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Crunchy Berkeley House Loses Its Funk but Hangs onto Its Soul

A family of New York transplants trades minimalism for artful spunk. 


The 13-foot-tall fireplace, installed by the former homeowners in the ‘60s, was constructed in Mexico, cut into six pieces for transport, then pieced back together here. The wooden beams overhead—originally painted brown—were sanded down and finished in a clear oil.

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“Since the kitchen is so white, we definitely needed some color,” says Maria Raven of her aqua breakfast nook.

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An Edward Burtynsky photograph decks the office.

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Heath Ceramics’ diamond tiles jazz up this Berkeley Hills kitchen.

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The master bedroom is awash in Emma Hayes Studio’s Tidal pattern wallpaper. The lights are by David Weeks.

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The homeowners started collecting contemporary art while living in Manhattan. “We tend toward stuff where the process of making it is original or unique in some way,” says Raven.

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Architect David Yama transformed a small, dark galley kitchen into this bright, whitewashed space.

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“Just brown, brown, brown,” groans architect David Yama of YamaMar Design, recalling the original state of this 1963 Berkeley home. “Brown wood, brown shingles, and brown paint. It was hideous.” The earthy abode was an oddball choice for homeowners Maria Raven, an emergency room physician, and husband Andrew Dreskin, founder of Ticketfly, who moved here from Manhattan in 2011 with their kids, Sophie and Max. Their former home, a spacious SoHo apartment, had been sleek, stark white, and uncluttered. By contrast, this 4,000-square-foot, three-story home was “a random amalgam of mid-century and really, really bad contemporary” when they came upon it, says Raven. But then the couple entered the living room. The room-spanning windows frame a glittering view of San Francisco, along with the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge. “We took one look at that view and were sold,” says Raven.

Though the couple originally met in Berkeley, they had gotten used to a clean, modern New York vibe. “Andrew had a vision of doing something minimal,” says Yama, whom the couple enlisted to retrofit their new abode. “But then they were moving into this crazy house in the Berkeley Hills.” The home’s previous owner had been a professor of East Asian studies at Berkeley. The distinctive centerpiece, a sculptural, 13-foot fireplace, had been constructed in Mexico. The living room floor is an olive-green cast concrete. There was even a custom stained glass sunset spanning the front door. “We were not in SoHo anymore,” jokes Raven.

Yama tapped interior designer Alison Damonte to bring the home into the modern era. Dreskin’s tastes leaned toward a gallery-like white box, recalls Damonte. “My job was to push them a little bit.” She and Yama started in the living room—a future hub for dinner parties and playdates—where the walls’ unusual ledge had been designed to improve acoustic quality. (The music-loving previous owners had often hosted concerts.) They installed a projector on top and tucked a remote-controlled screen into the opposite soffit. Damonte introduced modern and vintage pieces into the couple’s white, mid-century vision: A ’70s coffee table offsets butter-yellow Lawson-Fenning chairs in the living room; a custom satellite pendant casts a warm glow over the dining room.

Yama and Damonte turned the kitchen—originally a small, dark galley with an adjoining office—into a big, open space with geometric Heath tile and glossy white casework. Throughout the home, the subdued palette serves as the backdrop for the family’s vibrant art collection, which includes works by Laurie Simmons (aka Lena Dunham’s mom), Edward Burtynsky, and Raven’s sister, artist Lucy Raven.

While Damonte embraced the family’s love of crisp white paint in the living and dining rooms, she went all out in the bedrooms. “Some people want a very traditional or cookie-cutter look,” she says. “That’s not my thing.” The master bedroom was swathed in watercolor-print Tidal wallpaper by Emma Hayes Studio, a New Zealand brand. Seven-year-old Sophie’s bedroom was papered in a dotty design by Drop It Modern. And the guest bathroom was covered in the British brand Harlequin’s retro Links print. Only Max, 10, escaped the rolls of wallpaper. After leaving his all-white apartment in SoHo for California, Max had one request: He wanted his bedroom painted black. Damonte obliged by swathing one wall in Benjamin Moore’s Black Jack. “The family wanted to defunk-ify the house,” says Yama, “but in the end, some of that Berkeley soul still comes through.”


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco

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