donald olsen’s “kip house” for sale

Famed Bay Area modernist Donald Olsen designed a number of classic modernist homes here in the Bay Area, and one of his more significant homes is on the market. It’s the Kip House, which was designed and built in 1952 for his good friend, UC Berkeley physics professor Arthur Kip. The Kip House was the second private residence that Olsen designed, and it is right next door to the house that Mr. Olsen designed and built for himself and his wife Helen a few years later in Berkeley.

donald olsen's kip house, berkeley

donald olsen’s kip house, berkeley

The house is currently on the market with an asking price of $985,000, which is actually a little low for the area of Berkeley that it is in. Mrs. Modernacious and I had the pleasure to visit the house today during an open house held by the real estate agent selling the house.

the front entrance, donald olsen kip house in berkeley, 2013

the front entrance, donald olsen kip house in berkeley, 2013

We had a brief visit but it was incredible. The house has never been on the market before, and as a result the interior is in exceptional condition. The layout of the interior and flow from room to room is stunning. The house has built-in desks, storage areas and closets that integrate beautifully with the rooms. There are also a number of nice room details, for example the main bedroom has a small window in the corner that shows a nice little framed view of the back yard outside:

the main bedroom, donald olsen kip house in berkeley, 2013

the main bedroom, donald olsen kip house in berkeley, 2013

You can’t really tell from this photo but there are superb curved elements to features like this interior storage wall, which fronts the walk-in closet behind it. The door to the bedroom also features a really cool curved recessed opening for the door knob.

The agent told us that the owners had considered having the Kip House added to the National Register of Historic Places, which the Olsen house next door is registered with, but had decided against it. This means that the fate of the preservation of the Kip House in the future will lie with the desires and wishes of the new owners.

I naturally began to imagine this house as the future headquarters of the modernacious empire, but practically speaking it’s out of our range. Besides the cost for the house and the necessary work it needs (the addition behind the kitchen, which looks to date from the 60’s, has a serious crack in the floor, showing the need for major foundation work), I am not certain I have what it takes to live in a house that deserves to be maintained like a work of art.

But I really hope that somebody does have what it takes, and that the Kip House gets the TLC it deserves. I actually got a little physically queasy overhearing some of the other open house visitors today talk about what walls they would blow out and what they would change about the house.

the kip house with the olsen house behind it

the kip house with the olsen house behind it

[Later this year, look for the book “Donald Olsen: Architect of Habitable Abstractions” by Pierliugi Serraino and published by William Stout.]

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One Response to donald olsen’s “kip house” for sale

  1. Greg Greg says:

    I just noticed yesterday that there is a sale pending on the Kip House. This is not surprising seeing as how quickly houses are having offers accepted these days. My fingers are crossed that the new owners will take good care of it!

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