'Cool' Golf Course Setting

Roger Lee’s very original Wilkinson House of Orinda hits the market for first time ever
Cool Golf Course Setting
The above mid-century modern gem is the Wilkinson House of Orinda.
Designed by Bay Area master architect Roger Lee, the one-owner home, built adjacent to a golf course, has just hit the market for the first time since it was built in 1954-'55. Photos: courtesy Thomas Westfall
Cool Golf Course Setting
Cool Golf Course Setting
Cool Golf Course Setting

It's not often that the Bay Area housing market sees the offering of a house by Roger Lee, sometimes called "one of the Bay Area's great forgotten architects."

Imagine, then, how rare is this new Lee-designed listing—one designed for such personal friends that everyone involved actually camped on the land together before construction to determine the home's best siting?

"He was very knowledgeable about how to place his design," said Lynn Gobble of the Orinda home Lee designed in 1954 and '55 for her parents in collaboration with her father. "They got to be really close friends."

The two-bedroom, one-bath home at 440 Camino Sobrante is being listed for the first time ever this week and is open to the public from 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays June 11-12 and 18-19. Its modern design and a location adjacent to the Orinda Country Club golf course are undoubtedly why it is listed at $1 million despite its 1,110 square feet.

"There are no 'comps,'" Gobble noted regarding the absence of similar properties on the market. "It's unique because it's an architectural specimen…Because mid-century modern is very popular, it's very interesting as an example of what the feel of it was." And it's also quite original in appearance.

Bill and Irene Wilkinson first met Roger and Rina Lee when Bill was an engineering student at UC Berkeley, after serving as a pilot in World War II. The Wilkinsons rented a room behind the Lees' Berkeley home, and the two couples became fast friends, socializing and vacationing with each other often over the years.

"Mom said they drove around for weeks and weeks," Gobble said of her parents' search for a lot to build on, which ended when they found one owned and offered by the Country Club. Admitting that the racially profiled deed restrictions then demanded by the club "horrified" her parents, she compared it to the bigotry sometimes encountered by Lee: "People at the time were still prejudiced against Chinese."

Not Bill Wilkinson, of course, who camped with his friend Roger on the slightly more than one-half-acre lot before construction "so that he would know the angle of the sun."