A home with a flower roof and sweeping SF Bay views hits the market

A home with a flower roof and sweeping SF Bay views hits the market

The flower ceiling at the house at 1112 Sterling Street in Berkeley Hills.

Courtesy of Jeffrey Frisk and Jerry Bakalian

For nearly 50 years, the empty, three-story steel shell of a house with a rose-shaped roof has stood tall in the Berkeley Hills — the brainchild of a Bay Area musician and composer, who envisioned it as a studio, performance and living space.

“This house was designed to fit my vision of what a home could be — and should be — for creative artists like me,” owner Charles McDiarmid said in a 2020 video about the property.

But the house at 1112 Sterling Ave., which has sweeping views of San Francisco and the Bay, and whose construction began in 1974, remained unfinished by the time McDiarmid died at age 85 of cancer last year. It is now on the market for the first time.

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“We’re really hoping someone will complete it,” said Varya Simpson, McDiarmid’s widow, who is selling the house.

Costing $1.2 million, the 1,800-square-foot building consists of a massive sinuous steel frame topped with a distinctive roof. While the house has floors and walls, its west-facing side — intended to have floor-to-ceiling windows — remains open to the elements. The sale comes with an adjacent empty lot.

The 1,800-square-foot home at 1112 Sterling Street in the Berkeley Hills, which remains unfinished, is on the market for the first time.

The 1,800-square-foot home at 1112 Sterling Street in the Berkeley Hills, which remains unfinished, is on the market for the first time.

Courtesy Faria Simpson

The listing says the sale is “exactly as is – no showings and no open houses.”

While offers will not be considered until August 23, to give potential buyers enough time to review all the property’s documents and details, listing agent Jerry Bakalian said he is hopeful the right person will find the home.

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“It’s a unicorn. It’s not for everyone,” he said.

But when will the right person find it? “They will do their bohemian job and finish Charles’ vision,” Bakalian said.

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Simpson said she and McDermid found a plot of land high in the hills in the early 1970s after searching, unsuccessfully, for an existing home that suited their needs.

“Charles has a very good aesthetic sense,” Simpson said. “His whole life was about art, creativity and design.”

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He was her opposite – “I am purely practical. “I was really OK with anything that had a ceiling,” she said, but she wanted him to be happy and fulfilled. So the two acquired the empty lot, where McDiarmid planned to build his dream home.

His designs were soon drawn up, and with the help of a structural engineer he prepared everything he needed to present to the city. By 1974, Simpson and McDiarmid had a full set of permits to move forward with their design – and McDiarmid set to work building the bizarre house, where the top floor, with a flower-shaped roof, would be his music studio, designed in the shape of a tetrahedron. Tri-Pyramid, for what he called “3D sound”.

But the work took longer than expected. The design was complex, designed not only to realize MacDermed’s creative vision, but also to withstand even very strong earthquakes with its structural steel frame. Moreover, McDiarmid was undertaking this ambitious work largely by himself, Simpson said, with the help of two architect friends and a homeless man whom McDiarmid had befriended.

“He was such a perfectionist and an idealist that no one could do it right,” Simpson said. But “it is basically impossible for one person to complete it in his or her lifetime.”

Over the next two decades, Berkeley received various complaints from neighbors about the endless construction, saying people were moving in and out and even living in the unfinished house, city documents show.

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The steel-framed house, located at 1112 Sterling Street in the Berkeley Hills, began construction in 1974 and remains unfinished.

The steel-framed house, located at 1112 Sterling Street in the Berkeley Hills, began construction in 1974 and remains unfinished.

Courtesy Faria Simpson

In 1991, the city asked McDiarmid and Simpson to close their existing permits, which had expired, and reapply for new ones. But by then, the couple already had two children and were living in another home, and obtaining new permits was too time-consuming and expensive, Simpson said. So the construction is finished.

“It’s one of those sad stories,” Simpson said, though she noted that her husband found plenty of other projects to invest in before his death three decades later.

Except for periodic work to maintain the structural integrity, Simpson said, no work has been done on the house since it closed in 1991. But after her husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2019, the couple decided to shoot a video depicting her husband’s vision.

“Because the house exists as a design concept, for me personally it is quite successful,” he said, sitting in the unfinished house.

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Now Simpson is hoping someone will pick up where MacDermed left off.

“We realize it’s not going to be the same project,” she said.

The house at 1112 Sterling Street in the Berkeley Hills, which began construction in 1974 and remains unfinished, is on the market for the first time.

The house at 1112 Sterling Street in the Berkeley Hills, which began construction in 1974 and remains unfinished, is on the market for the first time.

Courtesy of Jeffrey Frisk and Jerry Bakalian

Noting that the structure has been built to the point where it can be completed — with the work needed to bring it up to current standards — Bakalian said potential buyers could build a small house on an adjacent lot, perhaps with a quick review thanks to government housing laws, and live there while they finish the house. the main.

While Bakalian believes the top floor has all the potential for future buyers, Simpson would like to see something more in keeping with her husband’s original vision.

“It would be nice to keep the upstairs for the music studio,” she said.

    (Tags for translation)MacDiarmid

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