Eichler Exterior Upgrades - Page 4

From fencing, siding, lighting, and doors—refreshing a facade without denying its spirit

Catherine Munson is unabashed in her belief that adding incompatible additions and ornamentation decreases the value of the home. "Inappropriate remodels are not looked on as an asset by potential buyers," she says. "If you make an addition adding square footage to the back of the house, and it's done in good taste, it will add value."

On the other hand, what would reduce the value of the house? "When a contractor wants to put a conventional roof on an Eichler and make it look like a ranch house, with the rationale that it will save on heating bills," responded Munson. "This move can make the house look ridiculous, like a little girl with an old lady's hat on." In this case, it may be better to put on an insulated roof in the original style than to destroy the architectural character of the home.

Realtor Loni Nagwani, who markets Eichlers from Palo Alto to San Jose, concurs. "When appraising an Eichler, I will give more value to those kept in the original design than to a 1980s remodel or an oak kitchen remodel," points out Nagwani. "In general, if the house has been remodeled in the modern way, that's great. But many of my clients prefer an original Eichler so they can start with a blank canvas and make the changes they want."

The final word on how to remodel an Eichler belongs to Matt Kahn, former design consultant to Eichler Homes and, for five decades, Professor of Art at Stanford University. " I'm not saying that the house can't be changed, but the changes have to be consistent with the modernist spirit," emphasized Kahn. "If there's any fundamental law, it is that architects should be involved in any Eichler remodel. And there are some regional architects who are unrepentant modernists who could do modifications to an Eichler with genuine respect for the house."

For those Eichler owners who want more space in their 1950s-era homes, Kahn says, "I don't have any clever cues for uncertain homeowners except to tell them to find someone who is knowledgeable, understanding, and professional—and who can do an 'expanded restoration,' not a remodel."