Another Orinda Hidden Gem

Neutra, Lee, Moore and now lesser-known Richard Danskin spotted in East Bay town
Fridays on the Homefront
The East Bay town of Orinda is home to some hidden mid-century modern gems, including the one above designed by the accomplished but little-known Richard Danskin. It’s now on the market. All photos courtesy Mark Shaw of RE/MAX Accord

As with Palm Springs or the Hollywood Hills, the mid-century must have been a fun time for modern design enthusiasts to tour or live in the East Bay town of Orinda.

Just about every year of that period, a remarkable new home or three sprang up in those communities, with Orinda seeing designs by such noteworthy architects as Richard Neutra, Roger Lee, and Charles Moore.

One lesser-known modernist architect native to the Bay Area, Richard Danskin, received a number of commissions in Orinda, including three in the lovely environs of Tahos Road. One of them, a custom mid-century modern eyeful, hit the market for the first time in a quarter-century recently, but time for prospective buyers to make an offer is running out.

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“I think it’s probably going to go at $2 million or [more],” predicted Mark Shaw of RE/MAX Accord, who listed the three-bed, 2.5-bath at 527 Tahos Road for $1,695,000. Noting the constantly diminishing inventory of custom MCM homes, he added, “You can’t just buy one of these [everyday], so it’s an unusual offering.”

“The house is in good condition,” Shaw promised while acknowledging that most homes from 1967 have undergone “a lot of earth movement” in Orinda. He pointed to how plumb all the home’s doors and drawers are, concluding, “This house seems to have weathered any movement; [perhaps] it’s built on bedrock.”

Born in Berkeley, Danskin grew up in the East Bay and attended El Cerrito High School. He went on to design scores of homes in the woodsy Lamorinda region of Contra Costa County, possibly even hundreds of them. Two were just down the street in either direction from Shaw’s listing, at 515 and 618 Tahos Road, respectively, in Orinda’s Glorietta neighborhood.

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After a few years designing homes, Danskin switched to painting landscapes, then eventually owned art galleries in three states before passing away in 2012. For this redwood, post-and-beam house, he included some flourishes, such as a circular driveway; and several built-in features, including a concealed wet bar that Shaw termed “very Mad Men-ish.”

“It’s a hidden counter that opens into a sink,” the realtor bubbled enthusiastically. He also admires the 2,864-square-foot home’s view of Mount Diablo to the east, conceding, “You’ve got to look through the trees, but it does have a vista.”

Shaw conceded there is “a lot of nickel-and-dime stuff throughout the house” that needs doing, including re-plastering the pool.

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