Extreme Privacy and Bauhaus Design Meet in the Berkeley Hills

Nestled deep in the Berkeley Hills, in Berkeley, CA, a house from the future hides among the trees.

The only sign of the home from the street is the imposing black gate. Cross a steel bridge over a creek, and there among the live oaks you'll find "a poem in white and gray," as the SFGate once described it.

Dubbed the Ruth House (after its original owners), the Donald Olsen -- designed modernist masterpiece is on the market for $2,235,000.

Although the sleek glass-and-stucco structure has been in the neighborhood for almost 50 years, many locals don't even know it exists, according to listing agent Jack McPhail. "Olsen himself considered this to be his best house. It's just incredibly beautiful. It's so private."

The 1967 Bauhaus -- inspired beauty doesn't show its age: In fact, it's the opposite. "People ask if it was built after the Berkeley Hills fire (in 1991), because it looks like something from the 21st century," he adds.

The 3,500-square-foot residence built very much in the 20th century was commissioned by Herman and Minnie Ruth, urban planners who were friends with Olsen, an architect and professor at UC Berkeley. And it's been with the Ruth family ever since. The husband and wife have died, and now their sons have decided to sell the home.

The rectangular residence is made up of two "pavilions," as McPhail describes it. On the right, the space opens with 15-foot-high ceilings over a living room, dining room, and kitchen.

Cooking smells are blocked by a seamless glass wall. To the left are the four bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry room, playroom, garage, and office. And there are walls of windows to admire the outdoors. A patio doubles as an outdoor eating area. And stone paths and trees surround the home.

"The lot itself is just magnificent," McPhail says. Noting the site is "more than 16,000 square feet," he adds that Olsen "built the house around the property's oak trees."

"It's all original," he says, which is partly due to the home having the same ownership all these years.

There is one exception to the '60s design: The guest bathroom. Done by Olsen a good decade after the rest of the house, it has a more postmodern style with mirrors and marble. "The bathroom is known as 'Herman's Folly,'" the agent jokes. "You'd think it wasn't done by Olsen, but there are original plans to prove it!"

Olsen, who died earlier this year, is renowned for his modernist work. While a student at Harvard, he studied under Walter Gropius, a German-born designer and founder of the Bauhaus School.

Olsen brought European ideas to the San Francisco Bay Area. He was also one of the designers of Wurster Hall, a modernist monolith on the UC Berkeley campus. The Berkeley house he built in 1954 for himself and his wife, now called the Donald and Helen Olsen House, is a National Park Service landmark.

The Ruth House has garnered plenty of its own press over the years. Now, the next owner can write his or her own story in this storied home.