A Renovated Eichler Home in San Rafael, California
By Jacqueline Leahy and building Lab / Published by Dwell

It can't have been easy for design principal Stephen Shoup to consider altering a home built by developer Joseph Eichler. Spotting the California coast, many of Eichler's homes have been added to the National Register of Historic Places as landmark homes. But with mid-century modern half a century away, masterworks by developers including Eichler need restoration.

As grand as it ever was this renovated Eichler home in San Rafael, California, exudes warm light into the California hills. Photo by: Scott Hargis

Operating with awareness of the ingenuity of the original floorplan, Shoup sought to maximize this San Rafael, California, home's simplicity and clarity. Beginning with the kitchen, Shoup and his team sought to maintain and augment the sense of connection between public spaces. Adding a window to the home's dining room provided a clear vision of the backyard to those standing in the home's open concept kitchen. To compensate for the exposure of the added glass, building Lab also added a five foot high slatted Eichler Breckenridge Thinline fence around the property.

The 1,570 square-foot home's entryway features a slatted fence that diffuses light and adds privacy to Eichler's original design. Photo by: Scott Hargis

Once open to the road, the home's new fencing brought a sense of closure and consolidation that allowed interior and exterior spaces to meld and contrast in complementary ways. The home's frontyard, once alienated from its structure, was beckoned into discreteness and folded into the home's floorplan as an atrium or a courtyard-style foyer to the main house. The fencing drew the home's inner spaces outwards, integrating the home's landscaping with the design scheme of its interior spaces.

Building Lab's renovation of the home used the kitchen as the hub around which the home's public spaces were organized. Photo by: Scott Hargis

Another view of the kitchen stresses the openness between the kitchen and the home's dining room. The insertion of a large window in the dining room opens the two spaces even further. Over the ¼” Richlite Grays Harbor countertop, the backyard is clearly visible. A red stove by Dacor Range rests in the forefront of the image. Photo by: Scott Hargis

The dining room's soft color palette combines with its profusion of natural light to produce a sense of calm and spaciousness. Photo by: Scott Hargis

The expansive windows facing the home's backyard also amplify light in the living room. Grounding grey and russet brown furnishings meld the open, airy space with the light brown fencing just visible outside. Photo by: Scott Hargis

By night, the living room gives off light instead of taking it in. WAC Recessed lighting, as well as lamps by Vibia and Nelson Bubble softly illuminate the living space. Photo by: Scott Hargis

A key aspect of the renovation was ensuring the privacy of the resident, whose frontyard formerly exposed the home to the road. At five feet high, this slatted fencing encloses just enough: providing privacy without isolating the home from its setting. Photo by: Scott Hargis

A wall of windows provides a smooth transition between indoor and outdoor spaces in this renovated home. Open to the fenced-in yard, the patio is as intimate as the living room and bedroom just inside. Photo by: Scott Hargis

building Lab


building Lab is an award-winning design-build firm specializing in thoughtful and highly refined residential remodeling. We are passionate about modern architecture, dedicated to precision quality construction and committed to green building practices. Discovering innovative solutions for the specifics of program and context is the challenge we gladly embrace. Along with a collaborative spirit, these converge in a unique ability to offer intelligent, practical and sustainable solutions in support of our clients' goals.

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