Personalization and Arts & Crafts
Craftsman Style in the News

James Plachek & Berkeley

PlacheklibrarygreenOne of the houses I grew up in is a 1917 wood-shingle quasi-bungalow at the base of the Berkeley Hills, near the Solano tunnel. The house was designed by James Plachek, who was responsible for the art-moderne Berkeley Library, Berkeley's Heywood Building, Epworth Hall, the Grace Congregational,  and a number of other structures throughout the state, including the now-closed UC Theater (also 1917), where I worked on weekends and in the evenings after school in the late 1980s. Plachek built and remodeled a number of theaters between 1915 and 1930, including the Chimes in Oakland and the Lorin (now the Phillips Temple Church) at 3332 Adeline in Berkeley. In the mid 1930s, Plachek was focused primarily on large-scale WPA projects like the immense Moderne Alameda County Courthouse on the shore of Lake Merrit, shown here in Michele Manning's beautiful plein air pastel drawing.

Before my father bought the house, the previous owners hired woodworker and light fixture designer Kip Mesirow, who made a number of alterations and improvements to Chez Panisse (in the same building where, coincidentally, my father lived as a student at UC Berkeley, before it was a restaurant) in the 1970s, and a collaborator of printmaker and illustrator David Lance Goines' - to finish the attic and turn it into a beautiful, raw-redwood-wall master suite, a sort of mixture of rustic cathedral, nordic cabin and Japanese country house.

Mesirow's improvements to both my father's house and Chez Panisse are a bit more Rennie Mackintosh and Wright  than Maybeck, embracing the austere and geometrical forms that Mackintosh loved and Wright emulated; these shapes repeat in much of the Chez Panisse style both in and out of the restaurant itself, most notably Goines' many poster and cookbook designs for the restaurant and the lettering over the restaurant's entrance. Goines even uses the Mackintosh rosette in a few of his own illustrations.