How Quirky is Berkeley? Jon Balderston’s art and collections

Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey

Jon Balderston makes what he calls art furniture.

Jon Bladerston phone book rack. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston phone book rack. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston's non-functional art. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston’s non-functional art. Photo: John Storey

He makes what he calls non-functional art.

Jon Balderston collection. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston collection. Photo: John Storey

He collects toys and packages.

Photo courtesy Jon Balderston
Photo: Courtesy Jon Balderston

And he designs kitchens.  All of the above is quirky.


Jon Balderston. Photo courtesy John Balderston.
Jon Balderston. Photo: Courtesy Jon Balderston

Jon Balderston was born in Berkeley. His father was an economist who taught at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Jon was Berkeley High Class of 1977. He has lived in Berkeley. He expects to live and die in the same zip code.

For his art furniture, he primarily uses a product called Trupan. It is made with pine fiber and is free of formaldehyde. It is a lightweight MDF (medium density fiberboard).

Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston art furniture. Photo: John Storey

He makes his art and displays some of his non-functional art in what he calls the Hodge Podge Lodge behind his house.

Hodge Podge Lodge. Photo: John Storey
Hodge Podge Lodge. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston painting. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston painting. Photo: John Storey
Interior Hodge Podge Lodge. Photo: John Storey
Interior Hodge Podge Lodge. Photo: John Storey

His kitchen is a showcase for his design — an open, unexpected palette of color, and accents of antique toys.

Jon Balderston kitchen. Photo courtesy of Jon Balderston
Jon Balderston kitchen. Photo: Courtesy Jon Balderston
Jon Balderston kitchen. Photo courtesy of Jon Balderston
Jon Balderston kitchen. Photo: Courtesy Jon Balderston
Jon Balderston kitchen. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston kitchen. Photo: John Storey

The piece de quirky resistance are up the stairs from the kitchen to Balderston’s attic. He calls it the Balderdash Museum.

John Balderston's attic. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston’s attic. Photo: John Storey

Balderston’s attic is filled with thousands of antique toys, packaging, brochures, board games, luggage labels, World Fair ephemera, etc.

John Balderston's attic. Photo: John Storey.
Jon Balderston’s attic. Photo: John Storey

The pitched ceiling is covered with board games, dart boards, etc.

John Balderston's attic. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston’s attic. Photo: John Storey
John Balderston's attic. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston’s attic. Photo: John Storey
John Balderston's attic. Photo: John Storey
Jon Balderston’s attic. Photo: John Storey

Balderston describes himself as a bottom fisher. He doesn’t spend a lot on any one piece. He haunts flea markets, especially Alameda. He has a tremendous eye for placement. If there is one recurring theme, it is moving vans. Balderston was given one by an uncle when he was young, and it stuck.

In every material aspect of his home, Jon Balderston is Quirky Berkeley personified. He is self-effacing and funny. He is unceasingly creative. He is a Son of Berkeley to make us proud of who we are and of our values.

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 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-plus-year resident muses on what it all means.

For a fuller version of this post with many more photos, see Quirky Berkeley.