Tolman Cottages

Restoration and improvements to a local landmark for a designer couple who are steadfast stewards of its history and whimsy

Tolman Cottages restoration of local landmark outside view
Tolman Cottages restoration of local landmark inside view of living space

Sited to take full advantage of the light, view, and topography of their site, this two-dwelling single family property lies within Berkeley’s La Loma Park Historic District.

Our work on Tolman Cottages was inspired by the owners’ love of the property, and their commitment to preserving and celebrating its character, charm, eccentricities and intent. Using the original blueprints as our compass, the tasks at hand included restoring exterior features, replacing the upper cottage’s unresponsive addition and performing seismic upgrades.

To reinstate the integrity of the upper cottage, we recreated the north exterior wall and gable end and replaced the 1978 addition with an addition harmonious in proportion and design with the earlier structures.

We also recreated original “undercroft” passageway bracing to answer key access, functional and structural concerns of the site.

Inside we simultaneously updated and resurrected elements of the floor plan. The kitchen was reduced to an efficient galley, to create a larger dining room with folding windows that open to San Francisco views. To provide separation between the original sitting room and new dining/kitchen area, we rebuilt an interior wall that had been removed in the 70’s, restoring a sense of intimacy and distinction to the spaces.

The Tolman Cottages, which date to 1925, were designed by architect James McCreery for Professor Edward Tolman, and were built over the remnant foundations (which are still visible) of a home that burned to the ground in the great Berkeley Hills Fire of 1923. As excellent examples of the First Phase Bay Area Tradition, they were designated as part of the La Loma Park Historic District and gained Historic Landmark status in 2002.


Landscape Architect: David John Bigham

Structural Engineer: Gregory Paul Wallace, SE

Color Consultant: Color Folio Design

Photographer: ©Marion Brenner Photography