Eichlers in Bloom - Page 4

Clusters of tall trees and extensive trails define the peaceful 34-home enclave known as Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove
Three views inside the Eichler of Mike Carthage and Joe Garcia, who have avidly restored their home during the six years there. Top: Mike (left) and Joe in a playful moment in their living room.

Throughout, he says, the remodeling retained this inspiration: "I wanted it to look like a Jetsons house."

Mike Carthage and Joe Garcia are among neighbors who have invested much in restoring their homes. When they arrived, one bathroom was moldy, the atrium beams were rotting away, the floors were heavily carpeted—and once the rains hit, the roof leaked.

Plus, when they sought home insurance, their insurer refused. This shows the perils of relying on aerial views. "The insurance company said, 'We won't insure your house. There's a hole in the roof,'" Mike says.

That "hole," of course, was their atrium.

Today the house is a beauty, original in most respects, with an updated kitchen. Mike, an architect, oversaw the work.

They redid the master bath, but kept the original step-down Roman tub. And when cabinets were installed, they included Eichler-like sliding doors.

Of his design philosophy, Mike says, "Keep it simple. That's my whole thing."

Real estate broker Ken Fox, who handles many Eichlers for East Bay Modern Real Estate, says the Eichlers of Northgate are highly desirable, and don't come on the market often, though two were recently for sale.

Many people are attracted to the area because of the excellent Northgate school district, and the ranch homes that surround the Eichlers are appealing.

But most people looking at the Eichlers are looking specifically for Eichlers. "They go for a higher price per square foot than the surrounding ranch-style houses, so people are paying a premium for these over the regular ranch houses," Fox says. He had a recent listing for $1.6 million.

He says some customers already live in Eichlers but are looking for bigger ones with more space and privacy. Indeed, several people in the neighborhood did move up from smaller Eichlers elsewhere, including the Deutschers and Reta Gardner.

"Once you become an Eichler person," Reta says, "you just stay forever."

There is one problem that afflicts the neighborhood—traffic on Ygnacio Valley Road, which connects to lively downtown Walnut Creek, BART, and the world beyond through freeways, and accommodates commuters heading in from eastern Contra Costa County.

Sonnier, who founded and ran the small injury clinic at the Kaiser hospital near downtown Walnut Creek, says it would take 20 to 25 minutes to drive the seven miles to work.

It's a boon to neighbors that nearby, attractive shopping centers mean you don't need to go downtown for most errands or to dine.

There have always been families with children in the Northgate Eichlers, and it is convenient to schools.

Reta Gardner moved here from her Concord Eichler when she and her new husband blended their families—and found themselves with six boys. "And they all had waterbeds, and it was a kick. It was like Reta and the Boy Scouts, because their dad was a firefighter and he was gone a lot," she says.

But unlike some Eicher tracts, these homes for the most part have not been chock-a-block with kids.

Audrey Gee, who with husband Brian Bigelow is raising daughter Ariel, son Aidan, and two dogs and three cats, says there were always a few friends living nearby, and it was a great place to grow up.