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Inside Eichlers Part II – Bedrooms & Landscaping

April 14, 2014 in Eichler, Eichler History, Life in an Atrium by

In our third installment of “Life in an Atrium: 30 Years as an Eichler Resident”, Torchy Hunter goes room by room, helping explain the pros and cons of Eichler Living. We hope you enjoy the article, if you have any stories about living in an Eichler Home or any Mid-Century modern, be sure to contact us.
Part II, Bedrooms, Landscaping -

The other leg of the house is what I liked to call “the bedroom wing” because it contained 4 bedrooms, two baths, and amazingly, the laundry area. In my life,  I had only seen washers and dryers in  garages.  Why?  No dirty clothes come from the garage.  But there they were with a linen closet directly behind.  This has since become pretty normal, but this was 1966, and it almost made me happy to do the laundry, which was between the kids’ rooms.  Who realized this?  To put linen closets near the dryer–sheets, towels no problem, and no toting.  Just turn around!

The bathroom adjacent had an outside door!  This was to bring in the grimy muddy wet sweaty  children and strip them before they could get to the rest of the house. I have a photo of the kids in the tub and the water is brown, so you see what I mean.  I used the 4th bedroom as a piano room, library, desk area.  And also a door into the atrium.  This is thoughtful architecture.

Landscaping often presented a problem to new owners.  They knew they loved the house, but what kind of landscaping to go with it?  I’ll tell you what WON’T go with it:  picket fences, arches of roses at the gates, demure perfect little lawns.  Usually people are broke when they first buy a house, so the landscaping is home-made at first.  Or rip out whatever you didn’t like and wait for better times to do a good job.  It was the same for back yards only you could hide them for longer.  The back yards were not usually very deep, so only the people who wanted no green stuff whatever put pools in.  Luckily, I had a friend with a pie-shaped cul-de-sac lot where we could swim.

At one point a new neighbor from Denmark moved in next door, right at the end of a long dry summer.  The first thing I noticed was smoke coming from his back yard.  Fire is not a friend to Eichlers.  With no solid walls and only glue-based paneling on the walls, they would really go up in a fire.  So I jumped up to the fence, saw the neighbor there, and holding down panic as much as possible, screamed “What are you doing?”  He mildly replied that there were a lot of leaves and he was just getting rid of them, and seemed startled that he was supposed to take them out to the street for the garbage truck.  But that wasn’t the only cultural difference.  In Denmark, high schools teach kids everything about maintaining houses: wiring, plumbing, reconstruction, roofing, and the like. I was interested to see the local phone company and electric company trucks one day.  The neighbor hadn’t liked the look of the electric and phone wires that came into the house, so he took them down and buried them.  Buried them!  Can you just see the look on the phone guy’s face after being told there was static on the line and going to the back yard and looking at the pole and seeing no wire?

Sometimes people new to the area and unaware of the wind patterns, put rock on their front yards.  Rock in many colors, especially white. sometimes in swirling patterns of red and black.  This would last about 3 months.  Then the dirt in the air, the leaves falling, and kids running across it made it all look just like a muddle, a very expensive muddle, which you could never restore. Desert cactus gardens look great, too.  But they usually used decomposed granite, a lovely golden color with the same problems as rock but with an addition:  stuff could root in it.

Even a plain grass yard in California is a project.  If  you are fond of Bermuda grass, an invasive persistent weed which only can be eradicated by taking off the top foot of soil and replacing it, you’ll have a great lawn in the summer.  It hibernates in the winter and people are even knows to spray paint it green.  Regular grass involves cutting, fertilizing, weeding and edging, none of which makes it fun to look at, and any passing dog can kill it.  Best to hire a landscape architect (they are amazingly cheap) and let them choose plants that take ignoring, drought, bugs and small feet.

Torchy Hunter

Torchy Hunter returned from two years in Florence, Italy and bought an Eichler in San Jose in September 1966 Her sons were raised there; she finished a Masters Degree (in English), and only left in 1995, after almost 30 years. She is a nationally published humor writer (Ladies Home Journal,Our Place, Los Alamos Monitor bylined column) college instructor, actor, painter, flower and jewelry maker who still loves her Eichler.

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