Modernist Donald Olsen house in Berkeley sells for $1M

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Donald Olsen’s glass house in North Berkeley sold this week for the first time since it was built in 1954. Photo: Berkeley Hills Realty/EBRD

An architecturally distinguished mid-century modern home in north Berkeley changed hands this week for the first time since it was built in 1952. It sold for just over $1 million.

The Kip House, at 775 San Diego Road, was designed by architect Donald Olsen and is located across from John Hinkel Park.

Olsen was a professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. His home, which is next door to the Kip House and is of a similar design, was landmarked by the city in 2009

The Kip House was landmarked by the city of Berkeley in March 2009. Photo: Berkeley Hills Realty/EBRD

A native of Minnesota, Olsen studied under Walter Gropius at Harvard before setting up his architecture practice in Berkeley in 1953.


Set on stilts among mature oak trees and lush greenery, the 1,904 sq ft home is akin to a modernist tree house. It was designed to take advantage of bay views, but the growth of surrounding trees soon put paid to that idea.

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While the home is certainly striking, and covetable for those who love its retro, international style style, it was nevertheless surprising to see that someone had stumped up $10 million to buy it. The number, which appeared briefly on real-estate site Redfin (pictured), has since been amended.

Another Olsen-designed home in North Berkeley, at 123 Fairlawn Drive, came on the market in 2010, and sold for $970,000.

[Hat tip: Jason Gardner.]

Related:
Berkeley home prices soar: just don’t call it a bubble (06.20.13) 
Berkeley house prices tick up after years of slump (02.15.13)
William Wurster homes are still in demand (10.14.11)
Open house pick: Donald Olsen mid-century modern (02.19.10)

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