Space to Grow - Page 5

Mid-century modern homes today continue to make it easy for kids to run free, enjoy nature and dream

For Teens, How 'Cool' is Living Modern?

There's something cool about living in San Francisco's South of Market with its industrial chic atmosphere, edgy artists, and mean streets—way cooler than living in the 'burbs.

And teenagers care about being cool.

"I missed San Francisco a lot at first," says Ivy Bennett, who moved from SOMA to San Mateo at age 11. "I wanted to be the cool city kid."

Space to Grow
Ivy Bennett, seen here with brother Graham, learned to appreciate her family's San Mateo Eichler by pitching in with the upkeep. She’s in charge of all the window washing.

She liked her new house and neighborhood, and soon made friends. "The transition wasn't as hard as it could have been," she says.

But as for feeling cool about the new place, that took a while.

"I didn't understand at first I was living in a cool modern house," says Ivy, who recently turned 20.

Teens, it is said, like to rebel, often turning against their parents—or at least their parents' tastes. But at least some teenagers growing up in Eichler homes share their parents' enthusiasm for mid-century modern living.

Ivy learned to appreciate her house in a way relatively few children do—from the inside out.

Her parents, George Bennett and Stacy Binns, architects both, embarked on a major restoration of their new home, which had fallen on hard times. They took the house, an Eichler in the Nineteenth Avenue Park neighborhood, down to the studs and restored the mahogany paneling, doing much of the work themselves.

"I learned a lot from the renovation," Ivy says. "It was a really fun experience. We learned how to set tile and how to hang drywall. We learned a lot."

Ivy also took on one of the major jobs for anyone living in a modern home—window washing. "It's one of the things I do to help out the family," she says.

Ethan and Isaac Schick, 12 and 16, who share their Walnut Creek Eichler with parents Robin and Holly, appreciate the home's roominess, which is great for having friends over. They also like some of the home's unusual touches.

"Other houses are mostly carpeting," Ethan says. "Here you can feel the heat."

They also appreciate the low ceilings—versus those that were ten-feet high in their former house in San Francisco. "Now they can jump up and touch the beams," Holly says. "That's a fun thing."

Privacy can be an issue as children grow, in fits and starts, into adulthood.

Space to Grow
Ivy's parents, George Bennett and Stacy Binns, both architects, in their home office with Graham.

"You can hear a lot," Ivy says about her Eichler home. "I know when the neighbors are watching a football game."

"Teenagers get loud, that's for sure," her mother Stacy says, recalling long-gone days when her daughter had a habit of slamming her bedroom door. "The house shakes."

Stacy and George had a solution for door slamming—they'd temporarily remove the door.

Noise has also been an issue in the Schick household. Although their model provides good separation between bedrooms and living areas, sound carries. The Schicks replaced the original interior hollow-core doors with solid doors.

"In our bedroom, when you close the door it really silences everything," Robin says.

For privacy, the boys have their own rooms—Ethan often retreats to his to Skype with a girlfriend in Romania. And the boys have a study.

Their Rancho San Miguel neighborhood is filled with kids and teens, and many stop by the Schick house.

"We want them to have friends over, and I don't want to let it get on my nerves," Robin says of his sons.

The solution?

They turned the garage into a giant playroom, with an Xbox, an air hockey table, weights, Wi-Fi of course, "a lot of different things you can do," Robin says. When the garage grows claustrophobic, the kids play football on the street.

"It bought them some privacy," Robin says of the revamped garage. "It bought us some privacy, from the point of view of sanity."

 

Photos: David Toerge, Albert E. Kahn, Ernie Braun Archive