Architecture buffs stumble on 'unique architect's house'

Personal interest won them lease for Emmons house

Published Thu, Jul 24, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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[SAN FRANCISCO] By now, it is almost universally acknowledged that affordable apartments near San Francisco are difficult, if not impossible, to find. And overlooked architectural gems? At this point, surely nothing in the Bay Area has been overlooked.

But every now and then the impossible happens. And so it was in the autumn of 2011, when Charles DeLisle and Ralph Dennis stumbled upon a listing for a home in Mill Valley on Craigslist. The language was somewhat vague: "unique architect's house", it read. Still, it was worth a look.

"We came up the hill, went up the stairs, walked into this glass-and-cedar house with 180-degree views of Oakland," Mr DeLisle recalled, "and got really excited." And not just about the views. The house, it turned out, had been built in 1951 by Donn Emmons, a highly regarded midcentury architect, for his young family. A 1,200 sq ft, two-story cedar structure, it had a ship's ladder instead of a staircase and a facade that was almost entirely glass, to take advantage of the views. It was still owned by the Emmons family, so it was in its original state.

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