A years-long legal battle with her hometown hasn’t slowed down Florence Fang, owner of the famed Flintstone House on a hill overlooking Interstate 280. Now that the town of Hillsborough and the retired media mogul recently reached a settlement affirming that the dinosaurs and other whimsical decor dotting her property can stay, 86-year-old Fang is dreaming up even more ways to wow visitors and those whizzing by on the freeway.
She’s recently added a hulking Bigfoot statue to the patio and a Gold Rush-themed room, which Fang showed off to the Bay Area News Group this week in a rare tour of the orange, red and purple-domed home on Berryessa Way. Now, she’s planning a giant beanstalk and a phoenix rising from the ashes.
“I feel happy,” said Fang, who bought the nearly 3,000-square-foot property, now worth more than $3.6 million, for $2.8 million in 2017.
Some of her giant cartoonish statues drew a lawsuit in 2019 from Hillsborough, which said Fang hadn’t obtained all the necessary permits and labeled the property a nuisance. Fang won’t discuss details of the settlement this spring, but is now free to celebrate the quirkiest piece of real estate in the Bay Area in peace.
Growing up in China amid the horrors of World War II, Fang didn’t experience a carefree, idyllic childhood. But her mind remained a fantastical wonderland, and the eye-catching Flintstone House has provided an unexpected opportunity to bring some of her vivid dreams to life.
Several years ago, Fang was just searching for a nice, quiet place to retire — someplace where she could downsize a bit from her longtime Hillsborough home. Then she toured the domed abode, designed in the 1970s by William Nicholson, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase the property she’d grown accustomed to seeing from the car on drives.
Its shape appealed to her, Fang said, since “round represents inclusive” — a not uncommon style in ancient times but a far cry from the sharp, square boxes typical of most suburbs today.
The octogenarian, who moved to the U.S. in the early 1960s, doesn’t live in the home in part for security reasons — it regularly draws tourists trying to get a closer glimpse at the dinosaur sculptures visible from the freeway. But her grandson, a recent college graduate, has spent the pandemic hunkered down at his grandmother’s place amid the stuffed tigers, watermelon-shaped pillows and, naturally, Flintstone figurines dotting the home.
Initially, she was frustrated by the lack of privacy, but came to appreciate the joy the house brought to visitors — those invited and not.
“People like me enjoy the same thing,” Fang said, standing in the cavernous foyer, gesturing to the various statues and the sweeping views of I-280 and the green hills surrounding the Crystal Springs Reservoir below. “I like to enjoy it with people.”
And to keep them on their toes.
“The stone family cannot always stay in the stone age,” Fang said, her explanation for the property’s constant evolution.
As 2020 faded into ’21, Fang installed a bright orange tiger, resembling the character Fang from a Flintstones spinoff, above the front door holding a heart-shaped sign welcoming in the new year and bidding good riddance to the last.
In the entry, she added a statue of the Wilma character and plans to one day install a button that people can press to hear the red-headed Mrs. Flintstone talk about the house.
Visible through a nearby window stands her new Bigfoot sculpture, purchased from Sonoma.
Not far away, she installed blue iridescent floors in a Gold Rush-themed room, adorned with 49ers — yes, the San Francisco football team — panning for gold.
The house, Fang said, is a constant work in progress. She is still searching for the perfect hand-blown bubbles to rise from two new fish sculptures near Wilma. The Gold Rush room floor needs gold flecks. And she is desperate for someone to build a powerful phoenix soaring skyward in the conversation room, a reminder, Fang said, to “never give up hope.”
In a narrow, spiraling stairwell, Fang envisions a beanstalk, as in Jack and the Beanstalk, creeping up the walls. She is always adding flying pig statues — she was born during the year of the pig — and other figurines. The fire department, Fang said, requested she clear a path in the backyard, full of giant dinosaur statues and colorful mushroom caps, so work is underway on that project. Every addition, Fang said, is connected to the overall theme of the home: over the rainbow.
There are no wicked witches or tin men — yet. “I just dream my dream,” Fang said.
The execution of that dream hasn’t always been easy. When Hillsborough objected to some of her outdoor decorating choices, it issued stop work orders and ultimately filed the suit. She responded in part by alleging racial discrimination by city employees. As part of the recent settlement, the town agreed to cover Fang’s $125,000 in legal fees and said the dinosaurs, mushrooms and other yard decor could stay.
“I feel so relieved” the ordeal is over, Fang said.
No one lives directly across from or behind the Flintstone House and residents in the comparatively vanilla homes on either side, she said, have not complained about their unusual neighbor.
For now, Fang still resides not far away in her longtime Hillsborough home, with traditional Chinese decor, Fang said — lots of gold tones and jade, not a Flintstones character in sight. She hosts family and friends at the Flintstone House, including Nicholson, the architect, several times. Once a cello player serenaded guests from the rooftop, accessible from the second story.
“So romantic,” gushed Fang, before pivoting on the patio to stare at I-280.
Audible outside, the traffic noise is barely perceptible inside. But the visual, Fang said, offers a welcome reminder to an older woman that “I am still part of the world.”
Asked what her plans for the home are when she is gone, Fang paused.
“I do not know,” she said, before breaking into a mischievous smile. “I’ll decide when I’m 90!’
And while Fang, in her tailored periwinkle blazer, with her perfectly coiffed hair, acknowledged that she might not look on the outside like she’d be the owner of the Flintstone House, “inside, I totally belong here.”