Slipping Away - Page 3

The Eichlers of Atherton and Hillsborough—living dangerously in a peaceful world
Slipping Away
Slipping Away
Slipping Away
Top: Bobby Thompson and Chelsea Woo (in their living room with daughter Frankie), who saved their split-level Hillsborough Eichler from demolition. Center: Experiencing the home's multiple levels from outside. Above: Looking down their staircase.

"When we first moved in, we mentioned to our next-door neighbor that both our houses were Eichlers," she says. "But it was no big deal."

But our tour reveals promising news as well, as we meet some people who appreciate the beauty of Eichler homes and buy them to enjoy, not replace.

These include Debbie and her husband John Pinkston, who, like several homebuyers in the Atherton-Hillsborough area, managed to snatch their home out of the jaws of developers.

When the Pinkstons fell in love with the home, a flat-roofed model with an immense yard and original mahogany paneling throughout, "All the other bidders were contractors who would have scraped it and built a mansion," Debbie says. "That happens all over the place."

The owners at that time, however, had lived in the home for 60 years and loved it. "We offered the same price as the developers, but the family decided to give it to us," Debbie says, adding, "They said they would prefer to sell to a family that would keep it like it is."

Other than reconfiguring the kitchen, the Pinkstons have made few changes. Debbie notes how beautifully kept the home had been. A friend who visited her pointed out, "There are not even any chips in the panels, no nail polish stains on the counters."

Bobby Thompson and Chelsea Woo had a similar experience. They moved into a split-level Eichler in Hillsborough, a stone's throw from Crystal Springs Uplands School, housed in a grand mansion, where Chelsea went to school.

There too, developers were eyeing the 1964 house. It was designed by John Boyd (in conjunction with Jones & Emmons), with a two-level glass-walled, garden stairwell separating a one-story office and garage wing from a two-story living area. "The land is worth more than the house," Chelsea notes.

"Chelsea contacted Mrs. Graff," Bobby says, referring to the home's original owner, Phyllis Graff, who today lives in a nearby retirement community, "and we promised not to tear it down." Chelsea adds: "I said we appreciated the architectural gem that it was, and we planned to restore it."

Bobby and Chelsea and their children (daughter, Frankie, 9; and son, Ryder, 6) love the home, which the kids call the 'Tree House' for its views and forest setting.

A third family that rescued an Eichler from the clutches of a developer bought a beautiful, steep-gabled Eichler in Hillsborough. Monique Lombardelli, a broker with Modern Homes Realty who focuses on Eichlers and other mid-century modern homes, says the buyers love the Eichler design, and outbid the developers by coming back with a higher counteroffer.

"We had three offers on that property that were just developers wanting that land. That's what happens with all these homes," Lombardelli says. But, she adds, the original owner of the home told her, "I hope nobody tears it down."

Lombardelli believes more Eichlers can be saved in this way, and she argues they should be marketed to buyers who love them, not developers who want to rip them down.