Real Estate Report: Can Staging Save This William Wurster?



This charming William Wurster house in Berkeley has been languishing on the market since May, 2010. Let’s see if a little surgery won’t bring out its inherent good looks.


The Basics: A four bedroom, two bath plus a half-bath house in the Berkeley Hills above the Claremont Hotel, asking $928M.

Not So Basic: It’s the Strauss House, designed by architect William Wurster and built in 1937. Wurster was known for his discreet, beautifully proportioned and detailed houses around the Bay Area, but here his clients requested an even simpler house. It may have been the Great Depression,  except Wurster was known for never actually using any  standard lumber, windows or millwork, and this house is no exception. It just looks simple, but those windows didn’t come from Home Depot, and the walls are plaster, not drywall. There’s no crown molding to make finishing easier for the plasterers:

The Strauss House has been on the market since May, 2010 when it was listed for $1.25M, and it’s been steadily reduced since then to a low of $925K, until this month when it was restaged and the price raised to $928K. Below, the dining room, before and after:

Not only is most of the clutter gone, so is that odd little garden scene painted on the wall.

Nearly everything in the living room was removed except the long red curtains. One of the bedrooms below, before and after, where the bed and dresser remain, but not much else. 

The ‘nineties replacement kitchen’s not much to look at, an efficient white space with granite counters, but it’s got a pleasant family room/dining area that leads out to a deck. Too bad they ran out of paint.

Finally, potential buyers might want to stay for more than a few minutes.

The house is on a narrow hillside lot with a wooded slope on one side and another house fairly close on the other, which Wurster worked his way around by putting the fireplace wall and glass blocks on that side and the long series of patios on the the other.  William Wurster was a well-connected and successful architect who later became the founding dean of the UC Berkeley School of Architecture after WWII, mentoring and launching the careers of dozens of young architects. His wife, Catherine Bauer, was a public housing advocate, and later Wurster’s firm would design Ghiradelli Square, the first adaptive re-use project on the West Coast.

Listing: 8 Stonewall Road  [Redfin]

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