Eichler Living: It's in the Cards

Designer revamps family-run greeting card business with a love of mid-century modern
Eichler Living Its in the Cards
Laura Harrison Castro and her successful family-run greeting card business, Harrison Greetings, has an entire line of ‘Retro Modern Holiday Cards’—and lots more. “I just took something I love—the ‘50s, ‘60s, retro, ‘atomic’—and I turned it into that,” she says. The holiday card above, which features Castro’s own Eichler in Orange front and center, was the design that kicked off the company’s ‘modern’ thrust. Photos: courtesy Harrison Greetings
Eichler Living Its in the Cards
Another greeting card from Harrison Greetings' 'Retro Modern Holiday Cards' line.
Eichler Living Its in the Cards
At home with Laura Harrison Castro.
Eichler Living Its in the Cards
The Castro Eichler in Orange: "People bust in just to get a look…"

"My Eichler, I love it," exclaims Laura Harrison Castro unabashedly. When it came to mixing her pleasure with the family business, though, she had her doubts.

"I just didn't think anyone would buy it," she admitted. "I mean, who would want an Eichler greeting card?"

The family business is Harrison Greetings, founded in 1959 in North Carolina by the father of Castro's first husband. When the couple was called in to take over the business, Laura was a biological anthropology scholar preparing to work on a doctorate at UCLA. So instead she studied Adobe Illustrator for Dummies—to help out with company design.

"It just happened on a whim that I learned it," Laura admits of her design skills. "Completely self-taught, I've never taken a class…I'm probably doing everything wrong."

With sales for the company having more than doubled in the past 12 years, the evidence suggests otherwise. What's more, it is how Laura achieved this success that is even more surprising. In 2003, she and her husband bought an Eichler in her hometown of Orange and began planning a transition for the business.

"People thought I was crazy to pay that," she said of the four-bedroom, Jones & Emmons-designed home, which cost them $600,000. In Orange, "It was the first-ever [Eichler] to hit that threshold, and it's gone on up from there."

"I grew up being babysat in an Eichler in the same neighborhood I now live in," she said fondly of the Fairhills community.

"We love it. It's such a warm, beautiful house," she said of their home, which accelerated her growing fascination with the world of mid-century modern. "Even if I do move somewhere else, I'll never give up my Eichler. It's like a piece of art."

Soon after buying their home, she and her family gained a reputation there for their elaborate holiday decorating.

"They call us the 'Eichler Griswolds' in our neighborhood," she said proudly with reference to the 1989 film 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.' "People bust in just to get a look at our house."

Much of the holiday décor has a mid-century modern feel, of course, and soon Castro wanted a greeting card to match.

"It started with the one with my house, because I couldn't find anything cool enough," she recalled of her first modernist card design. "I just took a picture of our house and turned it into a vector [graphic]."