A Streng Home Becomes an Art Project

Scott and Meong
Classic modern furnishings and Asian art blend with a strong color palette in Scott and Meong Dahlquist's well-curated Streng home. Photo by Dave Weinstein

We all know people who take mid-century modernism seriously. Many Eichler owners are that way. And then there are those who have fun with the style.

In the mid-century modern Streng Brothers' Williamson Ranch tract in Elk Grove, one couple have turned their home and tiki garden into their hobby, creative outlet – and life saver.

Today, the house is an eclectic blend of modern and Asian design.

When Scott and Meong Dahlquist came across the home 27 or so years ago, they didn’t know it had been built by the Streng Brothers, whose homes today are craved by modernism fans in the Sacramento and Davis areas.

But both had a feel for modernism, open planning, and the blending of indoors-outdoors that the home possesses.

Music room
This is the room where Scott composes music, showing his love for the Beatles and for psychedelia. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“It was a blank slate, sort of, and I thought that I could really do something with it,” Scott says of the house. The high point of the home is its atrium Streng style, which is very different than an Eichler atrium. The Streng atrium has no walls and is covered with a skylight to keep out the Central Valley heat.

The Dahlquists, who were in the senior care business, were looking for a home that could accommodate seniors needing assistance. Instead they bought it for themselves and their two boys – and shortly thereafter began transforming house and garden – but without changing the architecture.

Indeed, they are Streng preservationists and try to convince their neighbors that the homes are architectural marvels. While Streng owners in Sacramento and Davis generally 'get' the aesthetic created by the Streng’s architect Carter Sparks, that is less so in Elk Grove, the Dahlquists believe, based on talking with neighbors.

  Dahlquist atrium
The Dahlquists in their atrium, a wonderful area that greets visitors to the home and serves as its spiritual center. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

“This is a much more conservative area,” Scott says. “When we first moved here, it really was a cow town. I mean, there wasn't much here, but we just loved the house so much.”

Scott, who grew up loving the “starburst atomic light” in his uncle's house, began the transformation of their house by picking up a copy of a space-age George Nelson ball clock at a small shop.

“And then I just kind of started studying it a little bit,” Scott says of mid-century modern design.

Meong recalls visiting an Eichler while in Sunnyvale together before buying this house. “We liked the Eichler a lot,” she says. The Streng Brothers were inspired to build modern homes by Joe's example.

“We stumbled on a furniture shop that was going out of business, a modern furniture shop in Sacramento. “I mean, we literally got probably eight pieces of furniture,” including a Nelson marshmallow chair that, Scott says, looks sharp but provides uncomfortable seating.

Night garden
The Dahlquist garden shows its drama at night, where lights suggest volcanic activity. Photo by Scott Dahlquist

There’s a bit of Hollywood glitz to the Dahlquist clan. “We're big on Disney,” Scott says. His brother was an art director for Disney, Scott says, and Scott and Meong’s two sons are in the arts, son David Dahlquist is a music producer and musician who has a deal with J.J. Abrams’ Loud Robot label, and son Mike Diva is a film director who just started with 'Saturday Night Live.'

For fun, Meong models modern fashion created by a friend. “She brings clothes, and she and I both like modeling. In the garden the flowers make a good modeling place,” she says.

Scott himself is an amateur musician and performer.

His real work of art is the house and garden. “It's just my vision of everything. I mean, I designed every little aspect of this garden and the house. And it's just like an art project for me,” he says. He has collaborated with a landscape designer at times. “We worked hand in hand. He's had some good ideas, too,” Scott says. “And we brought in 50 rocks back here, and we did all the work.”

Meong models fashion designed by a close friend in their backyard, which she says is ideal for that purpose. Photo by Scott Dahlquist

They have entertained in the garden, including for a group of Meong’s fellow nurses. They also entertained Jim Streng and his wife at the home, after meeting them at a tour of Streng homes. Jim, who’d served in Korea, loved the culture. Meong cooked bulgogi.

“We spend a lot of time [on the garden] because we're both retired now. So this is kind of our baby, and one of our main hobbies,” Scott says.

“Especially last year, [during the] the pandemic, we cannot go anywhere. It was like a lifesaver, being outside and doing garden work,” Meong says.

“My sister lives in Korea. She loves flowers – so when I plant a flower, when I see the blooming, I see my sister's face. We are so close. I miss her,” Meong says. “And now, [with the] pandemic, I cannot go there, and we just talk. I tell her, oh, flowers, yellow flowers bloom, and pink flowers bloom. We remember, our memory of being in a garden.”

But is their art project coming to an end?

“It's kind of sad, because now there's nowhere else to put anything,” Scott says, adding: “I think we're just going to leave it just the way it is, because we're happy with everything.”

“But maybe we'll have to buy another house or something, and start over.”

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