The concept of Classic Eichler Homes originated in post-war America in the middle of the 20th century. It was Joseph Leopold Eichler who developed these rather unique homes. This man is known for developing distinctive mid-century modern residential developments in California. He founded a company that built more than 11,000 homes in several communities in the north and south of the state between 1949 and 1966. This style of houses became a benchmark in architecture mainly because it was revolutionary for its time. Between the birth of the concept, the design features, and the evolution over time, discover here some of the facts that make the Eichlers so famous.
1. Eichler was not an architect
Even though the Classic Eichler Homes were revolutionary for their time, the man after whom they are named was not an architect. Joseph Eichler was more of a property developer. Moreover, he did not study in a field related to construction, but rather in business, a field in which he graduated from New York University. It was after becoming fascinated with the modern architecture in vogue at the time that he found a vocation in real estate development to offer different experiences to people. However, to offer the best to his clients, he worked with renowned architects of the time.
2. Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Joseph Eichler
That’s right! If the famous Wright had not somehow found his way to Eichler, Classic Eichler Homes might never have been built. Indeed, after studying business and starting as an accountant, his family moved for a short time to the Sidney Bazett House in Hillsborough, California. This short stay in the Usonian-style house built by Frank Lloyd Wright was enough to spark a vocation in Eichler. This event marked the beginning of his lifelong journey into mid-century modernism. He later went on to promote and establish Classic Eichler Homes.
3. Housing for all by a socially committed developer
In a post-war America plagued by many social and economic problems such as poverty and discrimination, Eichler did not just become a real estate developer. Above all, he became one of the first committed developers to offer families homes regardless of their religion or race. The developer implemented a non-discrimination policy and even resigned from the National Association of Home Builders in 1958 because the association would not follow suit. In addition, Eichler offered affordable homes for a burgeoning middle class after World War II. All of this makes Classic Eichler Homes a real home for everyone.
4. A new aesthetic
To offer better living experiences to middle-class people, the developer wanted Classic Eichler Homes to be both affordable and modern. Modern architecture, which was popular at the time, was reserved for wealthy homes and large buildings. By blending this modernism with affordable housing, Joseph Eichler and his collaborators created minimalist and elegant homes. This aesthetic was based on some singular elements such as the large floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed beams that were part of Eichler’s signatures. In addition, the design of the houses was based on a system of grids and clean lines that gave them a certain harmony.
5. Homes connected to nature
One thing people liked about Eichler houses was their relationship with nature. Their design and construction generally took into account the preservation of the house’s immediate environment. And thanks to the large windows opening to the outside, it was possible to enjoy the nature around the house while sitting inside. Creating spaces where inside and outside become one was one of Eichler’s motivations. To optimise this feeling of connection to nature, natural elements were added to the interior spaces and some spaces were extended. At the same time, this made the house appear much larger and less cluttered.
6. Open and authentic interior spaces
Like some modern architects of the time, Joseph Eichler placed great importance on the spaces contained between the walls rather than on the walls themselves. Eichler’s houses, therefore, stood out even more for their interiors than their exteriors, thanks to the openness of the spaces and the materials such as wood that were sometimes left exposed. Eichler’s plans were generally developed around a patio. In this area, there is usually a piece of nature with plants or trees. These houses thus offered people very open interior spaces where it was very easy to move around and spend time with the family.
7. A home where it is good to live
All of these features were mentioned in the Classic Eichler Homes to offer a very good quality of life. Spaces that are optimally lit naturally, but also open and connected to nature are also more welcoming and comfortable. In this way, these houses created a break from traditional houses. This certainly explains why Parents Magazine once named the Eichlers the best homes in the United States for raising children. Many people who have lived in Eichler homes agree that the comfort they offer has a positive impact on the users’ state of mind.
8. Houses copied by competing developers
The middle of the 20th century was marked by a construction boom. This certainly explains why Eichler built so much. However, while creativity was highly prized, reproducibility was equally, if not more so. Indeed, the designers of working and middle-class houses were valued for their new ideas, but also for their ability to be used again and again. It was in this context of building frenzy that the “Likelers” gradually emerged. These were houses built in the same post-war period by other developers who were inspired by or even copied the Eichlers.
9. Influence on Apple’s products
According to widespread rumours, Steve Jobs and his collaborator Steve Wozniak grew up in the Eichler household. However, this version of the story has been corrected by Eichler’s son Ned. Both Apple co-founders were raised in modernist homes in Silicon Valley. Wozniak lived in a real Eichler house in Sunnyvale. Jobs, however, lived in Los Altos in a house designed by an Eichler competitor. Jobs admired his friend’s house a lot. Today, many people believe that having roots in modernist design and architecture had an impact on Jobs and Wozniak and influenced them to create Apple products that combine originality, elegance and utility very well.
10. Their values have evolved significantly over time
From the beginning, the Eichlers were popular with the middle class, because of the great need for housing, but also because these houses were unlike anything else at the time. However, over time, his affordable houses became more and more valuable and iconic. Today, there are about 11,000 of them in Northern California. Many are scattered throughout the Eichler neighbourhoods of Silicon Valley. They are highly valued by the design community and history-minded homeowners. Many Eichler enthusiasts are willing to pay top dollar for one of these richly designed and historic homes.
This man trained in one field before practising another by vocation. A vocation inspired by architecture. Moreover, he was not an architect, but through a good strategy, he managed to influence the architecture and construction sector. This particular case proves once again that architecture can have a lasting influence on people’s lives and that creativity is needed to achieve this. To return to Joseph Eichler, he would certainly advise people to :
- listen to their hearts to find their vocations.
- to collaborate in an intelligent way to have a greater impact