Curb Appeal Gets Artsy with Modern Homes

Architect Carter Sparks turned many of his doors into works of art This home is in Sacramento. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Few people spend as much time gazing at mid-century modern homes as writers for Eichler Network. And few enjoy it as much – especially when something artistic appears.

Included here are legitimate works of art, homeowner add-ons, a bit of landscaping, some remodeling. Some of this work is original to the home, most not.

Not everything shown here quite fits the purist approach to modern preservation, let’s admit from the start. Not all of these are examples put forth to emulate.

A stone facing adds a unique if not authentic look to this Eichler in Balboa Highlands.

Consider the stone-faced Eichler, which was spotted in the Eichler neighborhood of Balboa Highlands in Los Angeles some years back. A lot of neighborhoods with design rules would ban such a sight. Attractive? You judge. It’s worth stopping for a look, though.

The five-pointed star is a blast from the past, a matter of both art and history. It is attached to the X-100, the all-steel house built by Joe Eichler in 1956 in San Mateo Highlands to designs by Jones & Emmons.

A star of iron decorates the exterior of the X-100 in San Mateo.

The star is likely the work of the late artist Matt Kahn, a longtime Stanford professor who worked with Eichler on several projects and served as artistic coordinator for the X-100, which was opened to the public as a way to show off ideas for future residential design and to market the San Mateo Highlands subdivision.

About those two ladies hefting the globes – Matt Kahn would not take credit there. These were spotted in the San Mateo Eichler neighborhood of 19th Avenue Park, a generally well-preserved place.

A home in San Mateo takes an unEichler-like turn but with great exuberance.

One may not immediately recognize this house as an Eichler, particularly looking at this detail shot.

But, just as we have often argued that every modern tract should preserve at least one house – we would prefer many, of course – in absolutely pristine condition both inside and out, so should every such neighborhood allow to exist one house – and only one – that takes as many liberties with the aesthetic as this one does.

What appears to be a nun in prayer, a saint perhaps, stands in the midst of the artfully arrayed front yard of a home in Racquet Club Road Estates in Palm Springs. We wish we knew more.

A Frank Lloyd Wright garden sprite adds a touch of grace to this Palm Springs yard.

Palm Springs is a particularly good place to enjoy artworks that are created by architect and sometimes homeowner in collaboration with the sun. Latticework over and entry and carport casts its shadowy spell, and plants add their bit to drawing-like shadows on a sculptural, concrete block wall.

Plants and blocks work with the sun to create movable art as the day proceeds.

Plantings are another natural element that can add an artistic touch to a home’s façade – or obscure it almost entirely.

Entry or garden walls and screens are another effective way of juicing up a front yard, as are front doors. San Mateo Highlands resident Jonathan Feinberg demonstrated how much doors can do, for good or ill, in a photographic series he prepared.

Architect Carter Sparks, who designed tract homes for the Streng Brothers in Sacramento and Davis, made a specialty of quirky beautiful doors, especially in his custom homes, but on some tract models as well.

Even something as simple and functional as a mailbox can add something special to the street view of your home – especially when it’s fire truck red.

This mailbox is a minor landmark in San Mateo Highlands.

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