'International' Idol for Sale - Page 2

Heralded Donald Olsen House in Berkeley hits market for first time ever at $1.8 million
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

"The house is in good, original condition," the realtor promised, "just like an unrestored Picasso is worth more than a restored one."

Although tree growth blocks its onetime bay views, Doe said the glass-walled home's greatest strength on the wooded hillside is "the orientation and the way light floods into the house. It gives it…a natural connectedness."

Doe admitted the asking price is about 15 percent above appraised value based on the local market for the property. Consequently, he encountered some resistance from at least one realtor regarding the price, but steadfastly maintains that Olsen's work warrants the ask.

"It's not just dollars and cents, it's what these houses give you," he insisted. "That's not in the 'realtors book.' It's all about number of bedrooms and baths, and square footage—and location, location, location. We're going to change that."

Personally, he said, "I've been so thrilled to sit in Donald Olsen's library, see where the ideas came from."

And maybe not just Olsen's ideas, as his son noted, "A lot of famous people have visited the house."

The junior Olsen said his father maintained relations with Gropius and other pioneer European modernists, recalling, "My father lived long enough to be sort of the last [American] in touch with them."

While Don Olsen treasured those relationships, his resistance to the Bay Tradition resulted in a less than ideal one with his boss in teaching at UC Berkeley, William Wurster, dean of the architecture. Likewise, he even had to endure teasing from his wife, Helen, upon driving past some Eichlers one day.

"My mother made a comment, 'Why can't you just turn out a bunch of houses and make lots of money?'" the son recalled with a wry smile.

For more information about the listing, visit www.771sandiego.com.