Eichler X-100 in Full Bloom

Recent photo shoot unveils historic San Mateo home as a ‘picture of preservation’

Once faced with an uncertain future, the Eichler X-100, the unique steel-framed mid-century modern home built by Joe Eichler to the design of architects Jones & Emmons, is finally in full, glorious bloom.

"I always considered it the number-one Eichler home, in fact long before we even came onto the scene," said Marty Arbunich, director of the Eichler Network and current owner of Eichler's experimental demonstration house in the San Mateo Highlands. "It's a special house that deserves special treatment."

New photographs of the fully furnished and landscaped X-100 (many featured below) show just how special it really is!

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Above: X-100 owner Marty Arbunich with photographer Sabrina Huang at the X-100. All photos: Sabrina Huang Photography

Since 1993, when he started the Eichler Network, Arbunich has enjoyed connecting mid-century modern homeowners and professionals, especially when those connections supported preservation and restoration efforts. To that end, the X-100 may be his favorite pet project of all.

"Looking at the new photographs by Sabrina, I'm so happy with the results," Arbunich said of a fresh batch of X-100 photos taken by Eichler Network staff photographer Sabrina Huang. "I think they turned out beautifully."

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

Actually, Huang is the latest of many expert professionals recruited by Arbunich to help restore and showcase the X-100 since 2003, when he and then-partners Adriene Biondo and John Eng purchased the unique home together to preserve its place in modernist history.

He pointed out that the one-of-a-kind 1956 construction needed lots of TLC and stewardship back in 2003, adding, "We were also very concerned at the time that the house could be ruined in the wrong hands, with unnecessary remodeling and even a second-story addition, which was a common threat at the time. Our approach, of course, was much different."

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

The partnership entertained select tenants to live at the X-100 for most of the next decade before Arbunich assumed sole ownership in 2013 and vowed to get to work on the landmark home's National Register of Historic Places nomination, as well as on its thorough restoration, which had been slowed by the recession of 2008.

"I immediately got more focused on our original goals," he recalled of assembling a team that eventually included interior designer Lucile Glessner Design (as project manager, aesthetic consultant, and furnishings procurement), landscape architect JC Miller of Vallier Design Associates (landscape and hardscape, with assist from New Forest Landscape Design), general contractor Smollen the Builder (building of fences and gates), stager Camila Baum of Modernism for the Masses (furniture sourcing assist)—and now Huang.

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

Arbunich first noticed Huang's work several years ago, while she was shooting for Eichler Homes Realty in the South Bay. Born in Taiwan, she trained at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Montana to specialize in shooting architecture, food, and hospitality photos. Mid-century modern design in particular, however, "does make my heart beat faster."

"I really love them. They just speak to me," she confessed of MCM homes, noting that one of her greatest pleasures is to relax a minute inside the house before she begins—"just sitting and enjoying the moment before I start clicking away."

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

"Every house has its own personality," said Huang. Depending on the materials it's made of and the available natural light, "each is a little different and has its own set of challenges. But I always have fun shooting them all, because I rarely get to shoot the same house twice."

She said Arbunich, like many architectural clients, had a very specific vision he sought for the X-100 photos. Although she sometimes will use shadows for effect, "He likes a more even lighting look."

Dealing with glass walls and 32 feet of overhead skylights, she said, makes for "a little different way of looking at a photo shoot."

Arbunich served as Huang's assistant for the X-100 shoot, helping her set up the 24 different scenes, which carried on for more than 13 hours.

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

However, any challenges encountered were minor in comparison to the series of tough decisions Arbunich had to make during the two-year restoration: matching the pool-decking aggregate in preparation for its eventual replacement, carefully preserving the original coping that ran around the backyard pool, choosing house colors and furnishings—and especially the necessary replacement of the glass-walled fencing that spanned the width of the property in the backyard.

"Our approach for the new fence was to open up the view of the Santa Cruz Mountains facing west as much as possible," he said of a decision he made with landscape architect JC Miller and contractor Craig Smollen to reduce the number of fence posts (placing them eight feet apart instead of the original four feet) and omit the 30-foot-long horizontal top beam from the original design.

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

Now that the X-100 is officially on the National Register of Historic Places (since 2016), its restoration is complete, and the home is documented with photographs showing it in great health, Arbunich enters the final phase of what will eventually become a 20-year stewardship for him.

The home is currently available for long-term lease, as well as for the occasional tour. "I like the idea of opening the X-100's doors to select organized groups—architects, designers, mid-century modern fans—especially since it is such an important part of Eichler history—and that's something that ought to be shared."

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

But the last leg of his final phase is "actually going to be a sad one for me," said Arbunich, given that he expects it to conclude with the eventual sale of the X-100 during the next few years.

But, in the meantime, the joy continues. Arbunich and his wife recently hosted family at the X-100, and they "set the mood perfectly," staging the evening by fine-tuning the 13 spotlights on the roof, interior-light dimmers, and outdoor landscape lighting.

"It was kind of magical night, the way the fog rolled down the mountains and then just stopped," he related. "Especially in the darkness, when the accent lighting inside and out and the glowing blue of the pool transformed the house and backyard into something else altogether. Just amazing!"