Intellectual Paradise - Page 4

Stanford University’s eclectic blend of 100 Eichler homes appeals to academics of all persuasions
Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Hanna house
Stanford has other modern wonders, including this one, Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Hanna house.

She too found him gruff but accommodating. The McKinnons asked for an extra half bath off the study and a wine room off the garage. “He said, ‘That's the stupidest idea I ever heard.'” But the next day he said, “OK. I'll do it for nothing.”

“An utter character,” she says.

Still, some of the loveliest Eichlers on campus are standard tract models. Witness the home Eichler built for Dick and Joy Scott in 1962. The Scotts found the Eichler models in San Jose “extraordinary.” But there was a problem.

“We didn't have any debts,” Joy said, “but we didn't have any money either.”

Joy visited Eichler in his office at the Edgewood Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

“We like your houses very much, and we like your politics even more,” she told him, referring to his policy of selling to all races.

“I told him I thought we could swing $20,000…and if you can't build something for that I don't want to waste your time. He said, ‘I'll be back in a minute.'”

Eichler returned with drawings, plans, and elevations. “Here, look at these,” he said.

original architectural plans
Margaret McKinnon and her pet
Margaret McKinnon looks over the original architectural plans (also in the close-up) of her 1968 Claude Oakland-designed home while her pet, Angus, looks on.

“Please don't tease me,” Joy answered. “I like all of them, but if you can't do them in our price range, it's no good.”

“We have a crop [of houses on campus] going up in the next two weeks,” Eichler told Joy. “If you can pick one of these models and not change a thing…”

“And make your decision in a week,” Dick adds to Joy's tale.

“And not come visit the house while the workers are doing anything, and say anything, or slow them down,” Joy concludes, “we can do it.”

“We didn't change a thing,” Dick says, of their Claude Oakland model.

The flat-roofed Scott house remains a gem, with its triangular bay windows, original woodwork, and art. The home is filled with textiles from around the world, including a hallway of quilts. Joy, a former librarian at the Center for Advanced Studies, has a jewelry studio in the home, paints watercolors, and keeps a small orchard and several gardens.

“She needs a few hobbies,” Dick says, deadpan.

Over the years, many of the Eichlers on campus have undergone alterations, some to their detriment. Several have added second stories.

Carol and Bob Swenson's sensitive remodel added height to their wonderful, Japanese-themed home, a 1970 Claude Oakland model that has attracted attention from several publications—including one that sent a Japanese model to soak all day in their bath for a photo shoot.

The home has an original peak over the gallery that separates their atrium from their rear courtyard. The Swensons' two added peaks, over kitchen and one bedroom, are virtually invisible to the street, thanks in part to a tall stand of bamboo.

“We're not Eichler purists [who believe] you can't change a thing,” Carol says.

Stanford does have its purists, however. Chuck, a business professor, and Barbara Bonini moved into their Eichler in 1987. They staved off rather unsubtle suggestions by contractors that they update the home.

Their home still has its original paneling, a striking freestanding brick fireplace, and two original bathroom sinks.

Another largely original home, save for kitchen and bathrooms, was designed in 1965 by Jones & Emmons, with a fireplace set off from the entry by an interior wall of glass. It's home to Lawrence and Leah Friedman, who appreciate the simplicity of their house.

“Eichler was a pioneer, and nobody followed him, really. Even the cheapest, most ordinary Eichler is a simple, elegant design,” Lawrence says.