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.”