Round House that Got Away

MCM home by master of the genre Leon Meyer lingers on the market only briefly
Fridays on the Homefront
Six of the eight Bay Area round houses designed by architect Leon Meyer in the mid-century are still standing, including the one above on Echo Lane in Piedmont. The Echo Lane house went on the market recently, drawing immediate attention from savvy investors, as much for its comparably reasonable asking price as for its stimulating design. Photo courtesy Open Homes Photography

Like a carnival vendor's balloon beckoning a child's eye was this spherical object of mid-century modern joy, lingering briefly this month on the East Bay real estate scene.

Then, suddenly, that wondrous sphere slips through your fingers and floats away like an escaped toy filled with helium, rising in the sky and leaving sadness in its wake.

This was the reality for some MCM home collectors this strange month of May for a 1972 house in Piedmont designed by the chief proponent of Bay Area homes that are round like a balloon, Leon C. Meyer.

Fridays on the Homefront
Inside the living/dining room area. Courtesy Open Homes Photography

The listing for the first time ever of 34 Echo Lane drew immediate attention from savvy investors, as much for its comparably reasonable price of $995K as for its stimulating design.

"We had six offers, four of them over asking [price], two all cash," wrote one of the sellers who grew up in the house, Jennifer Bjorklund. After comparing the bids May 15, she informed us that an offer was accepted that day from prospective buyers who were living in New York and wanted to move back to the Bay.

Having studied to be an architect at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo after starting out as an engineer, Meyer once told the Oakland Tribune, "We work in boxes, so why should we live in them?"

  Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Leon Meyer circa 1967. Courtesy Oakland Tribune

Six of the eight Bay Area round houses designed by Meyer are still standing, including one we wrote about at 46 Melvin Court, in the Oakland Hills, when it was on the market in 2015.

The Echo Lane house was listed by Sarah Abel and Julie Gardner for Compass. The four-bed, two-bath was Meyer's last round house and is unusual for the Oakland-based architect in that Bjorklund's father, John Bjorklund, insisted on building the innovative house himself.

  Fridays on the Homefront
Floor plan of the Echo Lane house. Courtesy John Bjorklund

"He spent an entire year doing the foundation and the cinderblocks in 1971," recalled Ms. Bjorklund before the sale. A reporter for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, she said that although her mother Aida continued to live there for years after the father died, he was actually the one who was a big Meyer fan: "He was so proud of it."

"When he ran across a Leon Meyer design, he was all over it. He just loved it," said the daughter, remembering that her father wanted to build a reasonably spacious house on a difficult lot—Meyer's specialty. Quoting her father, she continued, "He was very interested in figuring out what kind of house he could build on a sloped lot…He said, 'Well, I've got four kids.' So, they made a bigger house."

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