Heather Peterson's firm, Girl Charlee, also got its start because of her interest in modern design. Peterson runs the business from a 2,000-square-foot home in Long Beach designed by an unknown architect in 1949. She finds the home inspiring, and its mid-century modern architecture matches her mid-century fabrics.
Like Peterson, Palm Springs graphic designer David Dixon says his modern house, recently built by Palm Springs Modern Homes in a mid-century style, inspires his designs for such clients as the Palm Springs Modern Committee and the Palm Springs Museum. "I find inspiration from the house and the view for the things I design," he says.
Like many people who work in modern homes, Eric Haeberlie says the environment is conducive to creative thought—and very relaxing. Haeberli, owner of WeLoveJam, develops his recipes in the kitchen of his light-filled Eichler home in San Francisco's Diamond Heights. The jams themselves are cooked up in a commercial kitchen.
"It's the best work environment," Haeberli says of the home. "I'm sitting in my office upstairs, I can look out the windows and I see trees. I'm surrounded by nature. I couldn't ask for anything better."
"Your environment is so important," he says. "I feel I'm more creative, more productive, working in this house. I'm happier."
Pianist Jim McCormick bought his Alexander home in Palm Springs because he thought it would be ideal for his profession of piano teaching. His piano occupies the living room. "I love the space because even though the house is small, it has a nice open living area with high ceilings and lots of glass, and that works very well for me as a studio," says McCormick, who teaches piano to advanced students, beginners, and other piano teachers.
In Sunnyvale, painter Sydell Lewis has discovered that, with a little modification, an Eichler can make a fine professional art studio. She turned some exterior, carport storage into interior storage, removed a wall to turn a closed-off bedroom into a light-filled office, and uses the atrium room as her painting studio.
"What's the opposite of claustrophobia?" Lewis asks. "This is the best studio I've ever had."
Tony Natsoulas, who grew up in a Streng home in Davis, took advantage of nearby UC Davis's strengths. In the art department was the master ceramicist of California Funk, Robert Arneson, along with artists Wayne Thiebaud, Manuel Neri, and Roy de Forest.
"The whole idea of Funk Art was to thumb their noses at traditional art," says Natsoulas, whose sculptures are whimsical, cartoon-like, often shocking, and well made. "I see it as a movement that has come and gone. I'm a post-Funk artist."
Natsoulas works on commission, creates works to sell at galleries, and for the past few years has created public sculpture—though public sculpture can't be as shocking as he'd like.
Donna Natsoulas, who handles her husband's marketing, is also an artist. Working at the dining table, she creates hand-painted purses and shoes—often featuring robots. She's also got a corporate job outside of the house.
Not only does their garage offer great space for working, the entire home proved perfect as a museum for their collection of Funky art—much of it by friends. They own hundreds of sculptures, paintings, and drawings, most of them on display, some stored under the beds.
"What really appeals to me besides the nostalgic appeal of the house is it's a completely clean slate," Tony says. "There's no crown molding, no niches. Any kind of art can go in here." For more: tonynatsoulas.com
Photography: Izzy Schwartz, courtesy Natsoulas family
Eric Haeberli got into the jam business by accident. Visiting his partner's mother in the Santa Clara Valley, he spotted apricots lying by her tree. "I said, 'We should make some jam.'"
"We began making it for family and friends," says Haeberli, who'd had the wisdom to join Yahoo when it had fewer than a dozen employees. He was semi-retired and enjoying life in his Eichler home in San Francisco. "And people loved the jam. They'd wait every year to get some. This is a cool thing."