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Tour a Midcentury Time Capsule Tricked Out By a Modern-Day Mad Man

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Welcome to House Calls, a recurring feature in which Curbed tours lovely, offbeat, or otherwise awesome homes in the Bay Area. Think your space should be featured next? Here's how to submit.

Photos via Patricia Chang

In 1968, Diamond Heights' transformation from windblown rocky slope to full-on suburban-style tract was well under way. Joseph Eichler had already come and gone, leaving 100 new modern homes in his wake, but Eichler wasn't the only developer to get a piece of the Redevelopment Agency's holdings, the largest by acreage in San Francisco. American Housing Guild, an Eichler competitor, developed a mix of duplexes, single-family homes, and townhouses in a three-block swath of Diamond Heights, configured to take advantage of the hilly site's views of the bay and the downtown skyline.

Bob Pullum, a freelance creative director and recent alum of ad agency AKQA, didn't get to San Francisco until the early 90s, but he always pictured himself in a midcentury house. In those first days in the city, "I was like, 'I want a Jimmy Stewart Vertigo apartment, so I found one in Telegraph Hill," says Pullum. "It was an idyllic first San Francisco experience," complete with a picture-window view of the Bay Bridge recalling Stewart's staged overlook of Coit Tower.

Pullum keeps a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda convertible and a 1971 Plymouth Satellite wagon, both cars from "The Brady Bunch."
In 1999, lured by the more spacious offerings in Diamond Heights, Pullum bought a townhouse and set about filling it with midcentury finds (some of them procured on scavenging trips with Pullum's friend Danny, a fellow design buff and House Calls alum). In 2003, the house across the street from Pullum's came on the market, and it turned his head. Built in 1968, the three-bedroom was designed by the same architect, Bob Geering—whose firm, Fisher-Friedman, had been hired by American Housing Guild—and the living room had a full-on picture window perfectly framing downtown San Francisco. "I was like, 'Oh, my God, somebody's going to buy that house and turn it into a nightmare and I'm going to have to look at it for the rest of my life," recalls Pullum. He had to have it.

When he moved in, everything was beige. Pullum repainted the walls and pulled up the beige carpet, laying down wood floors. He didn't have the money to redo the kitchen right away, so he replaced the appliances but lived with the rest in its 1968 vintage. The tiled counter—which is, inevitably, a mottled shade of dark beige—even still has its original 60s-era Food Center, a built-in motor that a food processor can snap into. Pullum found the attachments for it on eBay. As he pulls out the accessories to do a demo, he says he's been pretty happy with his old-school kitchen. "I felt like any kitchen I put in here would look like the year that I put it in," he says. "I still have an aversion to doing a new kitchen. It's a little bit of a rebellion." With the Food Center now assembled, he presses the button to make the food processor spin, whipping up an imaginary Jell-O mold.

Pullum's kitchen anti-decision looks totally intentional against the backdrop of his taste in furniture, which hews pretty narrowly to the late 60s. "I was always a kid that was more looking at old photographs than the present," says Pullum, who grew up in South Carolina. "I think living in the 80s and 90s, I knew it was unattractive."

The living room is a bold but disciplined mix of red, black, white, and gray, pulled together with a white flokati rug—the shaggiest available—procured on The sofa is a Charles Pfister design for Knoll, a piece more typical for an office reception area than a homes, but for Pullum, "it's just a really well-made down sofa." If Mad Men's Sterling Cooper (sorry, SC&P) had opened an office in San Francisco instead of LA, the Drapers might've gone to a party someplace like this. "I always wanted it to be elegant, masculine, streamlined," says Pullum. "I hate to use the word bachelor pad, but ... something that was a little bit masculine."

Pullum recovered his grandfather's La-Z-Boy with David Hicks fabric.
The lounge chair is, underneath its geometric black-and-white upholstery, actually a La-Z-Boy. "Being from the South, I have a rocking chair kind of in every room," he says. "It's hard to find a comfortable loungy rocking chair, and modern La-Z-Boys are so ugly." So Pullum recovered his grandfather's old lounger in David Hicks fabric and spray-painted the brown hardware black.

On the wall in Pullum's office hangs artwork by "Mad" Magazine illustrator Bob Clarke.
The American Housing Guild homes were modeled on a mode of indoor-outdoor living, to the extent that row houses can make that work. Every room in Pullum's house that lacks a window or door has a skylight. "I never have to use the lights during the day," he says.

Before the city redeveloped Diamond Heights, the area had just 374 residents, and the newly arrived developers had the idea that the neighborhood was sunny and warm most of the year. Pullum's house and its siblings all have decks facing the street, but they stay dark and windy most of the year. The original owner installed a funky privacy screen on Pullum's facade—one of the details that drew him to his home. "A lot of people who have these decks close them in, which ruins the architecture, but it's usually because it's not usable space," he says. "The intention was good, but nobody really lived up here in the wind."

When Pullum was updating his bathrooms, his firm was pitching Ann Sacks at the time. "Luckily the bathrooms weren't that big, so I ordered some Ann Sacks tiles," he says.

In the guest bedroom Pullum has a rosewood bed that a friend gave him.

Pullum's office.

In Pullum's basement sits a prop painting left over from a never-aired commercial directed by John Waters, during the tail end of the dot-com boom. "It was for a family called the Mores, they had 'more' of everything," he says. "It was this really tacky, over-the-top house, and this was their dog."

Also in the basement, Pullum's collection of 60s-era toys.

The architect of Pullum's house, Bob Geering, is a friend. He gave Pullum the original plans for the development his house belongs to.

Photo courtesy Bob Pullum
A photo of Pullum's house taken in 1969, the year after it was built.

· How Postwar Icon Joseph Eichler Built a Suburb in the Middle of San Francisco [Curbed SF]
· Where Bootleggers Once Dallied, an Island of Awesome Castoffs in the Mission [Curbed SF]
· House Calls Archives [Curbed SF]