Esherick's East Bay Jewel

Rare home by celebrated Bay Modernist boasts sensational views, woodsy perch
Fridays on the Homefront
Now on the market, Bay Area modernist architect Joseph Esherick's multilevel design on a sloped lot in the Montclair Hills of Oakland uses windows, decks, balconies, and cantilevers to take full advantage of the superb viewshed.
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

Breathtaking bay views from a steep hillside lot are among the highlights of an exciting new listing on the market, the most noteworthy local home by arguably the most prominent Bay Modern architect of the 1970s.

"The idea was to build a house that literally did not disturb anything," original owner Gordon Bermak said in 1995 about 5999 Grizzly Peak Blvd. in Oakland, listed in early April for $1,999,000. Regarding the first of eight months of planning meetings with architect Joseph Esherick, Bermak said, "I told him we were looking to build an 'elegant barn.'"

And what naturalist elegance it is. Esherick's multilevel design on a problematically sloped lot in the Montclair Hills of Oakland uses windows, decks, balconies, and cantilevers to take full advantage of the superb viewshed.

What's that? Who is Joseph Esherick? While not as celebrated today as his Bay Area predecessors and peers like Julia Morgan and William Wurster, the Philadelphia native and his associates designed some of the highest profile projects of his era: Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Cannery in San Francisco, six celebrated demonstration homes at Sea Ranch and, of course, the Bermak House.

"The owner wanted to capitalize to the maximum on the view but wanted to leave the wild, rugged character of the site as little disturbed as possible," writes the designer's partner on the project at Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis, Peter Dodge. "Other than the reinforced concrete on the west end, the house is all conventional wood-frame construction and the exterior is re-sawn plywood."

"It's a beautiful, amazing house," gushed Andrea Gordon, listing agent of the property for East Bay-based Red Oak Realty. "To my mind's eye, the best feature of the house is the amazing view and the way that Esherick addressed the view with the windows."

Along with terrific sightlines to both the Golden Gate and the Bay bridges, the 1963 home has four beds and three baths over 2,391 square feet on about two-thirds of an acre. The lot can be subdivided to accommodate another house.