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Berkeley midcentury with conversation pit asks $1.69M

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Designed by John Hans Ostwald

Wide shot of a two-story house in the trees, made up of wood and glass.
Exterior at nightfall.
Photos by Christian Klugmann Photography, courtesy of Red Oak Realty

Built in 1956, this Berkeley Hills home is a perfectly lovely ideal for midcentury aficionados, complete with a flat roof, wood paneling galore, clerestory windows, and open spaces.

But of far greater importance—the conversation pit.

One of the earliest conversation pits (i.e., a square or circular depression in the floor of a home, usually filled with cushions and seating along the perimeter) made a dent when it first appeared in 1952 in a Columbus, Indiana home.

Nearly a decade after they became a staple in the average American home, they were suddenly out of favor. By 1963, Time magazine published an anti-convo-pit piece called “Fall of the Pit,” claiming that the peculiar residential divots were done:

At cocktail parties, late-staying guests tended to fall in. Those in the pit found themselves bombarded with bits of hors d’oeuvres from up above, looked out on a field of trouser cuffs, ankles and shoes. Ladies shied away from the edges, fearing up-skirt exposure. Bars or fencing of sorts had to be constructed to keep dogs and children from daily concussions.

But today, as Curbed noted in 2017, conversation pits may have made a comeback due, in part, to the midcentury-modern renaissance—after all, “relics of a time when living space was oriented not around a wall-sized flat screen and portable computers, but around looking at and socializing with other human beings in real life” are bound to regain popularity in the impersonal digital age.

And this Berkeley Hills specimen remains intact.

Aforementioned conversation piece aside, 2717 Marin Avenue comes with six bedrooms and three bathrooms within a fairly roomy 3,597 square feet. The hillside home features other details like exposed redwood and open beams, vaulted ceilings, an outdoor shower, a backyard playhouse, and—why not?—a fireman’s pole.

Also of note is the unabashed use of cinderblocks on the facade. No great surprise as the home comes with architectural flair and pedigree care of John Hans Ostwald—something to chat about with friends while kicking it deep inside your very own plush crater.

Asking is $1,698,000 through Alissa Custer, Maggie Resnick, and Jessica Waggoner or Red Oak Realty.

Wooden front door opened a bit, with cinderblocks making up the front entrance walls.
Cinderblocks grace the entryway.
The middle of the room had a conversation pit lined with red-orange cushions around the perimeter. A fireplace, wood paneling, clerestory windows and plush carpeting can also be seen.
Vaulted ceilings, fireplace, and built-ins highlight the convo-pit living room.
Photo by Christian Klugmann Photography, courtesy of Red Oak Realty
A kitchen with an island, original cabinetry, and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the trees outside.
Kitchen comes with floor-to-ceiling windows.
A wood dining room table inside a space with wood paneling, exposed beams, and a vaulted ceiling.
Warm wood tones and clean lines highlight the dining area.
Staircase leads up to landing with patterned wood slats on the walls. The ceiling is painted in two tones: beige on the left, white to the right.
The second floor landing.
Bed with light above it turned on. There’s also a nook with a desk and floor-to-ceiling windows.
One of six bedrooms. This one comes with an office space.
Tub comes with miniature tiles surrounding it. There’s also a Dutch door in the background.
Although renovated, this bathroom keeps an eye on its midcentury-modern roots. And dig that Dutch door.