Sweet Sixteen - Page 5

Neighbors build friendships and retain a distinctive rural feeling along Monte Sereno’s tranquil Eichler cul-de-sac
Sweet Sixteen
Sweet Sixteen
Ned and Marian Gault (above), who have lived in their Monte Sereno Eichler since 1977, have kept their home original-looking ever since. The Gaults also embrace the arts—folk dancing, music, artmaking—and Marian displays her own work on the walls of their home.
Sweet Sixteen
Laura and Eric (top, at the piano) Roenicke live down the block in the former home of Laura's parents.
Sweet Sixteen
On the night pictured here, the Roenickes' daughter Isabella turned the atrium into a movie theater for her friends.

Mekechuk also ran into a man who said he had laid out the subdivision for Eichler. The man told Bryan, "Eichler couldn't sell the homes on Via Sereno fast enough, and Eichler needed to liquidate the land" for the other subdivision.

Over the years the neighborhood has mostly maintained its looks, at least on the exterior of the homes. There is no homeowner association and no enforcement of architectural guidelines.

Laura Roenicke remembers one Eichler being shingled to resemble "a Santa Cruz beach house." "That was the most talked about disaster thing I remember," she says.

Still, the folks on Via Sereno are not, in the main, Eichler purists. David Frankel loves the architecture of his home—but not the lighting. "I couldn't see a damn thing in the kitchen with the stupid little globes," he says. "So now we have what are 21st century lights."

"There is a whole spectrum of people [on Via Sereno] who know Eichlers, and how they feel about them. There are some who want to keep them pristine. Some think they're just junk houses that were built cheaply and have outlived their useful life," says David, who shares his home with partner Karl Brown. "We're in the middle, more towards having an appreciation for the architecture and architects, but trying to preserve that style while still having a 21st century experience."

For a time, Laura Roenicke thought about covering her atrium, "but Eric has always loved it, and I've come to like it," she says.

The atrium is where Eric starts his day. "Every morning I sit here and I look out, and I feel the breeze come in, and it's great. I look at the big tree. I feel the air. The sun is coming up. I hear the geese flying by. It's a good start to the morning," he says.

Ned and Marian Gault have simply never changed their home—other than rebuilding a wall after a fire.

By far the greatest change to a Monte Sereno Eichler is Bryan Mekechuk's amazing, colossal rebuild of his home—turning it into a 21st century, two-story home—but one that doesn't tower over its neighbors because the added story is below ground.

The home also pays respect to its neighbors by retaining—or rather, reconstructing—a façade that strongly resembles the original Eichler.

Inside, though, it is completely open from basement to covered atrium, with pedestrian bridges—one of them glass-bottomed—providing views of the living areas below.

"We're from Canada," Bryan says. "In Canada everybody has basements. We came to California and there were no basements here. So we thought, let's do it here."

The house aims to be as green as can be, with solar panels, geothermal heat exchange, zero net energy use, and rainwater harvesting.

The lot has been a jobsite for years, but the job is nearly done. "I think everyone is okay now," Bryan says of the neighbors. "They'd like to see the yard cleaned up."

Like several of their neighbors, Patrick and Shelley Sullivan arrived not knowing about Eichlers. They have become fans, rejoicing when they found a box in their garage filled with original globe lamps—which they re-installed.

"We heard from talking to the neighbors that the globes were kind of sacred," Patrick says.

"You find that most of the Eichler enthusiasts are trying to keep their homes pure," Shelley says.

"We are real Eichler enthusiasts," she says. "It's fun to talk about the history. We find ourselves talking about our houses a lot [with neighbors]. That may seem odd to people, but you have a link in some way. You're part of a club."

Patrick adds, "Appreciation of Eichlers becomes contagious."


Photography: Sabrina Huang, Don DeBold