Berkeley architect built, rebuilt Frank Lloyd Wright home

The Buehler House with a dramatic cantilevered roof over the living room. Photo courtesy of Jeff Anderson Custom Finishes

Berkeley architect Walter Olds built a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright home not once, but twice.

The Buehler Home, commissioned in 1948 by inventor Maynard Buehler and his wife Katie for their 3.3 acre property in Orinda, was partially destroyed in a 1994 fire, and it was to 75-year-old Olds, who was supervising architect on the original construction, that the owners turned, as soon as the flames had been doused, with a request to oversee the rebuild.

The result — a magnificent example of Wright’s Usonian style — can now be seen by the public for the first time, as the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy is holding a Home Tour on Saturday July 30 to raise funds for Frank Lloyd Wright conservation programs.

Olds, who passed away in 2008, told the New York Times in 2003 that he received a call from Maynard Buehler, who was then 89, on the day of the fire. ”Well, Walter,” he said. ”You figured this all out in ’49. I don’t see why you can’t figure it out now.”

Buehler House living room with gold leaf ceiling. Photo courtesy of Jeff Anderson Custom Finishes

Sited on a large, beautifully landscaped property, which includes a guesthouse, greenhouse and Japanese tea pavilion, the home is a wonderful blend of redwood and concrete block with features picked out in copper and 22 karat gold leaf. The craftsmanship, as you would expect from a Wright home, is exquisite.

Most striking is the gravity defying cantilevered roof over the octagonal living room. The living room slopes from a low of 2 feet to a high of 14 feet.

As he did for many of his — often long-suffering — clients, Wright designed a unique insignia for the home which was carved into some of the exterior woodwork.

The dining room of the Buehler House. Photo courtesy of Jeff Anderson Custom Finishes

The grounds, with two streams and a pair of bridges, have featured on garden tours as they were created by Landscape Designer Henry Matsutani, who also designed the Japanese Gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

More information and a virtual tour of the Buehler House can be seen here.

Update, 1:55pm: Thanks to reader Despain for pointing out that the contractor for the restoration of the Buehler House was Berkeley’s own Alward Construction.

The Home Tour, on Saturday July 30, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., includes the main house and immediate gardens and costs $50; an evening tour at 6:30 p.m. includes reception and entire grounds, including the tea pavilion. For information and tickets visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy website and click on Buehler House Tour, or contact Deborah Vick at (415) 814-3126 or Dvick2@me.com

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.