"The outdoor space really forms an extension of the indoor space," says Calegari, who shares a Streng home in Davis with son Rowan, 11, and daughter Una, 8. "The kids always want to go in and out."
The Calegari residence, known to some young neighbors as 'Valerie's Park,' has a trampoline in the backyard. (See death defying stunts by Una, the family gymnast!)
The front yard is littered with things to swing on, rock on, and ride, alongside a neighbor's basketball hoop. Inside are toys, crayons, novels about the travails of youth by Jerry Spinelli, iPads, and Calvin and Hobbes tomes.
"I don't mind things being messy," Valerie says. "I try to keep things as open as possible so they're not running into stuff." Scott San Filippo also enjoys the easy egress. "I come home, say hello to Mona, and rush outside and kick around a ball with Dash," he says.
But the interior is roomy enough to accommodate a silk circus swing hanging from a beam. Dash takes circus classes, learning somersaults, and walking a beam while spinning plates on a stick.
"He's got a lot of energy," Scott explains, "and we had to find an outlet."
"Neighbor kids can get wound up, run around in circles here playing monster or zombie," Scott says. "It's the open floor plan that just lets them run crazy."
But can getting in and out be too easy?
"Easy in and out has pros and cons, for sure," says Melissa Beard, who is raising two rambunctious boys with her firefighter husband Tim in Streng brothers' Evergreen Commons neighborhood in Sacramento.
It's easy for Jamison, 4, to access his back patio, with its miniature furniture and fire truck, through sliding doors. But, thanks to an alarm, when he slides one open his mom hears "beep, beep, beep, and I know someone is trying to escape," she says. "It's just to keep tabs on him."
Her son Patrick, who's pushing 2, has a room that doesn't have sliders at all.
Another way to provide indoor-outdoor connections while keeping control of little ones is by parking the tot in the atrium. There, Mona San Filippo says of Dash, "He's contained but he's outside."
Atriums in Streng houses provide joys all their own for young ones. In the hot Sacramento Valley, the Streng brothers decided that building Eichler-style enclosed atriums would create heat traps. Instead, they provided 'atriums' without walls that are fully integrated with living areas and have skylights over open gardens.
That means Melissa, Tim, Jamison, and Patrick have a tree growing in their living room amidst a bed of pebbles—a fruitless pear that reaches to the skylight. People ask, "Is that real?" Melissa says. "Is that a tree in your living room?"
"I like the tree," Jamison says. "You can run around it."
Things like an indoor tree, their mom suggests, affects how her children see the world.
"I don't think they might differentiate between indoor space and outdoor space. We have rocks in our living room! We have to tell them, 'Don't throw rocks at the windows.'"