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1960 Mountain Blvd.
Montclair CA 94611
(510) 339-0400 x346
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3070 Claremont Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 652-2133
fax (510) 652-0114

 

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House Talk

No. 23 - March, 2006

 
"Local Contractor Combines Aesthetics with Energy Efficiency"
  
A talk with Craig Reece
 


During their careers in real estate, Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine have had the opportunity to be introduced to several wonderful design/builders. One of these talented people is Craig Reece, founder and owner of Indian Rock Construction located in Berkeley. California. Craig, who is both a contractor and a design/builder, and his wife Anne Bush purchased their present West Berkeley home in 1989 for $144,000. The structure - a single-story clapboard-sided 1940’s duplex at 809-811 Channing Way between 5th and 6th - described by Craig at the time of purchase as being “a very ugly building, located in an up and coming neighborhood.” Indeed, the neighborhood is an interesting mix of residential, light industrial, and modern live-work units, with the Fourth Street retail district to the north. Being very much of a visionary, Craig could see the potential of this property.

Anne and Craig decided to remodel the duplex in stages. The long-term goal was to finish the property so that it had a rental unit in the front with an owners’ unit in the back. They would live in the back unit and add a second story, then occupy the rear unit and the added upstairs space. They were very specific about the parameters of the remodel which included beautiful aesthetics, the use of energy efficient and non-toxic products, and staying within the ever-present budgetary constraints. Upon completion of the project, Craig wanted to be able to use his home as a showcase for creative designs and interesting materials to give his clients ideas for what they might choose for their own building or remodeling projects.

The project began by making the front unit more habitable and Craig and Anne lived there for ten years while storing all of his construction supplies in the back unit. In 1999 Craig began the remodel of the back unit. The first order of business was to move all of his construction equipment to a twenty-foot ocean-going container that was placed along one side of the house. With a corrugated galvanized roof over the container plus a tempered glass breezeway roof section to prevent the roof from blocking sunlight into the house, and lots of fencing & lush landscaping, the container was cleverly concealed.

Indeed Craig should be proud of his accomplishments. His kitchen, as well as a kitchen in Moraga that he designed and built, were both recently published in Sunset Magazine’s Before and After Kitchen Makeovers and the innovative sliding glass window doors leading from his kitchen to the lush back gardens won an award in a joint Sunset Magazine/ASID Interior Architecture competition in 2001. (The two 5’ wide powder-coated steel-and-oak doors and the pair of 5’ wide bronze-screened screen doors finished in semi-transparent black aniline dye all slide into pockets in the adjacent walls, creating a 10’ wide opening.)

The following are a few examples of his many creative techniques. The kitchen walls are integrally-colored plaster with a rich terra cotta color. There is a floating floor made of mahogany veneer over a top of cork inner layers with a clear matte vinyl on top of the mahogany (resulting in a floor that looks like – and is - real wood but is as easy to care for as vinyl.) A San Francisco company specializing in restaurant stainless steel sinks and counters made the kitchen counter tops and integral sink. The kitchen features an island sink as well as a prep sink with adjacent mahogany butcher blocks and California maple butcher blocks.

Solar panels on the roof provide electricity; the monthly bill from P.G. & E. is never over $6.00 – the minimum required payment. Eighty percent of the lighting throughout the house is compact fluorescent. The space heating is via hydronic (hot water) baseboard heaters, the water is heated by an energy efficient Takagi demand-type water heater, to be assisted eventually by rooftop solar water collectors. The windows are dual glazed and the insulation in the walls is made from recycled “blue jean” scraps. The upstairs floor is Marmoleum – a type of natural linoleum made from wood waste and linseed oil – all natural and sustainable, in a pale yellow marbleized pattern. Velux “Suntunnels” and skylights bring natural light into the upstairs spaces. Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint which is less toxic than ordinary paint was used throughout the house and all the appliances are energy efficient. The 4x12 deck-balcony rail caps at the front and rear of the house are recycled Douglas fir bridge timbers painted a pale yellow.

The existing foundation was not adequate for the proposed second story addition. Rather than replacing the foundation, Craig worked with his structural engineer to create a solution that would be about ten times less expensive than the usual approach of raising the house, demolishing the existing foundation, and replacing it with a foundation adequate for the new loads. Instead, his crew installed large concrete pads under the existing foundation, and posts and beams within the wall of the first story to carry large engineered-wood beams along the two side of the house – this system takes all of the new loads of the second story down to the newly-reinforced foundation.

The finished result of the second story is a master suite, an office/bedroom/music room, a guest bedroom, two full baths, a laundry room, extra storage, and two covered decks. The deck at the rear of the house is accessed via the master suite, and the front deck features a deeply cantilevered roof that is an homage to Bernard Maybeck’s Mathewson house - albeit with a corrugated steel roof and industrial-style galvanized steel trusses above the cedar board-and-batten siding of the house. Craig calls this style “Industrial Caribbean Craftsman” while an architect friend in the neighborhood calls it “Australian Modern.”

The final piece-de-resistance is a secret 800-square-foot roof third floor roof deck with an amazing three-bridge view. “Secret” because it’s not visible from the street, but is concealed by the corrugated roofing which only runs along the edge of the house except at the front and rear second story decks. Perfect for entertaining since Craig and Anne’s guests can have complete privacy. The deck also provides space for a small vegetable garden – organic, of course.

Craig loves the process of building and he is pleased to watch the exciting results as he transforms so many of his projects from ordinary to extraordinary. To contact him directly and to see photos of projects he’s designed and built, including his kitchen and the kitchen in Moraga, you can go to his website at www.IndianRockDesign.com or call 510-841-3607.

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For further information or questions for our House Talk column, 
please contact Glass/Sabine by email:  Sheila@GlassSabine.com
or call us at 510-326-5055.

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