Tag Archives: architecture

A Rancher Reverie

I daydream about living in a one-level house built in the 1950s or 1960s. Why is this?

Could be I’m starved for mid-century ranchers because I sell residential real estate in a city dominated by homes from earlier or later eras. Ranchers tend to be mutually exclusive with 25’ x 100’ lots (standard in San Francisco).

A better theory is it’s because I spent a lot of my childhood in one-story houses. In the 60s and 70s that style was in style, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed a strange correlation between certain architectural characteristics and feelings of comfort and sanctuary.

As a teenager, I yearned for vaulty Victorian ceilings, turret-windowed rooms and expansive porches. That’s because we lived in a new 1970s subdivision and I envied the storybook turn-of-the-century houses where many of my friends lived. That hankering stuck with me and I eschewed anything built after World War II for a long time.

But now I’ve gone retro. I’ve gone back to…

  • Clerestory windows like the ones in the bedroom of my grade-school friend Jennifer. During sleepovers, I’d lie awake – slightly nervous – watching car headlights flashing off the ceiling.
  • Flagstone on facades, like the ones adorning our first rented house in Grundy, Virginia.
  • Wide-plank hardwood floors, perfect for scooting around on a blanket pretending to steer a boat.
  • Harvest gold and decorative brick in the kitchen, a palette that perfectly matched autumn.
  • Oversized picture windows with rain slapping down them, like the one in the piano niche of my piano teacher’s living room, where I’d struggle through Mozart, Czerny and Debussy after having not practiced all week.
  • Widely detached houses, which could be circled for hours in order to evade capture by your little brother during a prolonged game of Hide n Seek or Let’s Pretend We’re the Men from Uncle.
  • Split level floor plans that made spying on the grownups easier than with a traditional staircase.

But, alas, such homes are scarce in San Francisco and so I live in a quaint and distinctive Victorian on a block well-traveled by tourists and locals on their way to Dolores Park. At least once a week as I exit or enter my front door, somebody hails me and asks if I actually live there.

“Yes,” I reply, with a barely perceptible sigh, “I do.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Highly Desirable Semi-detached Villa

“The new residence was…to be of some mysterious size and proportion, which would make us both peculiarly happy ever afterwards…It was neither to cost too much nor too little, but just enough to fitly inaugurate the new happiness.” 

http://www.trampsofsanfrancisco.com/a-foresting-we-will-go-a-history-of-trees-in-san-francisco-part-ii/
View of the Mission in 1865, described as, “Looking E. from Reservoir Hill, Market & Buchanan Sts., Vicinity Market & Valencia.”

In 1865, the writer Thomas Hardy published a short story called How I Built Myself a House. I came across mention of it in a Writer’s Almanac post, then googled it.

I was delighted to find that, apparently, not much has changed since 1865 in the realm of residential real estate. In the story, the dynamic between Hardy and his wife is very similar to what I see on a daily basis.

Thomas and Sophia shared many hopes for their new home near London, but disagreed on numerous details. After arguing about whether or not trees should be felled to improve the view (Sophia — in favor of the ax — prevailed) the Hardys quarreled over the floor plan. Thomas writes:

“I made my sketch, and my wife made hers. Her drawing and dining rooms were very large, nearly twice the size of mine…We soon found that there was no such thing as fitting our ideas together.”

Later, when costs get out of hand and Hardy tries to staunch the overruns, Sophia tells him, “…Elegance and extreme cheapness never do go together.”

And here’s a delicious bit that reminds me of a scenario I’ve witnessed a hundred times during home inspections:

“We were standing beside (the house) one day, looking at the men at work on the top, when the builder’s foreman came towards us.

‘Being your own house, sir, and as we are finishing the last chimney, you would perhaps like to go up,’ he said.

‘I am sure I should much, if I were a man,” was my wife’s observation to me, ‘The landscape must appear so lovely from that height.’

This remark placed me in something of a dilemma, for it must be confessed that I am not given to climbing.”

And so forth and so on. To read the entire story, click here. It’s most entertaining.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.