The home of the late novelist Ursula K. Le Guin — a historic Swiss Chalet-style house designed by renowned architecture Bernard Maybeck — just hit the market in Berkeley for $4.1 million.
The five-bedroom, four-bath residence, built in 1907, sits prominently at 1325 Arch St. among several other architecturally significant homes.
“This home exemplifies Maybeck’s artistic vision as an architect,” the official listing states. “Shielded from the street, a wisteria-covered arbor greets you as you enter a truly exquisite home with stunning design elements that pay homage to its rich history.”
Le Guin, daughter of American anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber, wrote extensively about growing up in the house in a 2007 piece in the periodical Paradoxa titled “Living in a Work of Art.”
“If I recall my childhood, I recall that house,” she wrote. “It is where everything happened. It is where I happened. … Writing this, I wonder if much of my understanding of what a novel ought to be was taught to me, ultimately, by living in that house. If so, perhaps all my life I have been trying to rebuild it around me out of words.”
The house spans 3,686 square feet with rooms for gathering and other rooms for private contemplation. Built with natural materials, it has been restored with great attention to the original design while upgrading with modern features and amenities.
“Broad graceful bracketed eaves and Swiss scroll-sawn wooden balconies and decks look out onto San Francisco and Golden Gate views,” according to the listing.
The historical residence opens into a living and dining room with a rich, refinished redwood interior. A shared common room upstairs is highlighted by a light-filled glass ceiling, and an adjoining sun porch with enveloping glass windows evokes “the feeling of being in a treehouse,” the listing says.
Three bedrooms occupy the second floor. The principal bedroom has an en-suite bath and offers views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and Mt. Tamilpais. Those views can be taken in, as well, from a balcony off the main bedroom.
“There’s something about it that speaks to one’s heart,” she said. “It’s so full of soul. That’s how it’s spoken to people who have lived there. It’s been a kind of inspiration to each of them.”
The sellers are Kent Rasmussen, a winemaker known for his Pinot Noir varietal, and his wife Celia Ramsay, a vocalist and songwriter. The couple built a Maybeck-inspired house in St. Helena on the property where they have their winery, Barkin said.
Barkin said Rasmussen and Ramsay both find inspiration for their work in the house, as did Le Guin..
“Something about the house calms the mind,” she said.
Outside, there’s a mature garden and lush landscaping.
The property—originally named Semper Virens but known as both The Albert Schneider House and The Kroeber House— last sold for $1.995 million in 2012, according to realtor.com.
The owners put a lot of work into renovating the property.
“I think when one gets up close and personal to it, even if it’s not your style (of house), the exquisiteness of the wood is like velvet,” Barkin said. “They really did a lot to address issues of cosmetic damage done by a century of kids, dogs, UV light. The redwood has been redone so beautifully, that it’s impeccable.”