The staircase leading to the master suite downstairs is decorated with opulent, Persian-patterned wallpaper reproduced from a vintage sample found by the owners. An exotically jeweled and filigreed chandelier, ca. 1880, illuminates the front parlor. house, they told themselves—something to resell in a year or two. Built in 1886 by Scottish immigrant carpenter George Gray, it was an unassuming residence for his wife and four children and had remained in their family until 1964. The house had a colorful succession of subsequent owners. The second operated a short-lived pillow factory in the basement; when the third owner flipped the house, he felt so wealthy he moved to Paris!
Perched on a steep hillside, the cottage had been solidly built of thick, heart redwood inside and out. Little had been changed over the years; the hardware was original, as was the paneled wood dado in the parlor.
The cottage began to work its charm on the couple who bought it. They couldn’t resist embarking on a series of improvements, all
Memorial marble figures and paperweights rest on a gateleg table in the front parlor window.
A collection of Victorian silverplate includes a Pairpoint Anglo–Japanese lamp, figural boxes, and trays. of them in keeping with the home’s original Victorian design. In the 1950s, the exterior had been covered with white asbestos siding and the front door painted hot pink—so the first order of business was to remove the siding, strip the door, and repaint the redwood siding in its original earthy palette.
A second phase came much later, when the couple doubled their living space by turning the garden level into a paneled master suite. The daylight basement had never been finished, but it ran the length of the house and had plenty of potential. The wife had grown up in New England, so she had fond memories of cozy rooms finished in tongue-and-groove paneling. Working with Oakland architect Steve Rynerson, who specializes in historic