Maybe it’s the “Dating Game” daisies on the wall of the living room or the white-painted Hollywood-baroque bedroom furniture, but you kind of expect Jim Lange or Paul Lind to answer the door holding a frosty mai tai and a Pomeranian. Instead, Paul Torrigino and Richard Gutierrez, escapees from Disney Imagineering, invite you in their Streng Bros. home.
Immediately, you will notice a sofa and chairs from Natuzzi and reissued pieces from midcentury designers such as Eileen Gray, George Nelson and Isamu Noguchi in the family room, and the fun continues throughout the house.
“I feel we brought the house back to where it always wanted to be,” Gutierrez says about their Streng Bros. home in Sacramento. Although it’s the state capital, the city isn’t known as a bastion of sophistication; Torrigino explains its attributes: “Sacramento has more trees than any other city outside of Paris, so they say. It’s got sidewalk cafes and four seasons.” The much-cheaper-than-L.A. housing prices didn’t hurt either.
The couple met years ago and shared a 1935 Spanish-revival home in Hollywood, CA before getting out of Dodge and moving north to the Sacramento delta. “When we moved here we weren’t looking for a modern house; we were just looking for an affordable house,” Torrigino says. “We happened to see this one and we fell in love with the kitchen, so we just jumped in.”
Prices for Streng Bros. homes have more than doubled since they bought in late 2002. Jim and Bill Streng eschewed Joseph Eichler’s open-roof atriums and radiant heating in their Modernist models, but air conditioning was a necessity in this climate of hot, dry summers.
Strengs range between 1,800 and 2,200 square feet and share aggregate paving, clerestory windows, open floor plans and spherical light fixtures with their Eichler kin.
Architect Carter Sparks, who also worked at Anshen and Allen, one of Eichler’s architectural collaborators, designed the 1962 Gutierrez/Torrigino house. In all, the Strengs built nearly 4,000 homes, of which probably 3,500 were Sparks’ designs.
“There are probably close to 100 houses in the Sacramento Overbrook subdivision,” Jim Streng said. “This model was called the ‘Classic.’ Once we started working with Carter in 1960, we phased out the traditional homes we’d been building.”
A typical Streng buyer was well educated—a college professor, teacher or architect—and more often than not, tall. (Perhaps the lofty ceilings and open floor plans particularly appealed to this type of buyer.) Jim Streng oversaw construction, while his older brother, Bill, a CPA, concentrated on the business side. They both worked the model homes as salesmen for the first 10 years of the company. The Streng brothers were always surprised and very gratified with the attention their homes receive and almost wish they continued to build for the growing Modernist market.
Of course, as amazing as Streng Bros. homes are, Richard and Paul had a long way to go to removing cottage-cheese ceilings and updating their new kitchen. Stay tuned for Part 2 to see how they refreshed this beautiful home.