Located in Berkeley Hills, California, the beautiful old house was built more than fifty years ago by Joseph Esherick - famous in San Francisco architect. George Homsey, who worked closely with Joseph Esherick, remembers that the construction of the house has begun for the sake of a single lady - Louise Nixon. She was a conservative nice woman who just wished to have a beautiful house. But, as the eighty-six-year-old architect from the state of California admits, this is not the whole prehistory of this wonderful house in Berkeley Hills.
Homsey looks back to distant times when it was a pick of Joseph's carrier. At that moment his unsophisticated and, at the same time, one-of-a-kind houses were spread throughout the country and everyone knew his name. George also remembers young "headshrinker" Nixon from the Stanford University who was looking for a new house of an Asiatic style somewhere near Berkeley Hills. Designers from Esherick Studio offered her a model of T-shaped house in Japanese style. They also proposed to cover the roof with shingle, which was typical for the Berkeley region. It was supposed to become an attention-getting house near the down slopes of Tilden Park.
The building was finally finished in the middle of 1950's. A fresh face of the Modernist American style, Lawrence Halprin, helped with landscape setting. He showed his vision of the eastern part of the house - meadow with a small runlet and a fascinating impoundment.
Nixon married Louise in 1967 and had been living in that house for nearly fifty years. Unfortunately, they had no children. Nixon died in 2003, and, a year later, his grand-nephew Eric Gimon (a physical scientist, the Energy Department insider and Technical Advisor) with his wife, Emma (Philosophy Doctor of architectural engineering), purchased the house. They faced the only problem - the former house keepers lived there only two together and Gimon's family needed more space in the house as they lived there with a little daughter Louise, two sons and a dog called Nefi. Many people for one old wooden house, isn't it?
So, the family decided to expand the territory of their new home. Emma admitted that they were worried too much about the process. They didn't want to destroy the architectural style of Joseph Esherick. Emma didn't much care about the landscape - she supposed, it was neglected and wasn't finished at all. So, at the beginning of the 2000's they decided to renew the landscape and make it so that it was combined with the overall picture of the house.
Phil Kaefer, Benjamin Parco, Gary Roth and Kate Simonen helped the Gimons to implement their desire. Kate had worked on an idea of prefab additions at the beginning of 2000s. Few years later, she cooperated with architects Parco and Kaefer, creating new modular additions to existing home. And the landscape designer Gary Roth had also joined them. He had been working hand in glove with Lawrence Halprin until he died in the year 2009.
They were discussing a lot of ideas that could allow the family extend their living space. At last, the command decided to remain the original idea of the house and to update the eating area, make a tremendous decking for Gimons to have a rest there. They wanted the family to finish their working day and come home where they, after having dinner in their new maple kitchen, will finally have a rest in their new immense deck which takes much space in the southern part of the common house area.
At first, considering to rebuild their old house as soon as possible, Eric and Emma had faced with one problem - it was too insecure to lift a crane onto the top of the hill. They had decided that question very fast and erected the frame of the modular additions to existing home in a few days. What helped them? Walls were made of prefab panels, and unique butterfly roof, despite its big size, was pointed directly ahead. That let the architect team work with no fear to damage something.
The building team had devised all parts of the modular additions to existing home the way that simplified its installing. They shifted lighting parts into big boxes, that had been placed then and there; moved electrical outlets right onto the floor and installed cordless and program-controlled light switches. Paying attention to the couple's preferences, it was known that the house owners honored environmental conditions they lived at. So, they made a decision to cooperate with the group of architects to build a modular additions to existing home with green components that will let them save their money. Heat pump was installed and electricity is generated with roof-integrated solar array.
From the very beginning of the house rebuilding, there was set a goal to construct it much better than it really had been before. Architects stated that the concept had already grown out of its initial construction and customer preferences. Gary Roth explained that his team hadn't tried to jump off the original design and had been working with finished material, just keeping it up to date.
Architecture Kate Simonen, Phil Kaefer, Benjamin Parco
Area 1,800 square feet
Location Berkeley Hills, California
Photos Caren Alpert