Donn Emmons: Classic 1957 California Ranch in Portola Valley


Portola Valley was, for decades, a weekend retreat for well-off San Franciscans, and this sophisticated ranch is for sale there.

The basics: two bedrooms, two baths on over two acres, a pool and one-bedroom guesthouse, asking $3,600,000. Not so basic: it’s the Williams House, designed by Donn Emmons of Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons in 1957, sited on the edge of a hill looking out over coastal meadow and the South Bay. Plus a vineyard planted in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that produces thirty cases of wine each year.

The interior needs some rethinking- more images at the realtor’s tour– but it’s still a lovely low-slung, post-and-beam classic, with a living area that extends outdoors under a huge extending gable. The listing is silent on what winemaking or wine storage facilities are on the property. Or whether the stuff is drinkable.

William Wurster had become an eminent architect and head of C Berkeley’s architecture school; Donn Emmons and Ted Bernardi were responsible for most of the firm’s residential work after 1945. Emmons (with A. Quincy Jones) would go on to design houses for Joseph Eichler, the man who brought Modernism to tract housing all over California.

Listing: 148 Goya Road, Portola Valley [Redfin]

Note: Morley Bauer’s photo scanned from the excellent An Everyday Modernism: The Houses of William Wurster edited by Marc Treib; some of the information above came from Alan D. Michaelson’s essay “Bernardi, Emmons- and Wurster” in that book. -PF


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