Tuesday, October 30, 2007

House Voyeur: A Reimagined Ranch in the Oakland Hills

Lounge chair by Franco Albini

At the end of the Oakland Heritage Alliance’s recent walking tour of an enclave of Joseph Eichler-built homes, our group filed into Peter Rafanan’s home for the end-of-tour reception.

After hoofing it through the neighborhood’s hilly streets and visiting a few interesting but sadly frozen-in-time Eichler interiors, I think we were all looking forward more than anything else to a cold drink and a chance to sit down. But as the crowd began to take in Rafanan’s home, an audible, collective gasp arose.

Exterior paint: A custom mix of Down Pipe and Off-Black, both from Farrow & Ball; PLC exterior light; Neutra house numbers from Design Within Reach

Rafanan, an Oakland native who works as an audiovisual system designer, has utterly transformed his circa-1963 Eichler, making it totally modern while also staying true to its midcentury roots by stripping away a series of “remuddlings” done by previous owners.

The results are breathtaking -- literally. Rafanan’s home is crisp, clean, and expansively open, with soaring ceilings, luxurious finishes, minimal but exquisite furnishings and art, and sweeping views of San Francisco and the Bay.

Here, Rafanan takes us on a virtual tour of his three-bedroom, 2,100 square-foot home and details its lengthy renovation:

Blue chair by Pierre Paulin for Artifort; Edward Wormley side table; large painting by Jennifer Kaufman

“My Claude Oakland-designed Eichler house has California Ranch-style midcentury modern architecture that was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler, and Richard Neutra.

In the early 1970s, a fire gutted much of the home. During reconstruction, the house was reconfigured with the addition of a fourth bedroom, an art studio in the former garage, and an extra half bath. The original, open-air atrium in the center of the house was roofed over and covered with skylights -- creating an enclosed space that really had no purpose, as far as I can tell.

When I bought the house two years ago, nothing -- other than a number of tweaks to accommodate a disabled person -- had been done to it for nearly 30 years. So pretty much everything was showing its age.

Leather and chrome chairs by Milo Baughman; marble coffee table by Nicos Zographos for Knoll; painting by Debra Greene, LIMN Gallery; concrete floors by Brian Vicari at the Concrete Colorist

I’ve always admired modern architecture. My fascination with Eichlers in particular began during the many years I spent living on the San Francisco Peninsula. The more I learned about Joe Eichler and his inspiration, aspirations, and ideals, the more I felt compelled to preserve his legacy by reverting back to Claude Oakland’s original floorplan for this house during my recent renovation.

I’m also a minimalist who values quality and simplicity. My interest in modernism is a deep-seeded philosophy that I try to apply to many facets of my life. My work revolves around using cutting-edge technology to reshape and improve people’s working environments, and my success is measured by how much I can simplify and personalize complex tasks. Those ideals permeate my taste in everything from architecture and art to music.

Globe lights from Progress Lighting

So besides restoring the floorplan, gutting the kitchen and baths, skim-coating all of the interior walls, and microtopping and polishing the concrete floors, I embarked on an extensive seismic retrofit and restored the original radiant-heating system, which had been abandoned for forced air during the Seventies remodel. I also had the electrical panel upgraded; installed security, audiovisual, and control systems; and added low-voltage cabling for phones, data, and video lines. All the lighting in the house can now be remotely dimmed and controlled. There’s an entry phone at the front door tied in to the phone system, allowing me to screen visitors and open the door using any phone in the house.

It was a challenge to maintain my focus on a project that took 15 months to complete. I also went over budget -- it was originally $250,000 and I ended up at $300,000. I really wanted a Bulthaup kitchen and Philippe Starck bathroom fixtures. But there were so many other necessities -- like the seismic upgrades (this is earthquake country), which included a new roof and plywood sheathing, all the new glass, the mechanical and electrical upgrades, and residing most of the house. Those upgrades had to be my priority.

Stainless steel tiles from Mosaic Glass Tile; Broan hood; M-Clock by Rob Juda; Jasper Morrison/Rowenta coffeemaker; Caesarstone counter; Grundtal stainless steel shelves, Akurum cabinets with Abstrackt doors, and convection oven, all from IKEA; Verona gas and electric cooktops;
Fisher & Paykel refrigerator; Fridgidaire dishwasher;
Pappelina rug


In the end, I was left with $50,000 to do the kitchen and both bathrooms, so I needed to dial back my expectations. The IKEA stuff I used really works well for now, and I’m happy with the way things turned out.

Vattern cabinet with Hollviken sink and Ensen faucet, all from IKEA; George Kovacs light fixture

Hands down, my favorite thing about my home is the view overlooking the San Francisco Bay. My location in the Oakland hills is ideally suited to showcase a distinctive feature of most Eichlers: a wall of glass forming the rear elevation of the house.

Watching the sunset over the City every evening has done wonders for my blood pressure. The fact that I can do this in almost every room of the house is astounding.

Now that most of the remodeling work is done, I’m enjoying finding furniture for the house. eBay and Form Vintage Modern in Oakland are my main sources.

Wire sculptures by Pamela Merory Dernham; paintings by Debra Greene, LIMN Gallery

My best buys have to be all the midcentury furnishings, which only seem to be gaining in value. I have a C. Jere metal butterfly wall sculpture hanging in the master bathroom, for instance, that I got before his recent resurgence in popularity, and I’m sure it’s worth four or five times what I bought it for. The way I see it, any pieces by respected designers (Charles and Ray Eames, Hans Wegner, Milo Baughman, to name just a few) and top-notch manufacturers (such as Knoll, Dunbar, and Fritz Hansen) will always appreciate.”

Click here to see more (lots more) of Peter Rafanan’s home -- including his before, during, and after renovation galleries, his time-lapse shots, and his interior and exterior collections.

Thanks so much for sharing your home with us, Peter!

P.S. This post seems to be wending its way around the blogosphere. A sampling of reactions:

* From Curbed SF: Interior Porn: Pimp My Eichler

* From the Kitchen Designer: A Minimalist Kitchen

* From CasaSugar: Link Time! Craving Pamela Merory Dernham's Wire Sculptures

* From Fashion is Spinach: Around the Blogosphere #4



(P.P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a peek inside other readers' homes.)

9 comments:

Kevin said...

Beautiful house, would have loved to have been on the tour!

Anonymous said...

Nice crib. There are a bunch of homes in Marin County that have undergone a similar transformation (especially in the Upper Lucas Valley Neighborhood).

You can check them out online at http://www.eichlerforsale.com

Jana Souza said...

Leah,

That is a great home; a bit more minimalist than my taste, but what a great story and yes, those view and worth a mint; I have an appreciation for Eichler as well, popular or not. My husband doesn't really like the flat roofs, and cement slabs for doing his electrical, but I love them. Thanks for sharing with us.

Anonymous said...

Leah - Thanks for sharing these pics. and Rafanan's story about remodeling his home. The house is beautiful. However, as an Eichler owner in Rafanan's neighborhood and a homeowner who agreed to participate in the Oakland Heritage walking tour, I have to say your comments about the "sadly frozen in time" other homes was flat out rude. We all opened our homes to strangers, spent countless hours cleaning our homes to make them presentable and did it simply b/c we were asked to volunteer. Perhaps a little appreciation instead of unecessary insult could have been expressed -- or, as we teach our children -- if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.
-- a sadly frozen in time eichler homeowner.

Leah said...

Hey Anonymous,

Point well taken. I truly meant no offense.

All the best,

Leah

JadedModern said...

Great renovation and beautifully photographed. Refreshing to see something about Eichlers not located in Marin. Bored to tears with the annual SF Chronicle Marin feature--the Oakland Eichler's are widely unknown--enjoyed seeing yours get some attention. And glad to see you can shop somewhere other than DWR—miracle upon miracle someone has some sense of original style!

ncalsurfer said...

Leah - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I'm a Marin resident who lives is *gasp* an eichler "knock off." I would love to know who microtopped and polished your floors as we are renovating our home now and intend to do the exact same.

Feel free to drop me a line: ncalsurfer AT hotmail.com

Thanks and kudos on a beautiful reno!

Stacie said...

Your home is breathless!! I am so jealous. absolutely gorgeous. I have a mid-century modern antique booth and I can't believe that there are so many people out there who love all of this as much as I.

Cherry said...

Great post! I love the house. It looks so beautiful inside and out. Seems really relaxing and refreshing living with it.

 

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