By Michele Chandler; Photos by Liz Rusby[dropcap]B[/dropcap]uilt in 1913, the three-story mansion on King Avenue in the East Bay community of Piedmont hadn’t had any any substantial upgrades since the 1960s.
After a time sitting vacant, “it was in dire need of renovation, all the way from the foundation, electrical, plumbing. It kind of needed it all,” said Gregor Watson, co-owner of Roofstock, the pioneering Oakland-based real estate startup that’s the first online marketplace created to help people invest in leased single-family rental homes.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, were already residents of the city surrounded by Oakland and had been looking for a larger home where they could entertain and raise their two grade school-age children. The stately six-bedroom Piedmont house, on a half-acre lot and designed by early 20th century architect William Knowles, fit the bill.
the architectural detail and the layout of the property was amazing
“It just had some beautiful bones,” explained Watson. “We were actually bidding on another home, and we went and looked at this home. When we walked in the front door, the architectural detail and the layout of the property was amazing and so full of light.”
He said the couple paid “a little over $4 [million]” for the home, which went on the market for $4.65 million. After closing in early 2015, it was off to the races for the home’s rehab.
With the help of Tracy Anthony General Contractor, interior designer Caitlin Jones Ghajar and architect Mark Primack, the entire home was updated with a focus on building a more open kitchen, friendly-family spaces and updated outside landscaping. The general contractor was Tracy Anthony.
They put in a little over $2 million in renovations, transforming the mansion with a sweeping staircase into the now-9,000-square-foot, six-bedroom and nine-bathroom home that Watson called both “sophisticated and family-friendly.”
Sparkling water on tap was added in the kitchen, eliminating the need to buy cases of sparkling water in bottles or cans.
“We wanted to figure out new, green ways to get rid of waste. We took that element and moved it into our personal lives,” he said. “Our goal really was to update everything and add green features where we could but keep some of the interior history and bring a lot of that back to its original grandeur.”
Other high-tech, wireless features were added, including a wireless sprinkler system, air conditioning and heating unit and security alarm. “Being at a tech company, we wanted to try to get the fastest internet that was possible,” he said, so they installed CAT-6 wiring through the house to enable and allow super-fast internet.
“We’re trying to get ahead of where things will be,” he said. “Instead of putting in elements that have been around for the last few years, we’re trying to get ahead and anticipate even faster internet speeds over the next 20 years.”
A Tesla solar roof might be installed later, once that product becomes available. Explained Ghajar: “In keeping with the historic quality of the home, we want to make sure the roof that’s put on looks appropriate but is also a green building element.”
Watson said creating a unified, modern kitchen by rebuilding five small, separate rooms—including an old-style walk-through pantry and refrigeration room—was “the most challenging and rewarding” feature of the renovation.
A large, sliding glass Nano Wall was installed to give easy access from the kitchen to the backyard, a project that required raising the level of the backyard to make it level with the house.
In the basement, a traditional ballroom—once the site of high school dances—was turned into a modern, state-of-the art theatre as well as a play area for the children and suite for guests. It was important to the new owners that the property can bring to the community, as well. “We knew when we bought the house that we would want to use it to entertain, but also use the space for good in the community. So, in addition to hosting friends and family on a regular basis, we have opened our home for use for charity and fundraising events,” including for Piedmont schools and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s kick-off party for governor of California, said Elizabeth Watson.
The home’s renovations were finished in March, after about a year and a half. That included replacing all the windows—including 34 just on the ground floor—and restoring woodworking, molding, interior archways between the living room and dining room and redoing all the dark hardwood floors.
“We absolutely love the house,” said Watson. “We don’t have any regrets.”