The Re-uppers - Page 2

For many raised 'modern' as children, no other house feels like home today
  The Re-uppers
Karen Johnson-Carroll makes her home today in an Eichler in the San Mateo Highlands. Here, Karen relaxes on her patio with her husband, Hal Carroll.
 

Her front bedroom had windows—but none that provided views to the street. "It had one window of shower glass you couldn't see through looking onto the carport. And the tall clerestory windows at top," she says.

There were no shades on the clerestory window to ward off streetlights, she says. "I had to learn how to sleep with the light coming in."

Sherry Hodson, who was two when her parents brought a new Eichler in Palo Alto's Fairmeadow in 1953, found it an exciting place to live—if confusing. Fairmeadow was laid out as a series of intersecting circles, which, she notes, "were kind of innovative."

"It's really easy to get lost in those circles, let me tell you," Sherry says. "I did it often as a kid. If you didn't pay attention you could be where you didn't want to be."

"They were funny looking. They did not look like normal houses. You got a lot of mixed reactions about the houses," she says. "I remember our uncle came to visit us from England. He said, ‘It's nice, if you like living in a barn'"

The Re-uppers
Inside Karen's living room today.

"I did like living in an Eichler, and I appreciated it when I grew up more than as a kid," she says.

Tellingly, kids' reactions to the homes vary according to the time period in which they inhabited them. Karen and Nancy grew up in their modern homes when the styles were new and much admired, by their owners at least.

Not so Kerry Little, who grew up in the 1980s, when Eichlers were no longer cutting edge but were too new to be historic. People knew the homes were ‘Eichlers,' she says—but who knew his first name was Joe?

When she started attending a high school surrounded by a tract of Eichlers in Walnut Creek, Kerry was surprised to discover that her cluster of Eichlers was not the only one.

The Re-uppers
Sixty years ago Karen and the rest of the Johnson family lived in this Eichler on Benjamin Drive in Mountain View.

"When we lived in the house, none of the neighbors talked about it being an Eichler," she says. "Two houses near us got false roofs and attics—one right across the street, and the one directly behind our house."

"Nobody talked about, ‘What a gem we had.' People did whatever they wanted to [the houses]," she says. "Nobody said, no, you shouldn't do that. Now if somebody did this in this neighborhood, people would lose their minds."

Bob Scari, who lived in two Streng homes in Davis as a boy, didn't think much about the architecture at first—though he loved the very window arrangement in the bedroom that Nancy Philleo found off-putting.

"Those big, triangular windows under the eaves," Bob says. "I thought it was a neat feature, with the natural light coming in." "By the time I was going to high school I was a little more aware of it, the quality of the house," he says.

  The Re-uppers
The Johnsons pose for a family portrait, 1961. That’s Karen in the front row, second from right.
 

High school was also a turning point for Kerry Little. "I think I really started to appreciate our Eichler in high school. Even then I didn't quite understand what we had," she says. "But I knew that when I went to a friend's [non-Eichler] house, it wasn't the same."

"In high school," she says, "you really care what your friends think. ‘Oh, this is so cool! I've never seen anything like it!' It is cool, isn't it? It was just definitely not like anything else."

Some kids raised in open-plan, glass-walled homes don't fully understand them until they grow up.

"I came to a greater appreciation of the whole thing once I was away from the Strengs for so long," says Bob Scari, who moved away for 25 years to Texas, where he piloted planes first for the Air Force and then American Airlines. "I looked back and thought, they were really cool, and I don't have them anymore."