Life Can Seem Serene at Monte Sereno

Glow
There is no street lighting at Monte Sereno, which creates a rural ambiance. The only glow comes from moon, stars—and Eichler homes. Photos by Sabrina Huang

Even many longtime Bay Area residents may have trouble picturing where Monte Sereno sits on the map. Among the features of this compact town is a compact Eichler neighborhood on the Via Sereno cul-de-sac of only 16 homes, which we profile as ‘Sweet Sixteen’ in the new winter '19 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

Sereno Foothills, as this Eichler tract was originally known, remains an almost intact neighborhood, one of Joe Eichler’s smallest and one of his later ones.

The homes, designed by Claude Oakland and built in 1969 and 1970, are generally four bedrooms and two baths, and on large lots—though longtime resident Bryan Mekechuk points out, “These are the smallest lots in Monte Sereno,” a city with large homes on hilly sites.

Kitchen
Jennifer and Tim Begg and their kids prepare something sweet.

Mekechuk is famous in the community for, among other things, constructing its most amazing site – though most of it is hidden underground.

By far the greatest change to a Monte Sereno Eichler is Mekechuk’s 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. He did his best to preserve the Eichler look on the rebuilt single-story façade.

Mekechuk is also a guy who loves numbers and supplied the following about his neighborhood:

“Average Lot Size, 8,925 square feet; Average House Size, 2,172 square feet; Swimming Pools, 44 percent (seven out of 16); Solar Panels, 19 percent (three out of 16); Electric Vehicles, 31 percent (five out of 16); Ownership of more than 20 years, 69 percent (11 out of 16)”

Interesting!

The all-residential Monte Sereno is one of the Bay Area’s most prosperous towns, and it’s just a short walk from the Eichlers to the lively and historic downtown of Los Gatos, which adds to the appeal.

The Eichler neighborhood is also just up the hill from Vasona Lake County Park, a sprawling place with much to recommend it – including a miniature steam train that is popular with adults – but especially with their kids.

Sullivan
The Sullivans, who live here, are relative newcomers but were welcomed heartily and quickly became part of the neighborhood.

Neighbors are particularly welcoming on the rare occasions when newcomers arrive.

Patrick Sullivan remembers when he and wife Shelley arrived from a New York suburb. “The truck moved us in, and right away neighbors were coming by bringing wine, bread, salt,” he says. “ ‘Welcome to the neighborhood!’ ”

“It’s always been close,” Laura Roenicke says of life on Via Sereno. Her parents owned a home there when she was in college, and she and her husband Eric bought the home in 2013. “It’s a  little cul-de-sac of 16, so it’s hard not to know everybody’s business.”

It’s also a neighborhood where people care for their homes and the original architecture,.

Consider Tim and Jennifer Begg, Canadians, who bought their home in 2015. They have two daughters and have become tight members of the community. They have also become dedicated to Eichler style.

“We have upgraded it,” Jennifer says of their house, “but we have tried to restore it to how it was originally designed.”

Tim adds: “Without being slavishly nostalgic. Some people want [their home] to be a museum piece. We want it to be 2018, but looking back.”

 

Sputnik
This amazing chandelier suggests the space age. The Beggs had it made specially for this spot between the beams.

“We came in with lots of plans,” Jennifer says, “[including] to take out the wall between kitchen and living room.”

“But we got very good advice from our realtor. She said: live in it for a while before making any decisions. That was good advice.”

The kitchen wall remains.

Among the hands-on work Jennifer and Tim (mostly Jennifer) did on the home was repainting the entire house, inside and out. “I would occasionally hold a brush,” Tim says

The previous owners, Tim says, “had done a lot of interesting things with pink.”

Jennifer says, “The walls were black. In the atrium the concrete was painted black.”

Their home is now filled with vintage furniture, much of which Jennifer restored. But one 'vintage' feature they had specially made – a Sputnik-like starburst chandelier. It’s the kind of thing that existed back in the day – but not the size they wanted, something that would fit just right between their beams.

So they had one created by a company that makes props for Hollywood films.

For more on Eichler life in Monte Sereno, read ‘Sweet Sixteen,’ a sneak preview of the new winter ’19 issue of CA-Modern.

Mekechuk
Bryan Mekechuk (pictured above) turned a typical Eichler home into a two-story fantasy, with the second story as a large open basement beneath the first. There are even bridges.

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