What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them?
Eichler houses, found throughout Northern and Southern California (and even outside of New York City), are some of the most celebrated tract residences in the United States. Built by a company founded by Bronx-born Joseph L. Eichler (1900-1974), the homes were constructed between 1949 and 1966 and brought midcentury-modern design to the masses through tract houses constructed in postwar residential subdivisions.
Eichler himself was not an architect or designer, but rather a developer who found himself inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright home he lived in for a time in California. Already a successful businessman from his family’s dairy business, Eichler hired local modernist architects to design homes that would be different from the traditional architecture found throughout most of postwar suburbia, like Levittown, New York.
At the time, modern architecture was typically seen in higher-end custom homes and large corporate buildings rather than middle-class residences, but Eichler homes proclaimed their modernity on both their exteriors and interiors.
The style came to be known as "California modern:" a local, nature-inspired take on the architectural principals of modernists like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. With flat or low-slung gabled roofs, an emphasis on low, horizontal forms, and few (if any) windows, Eichler facades were initially seen as unconventional, but the light-filled interiors with skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows, and private outdoor rooms and gardens quickly caught on in California.