California's Eichler homes, the Streng homes of the Sacramento valley, Palm Springs' Alexanders, and similar mid-century modern classics have much in common. They offer architecturally designed serenity; clean, simple lines; open and unpretentious living; and the characteristic blending of interior and exterior spaces that become one with the surroundings.
They also provide excellent opportunities to create personal statements, punctuated by both visual appeal and comfort, through a great variety of interior furnishing options. Today, with the success of industrialization and mass production, furnishings for mid-century modern homes are readily obtainable, and run the gamut in terms of quality and price points.
Free of ornamentation, Eichlers and other modernist homes are often likened to blank canvases, waiting to be transformed and personalized into a reflection of their owners. Determining the selections that best embellish any particular canvas is an individual process, and often a step that homeowners find challenging.
With good taste, a sense for design, and attention to staying true to the architecture, the possibilities are limitless yet obtainable. Whether one seeks out an original Eames chair, a Bertoia lounge reproduction, or a low and simple Scandinavian teak sideboard, today all of these pieces and more are a simple mouse click or short drive away.
So how does one go about furnishing the spaces they inhabit in a way that is functional, meets individual needs and personalities, and yet complements the modern home's architectural integrity and aesthetic? Before trying to address that question, it might be helpful to look through the window to the past, and at the modernist legacy left behind by the design professionals who played such an important part in this movement we now call modernism.
"I can remember, we never took the position that people had to throw out their old furniture and buy 'modern' for their Eichler," says former Eichler Homes design consultant Matt Kahn. Kahn, a longtime Eichler homeowner and Stanford art professor, reminds us of the philosophical inclusiveness employed by Eichler and his various design teams.
"An Eichler home does not impose itself that way," he says. "We would combine the old with the new. I can remember a home where we placed a Sarrinen-Knoll table with a large white oval top in a master bedroom with two Victorian oval-backed chairs next to it. They were antique dark mahogany and black horsehair and bought from a classified newspaper ad. It was a beautiful statement in both harmony and contrast."