This Eichler Fit the Family

Unique custom design in the Oakland Hills reflects owners’ personalities—and dreams
Fridays on the Homefront
Oakland Hills Eichler owner Caroline Lichtenstein shot this photo of her family—son Steven, husband Robert, other children Nancy and David—on the roof of their Eichler as it was nearing completion in the mid‐'60s. Photo: courtesy Nancy and David Lichtenstein

If an Eichler were a person, what sort of personality might it have?

As adventurous as the architecture? For sure. As cheery and curious as the open spaces and surprising views? No doubt.

Well, how about a personality that's willing to go his or her own way, as Joe Eichler's architects did in creating homes that looked so unlike the standard American box?

Recently, our curiosity about personality took us high into the Oakland Hills. There, hidden at the end of a long driveway, we encountered a unique Eichler that truly suggests the convergence of personality between a home and its inhabitants.


Fridays on the Homefront
The rear of the Lichtenstein Eichler today. When built, wooden doors that swing out, rather than Eichler's typical aluminum sliders, were installed in this very unique, custom Eichler home. Photo: Dave Weinstein

For nearly five decades, Robert Lichtenstein, a Kaiser physician, and Caroline Lichtenstein, a "professional volunteer" (in the words of daughter Nancy), lived out their lives in this Eichler of their dreams, changing scarcely a thing in the home since it was built in 1966.

The Lichtensteins carried on a veritable love affair with that Eichler, an L‐shaped structure of 2,600 square feet sided with redwood inside and out. The home looks out from one side at a courtyard where the couple had Eichler Homes preserve a large pine tree, and from the other side at a view of San Francisco Bay and beyond.

The property is two‐thirds of an acre, much of it steep, and much of it lovingly landscaped by Robert and Caroline with native plants, and others from similar Mediterranean climes.


  Fridays on the Homefront
The open kitchen is seen from the dining area. Only the tile floor is new; the rest is original. The ceramic bowls on display are by Caroline Lichtenstein. Photo: Dave Weinstein

Robert, an affable man, was no pushover. But it was Caroline—an accomplished potter, seamstress, and enthusiastic photographer—who was the 'instigator' when she convinced her husband to take up folk dancing—and on many other occasions too, Nancy believes, including when the decision was made to build this house.

Husband and wife were both likeminded and independent spirits. "Dad swam in the morning. Mom swam in the evening," Nancy says, adding, "They did so many of the same things at different places and at different times. They had so much in common, but they rarely did those things together."

Both Robert and Caroline were deeply interested in natural history and the out of doors, taking "botany‐oriented trips to places like Puerto Rico, South Africa, and Venezuela," Nancy’s brother, David Lichtenstein, says.


  Fridays on the Homefront
Robert and Caroline Lichtenstein, seen here in the 1980s, shared many of the same activities and interests, though not always simultaneously. Photo: courtesy Nancy and David Lichtenstein

Nancy, who owns the house today with David and their sister, Joanne, says their mother "had been looking at houses, and she just fell in love with the whole Eichler concept."

Nancy and David believe that an uncle, who worked as an engineer for Frank Lloyd Wright on the Guggenheim Museum and the Marin Civic Center, may have introduced the couple to Eichler design.

The family had been living in Oakland, not far from the existing Sequoyah Hills Eichler development. But the Lichtensteins wanted a view and more isolation. They hired Eichler to build a custom home on a lot that cannot be seen from the street. "She wanted her house here. She wanted the view," Nancy says.

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