Cozy, Cordial & Cooperative - Page 4

Palo Alto’s Meadowcreek Eichler condos—where tight quarters make for a tight-knit community vibe
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Meadowcreek is a fun place for kids, as (L-R) Gemma Shastri, Corbin Platti, Miles Adle, and Maura Quigley agree.

"I think it's the trees for me. The greenery," Rania says, explaining the appeal of the neighborhood. "It just draws you in."

Sharon, who is known for quick work with her pruning shears, thinned out Meadowcreek's olive trees, which had been sculpted into artistic shapes. "They looked so dated."

Since then, she's spurred a resurgence in maples. "If somebody asks, I'll say, let's do a maple tree, Japanese maple," she says. "There are so many varieties—nice red ones, big leaf, small leaf. Maybe I spent too many years in Japan."

Just over a decade ago, when it was time to refresh the facades, the neighbors replaced the entire front fencing using select heart redwood, and put in red metal front doors.

The association's attention to appearance was brought home to Vijnan and Rania shortly after they arrived and parked their bikes in their carport—despite a rule that says nothing goes into carports but cars.

"We were reminded of the rules in a polite way," Rania says.

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Jenny Quigley, whose daughter Maura was the first child ever born to parents living at Meadowcreek.

"There's a reason why this place feels good," Vijnan says, "because of the rules."

But bikes are popular in the complex, with many biking to work or to shop, and individual storage is limited. One proposal calls for building bike storage on the commons.

Although Meadowcreek doesn't have an architectural review committee per se, the association favors preservation of the Eichler look—from the outside. Back in the 1960s, one of the units, on a large corner lot, put in an additional rear unit that cannot be seen from the front.

Otherwise, all the changes that have occurred to these Jones & Emmons-designed homes have been inside. When Nancy arrived in 1980, her home still had its original mahogany paneling. Since then, it's disappeared from most interiors.

But otherwise, the homes retain their Eichler looks—front courtyard opening onto kitchen and family room, and a partial wall dividing kitchen from living area, which faces the compact backyard through a wall of glass.

Many people have added skylights above the kitchen or living room. Skylights have also been added to the roof overhang that reaches into the backyard. With walls of glass and skylights, "We never have to turn on the light until it gets dark," Rania says.

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In their sparsely furnished, open living room Rania Bratberg and Vijnan Shastri watch daughter Gemma practice viola.

Rania and Vijnan's living area is particularly open, used by the family for meditating, yoga, enjoying their Himalayan singing bowl, and by their daughter Gemma for Indian classical dancing classes and soccer practice—using a very soft ball.

"This is why there's hardly any furniture," Rania says. "It's like a gym."

Nancy's home retains some marvelous original touches, including kitchen cabinets, cook top and oven, and grass-cloth doors. She regrets losing the mahogany panels. "I kind of regret some of the changes I did make in the Eichler," she says.

Meanwhile, newcomers like Tom and Claire, and Ben Tran and Rianne Lu, are making over their homes, emphasizing their modern styling.

Style, however, is far from the only thing younger people are bringing to Meadowcreek.

For many years, the condos didn't have any children. When Ben and Rianne arrived six years ago, there was one or two. Five years ago Jenny gave birth to Maura—the first child ever born while living in the complex, some neighbors believe.

Today, Meadowcreek has a handful of children—and is awaiting a new arrival. Neighbors are almost as excited as the first-time parents, Ben and Rianne.

"We try not to call attention to ourselves, but with a baby on the way, it does attract attention," Ben says.