Eichlers in Bloom - Page 3

Clusters of tall trees and extensive trails define the peaceful 34-home enclave known as Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Grouping of Eichlers on Brighton Way.
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
There is a variety of Eichler models in Walnut Grove, including the four above.

But it was a local celebrity who made a big difference on Clyde Drive.

Les Allen, a longtime illustrator and cartoonist, then a PR man for Shell Oil, was a painter and watercolorist by the time he and his wife moved into their Eichler.

For years he wrote a popular column for the Contra Costa Times, a powerhouse of a regional paper whose newsroom was just a few blocks away. And for years the Allens were a mainstay of the community.

When Randall and Staci Hobbet were looking for a home in 2000, Les and wife Jessie Lou were ready to move. The Hobbets hit it off with the Allens, who appreciated how much the newcomers loved their longtime home and anticipated they would treat it well.

When the Hobbets replaced the Allens in the home, Randall says, "It was very hard living up to their reputation in the neighborhood."

The Allens may not have been the only owners who tried to sell to worthy buyers. That so few Eichler facades have been inappropriately altered suggests a degree of commitment for several generations now.

"I think people kind of go, 'This is an Eichler. I'll keep it an Eichler,'" Dan Sonnier says.

These are larger, late Eichlers, 2,305 to 2,500 square feet, according to the brochure, and all designed by architect Claude Oakland. Most are four bedrooms and with atriums. Unlike earlier Eichlers, these came with fiberglass insulation in both roofs and exterior-facing walls.

Utility lines run underground. "Every lot has ample space for a pool," Eichler promised, and, as neighbor Reta Gardner says, "Most of us have pools." The area was walnut orchard, and "as many walnut trees as possible have been saved," the brochure noted. Today, few seem to remain.

"Most people have not changed the facades," Bob Deutscher says. "I've added on a master bedroom suite. We probably added 500 to 600 feet. We designed it to look original." The addition took the place of the garage.

"Some people have gotten rid of the atrium," he says. "We kept ours. It's actually open. We added a few slats to make it less open."

Perhaps the most original home in the tract belongs to Audrey Gee and Brian Bigelow. It is almost completely unchanged, including an original kitchen. Though they did paint the exterior, which originally had been stained. They also added bamboo flooring.

Recent changes to homes have largely been in keeping with the style, neighbors say. The Sonniers, who moved into a home that had already gotten extra space through a sympathetic addition, later made some changes to the interior space themselves.

The goals, says Dan, a serious cook, included reducing heat and air conditioning bills with new windows, repairing a leaky roof, seismic reinforcement—and keeping people out of an active kitchen. "I hated people walking through my kitchen. Now it's a separate little area," he says.