A Redwood-Clad Craftsman With Japanese Influences Asks $1.35M in Berkeley, CA

Reconstructed by Kip Mesirow, the renowned local builder behind Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse restaurant, the 1,736-square-foot residence features handmade copper light fixtures and a natural, stained-wood palette.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that as the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, celebrates its 50th anniversary, the former home of the establishment’s celebrated designer and builder is newly available on the market. 

Local builder and woodworker Kip Mesirow transformed the modest Craftsman at 1115 High Court in Berkeley, California, in the early 1970s. The signature copper light fixtures that Kip created for the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant hang from the exposed wood ceilings in his former home.

In the early 1970s, Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters called upon local builder and woodworker Kip Mesirow to help construct the pioneering farm-to-table restaurant in a converted Craftsman on Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue. As part of  Water’s specifications, Kip designed and fabricated elegant copper lights that delighted Waters and diners so much that he eventually founded a company, Verdigris Copperworks, to produce them.

It was during this same time that Kip and his wife, Mary, bought a modest one bedroom at 1115 High Court in the nearby Berkeley Hills neighborhood. Kip then transformed and expanded the Arts and Crafts residence into a wood-festooned dwelling with three bedrooms across two levels.

The front of the house features a continuous bank of glass windows that line the living room.

The natural-wood palette continues into the kitchen, where a large picture window overlooks the back garden.

The redwood-clad Craftsman blends influences from legendary architect Bernard Maybeck with elements of Japanese architecture. Of course, Kip outfitted the residence with some of his signature Chez Panisse light fixtures. "When I walked in the house the first time, my jaw just kind of dropped," says listing agent Soraya Ali of Sotheby’s International Realty. "The light fixtures, vaulted ceilings, redwood walls, and windows—it’s just magnificent."  

Upstairs, two reading nooks give way to the principal bedroom.

Kip incorporated glass windows and doors to take advantage of the Bay Area’s temperate climate.

Kip’s redesign retained the original single-story, pitched-roof form in the front of the Craftsman, merely expanding the bank of windows and cladding the facade in stained wood, much of it redwood. By staying at one story in the front of the residence, Kip was able to expose the rebuilt, vaulted ceiling in the open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area, which creates a more dramatic and open volume that feels almost like a small cathedral. A slightly oversize mantle in the living room resembles a traditional Japanese torii (entry gate).

The living room fireplace pairs a distinctive wood mantle with simple, earthy tiles.

A family room at the back of the ground level features another fireplace that is framed with copper, which is fitting as the space once served as Kip’s workshop. Beneath the overhanging roof—a device frequently employed by Maybeck—glazed doors and windows open to the garden patio, fashioning an atmosphere reminiscent of a Japanese chashitsu, or tea house.

The rear of the home features glazed doors that open to the garden patio.

The family room once served as Kip’s workshop, which is where he fabricated the now-iconic copper lights for Chez Panisse.

At the rear of the Craftsman, the second level features the same exposed, vaulted ceilings as the open-plan living area. On this level, the principal bedroom has a private balcony that frames views through the trees of the San Francisco Bay in the distance. The primary suite also features its own fireplace with rare, original tiles by Ernest Batchelder, who gained fame during the Arts and Crafts movement by reviving medieval techniques for decorative tilemaking.

The principal bedroom opens to a private balcony on the second level.

The principal bedroom enjoys the same vaulted ceilings as the great room, as well as a fireplace clad with Batchelder tiles.

From upstairs, the home offers views of the San Francisco Bay.

It’s this type of delicate craftsmanship that makes the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home special. "The inspectors that came through were shocked," says Ali. "Both of them stopped and said, ‘Do you know how hard that is to find detailing like that? This is the work of a master craftsperson.’"

The 1,736-square-foot Craftsman is clad in natural wood.

"You’ve got all of this beautiful woodwork and details you don’t usually find in Craftsman-style homes under these vaulted ceilings that are just majestic," Ali continues. "But then there’s this slice of modernity, especially as you come in, with the walls of windows and the open floor plan. It’s all very dreamy."

1115 High Court in Berkeley, California, is currently listed for $1,350,000 by Soraya Ali of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty.

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