As Jeff has noted, when we relocate to the Bay Area next month we’ll be moving into the house in Daly City in which he lived until third grade. He hasn’t said much about it, so I knew nothing of it except its address. Before I met Jeff, all I knew of Daly City more generally was what I could see passing through from the SFO airport to downtown San Francisco, a mostly uninspiring suburban sight. In 2004, I went home with Jeff one weekend for his college reunion, and we stayed with his parents in their other Daly City home.
I have to confess that I’m not all that crazy about their current home, built in the 70s and in a neighborhood that, to my eye, feels newer and less interesting. Given that they’d moved from the other to live there, then, I was particularly worried I wouldn’t like the the one they’d left, the one in which we’d be living. But we really couldn’t have afforded to move to the Bay Area at all if we didn’t, given that housing is otherwise so difficult to come by in the first place and terribly expensive even when you do. So I was resigned to it, like it or not.
When we were in Daly City again the weekend of May 6th, while out with his parents, we decided to drive to the house. As we got closer and closer, I found myself increasingly pleasantly surprised by the homes and neighborhoods we were starting to see. By the time we pulled into the street and up to the house, I already was hooked.
You see, I’m a huge fan of mid-century architecture and design (I’ve long been a collector of dishware and glassware from that period). And the Westlake section of Daly City, where our house is located, is a gorgeous haven of 1950s “little boxes” by Henry Doelger (“the manicured Westlake District… ‘still screams 1959 California,'” per an article in the New York Times); next to our sky blue Doelger tract home is a seafoam green one, and there are salmon and yellow and teal ones down the street. OK, so the house isn’t an Eichler, and not even the most interesting of the Doelger architectural styles, but it’s really quite charming. And it’s been very well-maintained. The original yellow tile of the kitchen and pink tile (including a pink tile floor installed on the bias) bathroom are nearly pristine. There’s a wonderful brick fireplace wall in the living room, and even the original thermostat is adorably period.
Moreover, these Doelger homes are remarkably well-built. I think I surprised Jeff’s father, an architect, with my questions and observations about the house’s structural and architectural details. Before seeing the house, I was worried about moving to earthquake country (and of course I’m still probably a little nervous about that, if not consciously so), but I’m no longer worried about the house in that respect. It’s really quite solid, and it’s been through some pretty big earthquakes already in its fifty years with no visible impact.
I love this house, and I can’t wait to start furnishing it with period (or repro) pieces, and setting the table with my 1950s Eva Zeisel and Ben Seibel dishware along with my Libby glasses.
And we have a patio, so I just might have to buy a grill and a tiki bar to put out there. I must go listen right now to Ellen Greene singing “Somewhere That’s Green”:
And I dream of a place
Where we could be together at last
A matchbox of our own
A fence of real chain link,
A grill out on the patio
Disposal in the sink
A washer and a dryer and an ironing machine
In a tract house that we share
Somewhere that’s green.
3 thoughts on ““in the pine-sol scented air…””
Yup, I can easily envision you and Jeff living in a 1950s tract house; just as I am happy living in my little 1930s bungalow.
We were all born in the wrong decades, it seems.
There are a couple of pretty cool magazines out there about mid-century architecture. One is “Atomic Ranch” and the other is “Modernism.” Pretty neat all-around, though.
Yeah, we subscribe to Atomic Ranch (I was a charter subscriber) and to Dwell (not mid-century, but a nice match in terms of the modernist aesthetic). I’ll have to check out Modernism.
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