How Quirky is Berkeley? Double V at 360 Vassar St.

"Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on May 7th,  2015."
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

When Randi and Steve Herman moved into their  home on Vassar Street 25 years ago, they had taken a chance with marriage and set out to create a garden that would make them smile when they came home. In front of the home are two large, bright yellow V’s, salvaged from a San Francisco theater.They meant nothing until they meant something, an homage to Vassar Street.

Looking down the uphill side of the house, you see first a seating area made with original 1936 pavers from the garden as seats and an Indonesian rice-pounding table.

360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

Further down towards the front door are several fantastical Keeyla Meadows sculptures – a lion, a lion-tamer, and a mediator.

360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

The main event is on the downhill, heading-to-Kensington side of the house.


"Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on May 7th,  2015."
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

A giant, truly giant, wolf stands under exotic plantings, traffic cones for teeth, flashing red lights for eyes, mail boxes for feet.

360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

Sebastopol “junk artist” Patrick Amiot made the wolf, as well as the little droopy dog mailbox further down the hill. The steel railing leading down the path towards the mailbox and house gate came from Lmno Arts in Aptos.

"Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on May 7th,  2015."
Randi Herman at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

In the back garden, Randi Herman’s gardening prowess is front and center.

Garden bower at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Garden bower at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

The plantings are accented by more Keeyla Meadows sculpture.

Keeyla Meadows sculpture at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Keeyla Meadows sculpture at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Keeyla Meadows sculpture at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Keeyla Meadows sculpture at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Keeyla Meadows sculpture at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Keeyla Meadows sculpture at 360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

In one section of the garden, there is a nod to Alice and Wonderland.   A tea pot and clock:

360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

And the locked doors in the hall trapping Alice:

360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey
360 Vassar Avenue. Photo: John Storey

The V’s, the Keeyla Meadows pieces, and especially the giant wolf and little dog are quirky, all set in creative and exotic planting. The Hermans did what they set out to do. The garden they built to make them smile when they got home also makes us smile when we walk by.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.