What a Stellar Renovation Can Do

What a Stellar Renovation Can Do


A major redo turns a languishing, forgotten Berkeley property in

What a difference a do-over makes. The dated, drab, nearly century-old house at 1157 Amador Ave. in the North Berkeley hills had languished on the market for several years — even in these wild Bay Area real estate times — because of an illegal garage conversion, major foundation issues, and overall disrepair.

Enter new owners in 2016. They hired Oakland’s Verner Architects, whose team members embarked on a complete renovation and reconfiguration of the main tri-level house, a major overhaul of the structural issues, and an amazing redo of the guest cottage. This not only brought it up to code, but also turned it into a gem for guests, in-laws, or even a rental, transforming the whole manse from its Eliza Doolittle demeanor into a proper lady suited for presentation at the Embassy Ball.


The redo retained gleaming hardwood floors but added an informal sitting room and upgraded the kitchen to gourmet status. At almost a century old, the North Berkeley hills home holds its age well.

Listing agent Chimene Pollard of Red Oak Realty in Oakland loved the fact the owners wanted to preserve the home’s original classic details, including the built-ins and its gleaming hardwood floors, while bringing it into the 21st century by opening up the floor plan to installing an electric-car charging station in the garage.

“I love the informal living room they added, making the kitchen area the heart and center of the home. It feels so good being in the space,” she said. “I also love that you have this incredible location where you can walk to shopping and dining and have these standout views of the bay, San Francisco, and both bridges.”


The tri-level home has been transformed from a tired Dutch Colonial to a modern contemporary Craftsman. The renovation overhauled structural issues with the home as well as added cosmetic touches.

Indeed, the home sits in a quiet neighborhood in the foothills, high enough for great views, but low enough for easy access to the shops and restaurants on Solano Avenue or Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Homes in the area are built in a variety of styles and feature manicured lawns and lushly landscaped gardens. The hills back up to Tilden Regional Park, which offers hiking trails, a botanical garden, recreation at Lake Anza, a miniature railroad, a golf course, and even a vintage merry-go-round.

Originally built in 1922, the Amador house had fallen into disrepair late last century. Its Dutch Colonial exterior now looks fresh, clad in a modern neutral hue with burgundy steps leading up to an arched front door. On the main level, gloomy, formal rooms have been reworked into a seamless circular flow of living spaces described as “contemporary Craftsman” style, all connected by original French doors, even opening up to the back garden and new decking for an indoor/outdoor feel.

The chef’s kitchen features Carrera marble countertops, a sand-toned Heath tile backsplash, fresh white cabinetry, a large island with breakfast bar, and a gleaming Wolf Range. The lower level now has an attached single-car garage in what was originally the basement. In a clever use of space, the architects expanded the area to accommodate a mudroom, a laundry room with new LG washer/dryer, lots of storage, and a separate rumpus/media room.


The illegal garage conversion, which caused the home to languish on the market, is now an airy guesthouse. The home is in a quiet neighborhood, near shops and resturants, and backs up to Tilden Regional Park.

The true bonus is the detached guest cottage just across the back lawn, which was the original garage that had been illegally converted into a small apartment. Now completely up to code, it’s been fully remodeled into a light, airy space with vaulted ceilings, a loft bedroom, a beautiful walk-in shower, and an adorable kitchenette.

“The functionality of this home allows it to be someone’s forever home,” Pollard said. “And the legal guest cottage gives so much opportunity and flexibility to the new owners to have family stay long-term or set up as a rental.”


The Particulars


1157 Amador Ave., Berkeley

4 Bedrooms

2.5 Bathrooms

Single-car attached garage

Views of the bay, electric car charger in garage, remodeled and permitted guest cottage

2,760 square feet

Agent: Chimene Pollard, Red Oak Realty, Oakland


to a desirable gem.