Old House Journal - - Reader Favorite -

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

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