There’s No Place Like Home


The living room, which features a gold leaf ceiling and furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, himself, is the focal point of the Buehler House.

Sophia Bollag, Managing Editor

Once you enter the prominent, modern-looking front gate of the house at 6 Great Oaks Circle in Orinda, it is difficult to tell which side of the house is facing you. The white cinderblock walls are low to the ground, lacking the grandeur one would expect from a front entryway, and although the windows on this side are large, they are dark and therefore uninformative. If you are not familiar with the house, it can feel very intimidating to be so disoriented. However, if you know where to go, the house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948, will usher you in with unexpected hospitality.

Just to the right of the garage, a long covered walkway, flanked by bushes on one side and long, horizontal redwood panels on the other, guides you to the door. The panels on the outside of the house echo the long parallel lines that continue through the interior.

“Everything in this property is horizontal,” trustee Robert Ray said. “Everything. There is hardly anything round in this house.”

The horizontal panels continue through the front entryway, down the narrow hall on the left, which runs through the wing with the bedrooms. To the right, the panels draw you into a large, bright living room with huge windows and a gold leaf ceiling.

“The living room is probably the most awesome part of the house,” Ray said. “Everyone who comes through marvels at it.”

Although the house was inhabited by the Buehler family, who commissioned it for more than 50 years, lately, most people who have come through the living room have been prospective buyers.

The house has been on the market since September of last year, following the deaths of Maynard and Katherine Buehler, in 2005 and 2010, respectively. It is for sale by Todd and Gretchen Scheid of Alain Pinel Realtors and is listed at an asking price of just under $5 million. Despite the fact that the house has been on the market for months, no bids have been placed. Ray said this was not unusual because a house designed by Wright takes, on average, two years to sell.

At this point, Ray said he thought the house would be purchased by a private buyer.

“That’s our first hope,” he said. “Most of the people who have come through actually want to live in it.”

If a new family moves into the house, it will be the first family other than the Buehlers to live there.

Maynard Buehler, who made his fortune designing scope mounts for rifles, decided to have a house built in Orinda in the 40s. The way Ray described it, Buehler and his wife, Katherine, chose Wright as the architect almost by chance.

“Katherine was looking through an architectural magazine and said, ‘Gee, I’d like to have a house like that,’” Ray said.

The Buehlers sent Wright a request, but did not receive an immediate reply, Ray said. Months later they got a call from Wright, in which he introduced himself: “This is your architect.”

The house was built over the course of two years, from 1948 to 1949, and was rebuilt in 1994 after a fire destroyed most of the original construction. Ray, who was Maynard’s business partner had retired, himself, two weeks before the fire. He had been traveling, but when he received the news he returned the next day.

“I was sort of the son they never had,” he said.

Since then, Ray has devoted much of his time to maintaining the property and taking care of the Buehlers in their old age. While he was making renovations to different aspects of the property, such as installing the gate and commissioning the reconstruction of the bridges on the grounds, he assured Katherine that despite the renovations, the house would not be sold during her lifetime.

“You never have to leave your house,” Ray said. “I kept telling her that.”

Interested in seeing more of the Buehler House? Check out the visual tour put together by the realtor team: