Elements of Eichler style

Birth of the modern ranch home

Sculpted seats
Photo: Thomas J. Story

What Eichler style is

Modern, one-story wood and glass, architect-designed subdivision homes (unique to the postwar suburban building boom of the 1950s and '60s) that emphasize casual indoor-outdoor living.

Though the designs evolved over time, they often had flat or shallow-pitched roofs, exposed beams, and expanses of plate glass.

Garages often faced the street, while living areas opened toward the rear; later examples included an open-air atrium at the center.

The Eichler was a version of the suburban ranch house popularized by designer Cliff May and others.

A signature feature was running materials both inside and out (like the brick for a fireplace) to reinforce the idea that house and site were extensions of each other.

History

Joseph Eichler left his in-laws' butter- and egg-distribution business to become a suburban developer after World War II.

Living two years in a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Hillsborough, California, house profoundly influenced his aesthetic, and he subsequently hired modern architects to design his subdivision houses.

He built more than 11,000 homes from 1950 until his death in 1974.

Reading

Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2002; $50) by Paul Adamson and Marty Arbunich; helpful websites include www.eichlernetwork.com, www.eichlersocal.com, www.jetsetmodern.com, and www.lottaliving.com.

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