Eichler Homes - Ahead of Their Time
Less than a handful of blocks from Darling Daughter’s current home in Orange, California, is a neighborhood populated by what are known as Eichler homes.
Eichler homes were built in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, first in Northern California and eventually working their way south. If you ever wander randomly into a Eichler neighborhood, you'll know it. It's not just one or two homes, here and there, the entire neighborhood is populated with them.
The homes were very much ahead of their time. While the rest of the country was building basic block, ranch-style houses, Eichler homes featured modern architecture.
Designed for middle income families, they are one-story structures with roof lines sloping gradually up to a point from either end.
I get excited looking at varying architectural designs, especially more unique and modern ones. I’m a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan.
The designs of these homes are especially fun to look at for Darling Daughter and me because of the resemblances they bear to the home I grew up in and where my parents still live.
While their home is a two-level, split foyer style, I suspect whoever designed it was familiar with the Eichler homes and design. Built around the same time as the Eichlers, it also has no attic and supporting beams protrude outside the exterior walls along the roof line.
Eichler homes rarely have windows you can see through on the front and, like those homes, my parents house has a large opaque window beside the front door allowing for light to enter, but not allowing passersby to peek in from the outside.
Eichler homes also have open floor plans, something that really didn’t become all that popular and in vogue until a decade or two ago.
My parents’ home was designed with no supporting walls, making it easy to redesign as time goes on. About 30 years ago they ripped out the walls in the first floor so that, with the exception of the bathroom and laundry room, it is now one big room. You can stand outside the windows on one end and see through the house and windows on the opposite.
My own home, with its lofted ceilings, open floor plan and exposed metal I-beams supporting both the first and second floors might be considered a modern evolution of that same design.
Eichler was not an architect himself but a real estate developer. He hired architects to create his vision for what these homes should be.
That means the homes are not carbon copies of each other but bear some overall features making them very easy to pick out. Kind of like the family whose children do not look exactly alike, but whose features are enough in common you instantly know they are related when you see them.
He too, was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, having lived for a short time as a child in a Wright-designed home. One of the first architects he hired was a disciple of Wright’s. His homes were not the only thing about Eichler that was ahead of its time. Eichler, himself, was out front in terms of social issues as well.
He created his own non-discrimination policies, promising his homes for sale to anyone of any religion or race. In the late 50s with “white only” practices prevalent throughout the country, he resigned in protest from the National Association of Home Builders when they refused to adopt an anti-discrimination policy.
Today Southern California home prices have driven up the cost of Eichler homes, probably putting them out of reach of many of the middle class families who were his original target. Most homes sell for more than a million dollars. A recent one I found online was listed at $1.4 million.
It costs nothing, however, to drive through the neighborhoods where these homes are located and enjoy these architectural wonders for yourself.
To learn more, Dwell did a nice story, with photos, on how people have updated their Eichler homes for today’s world
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