Stephen Shoup is the kind of person to see potential in things that others might miss. In 2005, looking for a property that would house himself and his design/build firm, building Lab inc., he happened upon a roughly 6,000-square-foot lot in north Oakland, California. Undeterred by the condition of the building (it had served as a shop for the late master woodcarver Miles Karpilow), he instituted a creative live-work space that can evolve with his needs.
This wood-framed home in Oakland's most striking feature is its backyard fire pit. Made of polished integral concrete with a Cor-Ten steel base, it “becomes very much a unique element that sets itself apart in form and color,” says landscape architect Stefan Thuilot, who designed it.
Though it dates to 1892, two years after Queen Victoria's death, this Oakland residence is a stunning example of a historic home that's been updated without losing its period charm. To create space for a first-floor office, builder and homeowner Mike McDonald had the original Victorian structure lifted—a surprisingly common practice in Bay Area renovations.
Architect Robert Swatt, designer of the GreenCity Lofts condo complex on the border of Oakland and Emeryville, California, makes no claim to longstanding environmental expertise. Yet by implementing "no-brainer" eco-friendly solutions, like solar panels, the development exceeds California Title 24 energy requirements by 15 percent.