The Neighborhood, Part 2–Claremont Court and Beaux Arts Architecture

One more post before I head to the airport!

Last week on a particularly beautiful day I decided to continue exploring the neighborhood architecture by walking up the hill a bit, closer to the Claremont Hotel.  This neighborhood is called Claremont Court and was built in the early 1900s after the big earthquake to attract wealthy professionals who were starting to find success in the Bay Area.  Commissioned by a local developer and led by architect John Galen Howard who also designed nearby UC Berkeley, this neighborhood typifies Beaux Arts architecture.  The gates which mark all the major entrances into the development and were built in 1906, set the tone:


Some quick research on Wikipedia showed me that Beaux Arts was an architectural school from Europe, mostly French and Italian, that utilized the formal and grand gestures from the Rococo and Baroque periods but in a modern way.  Some elements of Beaux Arts architecture include:

  • Rusticated and raised first story
  • Hierarchy of spaces, from “noble spaces”—grand entrances and staircases— to utilitarian ones
  • Arched windows
  • Arched and pedimented doors
  • Classical details
  • Symmetry
  • Statuary, sculpture, murals, mosaics, and other artwork, all coordinated in theme

Basically, the houses of this style were grand!  My walk began by heading up this street where the houses change from the brown shingle craftsmen of my last post on the neighborhood to much grander homes with Spanish, French and Italian influences.  Always peeking around the corner is the Claremont Hotel:


Also throughout this neighborhood are secret stairways and steep foot paths that lead farther and farther up the hill in between the houses…



This house on a corner farther down the hill is a preview of what’s to come…


About a half a block more and I reach the abandoned Magnes Museum.  This former mansion used to house a collection of Jewish Art (in the middle of a residential neighborhood) but the museum found a new location a few years ago and the building went on the market as a single family residence again.  It’s huge.  I don’t remember the square footage of the main house but I know the guest house in back is 2500 sq/ft.  It went up for sale at a bad time but was also priced in the several millions.  Plus it would have needed so much work to function as a residence again, I don’t think anyone was willing to take it on.  It is a very unique and cool property though and there has been a real estate and remodelling boom in our area recently so maybe it’s going back on the market.  In any case some guys were there working on it for the first time in a couple of years.

Another shot of it:



This grand dame is at the main entrance gates to the development.  So beautiful.


Steep gables and look at the scale of that chimney!  I wonder what the fireplace looks like…



The Claremont Hotel (and some guy in a van) sneaking into the frame…


Another picture of this brick lovely.  This almost looks Dutch to me…


The little neighborhood Episcopal church is just inside the gates across the street.

Spanish influences are prominent the farther up the hill you go.  The decorative tile around the entryway seems very Beaux Arts to me.


Perhaps even more interesting to me than the beautiful well-maintained homes are the grand old ladies that have fallen into disrepair like the one above.  My mind reels with the potential!

As I said earlier, there is a real estate and remodelling boom in the neighborhood and this home which had been neglected for some time is getting a major overhaul.  It sold last year and they have completely gutted it.  I can’t wait to see what they do to it.  notice the tiled roof and arched windows and entryway.

This is the view down the hill most of these homes have.  The bay, San Francisco and even the new Bay Bridge being built–gorgeous!

If you turn around and look up the hill, there’s the Claremont Hotel again!






Now starting to come back down the hill I find my favorite street of all.  The homes are much more modest but I love the canopy of mature elms and my sons’ school is just at the end of the block…


Love the dripping Wisteria…


And love these double low boxwood hedges!


And as I keep walking eventually I can see the side of our house at the end of the street.  Back down the hill is our brown shingle:



And our little old wall that was built when the house was to mark the property line, still covered in moss (and weeds!) from the rainy season:


Thanks for joining me!




Dining Table or Desk

Last week I found a desk that was in bad shape but was the perfect size for my client.  It has to do double duty as a desk and a dining table in his small apartment.  Although the finish was a wreck, it was sturdy and I liked the fluted legs and inlaid top.  Here’s the before:



After stripping the top (ugh) and staining and waxing it, then painting the legs in ASCP Olive, here’s the finished product:

Notice the brass feet…




Love the original brass knob.


I got that typewriter last year at an estate sale and have been dying to use it in a photo!  I think the overall effect of the desk will be very different in my client’s apartment with the dark gray walls and eclectic mix of furnishings.


I’m off to London tomorrow so I may not get a post up for a bit.  Have a good week and thanks for stopping by!

Poker Chairs

Sometimes I find an antique and I like it but when I find out about its history, I like it that much more.  There’s something about knowing an object’s provenance that makes it go from good to must-have.  Yesterday I was out scavenging at my favorite salvage places and found these chairs for my bachelor client.  I was wanting something in the room that was more traditional to create a more eclectic/collected look.  The chairs are antiques from an old gentleman’s poker club that had been around for decades–probably since before prohibition.


They originally had caned seats but those had been replaced some time ago and I plan to just put cushions on them. My favorite part is the wear on the arms of the chairs.  I can just picture poker players smoking cigars and leaning on the arms of the chairs while they think about their next move:


They also still have their original paint…


And the carving on the backs is so pretty too.  The cutouts on the backs were used as handles so chairs could be moved around quickly.  They also have brass rings on the back that were used to hang them on the walls for easy storage.


I bought four of these but I’m secretly hoping my client will only need two of them and I can keep the other two for my house.  I’d love to replace the caning someday and stain it like the oak peaking through the paint…



My client’s apartment is quite small so there’s a good chance he won’t need all four of them.  With the mid-century Eames chair, the clean-lined Madmen style sofa, the oriental rug and now these poker chairs, I’m looking forward to getting it all in the space and seeing how it works together.  I also bought a small dining table that will double as a desk but that piece needs some love before it will be camera ready : )


Thanks for stopping by!





Entryway Update

I just can’t seem to leave our foyer alone!  I am always tweaking it–actually, I think I am always tweaking every room.  But here are some little updates that I have been doing:


First, I changed out the rug.  The old one had bothered me since I painted the walls last year.  It went from Ralph Lauren Barn Owl White to BM Winter White. I also painted the door black from white at the same time and added the ceiling medallion and the vintage lantern.  This rug works so much better with the paint color and  floors too.

Here’s the old one:

And new one:

The new rug is actually a very old one.  It had been in John’s family for a while and although the top side is a bit worn and not as pretty, I used the old textile trick of showing the reverse and it looks so nice with the orange in the floors.

Also, Camille from The Vintique Object had a post recently about an entryway redo where she hung DIY chalkboards for the kids.  It’s a great way to leave them little reminders before they head out the door.  I used that idea for the window and hooks I was already using for the kids.  I just painted the window panes with chalkboard paint:


(I was not trying to be artsy with these pictures–it is just an impossible angle to photograph with the stairs).  The chalkboard paint definitely takes this project up a notch.  The baskets below the hooks have been a great way to catch all the little things that go in and out.

A side note:  I recommend either removing the glass entirely from the window and replacing it with particle board or at least taping the back of it with duct tape if you are at all worried about overly-enthusiastic coat hanging and chalkboard writing.  I think I will replace it in this project before the kids are actually big enough to reach it and start to write on it themselves.


And an update on my client’s bachelor pad:  We painted last week and it looks fantastic.  Still waiting on the sofa and several other pieces to arrive but I hope to be able to post final pics in mid May.


One more thing:  I am going to London (!) next week–by myself–to visit my cousin and her family and would love any recommendations of must see shops/restaurants.  Can’t believe I am actually taking this trip…


Thanks for stopping by!

Garden Updates and Ideas and A Weekend With the Stalters

You may remember a few weeks ago I did a short post complaining about the 3 gigantic camellias in our front yard.  They were so huge they completely blocked the second story windows in our bedrooms.   Here’s a photo:




Well, last week I had them “pruned.”  Here they are now:



I know, it looks totally crazy but look at our house now:


On the right, all those windows are our new kitchen.  We sacrificed a lot of privacy cutting the bushes back but I have to say I love how open the house looks from the street now.  I also am pretty sure those camellias will come back but maybe they’ll be more manageable.  Also, the two little trees on either side of what used to be the camellia are Japanese maples John and I planted and I think they will come in over the next couple of years and add a bit of privacy.


Also, 2 years ago, at our request, the city of Berkeley planted two other trees in front of our house.  You can see one with its white blooms there on the left.  It’s a Chinese Fringe and they will supposedly look like this one day:



Here’s a close up of ours now:

As these pictures attest, our yard has a long way to go.  The recent rains have made the weeds go wild and we have so much planting to do.  I have been thinking recently about planning out our yard and how I want it to look.  I love all the traditional plants like climbing roses, hydrangeas, lavender, ferns, boxwoods, etc.  I want it to be pinks purples, whites, and greens.

While I was out of town over the weekend, John was able to finish our brick path:




And apologies for being absent from the blogosphere the last few days.  Becky and I went down to So Cal to visit  Kelsey and James.   An update:  It was a great weekend and so great to be with them again.  Even amongst all they have going on, we had fun together talking and drinking wine.  James is still himself even though he is unable to move at this point and Hospice is coming in soon.  Thank you to everyone who has kept them in their thoughts and prayers.


And a side note: while I was there, I helped Kelsey put together a new entertainment center from Ikea and pick out some new pillows for their living room where James spends most of the day.  The entertainment center looks great but was a major battle to get it put together.  So much cursing!  It’s the Hemnes and if you need an easy and very affordable storage solution for your entertainment area, it seems like a good Ikea option:


Hope everyone had a good weekend and enjoyed a little spring time!  I would love to hear your ideas for your “dream garden.”




Product Finds: Laura Zindel Design

How about starting your day with your coffee in one of these:

Or these:


Or serving your next party with this platter:

Or this one–perhaps at your beach house:

With iced tea from this pitcher:

Or this tumbler:

Or salt and pepper and butter from these:


The designs on the ceramics above are pencil drawing transfers.  Read more about the process and find these products and many more at Laura Zindel Design.  And since my last fabric post was on Etched Aviary, I guess it’s fair to say I’m into etchings these days.    If the insects and snakes are too creepy for you, there are plenty of gorgeous and interesting botanicals, sea-life, and bird-life.  (I have to admit, I’m really drawn to the snakes, spiders and insects…hmmm, not sure what that says about me).  All products are designed and made in Vermont.





Fabric Finds: Dwell Studio’s Etched Aviary

As you can tell from my kitchen chairs, I like Dwell Studio‘s fabrics.  Several months ago I bookmarked this swatch and often go back to look at it and dream about how to use it:


Is that not the most beautiful fabric?  So much detail–I love the owls.  It looks like a charcoal drawing and that’s intended I suppose because it’s called Etched Aviary, in Jet.  I also love that it’s a large scale pattern–the repeat is 27″ x 27″.  This would be a gorgeous and very dramatic window treatment or even upholstered chair.  I love that it’s a toile but its graphic nature makes it contemporary, depending on how you coordinated it.  Here are some options that Dwell offers for coordinating fabrics:



This takes the graphic thing up a notch, but is very traditional.  I like how maintaining the black and white would allow you to introduce your own accent colors somewhere else.  I could see this with a deep apple red or kelly green to play up the traditional or a bright aqua to make it more contemporary.  Yellow would also keep it fresh and bright.  Really, what color wouldn’t look great with it?



This dark ribbed and textured fabric would really make the aviary toile take center stage.



This plays up the feminine side and even though the pattern has a lot of movement, as does the aviary toile, the scale is different enough that it would work.  I love the breaks in the pattern with the negative space. I could see this combination in a feminine and trendy bedroom.



This adds a very mod element and would be so fun.  Totally changes how you see the toile and contemporizes it.  I could see this combined with the toile in a really hip all-white loft with some mid-century furniture and polished chrome.  The toile would just soften the other elements but still work because it’s so graphic.


So the Aviary is $42/yd which is out of most people’s budgets especially when a lot of yardage is used for curtains or something like that.  I found this below that is comparable and much less expensive:



Because the background is creamier you lose the contemporary and graphic nature of the first fabric but it’s still lovely and looks like an etching.  The repeat is large too, although not as dramatic as the Dwell Studio fabric.  At $16.98/yd though, I think it’s a great compromise!




Styling Practice

You may recognize the table below from this previous post.  Well, it’s having yet another transformation.  I painted it in ASCP for my son’s preschool auction coming up in a couple of weeks.  I wanted  something neutral that could be for a boy’s room or a girl’s room (or even a grown up living room) so I chose Versailles with some white showing through the distressing.  Then I staged it two different ways to display in the auction brochure–one for a boy and one for a girl:




And girl…

The first thing I did to stage it was to get rid of the lamp wires by tying them in a knot behind the table. I then tried the rule of threes for the object groupings on the table which is supposed to make a prettier picture. Besides changing the accessories, I also changed the knob on the drawer for each photo.  And I employed one important rule I learned from Camille at The Vintique Object recently which is that photos taken straight on, facing the table (or bed, or dresser, etc.) feel open and honest are usually more visually appealing.  Of course, once I uploaded the photos, I saw that outlet glaring at me.  I still have so much to learn about styling!  Also, I don’t like how you can see up under the lampshade in the first photo.  And of course, those of you who read the blog know that this is actually my kitchen, but I chose the room with the best light.



And here’s a close up of the paint treatment.  I also used Annie Sloan wax to seal it.


What are some sure fire styling “tricks” you have learned when taking photos?  Lord knows I need the help!

Easter Images

Some images from the little bit of Easter decorating I was able to do yesterday before we had a little brunch this morning. We had a simple Easter table with my two egg topiaries my mom gave me a few years ago.  Actually, I think she gave us all of these Easter decorations–Thanks Mom!


I had hoped to have a full arrangement of green and white hydrangeas but this was the only little bloom we had…


I love these little nests with their eggs.  I painted them chalky white yesterday afternoon while I was cooking dinner because the colors weren’t quite right.  I see on this close up I should have been a little more careful with the paint!


Sometimes simple and easy is just what’s called for…


The boys and girl did well with two Easter egg hunts this weekend.  These little baskets from Pottery Barn were a sweet Easter gift from grandma a few years ago.

Dyeing Easter eggs with the boys is one of my favorite activities of all the holidays of the year.


Some Easter tulips brought to me by a good friend this morning.  They add so much color to our kitchen!


Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend with friends and family, whether for Easter or Passover.


Happy Spring!



Traditional Berkeley Craftsman Architecture in Our Neighborhood–The Elmwood

I thought I would share some photographs from the neighborhood we live in.  It’s an older neighborhood in Berkeley called Elmwood or often by real estate agents, “The Elmwood.”  If you have ever seen the Claremont Hotel–the famous Berkeley hotel painted all white and nestled on the side of a large hill, Elmwood is at the base of that hill straddling College Ave, the main street that takes you into UC Berkeley otherwise known as Cal.


The Claremont Hotel


Elmwood was a streetcar suburb that was developed in the 1900’s housing boom following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.  Several homes predate this boom but most of the neighborhood was farmland.  The style of architecture most prevalently seen is the area is related to the traditional craftsman cottages of the time but is a larger more “rambling” design unique to this area called Berkeley Brown Shingles.  Our home, being closer to the Victorian Era, has many Victorian details like a turret, bay window and an ornate fireplace.  But other Craftsman elements mark many of these homes like open floor plans, heavy woodwork, low-pitched roof lines, gabled or hipped roof-lines, deeply overhanging eaves, exposed rafters or decorative brackets under eaves, a front porch beneath an extension of the main roof, 4-over-1 or 6-over-1 double-hung windows, and hand-crafted stone or woodwork.   Renowned architects of this period who designed many of the homes in Elmwood include Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck and the Greene brothers.  Most of the homes were originally brown shingles, although over the years some have been changed to easier to maintain materials like stucco.

I took some pictures of some great examples of this architectural style in our neighborhood.  Here is my little walking tour:

This is a “rambling” brown shingle craftsman.  Unlike the craftsman cottages found throughout the country during this time, the Berkeley Brown Shingle is much larger in scale and can have three stories and numerous roof peaks and porticos.  On this house, notice all the decorative brackets under every eave.


This brown shingle has 5-over-1 double hung windows on the second story and large decorative brackets under the roof eave.  Also notice the brick chimney supports.  Many of those have been added to the very tall original brick chimneys in the area because of earthquakes.

The decorative trim on this brown shingle and its exterior paneling makes it a true Mission style.

Love the Wisteria on this fence!  Also, the horizontal paneling may be an update.  This house may have originally been a brown shingle although it is lacking many of the decorative elements mentioned earlier.


Same with this one although it does have a hipped roof.  I bet this house and the previous one were built later–maybe closer to 1920.

This is a beautiful house!  Low eaves, heavy brackets, bay window, hipped and gabled roof, and 8-over-1 windows…all it’s missing are the brown shingles!

Beautiful Wisteria blooming over this example.  Notice that middle window is 10-over-1…


I love this house!  It’s just down the block from us and I always admire it with the jasmine growing up the side and all those windows!  It must get amazing light.


I included this picture because that rounded turret going up the side screams Victorian but the shingles are very Craftsman.  I bet this one is an early example, probably prior to 1906.

Extremely sloping gable here–Is this an official A-frame? The diamond windows are something I haven’t seen before…


Seeing all of these narrow gables with their little unusual windows really makes me want to see the rooms on the inside!  I’m glad that chimney is braced…





Lovely little porch with overhang.  I also really prefer the stained or natural shingles to the painted ones.  Ours are painted brown and someday I would love to redo them.  They are in serious need of help anyway.  This one is so pretty!


Had to include this pretty corner house too.  Right next to it grow these crazy tall skinny palm trees:


I guess in LA that’s a common site but around here, it’s really amazing looking.  Had to photograph it.

Duncan used to be scared of them and we had go a different route.


And here are some spring gardens starting to bloom:


The two little figures at the end of the sidewalk are the boys barreling toward a busy street on their scooters.  Luckily they are pretty well trained to stop way back from intersections but still, I need to stop taking pictures and pay more attention!


All of this is inspiring me to tackle our exterior but we are a long way off from fitting in with these lovelies.  Our home definitely has the potential though and one of these days when we have saved up and are ready to tackle it, I look forward to getting inspiration from these other Craftsman houses.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this neighborhood is at the bottom of the hill.  In the next week or so I’ll walk a few blocks up the hill and take some photos of the grand homes there nestled under the Claremont Hotel.  I’ll be interested to see how the architecture compares…


Thanks for taking a tour of our neighborhood!  What’s the architecture like in your area?