Interesting architecture in Orinda? There are some modest mid-century houses by the likes of Thomas Lee, but most of the mid-century stuff is tract housing, overlaid with decades of "upgrades" like French doors and Colonial kitchens. Plus any number of houses have been torn down to build the mega-mansions of our boom years, when Tuscan was the only thing on the menu.
But the International Style was alive and well in 1936, in an Art Deco house by a then-young William H. Knowles. Hertzka & Knowles would become a successful San Francisco firm, adept at taking what was in the wind architecturally and delivering it to clients. Among their projects that changed the skyline of San Francisco are the fondly remembered Jack Tar Hotel (1960) on Van Ness, plus One Bush Street, San Francisco's first glass tower set into a landscaped plaza (with SOM, of course, in 1959) and the 1970's brutalist monument to paying one's utility bill, the PG&E Building at Main and Mission.
Here the young Knowles has taken his cues from the south of France and Greece, building a structure of staggered volumes and simple metal windows not unlike the houses of French society architect and set designer Robert Mallet-Stevens. To top it all off, the roof is a series of patios and steps, perfect for the Mediterranean climate of Orinda. Or a 1990's Calvin Klein underwear ad. Listed this past April at $2.495M and pricechopped twice to $2.195M.
The house is immense. The interiors, aside from a few regrettable mantlepiece and kitchen choices, appear to be in well-maintained and near-original condition. And let's face it- no one could build a roof like that today. No railings, barely even a parapet, just plenty of room to lounge about in tightey-whiteys under the hot Orinda sun. Realtor's tour is here but sadly, no floor plans.