Follow the Sun • 20 Stephens Way • Berkeley

Follow the Sun • 20 Stephens Way • Berkeley

  • 09/13/19

Berkeley architect Guita Boostani was presented with a unique opportunity to design one of three custom spec homes in an undeveloped Claremont Hills location. Recognizing this singular opportunity to create an intentionally envisioned “neighborhood,” Boostani’s “soft modern” home at 20 Stephens Way is the superb result of unfettered creativity – and purposeful collaboration.

20 Stephens Way • Berkeley, California

Offered by Andrea Gordon of Compass Real Estate, this is the home’s first time on the market since its original sale, and listed at $3.25M – a price tag commensurate with the views.

“This home is the perfect marriage of sky – and sense of place – with its extraordinary Bay views,” said Gordon. “The people who fall in love with this house will likely be artistic, tuned into the nuances – and quite sophisticated.

“I was delighted to discover a woman architect, and UC Berkeley grad had designed the home,” added Gordon. “The sensuous undulations of the roofline evoke a powerful representation of the female archetype.”

Built in 2004, the 5000 sq. ft. custom home would have been nearly impossible to build within the lot’s original perimeter. Along with fellow architects Alexandra Martynetz, and Arnold Mammarella, Boostani et al approached the development collectively as a design team – not as individuals, to literally “think outside the box.”

In reconfiguring the four rectilinear lots, a newly designed grouping of visually complementary homes was envisioned “over a veritable dumpster of tracing paper.” 

The collaborative site plan defined the land – and air rights for the properties and their neighbors, and the final reconfigured lot was purchased by a neighbor, who generously preserved it as open space – now a significant neighborhood amenity.

“I begin my design process with the sun,” said Boostani. “I spend time in a space, watching the sun, the quality of light; when, and how it interacts with the location. When I understand the interplay of light, space, and site, I become a conduit for what the structure wants to be.”

​​​​​​​By far one of the East Bay’s most distinctive custom homes, 20 Stephens Way arises from a difficult cross slope in a progression of levels before culminating in its signature barrel roofline.

Repeated throughout the home, these arcing curves introduce movement, soften right angles, and provide visual harmony, repeated in windows, archways, and interior finishes. And, if expansive views are your idea of fine art, you’ll be rewarded with masterpiece vistas from every room.

20 Stephens Way’s reconfigured trapezoidal lot positions the home’s garage at the lowest portion of the property, at an unexpected 45% angle to the front of the structure – like a diamond instead of a box. 

This on point shape is repeated once again at the rear of the house. When seen from above, the home resembles a large sea creature – “a dolphin or a whale” – swimming languidly through the space. 

Just another kernel of inspiration for the UC Berkeley educated architect.

​​​​​​​Striking a balance of creating something extraordinary in an extreme location, while applying the tenets of intelligent architecture, Boostani’s diligent and persistent site survey allowed her to solve complex construction problems, while creating a stunning, environmentally comfortable home. 

Tall southwest-facing windows flood the interiors with sunlight, while the roof’s deep overhang provides thoughtful shade for the sun’s appearance throughout the day. 

20 Stephens Way maintains its dialogue with the outdoor environment through the abundant use of windows, and at-grade portals leading to lawns, cozy patios in shaded nooks, or expansive verandas with near panoramic views. Whatever time of day, take your pick between cool, grassy privacy, or sunshine and scenery. It’s the best of both worlds.

Step inside to a spacious home with clear sight lines that further enhance its generous proportions.

Mirroring the roofline, barreled ceilings amplify the home’s expansiveness. The aptly named great room is dominated by an exquisite, built-in hardwood shelf, surrounding one the home’s two fireplaces. The natural hardwood niches await their next round of curating.

A formal dining room between the great room and an ample chef’s kitchen was meant to inspire large (and frequent) dinner parties. Opportunities for informal and al fresco dining abound ­– in the kitchen or surrounding patios.

Upstairs, the undulating curve of the roof is repeated in a custom banister above the stairwell, harmonizing the signature design element.

Beamed, natural wood ceilings adds earthiness and a connection to nature. Three ample bedrooms include a luxuriously proportioned master bedroom with opulent en suite bathroom. 

Taking her color palette cues from the surrounding coastal landscapes – and the sea creature inspiration – Boostani saw “abalone shell” as her starting point for color choices. Cool sea greens, translucent aqua blues, blended with pearly neutrals, earthy browns, and verdant forest-inspired hues furthers the conversation with the natural environment.

Unlike other hillside residences, this home satisfies all the senses – sight, sound, and the ability to walk on level ground, and feel connected to the land, in the sun, under a beautiful Bay Area sky.

So much sky.

Article originally published in Oakland Magazine, September 2019 issue

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