Eichler Homes: Loveliness in Walls of Glass

So awhile back, I said I was going to write in more detail about some of my favorite houses, since I’m quite smitten with homes for some reason.

One of the really cool ones I’ve had the pleasure of entering is Bookclub Lauran’s house, which is an original Eichler home.  It’s everything “midcentury” that Superman loves and everything “outdoors-in” that I love – we might have to try to move to an Eichler neighborhood someday. (That’s going to be us, in that picture above … once I, er,  lose 50 pounds and die my hair brown. …)

Joseph Eichler was a homebuilder in the 1950s and 1960s. He was not a designer, but a builder (much like William Lyon of today), but was the first of his kind, creating entire tracts of homes in a new industry called “merchant building” to meet the housing rush brought on by postwar need.

Eichler built throughout the country, but focused most of his communities in California, where he built more than 11,000 homes, both in Northern California (San Francisco, Marin County, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, etc.) and in Southern California (Orange, Thousand Oaks, and Granada Hills).

The designs focused on a new “California modernist” style – tons of glass, lots of “look-through” views, center atriums, low beams, skylights, clean design, and a blending of inside and outside. The later designs had atriums, where rooms were lined, “train car” style, into a “U,” so each room had a view to the back yard and/or to the atrium in the center of the “U.” The atrium typically featured a Zen-style “clean” garden. Back yards typically featured patios and pools. It was all so very “midcentury California” — the kind of place you imagine halter-topped women lounging with their white-rimmed sunglasses. Here are some brochure pictures about them from that era:

Although the designs didn’t sell well at the time (perhaps a little too avant guard for the returning soldiers, who were craving traditional homes as they returned), they managed to remain very modern-looking throughout the decades. And now they have a whole new allure — one that comes from looking distinctively midcentury modern. All the tell-tale signs are there – especially those walls of glass. And the best part is that entirely-intact neighborhoods remain.

Lauran lives in one of the remaining Eichler neighborhoods in Orange, Fairhaven, which runs primarily along Woodland and extends out on a couple of side streets. Driving through the neighborhood is truly like driving through another era. Here’s her street (now don’t you half expect a Studebaker to be parked out front there?):

Lauran’s house features the classic atrium, so you knock on the front door, but when you step through it, you’re still outside, walking through an open-air atrium. Here’s a picture looking through her front door (I should have had Lauran and Mark pose like the couple in the top photo). Anyway, look at those open-air beams! Just lovely:

Here’s Lauran’s kitchen. I love the open style:

Here’s part of the hallway, to show how the atrium lets the “outdoors in” all throughout the home. LOVE IT:

Here’s her living room, which she had decorated for our Christmas brunch with adorable snowflakes hanging from that low-beamed ceiling:

Isn’t that the most beautiful design?

It seems like the Eichler concept is being noticed all over lately. Eichler homes were even featured in the “Meet the Volkswagen” TV campaign recently.

And one of my favorite bloggers, Shea Rosemeyer, came all the way from Australia for a visit and had on her list that she wanted to see an Eichler home! (Too bad I didn’t read it ahead of time or I could have introduced her to Lauran!) Apparently, she managed to swing a few tours in the Orange County tract, and here’s her blog post about it: Actually, Buy Me  a Pink Flamingo.

So what do you think? Have you ever seen one of these neighborhoods? Do you have a neighborhood near you that simply whispers another era?

For more on me and Superman running around to look at MCM architecture, visit my post on our Palm Springs weekend called “If You Love Mid-Century Modern…”.

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16 thoughts on “Eichler Homes: Loveliness in Walls of Glass

    Do you think they’d notice if I just kind of “moved in?” I wouldn’t be a problem for them.
    Well, honey we WILL move into one of these homes one of these days!!!!

  2. Superman is funny……..we’ll have to invite him to a summer bbq and maybe he can hide in the closet as everyone is leaving. There are a few for sale in my neighborhood, you ought to check them out! I feel honored to be the focus of your blog. And I have to say that I LOVE living in these houses. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to adjust to a traditional walled house because Im so used to and find it so relaxing to look at the outdoors all the time. And since I’m surrounded by only single story homes it’s like having my private oasis.

  3. Hi, Lauran! Oh, we’ve been checking them out! Prices are really great right now, actually. (But we would have to wait until the kids finished school because we LOVE their schools. So … maybe in a few years?) We’ll keep watching them. …

    BUT! Lauran!!! I checked Shea Rosemeyer’s blog when I was checking my link here, and read through all her comments, and saw that you left a comment there, and she was trying to contact you! Did you see that? She wanted you to e-mail her!

  4. Hi Laurie – I loved your piece on the Eichler houses. I have a friend who is raising her family in one up in Palo Alto and I’m really envious! We just went to an exhibit in NYC about mid-century “open plan” elementary and high schools designed by now-famous architects that have succumbed to the wrecking ball after fewer than 50 years because school districts would rather streamline the buildings to be multi-story and add parking lots where the current jewels of building are situated. Argh! I’m not sure about your So Cal friend’s Eichler, but another cool aspect of the Northern California ones, is that they feature radiant heating within the concrete floors, so there’s no forced air heating … highly efficient, and super comfy when the weather gets cold. Kind of helps compensate for all of that floor-to-ceiling glass on days when the weather is cool.

  5. That is a very cool house – I think I should move into one too! I don’t think they would be too great around here with all the rain and cold weather, but it would be wonderful in Calif!

  6. I love Lauran’s house too! It was my favorite place to have book club. 🙂

    Thanks for the background about Eichler. Very interesting.

  7. Hi, Adam! That’s interesting about the heating feature in the Northern Cal ones. I’m not sure if the So. Cal ones have that (perhaps they don’t really need it as much, since the weather doesn’t cool as much as in No. Cal?). But that’s an excellent design idea. I did see the concrete floors in a lot of the older pictures I was looking at. I’ll bet it’s hard to find the homes with the original concrete floors, because I could see that being a common change made in the 70s, when wall-to-wall carpeting became so popular. (My parents bought a 70s house that had the bedrooms floored in VINYL! Yes indeedy. Weird.) Anyway, thanks for the great comment. The NYC exhibit sounds interesting, too. I think people are starting to rethink taking some of the 50s buildings down now, now that the style is re-popularized, but yes, money/space always trumps design, unfortunately.

  8. Debi — Hi! Actually, I was thinking about weather when I was writing this, because I was looking at the pictures of the No. Cal ones and noting how different their views were. Many of them had pines and juniper-looking plants of some sort in the atriums, or in the back yards. (And you know there a gazillion types of pines, so I don’t know which these were, but they looked very “Northern Cal” to me!) But it gave them a whole different look — just the trees. The So Cal ones had a lot of palms, or mini palms, with a lot of stones in the atrium in a “Zen garden,” or “desert garden” style. But it made me think about how not only the plants, but the weather would vary so much and alter your floor-to-ceiling view. Northern Cal gets a lot more rain, but that could be very beautiful to sit and watch it outside your window. I guess heating would be the main issue, but as Adam noted above, the floors had that issue addressed. Interesting. …

    Janelle — Hello! Glad you liked the background on Lauran’s house. She actually has a book about Eichler at her house that she pulled out for me once — did you happen to be there that evening? I wished I had more time to look through it, but we were probably discussing another book that night. 🙂

    Lauran — What’s the name of your book?

  9. Lauri, no I didn’t see that (about Shea). How do I get back to her blog (or you can just email her my email address if you want).

  10. Oh and Laurie (sorry left out the ‘e’ on my other email), the book is “Design for Living Eichler Homes” Jerry Ditto and Lanning Stern. Looks like it was published in 1995.

  11. Wow! First off, great photos. I officially want to live in Lauran’s house. I am a fan of modern (Mies Van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Gropius, etc.) more than MCM. That said, this is really my first look inside an Eichler home and I think it is fantastic. I especially love the way Lauran has warmed up the space, as modern can feel cold, through the use of color, materials and texture. Lastly, I love… L-O-V-E-!… that kitchen. I would never leave that kitchen. That’s the kind of kitchen that turns a house into a home. I am one of those people who tends to think that home ownership is more trouble than it’s worth, but a house like this could get me to change my mind.

  12. HI Laurie,
    I was searching for posts about Eichlers and found yours – yeah. Funny, I actually live in Fairhaven around the corner from Lauran. We have the same flat roof model with the half moon fireplace even. I can’t say how much I enjoy living in these open plan homes with the glass and light! The neighborhood is awesome as well as it seems these homes attract a diverse crowd that often have a creative side. Those following this might want to check out Atomic Ranch magazine. They feature lots of post modern all over the world. Many builders did similar homes and it is alway fun to see how people have renovated or decorated . They also did a hard cover book that has great stories and pictures. I have just started a blog myself and hope you will check it out! modernwise.blogspot.com

  13. Hi, G! Thanks for swinging by! I checked out your new blog, and it’s very cool. Love your living-modern-on-a-smart-budget concept. I’ll be checking that out for sure. Oh, and my hubby totally gets Atomic Ranch!!!! He loves that magazine! It’s great. Thanks again for stopping by here, and maybe I’ll see you in the Fairhaven neighborhood sometime when we’re at Lauran’s house! : )

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