Open House Obsession: Sean Gaston And Bee Renovated In El Cerrito, $1.7M


Fall in the East Bay would seem incomplete without a new project from Sean Gaston and his design/build firm, Bee Renovated. Gaston’s specialty is Mid-Century Modern, and this year he’s taken on a c.1967 home in El Cerrito designed by architect Linda Witten Wilson. Acquired from the estate of the original owners, it was given a complete gut renovation while retaining many of the period details.

The hills above El Cerrito (like neighboring Berkeley and Oakland) are littered with period gems by prominent architects like Roger Lee, Henry Hill and Joseph Esherick, along with many others by the young architects who came out of UC Berkeley’s nascent architecture program led by William Wurster, to whom the design of this house is deeply indebted. In the years following WWII, these architects created a kind of radical, affordable modernism for well-educated professionals, often on sites with the most wonderful Bay views.

What We Love: The exterior is painted in Behr’s Cracked Pepper; the dark interior walls were hand-stained multiple times with Old Masters Spanish Oak, successfully imitating the Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban. Vintage fretwork panels were rescued by Gaston at an estate sale, refinished and set into new lacquered frames, then fitted seamlessly in new walls to appear as if they’d always been part of the house.

The tiny, utilitarian kitchen was opened up and combined with the former dining room, creating a welcoming space to gather with access to a sheltered deck.

The master suite has equally spectacular views and in the bath, the original (and painstakingly restored) terrazzo floors and shower.

The makeover was not simply cosmetic. Gaston gave the lower level what’s known as an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) a fully independent 1-bed, 1-bath unit that’s currently configured as a family/media room with a kitchen and guest suite. New floors were laid throughout with wide plank engineered oak in a soft matte finish. In the process of expansion, the house also underwent a series of infrastructure improvements including a complete seismic retrofit and new electrical systems, making it ready for its next five decades.

More: Go to the listing for additional details and images; represented by Ruth Frassetto at The Grubb Company.

Open House: Sunday October 27, 2:00pm to 4:30pm

851 Bates Avenue
El Cerrito
5-bed, 3-bath

Photo Credit: Liz Rusby for The Grubb Company