"It's great living with a covered atrium,"claims Epstein. "It could be a stormy day, and we can still be sitting here and listening to the water in the pond, and enjoying being enclosed while still feeling like we are outside. It offers a very particular atmospheric ambience."
Epstein makes the point that a professionally constructed cover—especially on an A-frame structure like his—can retain the airiness of an open atrium while adding more practical features.
"While I like the courtyard feeling of the open atrium, I think you can enclose it properly and not lose the open feeling, but also gain usability and energy efficiency," he said. "And it expands our space for entertainment. Since I participate in the annual Marin Open Studios, we can use the atrium as a gallery for large numbers of people."
The atrium may be the one room that challenges Eichler owners to impose their own vision of what they want from a modern home—what it should look like, feel like, and ultimately live like. Open or covered, the atrium will retain its unique atmospherics, allowing the owner to enhance and shape it towards his or her own needs and preferences.
There is an important lesson learned from those Eichler homeowners who are the happiest with their atria: Take control of the possibilities and be creative. Indeed, they make the atrium work for them, not against them.