Before & After: An Architect Couple Expand a Coveted Eichler For a Growing Family

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By Alia Akkam / Photos by Jean Bai / Konstrukt Photo
Once locked in a bidding war with the homeowners and now fast friends and neighbors, BLAINE Architects gives a 1953 Eichler in California’s South Bay some much-needed space and an outdoor connection.

Architect Megan Blaine and her husband had their hearts set on buying a charming, 1,449-square-foot Eichler home in California’s South Bay, but another couple’s offer on the circa-1953 abode won the bidding war instead. Across the street, the Blaines found solace in a different Eichler.

"After we moved in, we begrudgingly went over to introduce ourselves, and found out we were not only the same age, we were both expecting our first kids around the same time," remembers Blaine, founder and CEO of the locally-based, husband-and-wife-helmed BLAINE Architects. "They became our good friends, and when the time came for them to have their second baby, they called us to see if we would help them redesign their home to work for a bigger family. It’s always good to have an architect who is already in love with your house."

Before: The Entry 

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Before: The original corridor felt dark and cramped.

Before: The original corridor felt dark and cramped.

After: The Entry

Natural light and greenery combine with wood, glass, and custom-milled exterior siding to give the hallway an open, welcoming feel.

Natural light and greenery combine with wood, glass, and custom-milled exterior siding to give the hallway an open, welcoming feel.

Smitten with the Jones and Emmons-built Eichler, Blaine, in collaboration with Silicon Valley interior designer Pamela Lin-Tam of Urbanism Designs, spent nearly two years rehabbing it, adding square footage and improving flow by converting the signature Eichler carport into an atrium, playroom, office, and second bathroom. The kitchen was also significantly upgraded.

Before: The Kitchen

Previously, the kitchen was shrouded in wood.

Previously, the kitchen was shrouded in wood.

After: The Kitchen and Living Room

For the new kitchen, which was rotated perpendicularly to improve circulation, interior designer Pamela Lin-Tam opted for "interior finishes that reflect the time period, but don't feel old or outdated," says architect Megan Blaine. Modular cabinets are paired with quartz countertops.

For the new kitchen, which was rotated perpendicularly to improve circulation, interior designer Pamela Lin-Tam opted for "interior finishes that reflect the time period, but don't feel old or outdated," says architect Megan Blaine. Modular cabinets are paired with quartz countertops.

Kitchen, dining, and living spaces seamlessly flow into one another, accentuated by lighting fixtures and furnishings selected by Lin-Tam. In a nod to the vinyl composite tile that comprised the floors of original Eichler houses, commercial solid vinyl tile was chosen for its similar retro, monolithic look.

Kitchen, dining, and living spaces seamlessly flow into one another, accentuated by lighting fixtures and furnishings selected by Lin-Tam. In a nod to the vinyl composite tile that comprised the floors of original Eichler houses, commercial solid vinyl tile was chosen for its similar retro, monolithic look.

Every mahogany wall was replaced with new ones, the contractor "painstakingly going through literally hundreds of panels over several days to find ones that matched," recalls Blaine. Since the quarter inch-round mahogany corners at the outside of the interior walls found in Eichler homes are no longer made, Blaine worked with the contractor to find a supplier of rounds that were then cut down to quarters.

Every mahogany wall was replaced with new ones, the contractor "painstakingly going through literally hundreds of panels over several days to find ones that matched," recalls Blaine. Since the quarter inch-round mahogany corners at the outside of the interior walls found in Eichler homes are no longer made, Blaine worked with the contractor to find a supplier of rounds that were then cut down to quarters.

Before: The Carport

Before: By transforming this one-time carport into an atrium, Blaine expanded the Eichler home while maintaining its architectural integrity.

Before: By transforming this one-time carport into an atrium, Blaine expanded the Eichler home while maintaining its architectural integrity.

After: The Carport

When a custom-fabricated box beam proved too cost prohibitive, Blaine’s engineer devised a steel beam strong enough to span the 18-foot length of the rear wall that didn’t feel too heavy and didn’t look out of place beside the original wood beams. "Then we painted all of the structure a warm black so it becomes a feature and ties everything—new and old—together," adds Blaine.

When a custom-fabricated box beam proved too cost prohibitive, Blaine’s engineer devised a steel beam strong enough to span the 18-foot length of the rear wall that didn’t feel too heavy and didn’t look out of place beside the original wood beams. "Then we painted all of the structure a warm black so it becomes a feature and ties everything—new and old—together," adds Blaine.

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A folding glass NanaWall system "allows the clients to keep an eye on their kids while working in the kitchen," says Blaine, who dubbed the space the 'NanAtrium.' "It helps keep the kids safe and contained, and helps the family get back to enjoying life." A swing door provides easy in-and-out access when the glass wall isn't fully opened.

A folding glass NanaWall system "allows the clients to keep an eye on their kids while working in the kitchen," says Blaine, who dubbed the space the 'NanAtrium.' "It helps keep the kids safe and contained, and helps the family get back to enjoying life." A swing door provides easy in-and-out access when the glass wall isn't fully opened.

"Eichlers are beautiful because they’re honest. You see the structure, you see the roof deck, everything is exposed because there are no attics above or crawlspaces below," says Blaine. "So that’s how we approached the design from start to finish: How can we make this building beautiful and honest?" 

A Fireclay-tiled second bathroom with Kerf cabinets is yet another boon of the extension.

A Fireclay-tiled second bathroom with Kerf cabinets is yet another boon of the extension.

One way was, per the couple's wishes, by forgoing traditional gray and painting the exterior "international orange," a calming color inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge. Another was sprucing up the kitchen with avocado green and sky blue laminate accents that mix with walnut laminated plywood, back painted glass, and stainless steel. 

Cutting a sizable hole in the roof spawned the light-filled atrium, the centerpiece of the now 1,825-square-foot house. Honoring the fixed glass walls original to Eichler homes, Blaine specified an energy-efficient, four-panel folding glass NanaWall system that stacks to the side when open so that while children play, the parents, in full sight of their little ones, cook and entertain in the kitchen. 

Before: Dining Area

Before: In the old iteration, the indoors only flirted with the outdoors.

Before: In the old iteration, the indoors only flirted with the outdoors.

After: Dining Area

Exterior siding is often brought into Eichler homes to reinforce the coveted connection between inside and outside. 

Exterior siding is often brought into Eichler homes to reinforce the coveted connection between inside and outside. 

It's exactly what the social couple—who incorporated another, larger NanaWall folding glass wall system at the back of the kitchen to create an indoor/outdoor dining space—wanted. "Any parent will tell you it’s hard to keep kids in a playroom with guests over. They want to be part of the action. But if you think about a traditional playroom, it’s usually in a boring extra bedroom, or tucked away in a dark basement. Who wants to hang out there?" says Blaine. "Give kids the coolest space in the house, and of course they’re going to want to stay." 

The Eichler home's original floor plan.

The Eichler home's original floor plan.

The updated floor plan

The updated floor plan

Related Reading: Before & After: A Luminous Remodel Breathes New Life Into a Palo Alto Eichler

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: BLAINE Architects / @blainearchitects

Builder/General Contractor: Hanaray Construction / Peter Hanaray

Structural Engineer: KFSE (Kurt Fischer Structural Engineering) 

Interior Design: Urbanism Designs/Pamela Lin-Tam

Cabinetry Design/Installation: Kerf Design/Shara Lee

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