Rhythmic House with History

Rare NorCal Craig Ellwood design—his Daphne House is for sale in Hillsborough
Fridays On the Homefront
A rarity by SoCal-based architect Craig Ellwood—his Daphne
House in Hillsborough is on the market to the tune of just under
$5 million. Photos: courtesy Crosby Doe Associates
Fridays On the Homefront
Fridays On the Homefront
Craig Ellwood circa 1950s.
Fridays On the Homefront

Frank Lloyd Wright, A. Quincy Jones, Craig Ellwood. Few merchants in mid-century San Francisco truly appreciated modernist architects of this caliber, let alone utilized their creativity. But Nicholas Daphne did.

Although Daphne's uniquely modern funeral parlor adjacent to the San Francisco Mint is long gone, his breathtaking home on the peninsula is restored and for sale for just under a cool $5 million.

"I've sold a number of Ellwoods and this is the best," says Crosby Doe, a realtor specializing in high-end modernist homes who was brought in this month to help sell the Daphne House in Hillsborough. "They're all good, but this one is special."

Similar to the Bay Area's only Case Study House (recently reported here as for sale), the Daphne House represents something of a Bay Area anomaly. Like that series of Case Study homes, nearly everything else designed by Ellwood is in Los Angeles County, where Doe is based.

Daphne was a man who knew what he wanted, however. He hired Eichler architect Jones to design his funeral home after initially exploring the job with Wright. The building, built in 1953, was one of Jones' finest commercial designs, and preservationists mounted an unsuccessful campaign to save it before it was razed in 2000.

For his home, Daphne wanted the unique vision of Ellwood, who specialized in melding the International style of Mies van der Rohe with California modern.

"It's a very carefully designed residence, so it'll need just the right kind of buyer," Doe says of the 1961 construction overlooking Burlingame Country Club Golf Course. "You sort of have to want to live the lifestyle."

The five bedrooms are in a separate wing from the public rooms of the house, bridged in a wide-open floor plan by the kitchen, laundry, and patio with a pool. Its 3,660 square feet are steel-beam-constructed with walls of smoked glass and terrazzo flooring.

Doe says the house at 20 Madrone Place went on the market in June, and he started working on it this month. It is listed at $4,999,999, which does not include a house full of mostly modern furniture that is available, some of which still needs restoration.

Doe says the layout is "all original," as is the furniture, but that the current owner has worked hard to restore them to their former glory.

"It had fallen into disrepair," he explained. To restore it, Doe added, "It was a couple of meticulous years there.