanding along exposed rafters and wood-clad ceiling. A bar area at the edge of the kitchen opens to the living and dining room.

Spread out across almost 4,000 square feet, the elegantly modernized home offers four bedrooms and four bathrooms divided between two levels. An adjacent lot is also included in the sale. Keep scrolling to see more of this unique home, currently listed for $2,650,000.

The original hand-hammered copper hood hangs over a large central island. Renovations helped to modernize the kitchen with new cabinetry, high-end appliances, and granite countertops.

The formal dining area is located adjacent to the kitchen. Windows span across one wall, while sliding glass doors provide access to the deck.

The elegant living room features multiple seating areas. Original timber poles provide structural support, while lighter hardwood floors help to reflect the natural light and brighten the space.

An original raised platform underneath the central skylight provides a more intimate area near a new slab-stone fireplace. Floor-to-ceiling, multi-paneled windows and doors look out onto a deck and views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

During a 2011 interview with Marin Magazine, Liebermann was asked about his architectural philosophy: "Most people don’t get me because all my buildings look the same. I was not an art deco type; I was in pursuit of a deeper organicism," he said. "I see buildings as a very dynamical static bundle of forces. My buildings are like yachts, sailboats moored at anchor or at sea; the motion isn’t as visible, but the dynamical inputs are as great."

Raised flooring and edging designs help to delineate public and private spaces that otherwise open to each other throughout the home. Here, a master bedroom is carved out of one corner.

A look at the master bathroom, which features custom tile design, copper sinks, and marble countertops. The glass shower overlooks a view of the garden from a large picture window.

Another bedroom includes a seating area surrounded by glass panes along the wall and ceiling above. The unique space is one of three secondary bedrooms in the home.

Downstairs, a separate seating area is intimately arranged around the central core and modern granite fireplace. The structure's iconic timber poles help to define this space as well.

From the lower level, the structure resembles a Japanese pagoda, complete with a water feature that flows inside and out. French doors provide access to extensive terracing, patios, and gardens nestled into the lush landscape.

Yet, the home's location in the hills above Berkeley can be most appreciated from the upper-level outdoor space. A wrap-around deck provides panoramic views of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

150 Bret Harte Road in Berkeley, CA, is currently listed for $2,650,000 by Sean Walsh of Compass.

Project Credits:

Photography: Open Homes Photography Inc.

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