This hillside property on Buena Vista Avenue was purchased in 2014 by an out-of-town speculator 
hoping to capitalize on Oakland’s booming real estate market. Given the relatively small size and irregular shape of the parcel, a house of 2,400 square feet was the maximum that local zoning would allow. This was unusually modest for the upscale hillside neighborhood of Upper Rockridge, but Baran Studio Architecture was determined to make the most of it.

To compensate for the small footprint and area, the three bedroom, three and a half bath house was designed with large 
interconnecting vertical spaces. When moving from the compressed entry into the living area, the height of the main space creates tension and drama. This space also connects a split-level loft area and a floating open stair that leads to the roof.

The house is oriented to take advantage of sweeping bay views to the west; in addition to a panoramic roof deck, there are cantilevered outdoor spaces accessible from the living areas. Multi-slide doors and windows allow the interior to connect completely to the outdoors. Because the design is subtly guided by the property’s asymmetrical boundaries, the interiors’ volumes are occasionally skewed to one another, creating dynamic yet functional spatial relationships.

After several unexpected events, the 
permitted property was flipped in 2016 to another developer who hoped to build and sell the project. Using newly modified 
accessory dwelling unit regulations, she 
decided to add an additional accessory dwelling unit to the lower level, where excess space under the downslope home allowed for another several hundred square feet. This would not only increase the area, but also the return on investment.

However, over the course of construction, the developer began to change her mind about selling the property. She came to 
appreciate the spaces and admired the views as she watched the sun set each evening before leaving the jobsite. Eventually, she decided she liked the house so much that she talked to her husband about moving in. He agreed, and today they call the house on Buena Vista home.

AIA East Bay is an architectural community spanning the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano. Our many programs include education for architects and outreach to the community on vital topics, such as sustainable design, earthquake safety, and architect-related issues that focus on how the Bay Area community benefits from well-informed design and development.