Love at First Sight
Carmichael couple stay true to their Streng Brothers home
By Cathryn Rakich
As soon as they walked in, David and Heather Hadley knew immediately. The Streng Brothers home near Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael was exactly what they were looking for.
“Growing up in Sacramento, I admired Streng homes,” Heather says. “I always hoped that I would own one.”
Jim and Bill Streng built more than 3,500 homes in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties between 1959 and 1989, working with modernist architect Carter Sparks. Categorized as mid-century modern or postwar modern, the homes were famous for their interior atriums with domed skylights, concrete aggregate floors extending from outside to inside, living rooms with high exposed-beam ceilings, abundant windows and sliding-glass doors leading to tree-shaded backyards.
“We love the openness of the house,” says Heather, who spends her days as an apparel buyer for a local golf course. “It’s got character. It speaks to our style.”
But the classic three-bedroom, two-bath home, built in 1974, “needed a lot of work,” says David, an art director for a Midtown ad agency.
For example, the showstopping indoor garden was overgrown with bamboo and ivy. The couple kept one schefflera, but replaced the other plants with a variety of greenery, including African milk trees, aloe and a rubber plant. An interior faucet in the wall makes watering a cinch.
The couple retained the 1,790-square-foot floor plan but stripped the “popcorn” ceilings, added recessed lightening, and retextured and repainted the walls throughout the house.
One of the most dramatic changes involved ripping out the old parquet floors, then polishing and sealing the concrete foundation underneath. “The parquet floors were destroyed,” Heather says. “I really wanted to keep them and bring them back to life, but there was no hope.”
The cracks and blemishes in the exposed concrete add to “the character and history of the house,” David notes.
“Probably the best decision we made,” Heather says, was to polish down the concrete aggregate that surrounds the interior atrium. “I knew I would not want to walk barefoot on that every morning.” The bumpy “sidewalk pebble” is now smooth like “beautiful travertine tile,” she adds.
After living with the original fireplace for more than a year, the couple made the difficult choice to paint the brick white. “Every decision we made, we took into consideration the Streng originality,” David explains. “But it was a struggle when it came to the fireplace.”
Heather adds, “There was always something missing. Something needed to be elevated. Once we painted it, we felt so much better. It opens the space up.”
When replacing the distressed window glass, the Hadleys went to great lengths to use the same company—Blomberg—that made the original windows. In keeping with the Streng concept, they kept the wood frames and went with single panes. “Vinyl windows you can buy at Home Depot do not fit this house,” Heather says.
A sliding glass door leads to a spacious backyard strewn with 40-foot-tall California redwoods planted by the original homeowner who had a nursery.
The couple opened up the galley kitchen for better flow to the family room. They refinished the original kitchen cabinets, keeping the same hardware; added a white tile backsplash; installed new stainless-steel appliances; and replaced laminate countertops with quartz. A vintage globe light fixture was relocated to one of the bedrooms.
Keeping true to the Streng era, the Hadleys furnished their home with timeless pieces purchased second hand at estate sales, thrift shops and on Craig’s List. As a side gig, David and Heather have a space at Scout’s Living, an antique and vintage design collective in Midtown.
“I am super proud of the way we decorated,” Heather says. “We like things that speak to us. We didn’t just want to go to West Elm and buy everything out of the catalog and be matchy, matchy, and have everything that someone else has in their house.”
Tips for other homeowners looking to undertake a complete renovation? “Lower your expectations on time,” Heather says. “It will take months longer than you want it to.”
The Hadley’s home will be featured on this year’s SacMod Mid-Century Modern Home Tour, “60 Years of Streng Brothers Homes,” Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets—$40 for the general public and $25 for SacMod members—are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/4103901. SacMod is a nonprofit association dedicated to preserving and protecting modern art, architecture and design in the Sacramento region.
To recommend a house or garden for Open House, contact Cathryn Rakich at firstname.lastname@example.org.