Architecture Mimics Origami in a Montclair Manse

Architecture Mimics Origami in a Montclair Manse


Completed in 1992 by designer/builder Gary York, the four-bedroom, three-bath home at 6988 Pinehaven Road with full au pair unit on the lower floor is a geometric brainteaser.

It’s like living in origami. Really, really big origami.

Nearly every room of the multilevel 6988 Pinehaven Road in Oakland’s Montclair hills sits beneath vaulted ceilings with dramatic angles and pleats, like the folds of an intricate paper crane.

Completed in 1992 by designer/builder Gary York, the four-bedroom, three-bath home with full au pair unit on the lower floor is a geometric brainteaser, as far away from shoebox rooms and standard floor plan layout as you can get. It’s 4,017 square feet of alcoves, terraced landings, switchback staircases, multiple skylights, and unexpected twists and turns.

And the current owners were thrilled with it that way. “We love the hundreds of architectural flourishes in this house,” the owner wrote in a letter to prospective buyers, noting the artfully placed skylights that run up the “spine” of the home, the copper-accented central staircase, and the inset arched wall over the bed in the downstairs apartment. “You will never count them all in a single visit, nor even in a decade,” the owner wrote.

Though just a short drive down the hill to the shops and restaurants of Montclair Village, the many-gabled, wood-sided home is tucked in a quiet, wooded area with frequent sightings of forest wildlife. A spacious deck welcomes visitors to the front door. Just inside, stairs lead to the main living-room level with brand-new hardwood floors, cathedral windows looking out to the green canopy and big swaths of white wall space, crying out for dramatic artwork.

The fireplace is backed by a series of terraces. On its left, a few steps lead to the formal dining room with a tall gallery wall and large windows. A few more steps from there, and you’re in the well-appointed chef’s kitchen, featuring dual sinks, a hooded Viking stove, custom-stained concrete countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and inlaid wood cabinetry. The adjacent family room has a wood-burning stove, elevated on a platform. And French doors open to the rear deck and garden, perfect for barbecues and outdoor dining.

The home’s central staircase — which leads to the bedrooms on different levels — stands beneath the row of skylights, creating a “light well” that brightens every floor, said listing agent Valerie Ruma of McGuire Real Estate.

“The entire home is infused with natural light, even though it’s in a neighborhood known as ‘forestland’ up in the trees,” she said. “It’s not shrouded in shade.”

Occupying the entire top floor is the owner’s suite, complete with sitting area, more cathedral windows, and an en suite whirlpool. “It’s a place where you can get away from a busy day, breathe out, and feel like you’re living in the treetops,” Ruma said.

The full extra unit on the home’s lowest level features a spacious studio, kitchen, and bath, ideal as an au pair, in-law, or rental space.

Perhaps surprisingly, considering all the stairs, the current owners found the home’s unusual layout to be ideal for family living and for entertaining friends. “The kids’ rooms are far enough from the master bedroom to afford everyone privacy, but near enough to feel close,” the owner wrote, adding that the home is “striking in its design … with visual features that stand out and provided years of pleasure to us and our guests.”

The Particulars


6988 Pinehaven Road, Oakland

4 Bedrooms

3 Bathrooms

Au pair bonus unit, vaulted ceilings, fireplace

4,017 square feet

Agent: Valerie Ruma, McGuire Real Estate, Berkeley

Faces of the East Bay