Did you ever think it was easy for Joe Eichler to build 11,000 Eichler homes over the course of his 25-year-plus career?
Then consider Troy Kudlac, who is trying to build new ‘Eichler’ homes today. He’s a smart, committed guy who is trying to do it right. He’ll be showing off some of his new ‘Eichlers’ during Palm Springs Modernism Week on February 18, which festival promoters are dubbing ‘Eichler Day.’
The day also features a panel talk on Eichler and a film showing of ‘People in Glass Houses.’
“There are now five total with the two new ones on the verge of completion,” Troy says.” Sales have definitely picked up, and we’ve never had as much interest in our project. It appears the word is finally out and spreading out there. Turns out both homes should probably sell quickly when they are released to the market in February.”
Along with a handful of other people in the world, Troy has purchased original Eichler plans from Bay Area real estate broker Monique Lombardelli, who has negotiated rights to them and is promoting them. Troy is using Anshen and Allen’s ATH-7 model and Claude Oakland’s MC-674.
Three of Troy’s ‘Desert Eichler’ homes will be open “on the famed Dr. Scholl’s estate, a short drive from downtown Palm Springs,” in the words of the Modernism Week’s event website, which goes on:
“These homes feature mountain views, large trademark Eichler atriums, expansive glass windows, and stylish midcentury furnishings in various styles, from Danish classics by Mid Century Mobler to the finest Danish reproductions by Carl Hansen & Son.”
Troy, who started building what he envisioned as small tracts of these homes in 2013, has been building these homes on spec, meaning that once built he needs to find buyers.
For a while, he said in an earlier interview, sales were slow. “I thought they would sell faster,” he says. “It’s a smaller a niche than I thought.” He also says that, unlike in the Bay Area, in Palm Springs ‘Eichler’ is not a major brand name.
“We don’t get the same name recognition out of it,” Troy says.
He also faced competition from the desert city’s existing stock of mid-century modern homes from the actual mid-century, many of them by the Alexander construction company. The Alexanders generally have higher ceilings, which people like, and often sell for less than he can sell his 'Eichlers.'
“The homes are really expensive to build,” Troy says, “and the land is very expensive in Palm Springs.”
“A lot of people don’t like the low ceilings in the bedrooms [of the Eichlers], also the narrow halls,” Troy says. “In Palm Springs people want height and lots of glass so they can see more of the sky and the mountains.”
“We thought about increasing heights,” Troy says. “But if you’re going in that direction it’s hard to be calling the houses Eichlers. I believe in it being as close to the original as I can make it. If you’re raising the roof, you’re not building an Eichler."
“It’s definitely taught me a lot about the business,” Troy says of his desert 'Eichlers.' “There’s a lot of challenges to building them. We built the A-frame model twice, and we are getting better at it. There are still things we can get better at.”
“We have the original plans, but the original plans don’t have all the details. We have to work out the details in the field, inspired by what we see of the house, worked out by trial and error.”
As an example he gives “how you encase the wood around the windows. Each one is different. Some of the windows tie into the wall, some tie into other windows, or into the fireplace. It’s a big challenge. We spend a lot of time on it because it’s very important. I want it to look great.”
“The architect can draw up whatever he wants,” Troy says with a laugh. “But to actually make it work…You have to make field decisions to make the process work, save money, and do something aesthetically pleasing, and as close to what the architect designed as possible.”
Which is not to say he hasn’t made a few changes to the original Eichler plans.
“I always look at it like how would Joseph Eichler make changes to meet what the market wants,” Troy says. His changes have included adding a powder room (with toilet and sink) to the hobby area, so people visiting don’t have to go into the bedroom to use the facilities.
“In the A-frame model, and what we call the gallery model with the Bermuda roof, in those we removed the wall between the kitchen and dining room. When we’ve visited Eichler homes, we’ve seen that most of the owners have removed that wall. If Joseph were doing these things today, he probably wouldn’t have put that wall in.”
He also had to make changes to meet current energy codes. But, Troy says of his desert 'Eichlers,' “I would say they’re 85 to 90 percent accurate. I think we’re doing a very good job of that.”
“Of the 10,000 people who have gone through the houses, many of them are people who say, ‘Oh, I grew up in an Eichler house,’ or, ‘I lived next to Eichlers and knew them well,’ or ‘I used to live in one.’
“One hundred percent of them say, ‘This house is amazing, and it reminds me of an Eichler and I love it.’ They don’t say, ‘You did this wrong, you did that wrong.’"