The Comeback Kid: Joseph Eichler

By Michelle Lee, DeLeon Marketing Dept

A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF EICHLER HOMES AND THEIR RESURFACING POPULARITY

Grab a piece of paper or your smartphone and jot down some of the key elements that are must-haves for your dream home. Do you favor more traditional styles or post-modern designs? Would you add an outdoor kitchen, swimming pool, or guesthouse out back? How close do you want to be to nature or a city center? Chances are that regardless of your personal preference, at least one of your essential features will tie back to Eichler-era architecture.

Active from 1949 to the mid-1970’s, legendary real estate developer Joseph Eichler made waves that left him with a reputation as a social visionary that is still recognized today. He and his company, Eichler Homes, constructed over 11,000 homes in twelve communities across Northern and Southern California, as well as a few custom projects in Chestnut Ridge, New York. He advocated for inclusive and diverse communities, establishing a non-discrimination home selling policy and even resigning from the National Association of Home Builders when they rejected his policy in 1958. His homes were built to suit middle-class Americans and young families, using simplistic yet durable materials. Much like Levittown, in Long Island, NY, Eichler’s timing was perfect for GIs returning from war.

Joseph L. Eichler
Constructed over 11,000 homes from 1949
to the mid-1970’s

Eichler himself was influenced when living in a home designed by world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose designs largely revolved around geometric shapes, a strong connection to nature, and unification of building components so that a structure flows seamlessly together as a whole. Eichler’s distinct style, commonly categorized as mid-century modern and largely considered the defining icon of the “California Modern” aesthetic, features strong indoor-outdoor connections through glass walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights, and open-concept floorplans that allow for an airy and modern feel throughout. His goal was to always try to bring the outdoors in, even in a suburban setting, and create a garden-like oasis in the front and backyards. The windows, however, are rarely front-facing, which serves as a highly differentiating factor of Eichler homes from many other architectural designs.

Structurally, many Eichlers resemble a simple rectangle with low-sloping roofs and clean geometric lines. These homes feature an emphasis on large patios and private outdoor rooms, and occasionally swimming pools on larger lots. The interiors are often left white, allowing sunlight to flood in and bounce around, with brightly-colored doors (traditionally red, but occasionally yellow) for a classic mid-century pop of color. Many of his other distinctive features were very unconventional and innovative for his time, including exposed post-and-beam construction, tongue-and-groove and mahogany paneling along the walls and ceilings, and iconic concrete floors with radiant heating underneath. Some homes, especially those later in Mr. Eichler’s career, featured an indoor atrium in a center courtyard or in the main foyer.

If any of the above features made your dream home wish list, your design tastes may be geared towards an Eichler home. Some of his unmistakable elements, such as exposed beam ceilings and a strong emphasis on indoor-outdoor connections, have resurged in current trends across the board. Many of his homes have been preserved and left largely intact, as key icons of the time, and are predominately located in prime Silicon Valley cities, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Altos, Portola Valley, San Mateo, and San Jose. His designs still remain well-suited for the casual California climate and easy, laid-back lifestyle found here, which has impacted its resurfacing popularity in the current housing market. Here at DeLeon Realty, we have sold many fine Eichler homes, sometimes at prices in excess of $4 million. In fact, by strange coincidence, we have another great example of an upscale Eicher Home on a 20,020 square foot lot (per county) in Menlo Park coming on the market in a few weeks (pictured above).

If you are interested in purchasing a piece of Eichler history, please call Ken DeLeon at 650-380-1420.