What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them?

Add to
Like
Comment
Share
By Kate Reggev
If it's oozing with California midcentury-modern design—complete with wood paneling, gabled ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling glazed walls—it just might be an Eichler home.

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. 

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 1 of 8 - A Burlingame, California, couple with three children hired Klopf Architecture to renovate this Eichler home so that the floor plan would be even more open than before. The kitchen and other finishes were updated for contemporary use.

A Burlingame, California, couple with three children hired Klopf Architecture to renovate this Eichler home so that the floor plan would be even more open than before. The kitchen and other finishes were updated for contemporary use.


What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 2 of 8 - From the street, the home bears many of the typical hallmarks of an Eichler home. Its low roofline is largely supported by glass walls, clear cedar siding provides additional warmth, and the only windows on the front facade are transom windows.

From the street, the home bears many of the typical hallmarks of an Eichler home. Its low roofline is largely supported by glass walls, clear cedar siding provides additional warmth, and the only windows on the front facade are transom windows.

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.  

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 3 of 8 - Renovated interior spaces of this 1972-1973 Eichler in California feature white on the walls, ceilings, and new structural elements—all of which let pops of color stand out, including the brick fireplace and bright artwork.

Renovated interior spaces of this 1972-1973 Eichler in California feature white on the walls, ceilings, and new structural elements—all of which let pops of color stand out, including the brick fireplace and bright artwork.

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. 

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 4 of 8 - The classic gabled roof with exposed-ceiling rafters and tongue-and-groove paneling gives way to a central open courtyard at this Eichler home.

The classic gabled roof with exposed-ceiling rafters and tongue-and-groove paneling gives way to a central open courtyard at this Eichler home.

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. 

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 5 of 8 - This renovated home in San Rafael, California, features deep overhangs, a gently sloped roof, and few windows on the front facade, all of which are common Eichler characteristics.

This renovated home in San Rafael, California, features deep overhangs, a gently sloped roof, and few windows on the front facade, all of which are common Eichler characteristics.

On the interiors, the homes are fitted with local materials, like redwood in Northern California. They were constructed with walls of glass in order to create open, inviting living spaces that would blend the indoors with the outdoors. Finally, they emphasized functional layouts that allowed for sight lines across the more public areas, and privacy in others. 

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 6 of 8 - This Fairhaven tract Eichler home built in 1961 in Orange, California, by architects A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons features walls of glass.

This Fairhaven tract Eichler home built in 1961 in Orange, California, by architects A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons features walls of glass.

The layouts of the home were also efficient and practical, typically featuring sliding doors that took up less space than swinging doors, a second bathroom in the master bedroom, and at times, open-air entry atriums that acted as buffers between inside and out. Interior finishes often included vertical wood siding and exposed-roof rafters.  

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 7 of 8 - In this renovation of a Northern California Eichler home, the area that was formerly the atrium now houses the dining room. The transom windows keep the space bright and airy.

In this renovation of a Northern California Eichler home, the area that was formerly the atrium now houses the dining room. The transom windows keep the space bright and airy.

By the mid-1970s, Eichler’s company had built more than 11,000 homes—more than any other single-family tract developer—and the company’s impact on modern design in California was irrefutable. The homes received countless design awards and continue to be highly desirable today, with architecture buffs and midcentury-modern lovers appreciating their now-classic designs. In fact, local networks and websites have sprung up, offering advice on how to renovate Eichler homes while considering the original construction and design intention. 

What Are Eichler Homes and Why Do People Love Them? - Photo 8 of 8 - Usha and Mike Kreaden had a virtually blank slate when it came to the garden outside the 1958 Joseph Eichler house they bought in Silicon Valley two decades ago.

Usha and Mike Kreaden had a virtually blank slate when it came to the garden outside the 1958 Joseph Eichler house they bought in Silicon Valley two decades ago.

Get a Daily Dose of Design

Sign up for the Dwell Daily Newsletter and never miss our new features, photos, home tours, stories, and more.