James and Gillian Servais build “stealth homes”. Over the years the couple have designed more than twenty houses, mostly in the Berkeley and Oakland hills, and the one characteristic they all share is how well they blend into their surroundings. With their dirt-colored stucco and discreet positioning, they are the antithesis of the architecturally strident “statement” homes that some people chose to build in the aftermath of the 1991 East Bay firestorm.
The look is invariably rustic chic. Think limestone floors, hearths made from slabs of sandstone and recycled wood used for exposed beams and doors. The influences are Mediterranean and early Monterey with a dash of the Southwest.
1400 West View Drive, a 3+/2.5 with a garden, Bay views and a 2-car garage, has vaulted beamed ceilings (as in the living room, above) and hand-plastered walls. It’s not the most accessible spot: it’s reached by a private drive and parking is limited. And with its 34/100 Walk Score, it’s not for someone looking to reduce their dependence on foreign oil. But it may suit someone looking to retreat to the hills and, at $481/sq ft, the price is not unreasonable (Berkeley average being $433).
Another Servais home, at 1269 Grand View Drive, sold in April this year for $2,025,000 on a $2,495,000 asking price. Down the street, 1260 Grand View Drive — a 3,626 sq ft, 4/3.5 contemporary priced at $1,099,000 — has been languishing on the market for more than 150 days.