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Take a virtual tour through Ursula K. Le Guin’s gorgeous California home.

Aaron Robertson

September 3, 2020, 3:31pm

If you want to understand the deep well of creativity author Ursula K. Le Guin drew from at a young age, you should probably start at home.

Le Guin, the California-born author known for her Earthsea fantasy series and novels like The Left Hand of Darkness, thought fondly of her childhood home in Berkeley, memorably writing of it in one essay entitled “Living in a Work of Art.”

The airy, 3,700-square foot Swiss Chalet-style residence, which is currently on sale for $4 million, was designed by another famous Bay Area creative, the architect Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck was known for working in a variety of architectural styles, including the Arts and Crafts aesthetic that emphasized use of natural materials, folksy designs, and artisanal caprice (rather than industrial monotony).

“If I recall my childhood, I recall that house,” Le Guin once wrote. “Writing this, I wonder if much of my understanding of what a novel ought to be was taught to me, ultimately, by living in that house. If so, perhaps all my life I have been trying to rebuild it around me out of words.”

Here you have a wonderful example of an artist assimilating the characteristics of her surroundings in her own life and work. The video above leads you through a sprawling home ensconced in trees. A balcony affords a great view of distant San Francisco, and the interior is just all the right shades of red(wood).

You can see echoes of the estate’s openness and light, and its harmoniousness with surrounding nature, in some of Le Guin’s best writing. Le Guin was known for writing about fluid identities and the search for idyll places, reverence for the natural world and the innocence of sheltered children.

These connections aren’t that much of a leap.

As Le Guin herself said, “I wish we could all live in a big house with lots of rooms, and windows, and doors, and none of them locked.”

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