Morgan was born in San Francisco, and by her early 30s, was operating as a solo architect. She studied at UC Berkeley with Bernard Maybeck, later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and worked for John Galen Howard before opening her own practice in 1904. Her designs are some of the Bay Area’s most iconic: the Berkeley City Club, the UC Berkeley and Mills College edifices, the Julia Morgan Theater (formerly the St. John’s Presbyterian Church), as well as her famous collaboration with William Randolph Hearst on Hearst Castle.
Morgan designed more than 700 buildings during her remarkable career and one of them is this home, Kofoid House. Just one year after starting her solo practice, Morgan was commissioned by the Kofoids to build the 2,929-square-foot home.
Charles Atwood Kofoid was a zoology professor at UC Berkeley; his wife, Carrie Kofoid, was a writer and historian. The home was, from its very beginning, a true testament to Morgan’s style and priorities as an architect. The property’s official website tells us that “at a cost of about $4,500 (including Morgan’s $200 fee), the house was built mostly of old growth redwood and wood salvaged from a demolished building on campus.”
Arts and Crafts details abound from the entry hall to each of the three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms to the kitchen and into the formal dining room and library beyond. There’s plenty of original craftsmanship, including built-ins, hand-carved wood, tiled hearths and an abundance of windows to both frame the foliage outside and let natural light inside. Everything is impeccably preserved.
“It may be the most pristine Julia Morgan house I’ve ever been in,” listing agent Mark Hardwicke of Better Homes Gardens told SFGATE.
The Kofoids were very involved with the creation. Charles Kofoid’s family pitched in construction skills and Carrie Kofoid commissioned a woven “lauhala” mat from Hawaii that still adorns the library ceiling.
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But the home is not a time capsule. Hardwicke pointed out modern features he believes Julia Morgan would have appreciated. “Morgan built homes not for showing off, but for living in. Every detail is meant to make life more simple, while also celebrating the beauty of fine craftsmanship that is anything but,” he said. Updates include a modern chef’s kitchen, ecology-minded systems and earthquake retrofitting.
The home sits on a 6,075-square-foot lot in the Elmwood neighborhood. Gardens and a patio surround the space, secluded by its fencing and the dappled light of mature trees.