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Honest opinion on Eichlers

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Joined: Sep 14 2004

Hi all,

We are moving to Marin and are considering buying an Eichler. My husband loves the period and architecture of the homes. I'm a fan also, but have concerns about the remodel/maintenance issues associated with Eichler homes.

How do Eichler homeowner feel about the upkeep issues?

Are resources (i.e. contractors) easy to find and reliable?

Can a family of 4 live in a 1700 sq. ft. Eichler home? We currently live in a 2200 sq. ft home and I'm worried about downsizing.

Are HOAs strict when it comes to remodeling?

Thanks for your opinion!

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Joined: Oct 10 2003

I've only been in an Eichler a year, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I -heart- my eichler.

First, the best thing about the Eichler community is that there is THIS forum. I have learned so many things about eichlers, and general things about midcentury houses and home improvement. This 'support group' makes Eichler living alot of fun and makes the typical quirks and problems and issues seem knowable and solvable. I mean really, what other kind of home architecture has its own support group?

There are alot of recommendations for all kinds of remodeling resources, and I know several contractors are regulars on this forum.

Downsizing I think will be a challenge, especially if you're moving from a house with more contemporary room proportions. The kitchen and bathrooms will seem positively tiny. There's no way you wont miss the extra 500 sq ft you'd be losing, unless your current house was laid out so strangely that you really had much less usable space. Most Eichlers I've seen are laid out pretty efficiently for use of space.

On the upside, if your Eichler has a courtyard or atrium, that isnt counted as square feet, but it can be as useful as the indoor space.

Good luck deciding what to do,

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

laynaga wrote:
Hi all,
I'm a fan also, but have concerns about the remodel/maintenance issues associated with Eichler homes.

The challenge of remodeling an Eichler is worth giving some serious consideration. You move in and you like the house, but you'd like to add a fan to the bathroom. Are you prepared to tear into the roof to run the new electrical line?

If you add a skylight, what electrical wiring might you intersect?

You'd like to move the toilet a foot or two when you retile the tub. Are you prepared to chisel into the slab that holds both the water supply for the house, the waste system, and the heating system?

The exterior wood siding is charming. Now strip it and paint it. All that being said, I still like my Eichler. But remodeling is a "challenge."

Robert

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

The bottom line: Eichlers are 40-50 year old homes of architectural significants. Please, before you tear one apart, live in it for a year to learn how the house functions, which are their greatest asset.

If you are not a fan of mid-century modern design and architecture, please DO NOT BUY AN EICHLER. There are many more nondescript homes out there worthy of any remodel experiments. TOO MANY EICHLERS HAVE BEEN RUINED by "creative" folks attempting to reinterpret what they have. THESE HOMES WERE DESIGNED BY WORLD-CLASS ARCHITECTS. True masterpieces. Art.

Maintenance and upkeep is a little different. MOST CONTRACTORS DON'T HAVE A FREAK'EN CLUE for dealing with flat roofs, mahogany paneling, exposed post and beams, walls of glass, insulation, and the other special details that make up an Eichler. My advise is to learn as much about your home as possible. BE SMARTER THAN THE PEOPLE YOU HIRE to work on your home.

Yes, the bedrooms are smaller, bathrooms are smaller, closets are smaller, and you'll have a carport. THAT'S THE WAY THEY ARE! I down sized from 2300 sqft capecod of chopped up rooms and two stair cases to 1240 sqft of glass walls and indoor/outdoor living. Adjusting to the smaller space was a challenge, but after I "learned" how the home "functioned" it all made sense. A. Quincy Jones' intent was to create a simpler, less complicated lifestyle. The home is to be a calm place to live in a busy, hectic world.

The main reason for living in an Eichler is because you like GOOD DESIGN. Most contractors and salesmen don't care about design. They don't understand Modernism. They just want to push they products and services. Do your research. Know what you are doing.

Upgrades are inevitable. BY ALL MEANS, STAY TRUE TO THE ARCHITECTURE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Staying original is best

I am not trying to discourage you from your Eichler, just giving you my opinion.

GOOD LUCK ; )

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

Like Joe we also downsized to live in an Eichler. Our house in So. Cal was a 3,000 sq. ft. southwestern style with craftsman overtones.
When we moved to Silicon Valley we bought a 1,400 square foot Eichler.
We have sold almost all of our large furniture and many possessions to live a more uncluttered lifestyle. One advantage of a smaller house is that it is easier to keep clean.
The challenge has been to upgrade sensitively to the Eichler architecture style. For example, our old fence was falling apart so we had custom boards milled to match the original style which also matches the house siding groove width. Of course this cost more than if we had gone to Home Depot and bought today's standard fence lumber.
The bottom line is to do your research on Eichler's architectural vision and midcentury modern in general before changing anything.
Smaller really is better.

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Joined: Sep 14 2004

Thank you all for your responses. We would not want to move into an Eichler unless we love the architecture and want to preserve it.. The simpler live style sounds very appealing to us so downsizing, though will be a challenge, I feel will be good for our busy family. I can truly see us enjoying the open living style that Eichler homes promote. Like my husband said it would be his dream home.

Last weekend we went to a few Eichler open homes in Terra Linda, I thought the homes were fabulous and need A LOT of TLC. Walking through the small bedrooms, my initial thought was to blow out the bedroom walls that face the backyard and add a good 4 -5 feet of living space (hence my question about HOA). I do agree with the idea of getting into the home and learning how it functions. But we would also like to bring modern conveniences and materials into the home while keeping in line with the architecture.

Seems like most upgrades would have to be, which as Leslie mentioned, is mucho $$$. Eichler homes are not inexpensive by any means. In Terra Linda Eichlers run from high 600s to 800s. How have you guys cope with the high cost of restoring the homes? And if you don’t mind, can you give me a rough figure of how much you’ve already spent and what you restored? This will give us a good idea as to what we’re in for?

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

If you are not doing the work yourselves estimate about 200.00 a square foot when working with a general contractor in the Bay Area.
If that seems out of the question consider acting as your own general and find qualified, licensed, trades people to do the work.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Hello Laynaga:

My parent's first home was a very small Sunnyvale Eichler, built in 1949. When hubby and I finally bought our first home 10 years ago, it HAD to be an Eichler and I cannot imagine living in anything else. Ever. The teeny windows and non-sensical design and layout of "traditional" houses would drive me crazy. For me, Eichler living worth it in every way.

I cannot answer your downsizing question, as we don't have kids. For us, our 1536 ft^2 house is plenty of room. While I would prefer a larger master Bdr than our 12x16 room and larger back bedrooms than the 10x10 size, we have made the adjustment, though finding small scale and compatible furniture is a challenge. In spite of the space limitations, one of the things that we love about these homes is their architectural sophistication -- Unlike many builders of the era, Eichler relied on architects for his designs and as a result, the floorplans are very logical and efficient. We literally use every square inch of our house -- there is no "dead space" whatsoever.

Home improvement/remodeling projects on Eichlers tend to cost a bit more than traditional houses, partly because of the slab (no crawl space and you have to jackhammer up the floor to move plumbing or to fix leaks in the radiant heating system) and roofs (no attic). Even something as simple as dry wall can cost more, if you want a perfectly smooth, modern finish on it. It is much cheaper to do the quickie textured look most commonly seen in traditional style houses, than to do a smooth, contemporary finish. Likewise with exterior painting. The grooves in the siding make painting more time consuming and expensive.

One other benefit of becoming an Eichler owner is the people and sense of neighborhood. Eichler neighborhoods are among the friendliest and most interesting of any that you could hope to find. Everyone has a common bond: their love of their homes and of sharing ideas with their neighbors. You will find a lot of artistic and technical types living in Eichlers: Artists, musicians, engineers...

Well those are my random thoughts on the joys of Eichler living. No one buys and Eichler to save $$ or to own a trouble-free home. They buy them for the love of the design and community experience.

Cathye

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Joined: Jan 16 2004

Laynaga,
Sure hope your Family decides on an Eichler. As to your questions on Homeowners Assc's really being able to "Enforce" CCR's, there are
a couple of neighborhoods that do have successwith this but there are
not many. Most older neighborhoods don't have CCRs in place.
I am on the board in my neighborhood - Rancho San Miguel in
Walnut Creek and we don't have any. We do however have many really good homeowners that want to preserve the "hood" as best we can and
continue to make it a wonderful place to live. The community spirit you find in most Eichler neighborhoods is incredible.
As for the downsizing, there are many ways to make the home work and as some folks have already said "Upgrades are inevitable" but they can all be done with time and patience. They can also all be done with the Eichler style in mind.
We don't have an original home as the previous owner had changed out the heating, walls and kitchen but it is ours and we love it. Hope you find a great home for you and your family - maybe an Eichler!!

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

This is really an effort to not sound rude (I'm sure I'll fail). As clearly shown through this website, many Eichler owners are lovers of modern/mcm architecture, and specifically of Eichlers. As I have experienced in my own efforts to remodel, regardless of whether or not your HOA allows remodeling, you may always have neighbors (other Eichler owners) nosing in your business. This is partly due because they have much concern over the look of your and their neighborhood (including its historical preservation), and they want to make sure you're not "trashing" it. Another reason is because they want to help you make your house the best it can be. You can look at it as an asset or a problem. Just know that whatever you do to your Eichler, as I have learned, is nothing close to your own private business! :) good luck.

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Joined: Jan 4 2004

Hello there,
As a general contractor that has worked on 50+ Eichler homes, I have unlocked many of the secrets in resolving the challeges associated with updating/adding on to/ preserving these homes. first off, I grew up in a 5br 2 ba Eichler in a household with 6 kids, (my parents were forever talking about incorperating the atruim into living space, but never did) and the house was adequate, (we certainly all grew up to be happy and sucessful in spite of the tiny rooms).
One thing that is interesting to me is that, generally, the people that develop the strongest opinions on design and preservation seem to be newer owners (less than 10 years), or live in MCM homes out of the area. The fact is that all (except the X-100) Eichlers that I have worked on were somewhat poorly constructed by today's engineering/ fire safety/longevity/energy efficiency standards, and these problems require a very creative and experienced Builder/Artchitect to correct while preserving the design. There is certainly a lot of controversy surrounding adding on to these homes, and people get very emotional about this issue.
Eichler ownership is not for everyone. The persons that see an original. run-down Eichler as an opportuniy to make some $$ by adding square footage as inexpensively as possble are becoming increasingly unpopular.
Msot of the houses that I have personally worked on have quirky solutions that were implemented by handy homeowners or boilerplate contractors that could not relate the project to the entire house, or make the project part of a pro-active plan to ensure long-term benefits of these corrections. (just fix it for now....)
The latest trend (>5years) has been to remodel while being sensitive to the design.
Yes the bedrooms are small; Claude Oakland, A & A, and the other arch's involved in the deisgn were seeking to expand the common living areas of the house, because that was where the family spent the most time living, bedrooms were to be occupied for sleeping.
Joseph Eichler was very liberal politically, and wished to create affordable modern, mass-produced homes for all races and people to enjoy. (remember we're talking about the 50's)
I've talked to a nice, older gentleman that worked on the Eichlers in the SM highlands, and he said that production was at a pretty fast pace.
Consequently, there were compromises made in the construction of these homes so that they could be priced lower. Certainly there were options offered to the prospective home buyer, and once in a while I will see some original equipment in the smaller developments that I don't see very often.
Some of his more pristene, later developments are unpopular with the mainstream of the Eichler following, because they are different from most of the mass-produced homes that people are familiar with. I will say that on these higher end later models, we see drywall (as it was less expensive in the mid sixties) as well as other finishes thought by many to be in conflict with design.
I am rambling a bit, so I'll leave with this: definately occupy your new
Eichler for a while before making any significant changes to the design.
Doing work to these homes is certainly a chess game; don't turn it into a game of checkers. Good luck.

renman

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Joined: Mar 24 2003

hmmmm.... my 2 cents
well as far as the upkeep question is concerned. i think Modern homes are the easiest to take care of.

I am currently leasing out my Eichler and live in a 1947 bungalow and the different is night and day in terms of day to day upkeep.
The clean non-ornamental cupboards, formica surfaces and linoleum floors of the Eichler were super easy to keep clean compared to the nooks and crannies of older styles and newer styles that mimic older styles.

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Joined: Mar 25 2003

I lived in a 1650 square foot Eichler and moved to a 2700 square foot two story McMansion in Chicago (long story). Honestly, the bigger house felt smaller because of the lack of windows and their feeling of inside/outside living and an overall neglect of design and flow. We ended up moving back to California and a 1700 foot Eichler. Yes, the non-public areas are small, but I never bought the idea of master suite as spa. The McMansion had a master suite that was as big as my first house and it was all wasted space (although, the attached library was nice.) Modern living means commuting, working and collasping. You want a spa, make a Saturday of it and go to a real one.

We have two kids, a smaller yard and $20,000 worth of termite damage, but I wouldn't go back to that McMansion if you paid me.

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Good to have you back, Tom! I hope your new Eichler is as nice as your old one.

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Joined: Apr 10 2003

Anyone seen 'The Incredibles' yet, lotsa modern background stuff, the animators say they were inspired by Eichler homes. Check LA Times.com for more-premium content-subscribe and/or pay for access-
there's even a pic of their house.

Wishing for modern home.

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