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This Designer Did Something Very Controversial to Her Eichler Home—But for a Good Reason

It was a necessary fix for her family.

Sarah Yang

Interior designer Katie Monkhouse and her husband and two kids had been staying at her mother and stepfather’s Eichler home in Lucas Valley, California, during the pandemic shutdown in March 2020 while on a visit from the U.K. They had intentions of moving back to California and looking for their own place once things felt a bit more settled, but after more than a year of living in limbo, they decided to stay in the house permanently. But with that decision, Katie knew some changes needed to be made to the home.

Enclosing the atrium created a dedicated entryway drop zone.

Stephanie Russo

“At the time, my mother and stepfather where living mostly in their East Coast home and only came to California for the winter,” Katie says. “This created the need to renovate the home to make it functional when we were all there.” The space went from a 1,700-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house to a 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a dedicated office.

The goal was to create a highly functional floor plan within a small footprint, while also maintaining the home’s mid-century vibe but giving it a modern and warm update. Not an easy feat, but Katie was ready to take it on.

Light updates were made in the kitchen: a new backsplash, a two-tone cabinet design, and fresh lighting.

Stephanie Russo

While living in an Eichler sounds like a dream to architecture buffs, there are some drawbacks, especially when it comes to renovation plans and modern-day living needs. “Eichlers are ‘slab on grade’ which means the concrete slab is poured directly onto the land and all the plumbing runs through the slab, so adding a bathroom meant jackhammering up trenches to run pipes and trying not to damage the existing pipes,” Katie says. “It was a ton of work. The ceiling construction is also very minimal; you have tongue and groove boards as your ceiling and the foam roof is directly on top which means there is no way to run wires for electrical through the ceiling—only through the connecting walls. This meant outlet and lighting placement was tricky!”

“There were some fun elements that we had to cut out due to the budget like a slat wall feature separating the new living room from the dining space,” Katie says.

Stephanie Russo

And Katie also had to make sure the design was something everyone could love and that the project stayed within budget. “You would think that as a designer designing your own home would be easy, but we had a lot to consider: My mother and stepfather’s preferences, my personal style, the budget (which was conservative), my husband’s ideas—there were a lot of cooks in this kitchen!” Katie says.

The new living area overlooks the pool.

Stephanie Russo

The first big change was a controversial one: enclosing the atrium, a quintessential feature of Eichler homes. “The atrium made the interior of the home almost U-shaped and the flow was not great,” Katie explains. “We needed to create an additional bedroom with an ensuite now that the home would be shared part-time with my mother and stepfather. I decided the best way to tackle this was to enclose the atrium, which is sacrilege to Eichler enthusiasts, but very necessary for our family.”

The guest room can be accessed through the old living room.

Stephanie Russo

They were able to carve a guest suite out of the old living room and converted the laundry room into an ensuite bathroom. Now, the guest suite is accessible through the original living room—they added glass doors to create a defined separation. There is also now a dedicated entryway drop zone and a new living room space. “To preserve the spirit, we continued the tongue and groove ceiling into the newly enclosed atrium and added four large skylights to create the open, airy feeling you get from the atrium feature,” Katie adds.

The guest room was created from enclosing the atrium.

Stephanie Russo

The new ensuite bathroom. “We looked to a lot of classic mid-century design for inspiration. The materials like terrazzo and rift-sawn wood felt native to the style of the home and were easy touchstones,” Katie says.

Stephanie Russo

In addition enclosing the atrium, Katie and team also replaced the exterior doors, added new wood floors, and updated the two existing bathrooms. The kitchen underwent a light remodel as well—they replaced the old glass doors with rift-sawn white oak, which created a two-tone design that felt mid-century to Katie. Backsplash and lighting was also updated.

Outside, hardscaping and the landscape were updated: “We gained so much useable yard space for the kids,” Katie adds.

The exterior is painted black.

Stephanie Russo

The finished design seems to have checked off all the boxes for Katie and family—the flow is better for everyday living, there’s enough room for everyone, and it still captures the home’s Eichler spirit. “One thing that I believe strongly when designing any project is that you need to let the architectural style of the house lead,” Katie explains. “I don’t think mid-century is typically the style I gravitate towards but that is what this style of house needs to feel authentic so we stuck with it and layered in some warmth in the furniture and accessories.”