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Mid-century ‘weekend Eichlers’ all aglow in the California snow
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Make Mine Modern Opening the door to year 21 As we kick off our 21st consecutive year of publishing with
this issue of CA-Modern, we welcome back 2,000 Southern California readers in the greater Orange-Long Beach area who live in Eichlers, Cliff Mays, and other select mid-century modern homes. Welcome back? Where did they go the first time? Let us explain. As many of you know, we publish CA-Modern in several separate geographic editions. This targeted format allows our MCM homeowners access to special regional editorial coverage and to service companies that actually operate inside their communities—companies that also pass the vetting processes of the Eichler Network, the State Contractors License Board, the Better Business Bureau, and others. For the participating service companies that link up with us, targeted geographic editions allow them to focus exclusively on the MCM households that lie within their geographic service hubs, and a way to do it cost effectively. In 2006, when CA-Modern the magazine replaced the longstanding Eichler Network newsletter (1993-2005), we immediately expanded our distribution into Southern California—to mid-century modern communities in Palm Springs, Orange-Long Beach area, the Los Angeles area, and San Fernando Valley. In all, that overnight move added 12,000 new MCM households to our readership. Unfortunately, our plans were interrupted by the economic downturn of 2008— a left hook we hadn’t anticipated two years earlier. By the end of 2011, we streamlined our distribution back to our Northern California base, where five geographic editions were still going strong. From day one, back in 1993, we’ve been a proponent of thinking and operating outside the box. We’re used to risk, too. In fact, we usually welcome such challenges. Such was the case when we were approached a few months ago by Southern California business owners Kelly Laule of Eichler SoCal and Jeff Fracker of Transcontinental Construction Concepts with an outside-the-box plan that would bring back CA-Modern with regularity to the mailboxes of the MCM households in the Orange-Long Beach area. Laule, a real estate broker, and Fracker, a general contractor, had been avid believers in what we do for several years. They also loved their own work, and loved putting MCM neighborhoods at the heart of it all. When our first go-round with the Orange-Long Beach edition was put on hold two years ago, Laule and Fracker, like so many others, felt disappointed, but they hung in and continued to support us. Their recent idea, which allows us to revive CA-Modern in the region and immediately operate there in the black, looks like a winner. Thanks to them, CA-Modern is back in SoCal! During 2014 we’ll be looking at creative ways to team up with additional service companies to create new CA-Modern editions for Palm Springs, greater Los Angeles, and the Valley. We also hear San Diego’s mid-century moderns may be good candidates. (Please let us know of any interested service companies out there that should be included.) Lastly, we’d like to take a moment to tip our hats to current CA-Modern readers everywhere. None of what we’ve been doing over the past two decades, whether for fun or profit, would have been possible without your kind patronage. For that support, we and our many participating service companies remain eternally grateful.
–Marty Arbunich, Publisher
MODERN 6 | Front and Center ‘Weekend Eichlers’: A-frame retreats that glow in the snow
12 | Feature Storyboard Menlo Park’s Eichlers grapple with the world around them
16 | California Dreamin’ Fantasy, function…and 12 modern homes out of this world
20 | Modern Renewal Security, hi-tech surveillance and tips to thwart burglars
22 | Garden Delights Pots and planters: striking focal points with plenty of pop
24 | Art About the House NorCal artist Ray Rice’s rich life of creative expression
30 | Dear Cherry Advice, etiquette and household tips for fine modern living
31 | More Art About the House Quilts by Leslie Carabas: conversations with modern flair
CA-Modern magazine is published quarterly in regional editions during January, April, July, and October by the Eichler Network, P.O. Box 22635, San Francisco, CA 94122. Mailed to thousands of
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On the Cover
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Photographer Ernie Braun’s 1959 cover image of the George Rockrise family vacation home in Squaw Valley has always been one of our Braun favorites, its intriguing blue cast and glowing interior drawing us inside like a seductive siren. While not an A-frame in the true sense, the Rockrise house and its prow-shaped peaks, however, figure prominently into our cover story (‘Eichler for the Weekends’) because of the architect’s earlier design for the Perlman cabin, the A-frame from 1955 that reached the cover of Sunset magazine (thanks to another impressive photograph by Braun) and helped to fuel the A-frame boom of that era. For Rockrise’s 2000 obit in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jim Chappell, president of San Francisco Planning, remarked how Rockrise’s work “always showed a Japanese sensitivity to materials and the environment—a real sensitivity on how to use wood, how to use stone, and how to integrate buildings into the natural site.” His statement also rings true with Rockrise’s breathtaking design on the cover. As for the photo itself, Braun, always true to form, waited patiently in the midst of a chilly evening for that perfect twilight moment to bring everything together.
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or any other aspect of the services and/or goods obtained from the participating service companies. Although it is believed that these companies are reputable based on current information and their good standing with the Better Business Bureau, we strongly encourage you also to carefully evaluate and screen all service and goods providers. The participating service companies pay a fee to advertise and become part of the Eichler Network referral network. Performance reviews, home improvement concerns, and publication inquiries are welcome. Discover CA-Modern and the Eichler Network online at eichlernetwork.com. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright ©2014 Eichler Network
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■FRONT AND CENTER
Eichler for the weekends
Under a playful blanket of snow, the magical A-frame retreat makes a carefree connection with the ‘real you’ Story: Adam Martin
A-frame cabins are often dramatic and magical—triangles of light glowing from under a peaked blanket of snow. They dot the landscape today, especially in rural areas, standing out from their peers thanks to their uncompromising shape. “If you drive around the broader Lake Tahoe-Truckee area, you’ll see a few A-frames. They give you that oldTahoe feel,” says Chiara Gajar, an agent with Lawrence Realty, who lives in a 1959 A-frame in Squaw Valley. But these dwellings, which sprang up in popularity as vacation homes during the 1950s and ‘60s, occupy a very specific part of our shared architectural past. At the height of its popularity the A-frame was, in a way, an Eichler for the weekends. While Joe Eichler brought his modest yet artfully constructed homes to a mass market, architects such as Henrik Bull, Wally Reemelin, and George Rockrise created a look that spawned a similar movement in second homes. Architecturally interesting, cheap and fast to build, and suitable to most climates and terrains, A-frames and their ilk allowed the kinds of Americans who owned Eichlers to own a vacation home for the first time. A-frames were among the first architect-designed homes built in Squaw Valley, before it hosted the Olympics of 1960, and they remain a 6 CAMODERN
symbol of an ambitious class of vacationer spawned from postwar plenty: the weekend warrior. These were pioneers of leisure, using their growing discretionary income, the new Interstate system, and faster cars to claim the kind of fun once reserved for an annual vacation, or for those elite who could afford a stately second home. No longer did the weekend warrior need to stay within a set range of the city. He could now take on new recreation, such as skiing and boating, and the kids could grow up nearly as comfortable with the rustic setting as with suburbia. “My theory is that the second home was this distinctive space, where you could relax and let yourself unwind and let the ‘real you’ out,” says Chad Randl, an architectural historian and author of the book A-Frame. “So, in your permanent house, you had your respectable persona that you had to live with all the time. But the vacation home was this separate world where you could be freer, more relaxed, more playful.” There couldn’t be a more playful setting in the ‘50s and ‘60s than Squaw Valley. With Interstate 80 newly linking the valley to San Francisco via a fourhour drive, Tahoe became a weekend destination. There, before the Olympics, a small group of pioneering early skiers started buying up parcels of land at incredibly low prices. These were not investors,
ONE STRAY DOODLE. Designed by architect Henrik Bull, the Flender A-frame (above from 1954) was arguably the first architect-designed A-frame ski cabin in the country. Bull followed with many Tahoe-area ski cabins. but rather leisure-time adventurers who wanted their weekend homes to reflect their carefree spirit. “Everybody knew each other,” recalls Bay Area architect Henrik Bull, who designed many early California ski cabins. “Your circle of friends probably stayed within 20 or so homeowners,” who would have each other over for après-ski parties, watch each other’s kids, and socialize together in their leisure time. The concept of the triangle-shaped
house stretches through history, from Swedish woodsheds to Polynesian huts. But on the West Coast, Randl traces the form as we know it today to the Bay Area, where industrial engineer Wally Reemelin built several A-frames as student housing in the Berkeley Hills in 1948. In 1950, San Francisco architect John Campbell sketched out a design for what he called the Leisure house, an A-frame kit he submitted to Interiors magazine. The magazine published the
“He saw what I was sketching—I had no client, it was just an idea. And we decided that we would build it ourselves the next building season,” Bull says. “Luckily John was handy with his hands and had a few extra bucks and a pickup truck, and every tool known to man, and he was itching to build something. And he was a skier.” So that summer, in Stowe, Vermont, the pair built what, according to Randl, was arguably the first architect-designed A-frame ski cabin in the country. Bull moved to San Francisco in 1954, and went to work briefly for architect Mario Corbett. But he would soon branch out on his own, starting with Tahoe-area ski cabins before going on to build resorts such as Tahoe Tavern and Northstar ski resort, and a host of other California buildings in the Bay Region School. In 1967, Bull cofounded the firm Bull Field Volkmann Stockwell, which is still operating today. Bull’s first private commission was a ski cabin in Squaw Valley he designed for Peter Klaussen, who was working at Squaw at the time. Not quite an A-frame, the home had a roof whose peak ran diagonally to its square foun-
first design, which was pretty similar in plan, but then he said he wanted something more unusual. “So we ended up rotating the roof 45 degrees so that the ridge went on the diagonal of the square plan. We nicknamed it the ‘handkerchief house,’ with the roof being like a folded handkerchief making two triangles.” Around the same time, another Bay Area architect in the early years of his career was making his mark in Squaw Valley. George Rockrise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1947. Born to an English mother and Japanese father, he studied at Syracuse and Columbia universities, and then served as an architect in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. “He had trained as a pilot before the war, but because of his Japanese ancestry, they never let him fly,” Rockrise’s daughter Christina remembers. George Rockrise worked for the Army in Panama, then helped build the UN building in New York before heading to the Bay Area, where he worked with landscape architect Thomas Church before founding ROMA Design Group in the early 1950s.
RISE OF THE A-FRAME. Top: From the hand of architect John Campbell of Campbell and Wong, the Leisure house on exhibit at the San Francisco Arts Festival, 1951. Left: Inside George Rockrise’s Perlman cabin, Squaw Valley, 1956. Above: Ad by canned foods company Libby’s from 1965 puts an A-frame up as its prize. unbuilt structure, and the Leisure house catapulted to popularity as the “most publicized A-frame of the decade,” Randl writes. But custom, architect-designed A-frame ski cabins arguably started with
one stray doodle in 1953. That’s when Bull, then in his last year of study under Buckminster Fuller at MIT, sketched a triangular-shaped cabin that his friend John Flender unexpectedly suggested they should build.
dation, giving it a dramatic intersection of glass walls in one corner. “In some ways it’s really more conventional,” Bull says. “I had been a roommate of Klaussen before he decided to come west. He rejected my
Rockrise’s plan for the Perlman house, which would grace the cover of Sunset magazine in 1957, started almost as informally as Henrik Bull’s Flender house. In fact, if not for some mosquitoes and a chance meeting, it might CAMODERN 7
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■FRONT AND CENTER never have happened. David Perlman, a science writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, had signed a lease for a plot of U.S. Forest Service land near Lake Tahoe. The plan was to
build a cabin designed by architect Joe Esherick. But that plan changed when the Perlmans visited their plot to take initial measurements. “We went up one day and started
COVER STORY. Top left: When David Perlman’s A-frame cabin hit the cover of Sunset magazine in February 1957, this celebrated photograph by Eichler photographer Ernie Braun ushered in the A-frame’s ascent into California trendiness. George Rockrise’s design also made for a great Squaw Valley party house, and the views were expansive. Top right: Perlman cabin interior, 1956. Above: Henrik Bull’s Klaussen cabin, Squaw Valley, 1954. Right: The San Francisco architectural firm of Bull Field Volkmann Stockwell, 1968, with Henrik Bull at far left.
to stake out our property, and we got absolutely bitten alive by mosquitoes,” Perlman says. “By the end of the day, we decided we’re never going to do anything here. “So that’s when we started looking at Squaw Valley. It was wider and more open.” Soon they were ready to buy a lot. “They were very cheap. I think it
design one for the Perlmans. “We talked about it, and he told us about A-frames, which I had never heard of,” Perlman says. “Rockrise made a little model using, as I recall, pieces of shirt cardboard. We were intrigued, and he said it could be built very cheaply.” The home was completed in summer 1955.
was $1,500 or $1,800; this was 1955.” By chance, the Perlmans met George Rockrise at a dinner party that same year, shortly before they bought their Squaw Valley land. Rockrise had also purchased some land in Squaw on which he was planning to build a vacation cabin of his own, and offered to
A year-and-a-half later, photographer Ernie Braun’s equally intriguing image of the Perlman house, featured on the cover of Sunset, ushered in the A-frame’s ascent into California trendiness. Perlman’s intersecting A-frame differed from the traditional structure by basically sticking two rectangular A-frames together. The design allowed for not only more space, but also more light through the windows at each of the three ends. The end facing Squaw Valley featured a glass wall that afforded a view across the meadow from the living room. A second-story loft housed bedrooms at the peak of the triangular roof, CAMODERN 9
■FRONT AND CENTER but it didn’t extend into the large, open area of the main living room. “The way we furnished it, we never lost sight of that wonderful view,” Perlman says. “I’m getting very sentimental thinking about it. I would lie on that couch and look at that soaring triangular space, up to the top. It was a wonderful space to be under.” Upstairs, the magic continued, Perlman recalls. “We had this wonderful view looking westward toward a bunch of trees. The nearest house was partly hidden, and the rest of it was the lovely expanse of the peaks above Squaw Valley.” The space was great for parties, which Perlman and his wife Anne loved to host. “And we made back some of the expense of building the house by leasing it out during the 1960 Olympics,” Perlman says. “Our tenant then was Mrs. Harrah, of Harrah’s club in Reno. Our house had a view across the valley toward the ski jump. The Harrahs used it to
BIG, WOODEN TENT. Top: Architect George Rockrise’s Squaw Valley family home (also on our front cover, 1959) was not exactly an A-frame, but it featured lively intersecting diagonal rooflines that created prow-shaped windows on each corner. Right: Looking out at the home’s front, 1959. Above left: George Rockrise, late 1960s. Above right: Rockrise house today, purchased from the architect in 1976 by current owner Tom Kelly, who keeps everything intact. hold cocktail parties, because it was so striking and had a nice bar and wonderful fireplace.” Sadly, the Perlman house was torn down after David Perlman sold it in 2003. The new owners wanted something bigger, and it didn’t work for them to add on. But Rockrise’s own house remains. Not exactly an A-frame, it works as something of a cross between the Klaussen house and Perlman’s house. Intersecting diagonal rooflines create prow-shaped windows on each corner, providing copious light and a dramatic look. “The really neat thing about the house is all the little nooks and crannies that George put in there,” says Tom 10 C A M O D E R N
Kelly, a manager at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, who bought the house from Rockrise and has lived there since 1976. “For example, we have an ironing closet and lots of little closets where you can store stuff. “And I really like the roof, which is what I call a double-handkerchief. If you took two handkerchiefs and folded them to where the points touch.” Sound familiar? Kelly and his family have kept the house intact, down to the light shades Christina Rockrise made by punching holes in juice cans on one of her family’s summer vacations in the ‘60s. “I remember making everybody drink a great deal of grapefruit juice that summer so I could make these shades to fit
over the fixtures,” Christina says. Like many of its ilk, the completed Rockrise house remained largely free of finishing touches. “There was not a piece of sheetrock in the place when George built it. All marine-treated plywood,” Kelly says. “The interior walls are pretty much the same. I call it the plywood palace.” “It really was like a tent. A big,
In 1957, the same year Sunset showcased the Perlman house, the Douglas Fir Plywood Association made a deal with another designer to begin marketing simple A-frame plans en masse. The A-frame shape, first introduced just a few years before, was now capturing the eye of both mass-market consumers and tastemakers. When the Tacoma-based associaBOOM TIME. Far left: In the late 1950s, during the tion learned that local pediatrician height of the A-frame boom, the Douglas Fir Plywood David Hellyer was preparing to Association mass-marketed Dr. David Hellyer’s build a plywood-shingled A-frame “easy-to-build” A-frame cabin plans. Above: Even he had designed, it offered him all the kids got into the act: A-frame doll house (1961 the plywood he needed for the build Sunset ad). Top: The current Squaw Valley A-frame in exchange for unlimited use of his home of Chiara Gajar of Lawrence Realty, who remains plans, Chad Randl writes. optimistic about the future of the A-frames around her. The plans sold by the tens of thousands, and for good reason. Here wooden tent,” says Peter Rockrise, the was a design, simple enough for the architect’s son and Christina’s brother. do-it-yourself builder yet interesting Even the most buttoned-down of us enough to grace the cover of the leading need to get loose on vacation, as ChrisWestern lifestyle magazine. tina Rockrise recalled from later trips The Hellyer design sold widely and, with her family. After George divorced along with other mass-marketed kit his second wife—the mother of Chrishouses and plans based on the A-frame tina and Peter’s half-sister Celia—the design, helped to proliferate the style. Rockrises rented out the main house Today, A-frames and their derivatives while staying in the basement apartcan be found everywhere from the ment on ski trips. Catskills of New York to the wilderness “The upstairs was rented to a young of Wisconsin to the California coast group of FBI agents, and it was a ski and mountains. cabin for them in the winter,” Christina But over the years the popularity recalls. “We were always included when of the A-frame has waned. These days they had parties and that kind of thing. only a handful of the 650 houses in “I can tell you, FBI agents can party. Squaw are A-frames, Chiara Gajar That floor between the basement and says. One problem with the structures the first-floor living area was just plyis that they’re difficult to add onto, so wood, and it wasn’t enough.” people who want more space often-
times wind up tearing them down. Additions are not impossible, though, as Gajar herself found. “We looked into the possibility of adding another intersecting A-frame,” like the Perlman house had, Gajar says. “In talking to engineers, A-frames were built so quickly—and they’re good for what they are—but we would have to re-engineer the whole thing if we wanted to add on another ‘A.’” Instead, the Gajars added more space below the floor level of the existing structure, creating two new bedrooms with a deck on top. While some A-frames in the Tahoe area have been razed, Gajar does not fear a wholesale eradication of the style. “People like myself have added onto them, or preserved them, so I don’t expect to see them knocked down,” she says. “For another A-frame we sold, the previous owners spent money remodeling it. The home now has a pop-out ‘T’ [addition] from the side of the roof. “Another A-frame I know has a detached garage. The home is owned by a contractor, who’s remodeled a number of times and has preserved things.” Henrik Bull’s Klaussen house, which Bull helped add onto for a subsequent owner, sold in 2012. The new owners wanted to find a way to add even more space, but they couldn’t figure out how to do it while keeping the original design, Bull says. “The building codes have changed enormously, especially from the point of view of energy conservation and so on, so they’d have to make a lot of changes just from that point of view.” That urge to expand may be necessary for full-time residents of these early vacation homes, but Randl strongly believes it goes against the A-frame spirit as weekend retreats. “New vacation houses today are indistinguishable from permanent housing,” he says. “So, instead of this distinctive space, you’re just in an alternative house.” “[Back in the mid-century] people were willing to put up with lack of privacy because it was for a weekend,” Randl adds. “You were supposed to be outside skiing anyway.” ■ Photography: Ernie Braun, Teresa Taylor of Another Tess Creation; and courtesy Bull-Stockwell-Allen, Sarah Mergy, Sunset magazine, Christina Rockrise, Chiara Gajar, Glen Poulsen
• For more on the roots of the A-frame design, look to Chad Randl’s book ‘A-Frame’ (Princeton Architectural Press, 2004) C A M O D E R N 11
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D
Menlomorphosis In the midst of teardowns and imposing, new homes, Menlo Park Eicher owners still cherish living modern Story: Dave Weinstein Photography: David Toerge
It’s not easy being an Eichler in Menlo Park. Home to Facebook, the heart of Silicon Valley, the city of 33,000 has some of the Bay Area’s loveliest neighborhoods—bucolic, almost paradisiacal places. Attractive, but in the main unpretentious, homes are arrayed on generous lots along tree-lined streets, with kids swooping past on bikes. But it can get noisy. “We feel we are living in a new subdivision that’s being built all around us,” says Phil Friedly, who lives with his wife Marcia in one of Joe Eichler’s oldest developments, Stanford Gardens. Friedly, a retired economist, counts off the number of Eichlers in the neighborhood, developed in 1950, that have been lost to massive remodels or demolitions in recent years. There’s the house next door that was recently converted into a two-story neoCraftsman bungalow, and one that was replaced by “another Colonial mediocrity.” A block away, without notice, one original Eichler from 1950 was torn down a few months ago. Stefan Heller, who lives in an Eichler nearby, saw the equipment move into position while biking to Stanford, where he’s a professor. “Minutes later, the house was gone,” he wrote. “A sad day.” A year earlier, a couple hoping to build a LEED Platinum home threw up a post on Craigslist offering to give away the Eichler on their lot to anyone who would haul it away. No takers. Altogether, Phil Friedly says, Stanford Gardens has lost about 20 Eichlers since he and Marcia arrived in 1979. The teardowns began in the late 1980s and early 1990s and accelerated in the 2000s, Phil says, fueled by “Silicon Valley types with stock options.” “Then spec builders descended on 12 C A M O D E R N
the area,” Phil says, producing 5,000and 6,000-square-foot homes, “very elaborate, very traditional.” The story is the same across the city. “I worry about it,” says John Danforth, who bought his rambling 1,600-square-foot 1951 Eichler in the forested, unincorporated Menlo Oaks neighborhood in 2002. “These houses were built on halfacre lots. They’re zoned for 5,000 square feet, so contractors buy them and level them to build McMansions.” “Even if you’re like me,” adds Danforth, “someone who wants to live in them forever, there’s the danger of your neighbor tearing down the one next to you, and then there’s a wall of windows on the second story looking down at you.” Danforth’s house was once one of four Eichlers in a mini-subdivision. Today it’s the only one intact. When he bought it from the family of the second owner, he says, “Of the eight or nine bids, I was the only one who wanted to keep it,” Danforth says. “I loved the house and garden,” he told the owners. “I want to live there.” The argument worked. “They said, ‘We could have a bidding war, but we’ll sell it to you,’” Danforth says. “The
SAD DAY. Above and right: The fate of this Eichler in Menlo Park’s Stanford Gardens was decided in seconds by heavy equipment in July 2013. Top: Another Stanford Gardens home gets overshadowed by new, multi-level construction on its way up. neighbors were overjoyed.” Danforth has added a 400-square-foot addition in back but has otherwise preserved the home as an original Eichler. In part, the challenges facing Eichler homes in Menlo Park trace back to the way they were built—in small to medium-sized clusters, and often hidden clusters at that, and as the occasional stand-alone, semicustom home. Many of the approximately 50 Eichlers remaining in town are invisible from the street. Two or three of them are often clustered together at the end of long driveways known as
‘flag lots’ because of their shape, with the driveway serving as the flagpole. Just how hidden are they? For years, Cesar and Hildy Agustin would take their children Diego and Isabel to
Eichlers on Peninsula Way. Since the Eichler neighborhoods tend to be small (Stanford Gardens, the largest, has fewer than 20 homes; Oakdell Park, the second largest, originally had 16), they lack the power of numbers and strong sense of community. “We don’t really know the other Eichler people who live beyond this cul-de-sac,” says Cesar Agustin, who lives in a four-Eichler cluster near Stanford Gardens. “It’s not like South Palo Alto, where all the people congregate. We know the people who are trying to save each other’s houses.” Still, in some ways, the Eichlers of Menlo Park are among the most interesting of all Joe Eichler’s homes. In Menlo Park you can see some of his earliest homes—those of Stanford Gardens, designed by an unknown designer before Eichler hired his first architects. They sit across the street
by architect Claude Oakland, where the Agustins live on Stanford Avenue. Despite the lack of a named architect, the Stanford Gardens homes are attractive, with splayed plans, their wings opening to a backyard patio through floor-to-ceiling glass held in place with wooden posts. The homes have jaunty profiles, each with a tall, single slope roof that rises above a lower central section, providing high clerestory windows that bring light into the center of the house. Some of the houses have two sloped roofs over separate wings. Interiors have tall, open-beamed living rooms and brick fireplaces that poke through the wall to serve as backyard barbecues. The Friedlys recall how friendly the neighborhood was when they arrived at the end of the 1970s, when another couple came by with a welcome wagon. “We got together regularly on a one-on-one basis,” Phil recalls of the neighbors. All were educated, “and interesting people,” he says. Today, Marcia Friedly says, “You hardly know anybody.” Marcia does meet people on her daily bike rides through the neighborhood. “The younger people feel the same way,” she says. “They want to live in a
ALIVE & WELL. Top: At home with Stanford Gardens Eichler owners Phil and Marcia Friedly. “How many more of these houses are we going to lose?” Phil asks. Above right: “I worry about it,” adds John Danforth, whose 1951 Menlo Oaks Eichler is seen here sporting a new rear addition. Above left and center left: Front elevations of two well-maintained Stanford Gardens Eichlers. Center right: This home is two stories but modern. Peninsula School, a private school in a purportedly haunted mansion that sits directly across from a group of
Eichler homes on Peninsula Way. The Agustins, proud Eichler owners on the other side of town, never spotted the
from some of Eichler’s last homes. Those would be the cluster of dramatic, steep-gabled homes designed
neighborly place.” A visit to the homes of nearby Oakdell Park, among Eichler’s first C A M O D E R N 13
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D architect-designed homes, dispels the notion that in his early years, Eichler was building entirely for entry-level, or near entry-level buyers. The homes, on Olive Street, Oakdell Street, and Middle and Magnolia courts, were originally 1,300-plus square feet and sold for $25,000 and up in 1952, a relatively high price at the time. Homes were set on half-acre lots. Flo Barr, who has lived in her long, low-gabled Oakdell Park Eichler for almost 50 years, has seen no need to tear it down, or even change it. A tube skylight in the hallway is one of the few changes. The original Philippine mahogany gives the interior a rustic look that matches that of the exterior. She especially loves her bedroom that opens to the rear garden. “It’s so sun-filled. It’s so pleasant,” she says. A few blocks from Oakdell Park, a cluster of three Eichlers—make that two Eichlers and one former one—are hidden away on a flag lot. Erica and Dan Galles moved into
the best preserved of the trio two years ago with sons Cade, 12, and Colin, 11, and daughter, Averie, 8. The 1,800-square-foot house, built in the early 1950s, is “small for a family of five,” Erica says. “But it lives much bigger than it is.” When they remodel—another bedroom so the boys won’t have to share—they want “to maintain the character of the Eichler,” she says. “Not being from California, I think it’s really a great experience for me and for my family,” she says of living in the home. “I think this is just quintessential, quintessential California. The entire back of the house is windows. We look outside all day long. It just really makes me calm and happy.” It’s a great place to raise kids, 14 C A M O D E R N
with excellent schools pulling in young families, Erica says. Her sons bike to downtown and to parks, and her daughter will, too, when she’s a bit older. “There’s not that kind of community of Eichler owners,” she says, “because we are scattered, and a lot of them have been converted into more traditional homes.” There is, however, one fairly tight-knit Eichler neighborhood in greater Menlo Park—seven homes on Peninsula Way, across from Peninsula School, in unincorporated Menlo Oaks. “This neighborhood has a very distinctive personality,” says Herb Wong, a 30-year resident and a famous jazz historian, producer, and radio personality. Most of the Eichler owners know
CHANGING TIMES. The above series of photos, from fall 2013, shows the progression of events impacting Menlo Park’s Eichlers: demolition and clearing of land for new building (above right), Eichler dwarfed by tall, new neighbors (top), and traditional, multi-level homes changing the character of the neighborhood (above left). each other, their homes are relatively intact (some have cork floors), and some have original landscapes by landscape architect Thomas Church. The homes, built in 1954 and 1955, are larger than most Eichlers, 2,800-square-feet on half-acre and three-quarter-acre lots, with five bedrooms and three baths. Most are hidden at the end of flag lots.
Their size, resident Judy Horst says, is what has saved them. Or most of them. Judy woke up seven or eight years ago to the sound of destruction equipment. “Within an hour the house was down,” she says of the Eichler that once sat at the end of their row. And five years ago, when Janet Weisman Goff and her husband Greg
hood in Menlo Park, and one of Joe Eichler’s final developments, is a trio of homes on Stanford Avenue, hidden on a court off the main road. Dee and Laura Tolles, original owners, discovered the brand new
Joe’s favorite spots, Frere Jacques in Palo Alto. “Joe had a little Mercedes. He always wore a comfortable tweed coat and homburg hat, and the [convertible] top was always down.” “Joe always had two martinis,” Dee says. “He and I just hit it off.” Dee, who many years later served as Menlo Park’s mayor and member of the city council, became Eichler’s banker, handling his financing until shortly before Eichler Homes went bankrupt. “He was a good businessman, but he was a risk taker,” Dee says. The Tolles also have watched as Eichlers in their area have been replaced—but they don’t moan about it. “It’s a wonderful neighborhood,” Laura says. “Young, wealthy families are moving in here with children and lots of nannies. They have torn down houses and built beautiful houses. You can’t count all the new houses. It’s amazing.” “I’m very much of a free spirit,” Dee says. “Someone wants to do it, if it’s not causing an important problem,
Where to find the Menlo Park Eichlers • The Eichlers of Stanford Gardens, from 1950 and 1951, are found on Evergreen, Oakdell, and Lemon streets, east of Stanford Avenue. • A small court on Stanford Avenue across from Stanford Gardens has three Claude Oakland models from the early 1970s. • Oakdell Park Eichlers are found a few blocks away, on Olive and Oakdell streets, where the two
bought their Eichler, the other bidders planned to tear it down, she says. The Goffs instead have been restoring it. It’s not size alone that has saved the Peninsula Way homes, as the lots could handle homes twice their size. It’s the owners, many of them longtime residents, who appreciate what
streets meet, and on adjacent Middle and Magnolia courts. • Peninsula Way and Berkeley Avenue, in the Menlo Oaks section of town, have eight and two Eichlers, respectively; some are on hidden lots. • There are other Eichlers, including some stand-alone semi-custom models, at other, scattered sites in the city.
they have, like well-known graphic designer Sam Smidt. “I bought my home to house my art collection,” Smidt says. “We all have some type of artistic design background,” resident Anne Kortlander says. The newest Eichler neighbor-
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE. Snapshots of life from three of Menlo Park’s Eichler enclaves. Top left: Dan and Erica Galles enjoying children Cade, Colin, and Averie. Top right: Two late-model Claude Oakland Eichlers located on Stanford Avenue. Center left and right: Inside and outside Flo Barr’s Oakdell Park home. Barr (pictured here) has lived in her Eichler for nearly 50 years. Above right: Inside Oakdell Park’s Middle Court cul-de-sac. home when Dee, a young banker, was relocating to the area. Laura was amazed. “I said, ‘I’ve never seen a house like these in Texas,’” she told their real estate agent. They bought the house directly from Joe Eichler, and Dee and Joe became friends, lunching at one of
let them do it.” Dee’s attitude seems widely shared. When, a few years back, Phil Friedly and a neighbor sought protection from the planning department, they were encouraged by a city planner. “A number of us said, how many Continued pg 34 C A M O D E R N 15
Fantasy and function combine to create 12 modern homes that are out of this world Story: Dave Weinstein
From the beginning and at its very core, modern architecture is puritanical. Less is more. Structure should be shown in an honest manner. Decoration is disease. But that doesn’t mean modern architects lack a sense of flair—or humor. Modern architects, beginning with the pioneers, have designed buildings with sexy curves (Eric Mendelsohn), apparently without walls (Mies van der Rohe), and with strange angles and bridge-like cantilevers (Frank Lloyd Wright). And modernists have gotten very good at explaining—with charts, diagrams, and at times with tedious essays—why their wildest-looking houses are in fact all about function rather than fantasy. Curves fend off fire, they say. And 16 C A M O D E R N
what greater architect to use as inspiration than God, who designed for snails their shell and bees their hive? Few, if any, modern architects would ever tell you that they have set out to design a house that is ‘wild.’ But what else would you call these? In an effort to plumb the farther shores of modern residential design, CA-Modern has taken upon itself the challenge of presenting to its readers 12 of the wildest modern houses ever created. Note that several of them are brand new, which foretells—what? Photography: Brian Thomas Jones Photography, Nacasa & Partners Inc., Lynne Rostochil, Ricardo Oliveira Alves, John Gollings, Staffan Berglund, Iwan Baan Studio; and courtesy of all the participating architectural firms
1 Cloud House
Built: 2012 Architect: The firm McBride Charles Ryan Where: Fitzroy North, near Melbourne, Australia Who hasn’t dreamed of living in a cloud, surrounded not by walls but by wisps of white? The Cloud House, with its compound curves and cedar plank walls, doesn’t quite achieve that—but it plays with the idea. Not every wild house has to stop traffic—or even be visible from the street. This almost child-like home addition—the couple who commissioned it have two children—hides
behind a single-story Edwardian home on a street of similar homes. The architects’ first proposal for the addition was “too staid,” the homeowners objected. That can’t be said about the final result. The architects divided their cloud addition into two sections, one for cooking and dining, the other for entertaining and play. The kitchen, which divides the two, is essentially a brightly painted red box that is inserted within the cloud shell. Playful the Cloud House may be but, according to the architects, the shape is entirely—well, maybe not entirely— functional. The roof’s curves, they point out, dampen the noise caused by the wooden floors.
2 B ob Hope House
Built: Designed 1973, completed 1980 Architect: John Lautner Where: Palm Springs Architect John Lautner (1911-1994) is one of the profession’s visionaries, and, like several of these visionaries, an heir of mentor Frank Lloyd Wright—
though Lautner’s architecture looks nothing like Wright’s. He’s best known for his Chemosphere, a floating home in the Los Angeles hills that looks to many like a flying saucer. The 22,366-square-foot Bob Hope House, with six bedrooms, a dining room seating 300, a pool shaped like
Bob Hope’s hook-nosed profile, and a rock jutting into the living room, was one of his grandest houses. Ever the storyteller, Lautner designed the swooping roof to suggest a volcano, its mouth forming a skylight over a garden. To some viewers the roof suggests a mushroom.
But the house had a story of its own, and to Lautner, at least, it did not have a happy ending. Lautner called Hope “the client from hell,” a fire destroyed much of the house during construction, leading to delays, and later changes by Hope’s wife caused Lautner to disown the house. But it continues to dazzle.
3 House NA
NA, in large part because it’s plunked down on a standard urban street with neighbors mere feet away. Classic glass homes are more modestly arrayed in park-like settings or screened by trees. This 914-square-foot home on a tiny site maximizes space by building up, its multiple split-levels linked by stairs and ladders. Fujimoto likens it to a tree house. Utilities are concealed in one solid wall at the rear of the house. Some floors have hidden heating. Built-in shelves and concrete panels provide lateral bracing in this earthquake-prone city. And when it’s time for intimate moments—the homeowners draw the curtains.
Built: 2010 Architect: Sou Fujimoto Architects Where: Tokyo Nothing put modern architecture more firmly on the map, with the general, excitable public, than glass houses—from Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion in 1929, through the late 1940s with Mies’ Farnsworth house and Philip Johnson’s Glass House. There’s just something shocking, almost indecent, about houses that reveal so much of the life within. Few glass houses, though, have been as daring as Sou Fujimoto’s House
C A M O D E R N 17
4 Shell House
Built: 2008 Architect: Kotaro Ide, ARTechnic architects Where: Kitasaku, Nagano prefecture, Japan Traditional Japanese vacation villas, with their upturned eaves and sliding screens, dot this forest in Kitasaku, just over an hour from Tokyo on the bullet train. But should they?
Young architect Kotaro Ide thinks not, opting instead for a swirling concrete shell floating above the ground that requires far less maintenance. “If a visit to the villa inevitably leads to hours and days of maintenance,” he writes, “why bother going?” Concrete handles the cold and damp better than the wood of traditional villas, and heated floors fend off mold. With its walls of windows, Ide’s Shell House provides amazing views of nature—and creates views all its own. One photo cannot tell the story of this house, nor two nor three. Its shell behaves like a ribbon in motion, swooping up from the base of a tree to form a roof of one pavilion, swooping past the tree to form the roof of a second pavilion. Inside, the house suggests a cocoon, but one with elbowroom.
5 S tamp House
Built: 2013 Architect: Charles Wright Architects Where: Far North Queensland, Australia Imagine a rugged, dramatic environment, an area of rainforest and beach, tropical, subject to monsoons, cyclones, and floods. And—it’s remote. The client for the Stamp House— so named for its façade of dotted indentations—chose the site despite its challenges. Wright, a Queensland architect who is known for dramatic, varied forms, produced a home that exists completely off the grid, and that celebrates its resilience. It would be ideal for a survivalist. Solar panels power the home, even during month-long monsoons, thanks
to efficient storage, and the roof is shaped to catch rainwater for use in the home. The house, which floats above a manmade marsh, is shaped to avoid flooding and withstand storms, sheathed
in concrete, sections of which are both pre-cast and poured in place. A pedestrian causeway leads to the front door. Inside, the Stamp House is equally dramatic, a web of concrete piers and beams, with built-in concrete lounges
and a sunken living area covered with lipstick-red cushions. Wright calls the house “effectively a beautiful bunker.” The way things are going, one day we may all be living in stamp houses.
6 Flight of Birds House
from the side. The Flight of Birds House adds to its primary school charm by painting its walls orange, eggshell blue, a warm gold. Here’s another house of seemingly fairytale forms that justifies its existence by claiming it’s all about function. The goal of the house, Rodrigues says, is to allow family members to enjoy the out of doors no matter the weather. The tall rose wall blocks the island’s Atlantic Ocean winds, Rodrigues says, the covered patios are a place to play or laze away on rainy days, which are common on the island, and the rooftop courtyard offers views for miles. Who wants to argue with a neo-post-modern home as appealing as the Flight of Birds?
Built: 2010 Architect: Bernardo Rodrigues Where: St. Michael Island, the Azores, Portugal This is a real shape-shifter of a house, with a rectangular false front giving one impression from the rear, a seagull-shaped swoop quite another
Continued pg 32 18 C A M O D E R N
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■MODERN RENEWAL Story: Tanja Kern
Expansive glass, private yards, and sunny skylights make mid-century modern homes a peaceful respite from daily life. But those same attributes make them targets for burglars looking for quick access to jewelry, electronics, and other valuables. San Mateo County, along with other areas throughout California, saw a rise of residential burglaries in 2013. Burglars—some parading as construction crews and laborers, and even as baby-carrying mothers with accomplices waiting in the wings—canvased neighborhoods, knocking on doors and looking for ways to get inside. If you’re lucky and you’re home, intruders usually move on. But if you’re away, they are known to hop a fence and slip into the house through a sliding-glass door or open window. We typically rely on common sense to keep our homes secure: lock all the doors and windows; store away anything that can be used to get onto the roof, such as trash cans and ladders; and place thin strips of wood or metal in the tracks of sliding doors and windows so that latches are jimmy-proof. And then there are the skylights; if they’re operable, we keep them sealed shut while we’re away. Burglars tend to target homes that they can get away from easily without detection. A thief’s favorite homes are located in dark neighborhoods with good hiding places and escape paths, such as overgrown bushes and trees. Eliminate hiding areas by keeping the landscaping trimmed and using remotely controlled lights. A barking dog is also a great deterrent—who wants to mess with a ferocious canine?—but the ultimate in security is a monitored security system.
Burglary deterrents A study by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice found that an installed security system makes a residential dwelling less attractive to would-be and active burglars. In fact, stats show that 90 percent of convicted burglars admitted that they would avoid homes that are equipped with security systems. Just ten or 15 years ago homesecurity systems had clunky keypads, black-and-white video monitors, and garish blinking lights. Today’s systems are slick, easier to install, and much lower in cost than before. Mobile connectivity is the biggest trend in home security. New applica20 C A M O D E R N
Let’s get safe at home With residential break-ins on the rise, here are today’s most effective ways to keep burglars away from your door BREAK-INS. Right (top to bottom): Windows, sliders, and skylights are a burglar’s common paths to valuables. tions allow you to control house lights, unlock doors, and view video clips of anyone who rings your doorbell— whether you’re at home, at work, or traveling around the world. “You can see when your mother-inlaw is coming over, and you can remotely unlock the door, disarm the security system, and turn the lights on for her,” said Tim McKinney, vice president of custom home services for ADT North America. “Or, if it’s my mother-in-law, you could choose to not open the door.”
Assessing security issues The first thing to do is to assess where your home is most vulnerable. Automated door locks and remote access to alarm controls may be at the top of the list. If you want to keep track of family members and service contractors, video surveillance on your smart phone may be another priority. Although there are DIY systems available that make loud noises when sensors are triggered, monitored security provides the best protection. It will send a signal to a centralmonitoring station each time it is activated, such as when door or window contacts are broken, or when a presence in the building is detected. When the sensors are tripped, the monitoring system will dispatch the appropriate authority—be it police, fire, or medics—to your property. A professional home-security company can help you assess your home’s vulnerabilities and provide solutions that fit your budget. To find a reputable one, get referrals from family, friends, or your local
law enforcement agency. Check references and the Better Business Bureau to evaluate their work history.
What professionals look for When a homeowner calls a homesecurity company, the company’s first step will be to schedule a visit to your home to assess the property. “We are looking for things as soon as we enter the neighborhood,” said McKinney. “Are power and security lines above ground? Is there shrubbery covering windows? Is the exterior well lit? We teach our sales teams to think about how they would get in.” Since doors are the number-one targets for burglar entries, consider installing sensors on all of your exterior doors. Windows are also prone to break-ins, so the ideal solution is to put a sensor on each window. If that becomes cost prohibitive, consider placing a motion sensor and glass-breakage detectors in each room.
Hard-wired vs. wireless Traditional alarms are hard-wired into a home’s electrical system; there is no need to worry about replacing or recharging batteries. Professional installers tend to use hard-wired systems. These systems usually take several days to install because installers will need to run cabling from the main control panel throughout the house. Combination or partial-wire systems require the control panel to be wired into the main electricity supply. However, many systems provide the
option to run off a built-in rechargeable battery, allowing the panel to be removed and recharged when necessary. The combination provides a backup in case, for example, a power outage cuts off electricity to the house, or the batter-
point A to point B, so we use wireless devices to accomplish that.”
Range of costs Professionally installed security systems can cost several hundred dollars to
will provide insurance discounts, often ranging between ten to 20 percent, for homes with monitored security systems.
Wireless cameras today Cameras play a big role in deter-
Epstein said, you want to position your video cameras so that they are not facing directly into the sun, which will saturate the image with light and limit your viewing range. For anyone with an extensive backyard, look for high-resolution cameras with long-range night vision. Standard night-vision cameras will let you see 90 to 150 feet, while the long-range ones will give you 660 feet of range. Similarly, if you have a swimming pool, choose a camera with wide coverage so that you can see the entire pool area in one shot. “You want a system with playback capability, so that you can back up your footage onto a USB flash drive or tablet and play it back for the police,” Epstein added.
Video system costs fall
Security system basics Control panel: Where the system wiring terminates and where your backup battery is located. Keypad or key fob: Used to arm and
disarm the system. Infrared detection: Small devices
that sense changes in room caused by a human or animal. Door and window contacts:
Central-monitoring station: The
signals from your home-security system are transmitted to this 24-hour monitoring station, which notifies the police, fire, or medics when needed. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Provide early warning of
fire and CO. Panic button: These buttons, located
Magnetic contacts that sound a chime or an alarm when the circuit is broken.
on keypads or remotes, signal the central-monitoring station when you have an emergency.
Glass break detectors: Devices
Closed circuit TV: Private television
that recognize the sound of glass breaking—and loud impact noises— and will sound the alarm when set off.
system that allows you to monitor and/or record activities inside and outside your home.
ies in the remote system die. These can take a day or two to install. Wireless systems can be set up in just a few hours because there are no wires to run. The main control panel, door and window contacts, and glass-breakage and infrared detectors are all battery operated, which means you have to keep replacing or recharging batteries as needed. The best time to install a hard-wire security system is during a remodel, when you can freely hard-wire key components. If you’re not remodeling, it’s best to look into the combination or wireless route. “Everything we have that is hardwired at ADT is also available in a wireless capacity as well,” McKinney said. “We are amenable to that application, and in some mid-century modern homes it’s difficult to get wires from
several thousand dollars, depending on the components included, plus monthly monitoring fees. For those looking for less expense, there are basic burglary alarm systems available, which usually include sensors and alarms attached to ground-floor doors and windows, wall-mounted keypads, and remote-control devices that can be activated with key fobs. The cost is significantly less for these simpler systems. The starting price of ADT’s most basic burglary alarm system starts at $49 to $99 dollars, with monthly monitoring fees ranging from $30 to $60. Prices climb depending on the number of window and door sensors and motion-detection devices that are added to the system. One bonus: many homeowners’ insurance plans
VIGILANCE. Far left, center: The DoorBot keeps an eye on who’s at the front door, the smart phone says it’s a UPS delivery. Above: Two products from ADT: Pulse mobile touch screen (top), the tiny dome camera (above) blends in with the home around it. ring criminals from breaking into your home, and they also are available as wired and wireless. “So much has changed,” said Gilad Epstein, vice president of product management and marketing for Lorex, a manufacturer of security systems. “Seven years ago, people didn’t have smart phones, or at least not phones that were that smart. Now, if you don’t have that connectivity, you’re not in the game.” Keep tabs of who is at your front door with a wireless camera and intercom. DoorBot ($199) is a doit-yourself, Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell that lets you see and talk with visitors through your smart phone or tablet. At just 5.68 inches in size, it has a brushed aluminum faceplate, and a camera that transmits video day or night to your DoorBot phone app. The DoorBot can be wired through a home’s existing doorbell and uses a lithium battery that gets recharged annually. Place a camera at the garage to deter criminals who may be poking around parked cars, and install another at the backyard and at any other entry point to keep tabs on the sliding-glass doors. Just like a point-and-shoot camera,
The cost of video-surveillance systems has come down considerably. An eightcamera set at Costco, for example, currently sells for $500, and the same kit was priced as $1,500 just five years ago. Do-it-yourself wireless camera systems, which you can get at stores like Best Buy or Costco, range between $300 and $400, while DIY wired systems range between $500 and $1,000. Highdefinition camera systems start around $1,000. If you’re doing a remodel and running a wired video-security system, you will have to think ahead and select the type of cable that will work with your preferred camera system. Lorex has made Wi-Fi camera systems much easier to install, thanks to its new ‘Stratus Connectivity’ solution. After the camera is installed, you then download an app on your smart phone and scan a QR code, and the app will do the rest of the set up for you automatically. “It takes less than two minutes to set up,” Epstein said. Another low-cost DIY solution is Lorex’s baby-monitoring camera (starting at $100). Place the device on a shelf or table, and it will help you monitor—babysitters, housekeepers, and repairmen in your home—through your smart phone. Photography: David Toerge; and courtesy ADT, DoorBot
STORY RESOURCES ADT Adt.com
Lorex Technology Lorextechnology.com C A M O D E R N 21
Budget or investment, these planters stylishly refresh your outdoor setting
pop By Tanja Kern
When it comes to minimalist design, there’s not usually room for over-the-top accessories. However, planters can fulfill that role tastefully, supplying a touch of color and modern style into your entry, atrium, or backyard. An eye-catching pot can create a striking focal point or subtly create and distinguish spaces that might otherwise feel a little plain or awkward without some extra architecture. With so many planters and pots to choose from, it can be a challenge to decide on the right ones. The solution is to choose planters that fulfill the needs of your plants and your personal style. Some things to keep in mind: Terracotta pots allow roots to breathe, but that extra CO2 also dries out roots faster, so you’ll have to water more often. Metal planters provide great protection from cooler temperatures, but the material sucks in heat during intense midday sun. Synthetic planters, which can look plastic or emulate the look of natural materials, retain moisture and also provide protection from fluctuations in weather. Wood planters will disintegrate over time without protective coatings applied to the exterior. While almost any vessel can be used as a planter, as long as it provides enough protection
6 22 C A M O D E R N
from the elements and an adequate drainage hole, there are those pots that offer that extra bit of panache. Here are 12 of our favorites.
1 Illuminated These chic modern accessories started in commercial design and are finding their way to homes. Using a smart combination of form and function, these modern lighted planters accent your design space while providing a functional light source. $149. Brookstone.com
because it’s cast of naturally derived mineral compounds, sea salt, sand, and fiber, and manufactured with low emissions and minimal energy use. $129. Crateandbarrel.com
2 Cube Sheet Metal Weather-resistant sheet metal planters are perfect for deck, courtyard, or veranda. Line up a few of these containing taller trees or flowering plants to separate outdoor spaces. $125. Restorationhardware.com
5 Mini Peanut Planter 1
3 Weathered Stone The look of timeworn stone belies the more manageable weight of these versatile planters. Constructed of a mixture of fiberglass, stone, and cement, they’re weatherproof and stand up to freezing temperatures. Starting at $110. Restorationhardware.com
4 Ball Planter This earth-friendly globe planter does a world of good
In 1949, John Follis used geometric earthenware pottery to bring the outdoors in. Your succulents will want to call this glazed ceramic planter home. $570. Architecturalpottery.com
10 Kanelloni Shaped like its namesake Italian pasta, the Kanelloni could sit on a windowsill, wall, or step. The modern look of these planters is softened by rounded edges and a rainbow of color options. App. $450. Mondocollection.com
6 B lomus Greens Planter A matte-finish stainless-steel finish provides a cool, modern look. Comes with a flexible plastic insert and in five different sizes. Starting at $106. Interiordesignerdecor.com
7 Say Hello Called the bye-bye planter because it symbolizes unity and inner con-
11 Patio Pod
flict. The vertical lines reach upward, drawing the eye to the plant and the sky above. $640. Abitatt.com
Designed in the 1950s, the conical planter inspired a fascination with space-age style. Todayâ€™s updated bullet planter is made of spun galvanized steel and stands 28 inches tall on stainless steel legs. $325. Hiphaven.com
Modernist architect Richard Neutra favored these American-made ceramic planters, first created in the 1950s by designer La Gardo Tackett. Available in a rainbow of gloss and matte glazes. Starting at $390. Architecturalpottery.com
9 Retro Bullet Planter
An authentic reproduction of the original in shape, size, and textured fiberglass, the bullet planter works as well as a beverage bucket as it does a planter indoors or out. $150. Hiphaven.com
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■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE
ART Prolific yet unsung, Northern California artist Ray Rice put creative expression at the center of his life Story: Dave Weinstein
For a guy like Ray Rice, who lived to make art, the Arts and Architecture Movement that grew up in the mid1960s seemed to offer it all. Not riches, perhaps. But who wanted riches? But, collaborating with architects on schools, restaurants, commercial projects of all sorts, and homes, a working artist could make a living—while preserving his very capacity to create. “An alliance with architecture,” Rice (1916-2001) wrote in the July 1960 issue of Western Architect, “offers the artist a chance to work as an artist. As he goes through the frustrating succession of bread-and-butter jobs that rob him of his creative stores, the artist comes to regard the opportunity as something sacred.” What’s more, he wrote, an artist could do what is rarely possible in the United States, “work at a truly monumental scale.” “And there is the chance,” he added, “to make a personal statement.” The Arts and Architecture Movement, which developed in both Northern and Southern California with a tip of the hat but no official connection to the Los Angeles magazine of the same name, was an informal group lacking officers, regular meetings, dogma, or dues. Its goal was to foster collaboration between architects and artists. In the Bay Area, one of its nuclei was an office in San Francisco shared by several firms of architects, landscape architects, and designers, including the architecture firms Campbell & Wong and Marquis & Stoller, landscape archi24 C A M O D E R N
tect Lawrence Halprin, and designer Gene Tepper, Rice’s close friend since art school days. Others who were deeply involved included landscape architects Garrett Eckbo and Bob Royston, and architects Warren Callister and Henrik Bull, Tepper remembered. Artists included sculptor Keith Monroe, Bella Tabak Friedman, Zigmund Sazevich, David Tollerton, Mark Adams, and Stanley Bitters, among others. “It was not so much a formal movement,” Tepper said of the Arts and Architecture Movement, “as a description of what was happening.” Informal it may have been, but the movement accomplished much—certainly for Rice. Besides taking part in the group’s annual exhibits at the San Francisco Art Festival, Rice designed sculptures and murals for dozens of buildings throughout the Bay Area and beyond. He painted murals with an astronomical theme for San Miguel School in San Francisco in 1953. By 1955, having taken up mosaics at the suggestion of Halprin, Rice produced a 54-foot mural in glass for a swimming pool at San Francisco’s Holiday Lodge, showing tendrils, seashells, and cartoon-like autos. In 1956, for architect Mario Gaidano, Rice sculpted a concrete flower for the North Beach restaurant Fior d’Italia. He also created mosaic sculptures for Romanoff restaurant atop Nob Hill. For landscape architect Bob Royston, Rice created pipe-and-concrete play
ALL ABOUT ART. In a career of evolving art that spanned five decades, Ray Rice shunned riches for the opportunity “to make a personal statement” and “something sacred.” Top: This mosaic mural, completed in 1957, is part of a group of pieces Rice designed for the Ford Motor Company at the time. Above: Rice, at age 39 in 1955, at work in his Corte Madera studio on what would soon become a mosaic-covered sculpture of a bird. structures for several parks. Rice also designed a play structure at either Pomeroy West or Pomeroy Green, Eichler townhouses in Santa Clara. For architect John Bolles, Rice created mosaics for the IBM campus in San Jose; and for Anshen & Allen, best known as Joe Eichler’s original architects, he created large mosaic murals for American President Lines ocean liners. Rice created mosaics and sculp-
tures for “schools throughout San Joaquin Valley” designed by the modernist architect John Lyon Reid, according to Rice’s resume. For Woodlake Apartments, south of San Francisco, a Halprin project, Rice used Venetian glass mosaic to create a “fascinating scene of low tide” in the bottom of a swimming pool, along with a sculptural “whirling sea grotto,” according to promotional material for
fine artist as well—winning a one-man show of paintings and mosaics at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor in 1963. “Rice’s artistic concept is uniquely his own,” critic Dean Wallace of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote after viewing “squat figures and glittering totems.” “Here, naiveté itself becomes a kind of sophistication.”
Besides making art, Rice taught art—to prisoners in San Quentin from 1951 to 1953, then at the College of Marin from 1953 to 1970. In the mid-1960s Rice turned his back on public art and on gallery shows—save for a community gallery now and then—and became an avantgarde filmmaker. Rice moved, moreover, from the Bay Area, with its active art scene, to the hamlet of Mendocino, years before it won fame as a historic town and tourist mecca. To a large degree he dropped out of sight—which is where he remains today. His work was not included in the recent Pacific Standard Time exhibits of mid-century art and design. His art cannot be found in major museums. Much of it remains in private hands—
Still, life was never easy. Rice, his wife Miriam, and daughters Mira, Rachel, and Felicia shared a houseboat that Rice hauled onto the shore of Corte Madera Creek, just off increasingly busy Highway 101 in Marin County, before the road became a super-highway. Rice worked in a small studio he’d built near the house, often bringing in friends and fellow artists as assistants. “It was kind of marginal,” Tepper said of their life in Corte Madera. “I think Ray felt pressured by that.”
often that of his family. His films are in the collection of the University of California, Santa Cruz, but are not commercially available. Rice’s retreat from commercial art production was in character. “He spoke disparagingly of the art market,” his son-in-law, Jim Schoonover, says. “I’m sure he was not going to put his work under his arm and go out with it.” Mosaics, which came to define his art, Rice regarded largely as commercial work, not fine art, Tepper said, adding, however,
MOSAICS WITH MEANING. Above: Two of Ray Rice’s mosaic tables from the mid-1950s designed for homeowners. The top one, for photographer Ernie Braun’s San Anselmo home (1954), remains the centerpiece of the Braun living room today. Right: Two shots from a mosaics class held in Rice’s Corte Madera studio, 1955. the project. A “giant shell-like perforation (for swimming through) lends a playful function to the sculpture.” Rice did smaller residential work as well, much of it in mosaic, which he used in flat panels, in low and high relief, and in three-dimensional sculptures. Rice did any number of works for people who lived in Eichler homes, including Gene Tepper and Rice’s friend, architect Melton Ferris. He created wall and fireplace mosaics, and mosaic tables. Eichler’s photographer Ernie Braun had a mosaic table at home; textile designer Dorothy Liebes paid $350 for hers,
a good sum in 1955. Many of Rice’s commissions paid well, according to his records. In 1957, American President Lines paid him $2,451, which could have bought him a Chevrolet Bel Air at the time. Not recorded are income for what may be Rice’s largest commissions—immense mosaic installations for the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan, and a 138-foot mosaic mural from 1961 that greets passengers arriving street-side at FresnoYosemite International Airport featuring, the Fresno Bee said, “an abstract approach to the aeronautical theme.” Rice was also finding success as a
C A M O D E R N 25
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE “Whenever he got a project, he did it with 110 percent of effort and creativity.” Perhaps Rice came to conclude that working in architectural settings no longer allowed him to make “a personal statement.” Or perhaps it was making a statement that ran counter to his feelings. “I got kind of tired of the sites I was going to,” Rice told writer Yvonne Mary Peppin in 1978, about his architectural commissions. “I didn’t particularly want to be part of a shopping center development in the middle of orchards, and condominiums that were an intrusion on the landscape.” Rice also felt “the need to keep moving as an artist,” says his daughter Felicia Rice, a fine arts letterpress printer. And, she adds, “He was not interested in making money at all.” “When they moved to Mendocino,” she says of her parents, “they said each of them needed $100 a month to survive.” Ray and Miriam had also tired of Marin County, which had grown wealthier, increasingly urbanized, and noisier. Mendocino was a relief. And it proved to be far from a backwater to the Rices, who helped create an artistic community as early teachers at the Mendocino Art Center, which started in 1959.
architectural work, Felicia says, Rice turned down a potentially lucrative job—creating the giant ‘S’ for Safeway stores in mosaic. “He didn’t want to produce meaningless material for a corporation,” she says. “It was the total antithesis of what he was about.” What Ray and Miriam were about, friends and family say, was clear. They’d made a mutual pact early on, Felicia says, “to make art the center of their lives.” A Hoosier lad raised in a strict, noplaying-on-Sundays household, Rice maintained a lifetime work ethic that kept him in the studio every day. And his family was a musical household, singing folk songs around the piano. As a teen, Ray played tuba then bass, and spent a year after high school touring Indiana, Ohio, and Southern Michigan with a ten-piece jazz band, he told Gayle Caldwell of the Mendocino Beacon. He also traveled for no particular reason. “When I was young,” Rice wrote in 1994, “I went out on the road partly for the hell of it,” riding the rails and finding work when he could. Ray contemplated a musical career but opted instead for art. (A lifelong writer
CREATIVE URGES. Top: Rice stands alongside a tall, colorful entryway glass screen he created for Melton and MJ Ferris, 1957. Above left: One drawing from a series of Rice illustrations that appeared in the book Cosmogony Intime, 1990s. Above right: Rice’s great granddaughter Amira Porter Stauffer poses alongside a mosaic drinking fountain Rice produced for UC Berkeley, 1955. Right: Two images from 1955 show Rice’s creation of a fireplace mosaic for architect Steve Heller. The Rices began teaching there in 1960 and bought a tiny house for almost nothing overlooking the Mendocino Headlands with views of the ocean. “Living lightly on the earth and doing things as simply as possible was a very high priority for him,” Felicia says. “They were very early environmentalists, both my parents.” Shortly before quitting his 26 C A M O D E R N
who filled notebook after notebook with journal entries and poetry, he might have considered literature as well.) He studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and then moved to the student-run Art Students League in New York on a work scholarship, where he met both Gene Tepper and his soonto-be bride, Miriam Cohen. Tepper, who was paying for his
schooling by working in the cloakroom, remembered his first sight of Ray— who arrived to take on the next shift. “At 12 o’clock this guy shows up looking like an ad for a bebop musician—porkpie hat, baggy pants, the chain, yellow shoes,” Tepper said. “As I remember it, there he is, a swinging guy from Chicago!” “When I first knew Ray, he drank a
lot,” Tepper recalled. “He enjoyed himself a lot. He became much more subdued.” In later years, Rice was “very silly and happy and jovial, and he loved jokes,” says his granddaughter, Iana Porter. “But he also had a very serious
side, too, a dark side.” He enjoyed socializing with friends and family—but only to a point. Often he’d retreat to his studio to work on his art or play the viola da gamba. One thing about Rice never changed,
though—his love for the water. From his boyhood he was a boater, and one of Tepper’s great experiences with his friend was a trip down the Wabash River, circa 1938, on a flat-bottomed boat, “ostensibly a painting trip.”
necessity” for the war, “if the sick, old world is ever to get well and all of us with it.” He confessed that, while he remained an unbeliever, “it may interest you to know that I have lately rediscovered the therapeutic value of prayer.” Ray and Miriam, who’d married as the war was starting, moved to Greenwich Village when it ended, Ray painting and Miriam firing ceramics. They were barely getting by till they found jobs teaching art at the private Putney School in Vermont. Later they taught at Verde School in Arizona. The family moved to an artists’ colony, San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, intending to study with painter David Siqueiros, but returned to America when their daughters fell seriously ill. They settled in Marin after two years in Fresno, where Rice taught at Fresno State. In Mendocino, Rice grew increasingly active in local issues, many of them environmental—ocean protection, water
EVOLUTION. During the 1970s and ‘80s Rice was involved with filmmaking and paintings. Above and top left: Two of his striking oil paintings from the 1980s. Above right: Rice’s ‘Tattooed Man,’ a 3-D mosaic sculpture, 1956. Rice stayed as close to the water as possible, living right on it in Marin, and within a few hundred yards in Mendocino, where, every evening after work, even in winter, he’d canoe the Big River—and often slip in for a swim. Though he was “very close to being a pacifist,” according to Tepper, Rice served in the Army during World War II, first in Virginia, where he supervised African-American bakers. Then, in letters to his parents from Europe, Rice talked of the “terrible
management, clear-cutting of the forests. Urged to run for the county Board of Supervisors, he considered it. But, Felicia says, “All his life he had seen pictures in his mind. As he got more politically involved, he said he stopped seeing them. That was a sacrifice he was not willing to make.” Between 1965 and 1983 those pictures in Rice’s mind became pictures on acetate, as he sat in a tiny, shack-like studio behind his tiny house inking acetate film to create between 30 and C A M O D E R N 27
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE 40 films, most between three and 12 minutes, he described as “intentionally low tech. I tried to turn back history, to work from the primal.” “He did them live,” Tepper said. “He sat there and he would paint something, do a frame, shoot it, do the next one, painstakingly. It was something he could do all by himself, controlling the whole thing. I think it was very pleasurable for him to do it.” “You work very fast,” Rice wrote. “If you want to change your mind, you just do it, and you have complete control over it.” The films are like his paintings come to life. It’s notable, perhaps, that Rice was slender and strong, but the figures in his films and paintings tend to be stout.
Thomas Albright wrote of the films. “Somber, poetic protest that begins with social issues but burrows deeper into the darker recesses of life itself. Images, sounds, rhythms, and transformations … are as disturbing, and grittily gripping, as a morning nightmare.” In later years, Rice continued to paint and draw. In Wages of Age, a self-published book, he dealt with aging in typically straightforward fashion. “Ears keep growing, nose coarsens, mouth saggens (sic).” He faced depression. “On the sunniest day, and perhaps more in dank, dark times, despair can come over it all and settle in upon us.” “Despair driven underground was brought out and dispelled by sheer
CAREER PROGRESSION. Top: Ray, during the 1980s, is photographed for a show in Santa Rosa that featured self-portrait oil paintings of his own creation. A few of those self portraits appear in the background here. Above left and right: A long shot and close up of the 138-foot mosaic mural Rice created for the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, 1961. At the time, the local paper called it “an abstract approach to the aeronautical theme.” His techniques were varied. The films included live-action footage of goats, Big River, cemeteries. He worked in Claymation, filmed sculptures and other threedimensional objects, and created and then filmed Japanese-style painted scrolls. The films are darker and far more grotesque than his better-known mosaic work and touched with strange humor. “I’m intrigued by the fine line between the rational, the irrational,” he wrote, “…and the contrast and similarity between scientific knowledge and facts and fantasy.” For sound, Rice would read his poetry, or play the viola de gamba. For the quasi-psychedelic, color-saturated Still Life, which suggests the ravages of war and perhaps the collapse of civilization, Rice moaned about “oatmeal… oatmeal,” and cackled like a chicken. “A new art-film form,” art critic 28 C A M O D E R N
recognition and then doing some painting. Selah!” He discussed suicide. “Going out when one wants to. Why? Pain, dependency, pain, uselessness, shame, fear, depression, pain. Why not? A sin?... “Advice: Put it off. Take more aspirin.” Rice’s final project was a series of drawings for Cosmogonie Intime, poems by Yves Peyré published by his daughter Felicia. Ray was depressed, Felicia says. “Get well. You have work to do,” she told him. “And he did. I swear, he did it for me as much as for anything.” On March 6, 2001, Rice, then 85, was working in his studio. “He died of a stroke,” Felicia says, “a paintbrush in his hand.” ■ Photography: Ernie Braun, Stan Croner, Dave Weinstein; and courtesy Felicia Rice and Iana Porter
MORE ON RAY RICE • A Ray Rice mosaic is the main thing you see entering the terminal at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, on Peach Avenue near McKinley Avenue. • The Mendocino Art Center has a large Rice mosaic inside, and a mosaic standing figure in the courtyard. Also outside, the bust of art center founder Bill Zacha, and of his dog, are by Miriam Rice. • Rice’s first mosaic installation, a small and damaged water fountain, can be seen at Faculty Glade at UC Berkeley, in the shadow of Stephens Hall.
• Rice’s experimental films can be viewed on DVD at the UC Santa Cruz Library. • Cosmogonie Intime - An Intimate Cosmogony (with poems by Yves Peyré, drawings by Ray Rice, and bookwork by Felicia Rice) is available through Felicia Rice’s Moving Parts Press (movingpartspress.com). It can also be perused in the special collections department of the UC Santa Cruz Library. • For a profile of Miriam Rice, see the online version of this article on EichlerNetwork.com.
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Readers’ queries—from design and decorating to household hints, entertaining and etiquette… Hi Cherry, I have a Verner Panton reproduction chair that has become scuffed and marked up over time. I can’t figure out how to clean it. I’ve tried soap and water, and Windex. I can’t find advice online—at least thus far. Can you advise? It is not ‘the real one’ with the glossy lacquer-like finish, but the more modest one with a matte finish. —San Mateo Melissa Dear Melissa, I did a little research on the recently produced Verner Panton chairs, which apparently are made of polypropylene. Many Ikea pieces are made of this material, or something similar.
SCUFFED. How to clean this Verner Panton chair? These hard, smooth plastics seem like they’d be a cinch to clean, but sometimes they are actually tough to tangle with. So search not just for cleaning your chair by the ‘make, model or manufacturer,’ but also for ‘cleaning polypropylene.’ This is a good tip for taking care of other items as well. Find out the scientific names of what things are made of, and then see what information pops up. As one possible solution, I recommend mixing a capful of biological laundry soap with a capful of bleach. Put that mixture into a gallon of warm water, and use a very, very soft brush. Make sure you are using something that is non-abrasive, because you don’t want to put any more scratches on your chair’s surface, especially ones that will just
30 C A M O D E R N
collect more marks over time. Also keep in mind, there are ‘magic eraser’ products on the market that work wonders on all sorts of tough-to-clean hard surfaces—such as scuff marks on VCT flooring. In your research, you may want to turn to your local auto parts store for advice. There are a gazillion products out there to clean and shine the hard surfaces of cars, and they can work well in households, too. After your chair is cleaned up, perhaps apply some good-quality wax or plastic polish to keep it from being easily scuffed in the future. And some food for thought: Sometimes it’s okay for things to show the patina of years. If you ever watch the Antiques Road Show, you know about their belief that patina can add value to a piece. It tells the story. Sometimes, as modernists, we want everything to look pristine and shiny and OCD-perfect. Nature just isn’t like that, and it’s okay to have a little blemish or timeworn wear here and there. We need to learn to be perfectly fine with imperfection! Dear Cherry, I like the minimalist look, and it really feels great to have clear, clean spaces in the summertime. But in the cool months of winter, my modern home feels very bleak and cold and downright desolate. —Drabby Dan Dear Drabby Dan, There is one sure-fire way to light up the doldrums of winter. Fresh flowers! We are so lucky to live in an era in which exotic flowers are so readily available and affordable. These days who does not have a Trader Joe’s nearby with plenty of options to choose from? Try hitting up your local community college and take a class in flower arrangement. Or, better yet, if you live anywhere near the Bay Area peninsula, visit the Filoli gardens in Woodside for master classes in flower arranging. If you don’t have time for a class, here are some simple tips for making effective displays appropriate for your modern home. The first thing to consider is your container. If you are creating any kind of
GET FESTIVE. Out shopping, Cherry stops by a local flower stand for a ‘fabby’ floral purchase. fancy arrangement, opaque or colored glass is better for beginners, as it obscures messy stem bottoms. Look in thrift stores for cool-looking vintage vases. I am particularly attracted to the Lido Milano amber and avocadogreen crinkle-bumpy glass created by Anchor Hocking in the 1960s and ‘70s. If you’re lucky, you might even find one made of rare aquamarine-blue glass. Also, think of things besides a vase in which to hold your flowers—like a glass pitcher, a trifle bowl, a sherbet bowl, or even an interesting drinking vessel. Keep in mind that slender-necked vases hold your flowers more tightly together, and big-mouthed ones will require more flowers and more time and finesse to arrange. Another container I really like to use as a vase is the pop bottle—like those old-school mineral water bottles in green or blue. Or, even better, scan the specialty soda aisle at the grocery store and notice all the cool, very graphic bottle and label designs available today. Once you’ve selected a bottle, first enjoy the sweet soda inside—and then place a single stem in the bottle and take in the sweet smell of a successful floral display. Make it a one-of-a-kind arrangement, or buy three of the same bottle and line them up with three single stems. Before you put your flowers in a vase, remember to cut their stems on an angle under running cool water. This allows each of the flowers to have a fresh end for absorbing water. Make sure you also remove foliage that might be under water. If you do not have any commercial flower food, try old standbys lemon-lime or citrus soda. And a little bit of bleach also keeps the bacteria at bay. (Water that is a little acidic is preferred.) To keep your flowers fresh and hydrated longer, trim the stems and refresh the water and
flower food every few days. When arranging, think in terms of extremes. Go for extremely simple design statements. I love single, brightly colored Gerber daisies in pop bottles, or a sunflower in a deep-blue bottle. Or go for the gusto and throw together many random asymmetrical flowers of varied height and size. Think of good flower arranging as you would good architecture. You initially want to build a solid framework. First work with your shrubby filler flowers. Foliage such as Queen Anne’s lace or baby’s breath sets the stage—like scaffolding on which you can integrate other flowers. Next, randomly add some secondary feature flowers. Then go for the splashiest flowers of all—placing them at the center of the arrangement and to the left and right of center. Finally, take any leftover greens and fill in around the outer edges of your vase. Two additional things to consider are scale and color. Don’t be afraid to cut longstemmed flowers into shorter pieces. The professionals do it all the time. And you
NICE ARRANGEMENT. Cherry brightens up her bath with a bunch of flowers in the middle of winter. can look like an expert yourself by simply doing an arrangement in a single color palette. For instance, try an arrangement that is all white or even all green. So…go from drabby to fabby with very little financial investment, and with just a small amount of time on your part. Fresh flowers will keep you and your home feeling festive—all winter long! Photography: Taso Papadakis, Cherry Capri
■MORE ART ABOUT THE HOUSE
Conversation pieces Modern artist Leslie Carabas uses quilts as her way of bringing together disparate personalities
She’s working new materials into some of her quilt, including Band-Aids. “The issue of medical care,” she says. Carabas has shown her work in numerous gallery and museum exhibits over the years, throughout the United States and in England. She’s done commissions, has works in the Kaiser Hospital in Modesto, and once had an immense set of quilts on display at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
In some ways Leslie Carabas comes across like your average, lovable quilter, getting together with 15 fellow quilters in the Sierra Foothill town of Sonora to “talk about whatever is bothering us and work on our projects at the same time.” But, she says, “I’ve never seen anybody do the kind of quilting that I do. I use kind of a drawn line. I’ll fill in areas as somebody would who uses a pencil or stylus of some sort.” Unlike traditional quilters, who piece together fragments of existing fabrics, incorporating into their art the designs on the original pieces, Carabas creates the pieces that make up her quilts on her own. She dyes fabrics, erases the colors, dyes them again, and again, all to create a complex, layered effect. “I also will fold fabrics, using different sizes of folds,” she says, “then dye the edges of the folds. There are lots of different ways to do it.” Carabas’s work can be seen regularly at ACCI Gallery in Berkeley. Her next one-person show is in spring 2014 at the Phoenix Gallery in New York City. Deborah Corsini, curator of the San Jose Museum of Quilt and Textiles, characterizes Carabas as part of the art quilt, or studio quilt, movement, artists who often create their own fabrics to expand the reach of quilting. “She’s going for a more modernist look,” like some others in the movement, Corsini says. Carabas, a Los Angeles native who studied at Stanford and San Francisco
State, says her art was more influenced by painters—Richard Diebenkorn, Willem De Kooning, and other abstract expressionists, and recently the Brazilian artist Delson Uchoa, a master of layering—than by quilters. She and her husband, Robert Carabas, an abstract painter, also regularly critique each other’s work. But, although Leslie’s dying process can resemble painting, she chose fiber art over canvas. “Because I love the material,” she says. “I love working that way. I don’t enjoy painting.” Rather than “starting with a blank canvas and saying, ‘Where do I want to put the paint?’” Carabas starts with the textile pieces she has created and asks, ‘How do you want to talk to each other?’ Her work may look abstract but don’t bet on it. “I try to create sort of vibrations that go from one part of the quilt to the other,” Carabas says. “My pieces are about conversations between different personalities. I look at what’s
MODERNIST LOOK. A Los Angeles native schooled in the Bay Area, Leslie Carabas (above left) says her art is influenced more by abstract expressionist painters than by quilters. Note Carabas’s modernist flair in these recent works: ‘Exquisite’ (top left); ‘Rainbow Tower’ (above); ‘Rolling Still,’ ‘Convergence,’ and ‘Elegance’ (right column, top to bottom). happening in our national government, and I think, why don’t these people talk to each other? These pieces are really my response. They’re conversations between disparate personalities.” “It’s something that’s very hard to do,” Carabas says of such conversation, “but it’s something we must do in the world today.” Recent works address another concern of the artist, who is 69. “I started thinking, what is of concern to me these days? My concerns include old age, how people age gracefully, things that concern you as you grow older.”
Band-Aids or no, Carabas has no plans to stop working. “I do it because it is something I can get up every morning and look forward to doing,” she says. “Every piece is a challenge to me, so I’m always working out solutions.” ■ –Dave Weinstein Photography: courtesy Leslie Carabas • See more of Leslie Carabas’s quilt work at lesliecarabas.com C A M O D E R N 31
■CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ GOING WILD! (continued from pg 18)
7 K lein Bottle House Built: 2008 Architect: Rob McBride and Debbie-Lyn Ryan of McBride Charles Ryan Where: Rye, Australia This may be a box but it sure isn’t square. The origami-like Klein Bottle House is named after the Klein bottle, a mathematical shape like a Möbius strip, whose interior cannot be distinguished from its exterior.
The house is odd indeed, and like many such merrymaking houses, it is not a primary residence but a vacation home, near the beach and ensconced in a line of trees. Designed as a spiral, with stairs leading up to a great room, “the building is supported on a traditional timber stud frame,” the architects write, “pushed to its physical limit.” In 2009, at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore, the Klein Bottle House was named “best house” of the year.
8 Nautilus House
Built: 2007 Architect: Javier Senosiain Where: Mexico City
9 Villa Spies
Built: 1969 Architect: Staffan Berglund Where: Torö, Sweden The flying saucer as a serious, replicable typology for modern living has never quite caught on. But it has never gone away either. The Villa Spies, designed originally as a prototype for vacation homes to be built by the Danish businessman Simon Spies but built instead as his Swedish home,
resembles both Lautner’s Chemosphere in Los Angeles from 1960, and the prefab Futuro house from a few years later. But neither was quite the pleasure palace as this two-story, mostly concrete and plastic home. With plush carpeting, womblike chairs, and a circular sunken couch, and an intimate, six-person dining room that, at the touch of the button, would rise up through the house from the first floor to the second, Villa Spies could have been a Playboy mansion in outer space.
‘Organic’ architecture means different things to different organic architects. To Javier Senosian, it means a school shaped like a snake, with the principal’s office in the coiled tail and the doorway through the snake’s jaws. It also means this psychedelic snail-
10 Bavinger House
Built: 1955 Architect: Bruce Goff Where: Norman, Oklahoma Goff (1904-1982), largely self-taught as an architect, was inspired by the founders of organic architecture, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. But it was Goff who took the term literally, creating homes that really did seem alive. The Bavinger House, with its spiraling wall of stone inset with colored 32 C A M O D E R N
like house, bejeweled with stained glass and altogether tumescent. Structurally, Senosiain notes, the house is a logarithmic spiral, “a fluid space in three dimensions where you can perceive the continuous dynamic of the fourth dimension as you walk in spiral on the stairs.” The Nautilus, which is designed for a family of four, is as much a fairytale house as a modern one—the tale of a family swallowed up by a snail.
glass, appears to grow from its forested site, surrounded with flagstone-terraced gardens and spring-fed ponds. The home, built for a couple of artists, is suspended by cables from a central mast. Separate platforms serve for floors, and there are no internal walls. Open for many years to the public, the home has been closed for several years and threatened with destruction by the trust that was formed to preserve it. Continued pg 34
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GOING WILD! (continued from pg 32)
11 T ree Snake Houses
Built: 2013 Architect: Luis and Tiago Rebelo de Andrade Where: Pedras Salgadas Eco Resort, near Vidago, Portugal It may not be in the clouds, but the two Tree Snake Houses in this nature park are joyful and elevating. The architects, seeking to provide
“an object that could recreate the fantasy of tree houses,” used the image of a snake undulating through the forest. Woodsy, warm, and walking on stilts on the outside, inside the vacation homes are light and deeply minimal—to contrast with the natural world just outside—yet provide guests with kitchenettes. Who says wild can’t also be mild?
12 House 77
Built: 2010 Architect: José Cadilhe and Emanuel Fontoura of dIONISO Lab Where: Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal It’s easy—or relatively easy—to build a truly unusual house when it’s off by itself. The neighbors won’t mind and the house’s wings or bulges won’t knock into anything. But in this densely populated beach town, the architects had to
MENLOMORPHOSIS (continued from pg 15)
more of these houses are we going to lose?” Phil says. Their plan was not ambitious. The neighborhood already had several two-story homes, so they wouldn’t try to block second stories. “But we wanted to limit huge houses,” Phil says. “This immediately caused a ripple reaction,” he says. “‘You should be able to do anything you want with your property,’ people argued.” Phil and his neighbor eventually dropped the effort. “The whole thing was very stressful,” Marcia says. Today, Eichler fans count it as a victory when, if an Eichler is remodeled or replaced, what arrives in its stead is not a traditional home but something modern. “At least they’re going along with the aesthetic,” says Cesar Agustin. Steve and Denise Henry did a better job than most of revamping their Eichler in Stanford Gardens shortly after they bought it a decade ago. “It was pretty rough, pretty original,” Steve says of the home when they moved in. Working with an architect, 34 C A M O D E R N
squeeze this three-story wonder into a street of row houses. Inside, the house is a beauty, with free-floating stair risers accessing three levels, opening through glass walls to a private garden to the rear and a busy street to the front. Privacy? A metal screen folds like an accordion to close up the front. For light, and to tie into the town’s seafaring past, the screen has been perforated with ancient symbols used by the town’s fishermen to mark their gear.
they opened up the space, mostly preserving the original footprint and the splayed layout, but adding an immense, garage-like sliding-glass door to the rear yard. “We wanted to maximize the glass,” Steve says. “We like open, we like natural light, we like clean lines.” The Agustins are among Menlo Park’s more committed Eichler fans.
DISTINCTIVE. Above right: Thirty-year Eichler owner Herb Wong, surrounded by his jazz memorabilia, with wife Marilyn. Above left: Outside their Peninsula Way home. When they bought their 1970s model, it had been badly remodeled, and was staged by the listing agent to resemble a Nantucket cottage. “It was the light that sold us,” Hildy Agustin says. “Sunshine.”
“We said someday we’ll fix it up,” Cesar says. They gradually have, restoring portions, redoing the kitchen, adding a skylight. One recent project involved removing the drywall that had long
covered the brick fireplace. “I had them scrub it brick by brick,” Cesar says. “I wanted the original brick wall back.” ■ Additional photography: Stefan Heller
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Published on Apr 4, 2014
Quarterly magazine for mid-century modern enthusiasts. Lifestyle, architecture, home-improvement and specialized services for Eichler home-o...