What is an Eichler Home?
Joseph Eichler was a pioneering developer of residential suburbs whose socially conscious ethic, progressive planning, and elegant modern design for moderately priced housing in California still serves as a standard for hosing developments today. Defying conventional building industry wisdom by hiring a group of progressive architects to plan subdivisions and design reasonably priced homes, Eichler provided more than 11,000 residences, approximately 10,000 Eichlers are in the San Francisco Bay Area, that helped meet the dramatic need for post world-war II housing with extraordinary commodity and style. Through 1950s and 1960s, Eichler Homes gained national and international acclaim for its innovative yet affordable features. Eichler and his architects improved family living when they initiated flexible open planning and built-in furnishings that reformed traditional rooms. (Reference: Eichler – Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream by Paul Adamson, et al., 2002)
Eichler hired the respected architect and Wright disciple Robert Anshen to design the initial Eichlers, and the first prototypes were built in 1949. During the next 18 years, a whole range of uncommon Eichler designs emerged, including later versions designed by the San Francisco firm of Claude Oakland & Associates and the Los Angeles firm of Jones & Emmons. Eichler homes can be found in areas in and around Marin County, the East Bay, San Mateo County, Eichler, Sunnyvale, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Three small communities of Eichlers also stand in Southern California – in Orange, Thousand Oaks, and Granada Hills. Together they reflect the beauty and uniqueness of the “Eichler” design and the integrity and daring of the builder behind it. Nearly 50 years later, the house that Joe built endures as a marvelous legacy.
Eichlers had a host of unorthodox features, including post-and-beam construction, slab floors with integral radiant heating, and a standard second bathroom. Later models introduced the unforgettable Eichler atrium, an entrance foyer that daringly straddled the line between indoors and out. Exteriors featured flat or low-sloped roofs, vertical siding, and shockingly blank street facades. At the side and rear walls, however, great sweeps of glass brought the outdoors in, without so much as a step to interrupt it.
Eichler homes were unusual, fresh and modern unlike the traditional postwar homes that glutted the market, and they quickly became a sales success. His homes featured flat or slightly pitched tar-and-gravel roofs, wood exteriors and entrances through atrium courtyards. Interiors had open kitchens, dining and living areas, vast expanses of glass that looked out on private gardens, atriums and patios. Large glass picture windows and sliding doors became the transparent wall, erasing the boundary between indoor and outdoor space.
The Kind of modern living exemplified in Eichler’s houses was closely associated with California’s famous coastal climate – neither too hot nor too cold. Eichler homes exemplified a regional architectural style for the Bay Area’s climate with an emphasis on modern, geometric lines, indoor-outdoor living through open plans, glazed atriums, and technological innovation such as radiant heat floors. Eichler homes became identified with living in a Modern house with and “open plan” and glass walls that seemed to bring the outdoors inside.
Eichler homes have widely spaced post-and-beams instead of standard wood stud construction, redwood ceilings and either mahogany or redwood paneling, a design that allows for nonstructural-structural glass walls and open interior spaces. The use of fewer interior walls and use of glass for some exterior walls created open floors and made Eichler Homes seemed more spacious.
Eichler homes present a handsome and anonymous face to the street, a windowless one. Only when the front door is breached, does one see the real Eichler home. Inside, you discover you are not inside! Behind the front door is a room with out a ceiling, al light-flooded atrium or an interior courtyard, which are the focus of most Eichlers. The atrium surrounded by floor to ceiling glass walls, typically lined with plants that add to the spacious feel of the homes, provides a continuous view of open area with living room, family room, study room, and even to the back yard.
Instead of the traditional partitioning of rooms, Eichler home’s floor-to-ceiling windows unite the living room, kitchen and family room into one expansive, open space. Walls of glass seamlessly merged the interior with the atrium or courtyard and green backyard. The inside of the houses are covered in sunlight, but blinding glare is blocked by redwood eaves. To keep cool, Eichler home owners rely on a cross breeze rather than central air conditioning, which is not a standard feature in the homes.
Eichler home owners say Eichler style homes bring a light and spacious feeling to the house and are an ideal layout for enjoying the outdoors.
“They illustrate the advantages of socially-responsible development – something that’s integrated with the local culture, respectful of the physical environment, Also, Eichler’s homes reflect “the enduring value that good design can bring to any housing project”, says Paul Adamson, a San Francisco architect.
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Nil & Pelin Erdal