Every week, our House Calls feature takes you into homes with great style, big personality, and ineffable soul. Today, we look at what many would consider a design unicorn: A midcentury home that has been nearly unaltered since the day it was finished in 1952. It belongs to the Keelers, a couple who began furnishing their dream home decades before they ever laid eyes on it.
At Curbed, we cover a lot of homes that have been remodeled to glory. This is a different kind of story, one about a couple who has done virtually nothing to their new home. In fact, their appreciation for their Eichler and its original state led to them owning it in the first place.
But looking at homes in the 650 area code, prices being what they are, was nearly enough to induce a medical incident. The asks were high, the quality of more affordable houses was low. "We were really discouraged by what we saw," says Amy. "We are visually driven people, and the appearance of a house was important to us."
How important? So important that this pair of midcentury modern furniture collectors moved a wall in their Victorian apartment so their sofa wouldn’t look cramped. So important that, for years, they had been buying midcentury modern furniture and stashing much of it away in a storage locker for their someday home. "We didn’t even know when we would own that house or where it would be," says Amy.
At any rate, they felt a flutter of hope when they spotted an Eichler on the market in Palo Alto a little over a year. The pictures showed a home that had been meticulously maintained and changed very little. It was enough to make their hearts beat faster.
"We went to the first open house, which was on a Saturday," says Amy. "Once we got there, we were told that they were looking at offers the following Monday. That was much sooner than we had planned, but we loved the house so much we scraped something together."
There was another, more unusual requirement: The sellers, who had owned the home since it was constructed, asked that each potential buyer submit a letter outlining their intentions for the Anshen & Allen-designed house. (The design team was the first hired by developer Joseph Eichler to create his eponymous homes.)
On Monday morning, there were four offers. According to Amy, three were all-cash bids from tech employees who wished to demolish the house and build something new. The fourth was from the Keelers. It wasn’t all-cash, but it did contain their intention to preserve and protect the home. Against all real estate odds, theirs was the winning offer.
"The home is on a 10,000-square-foot corner lot. It’s a prime development spot," says Amy. "But it had sentimental value to the owner. He had taken great care of it, barely even driving a nail into the original mahogany paneling," says Amy. "The family wanted to see it go to someone who would live here, not tear it down."
In a region where record-breaking home prices have all but edged out emotion in real estate transactions, this kind of thing is akin to a miracle. "We were ecstatic, of course. It feels like it was meant to be," Amy says. "Fate is an amazing thing."
The model of their particular Eichler is AA222. What that means in real-world terms is an 1,800-square-foot home (a single-room addition was added in the 1970s) with a shallow pitched roof, walls of glass windows and doors that open to a patio and back yard, a modest (but efficient) kitchen, interior walls composed completely of the aforementioned wood paneling, and floors covered in cork.
"What Eichler was aiming for was a modern home that the average person could maintain with minimal effort," Amy says. "I think the original owners of the home recognized the beauty of it and didn’t touch it. There was one room, a second living room added; the cork flooring was replaced with the same material at some point; and the kitchen cabinets were refaced (to our dismay). We were able to move right in. All we had to do was upgrade the electric system and put in a couple of new light fixtures in the hallway."
And all that furniture they’d been stowing away? "Finally, we got them out of storage and they got to shine. "Here, they are right at home," says Amy. "We only had to buy one new piece: Another sofa for the second living area. It made for an easy transition."
Not only did the new home satisfy their need for modern environs, it awakened other, more abstract emotions. "We are very nature oriented, and we lost that about ourselves living in the city in a very compartmentalized space," Amy says.
An Eichler hallmark is the strong, seamless relationship to the outdoors. "Now we are surrounded by greenery, we can see the trees," she says. "We can hear the leaves rustling and the birds singing. It’s really connected us with nature."
The move also stirred Amy’s latent artistic leanings. She says her job as an obstetric nurse has required little in the way of aesthetics. "It’s so strange how I’ve come alive since we’ve moved into this house," she says. "I’d always wanted to do something creative, but I was urged toward a career in math or science."
Today, her elegant decorating and styling efforts are on full display on her Instagram feed, appropriately dubbed ourpaloaltoeichler. There, she captures design moments large and small throughout the home.
"For many, the meaning and intention of these homes has been lost or forgotten," Amy says. "It’s really an honor to live here, and I feel like it’s our obligation to share the home."