Jumbo Eichler Pops Its Top

Couple tackles "huge undertaking" as first big restoration bid in historic Orange tract
Fridays on the Homefront
This is what Jen and Matt Coykendall's Eichler, located in Orange, looked like when they moved into it in 2018. However, the couple recently took on the "huge undertaking" of removing their home's gigantic attic roof. They also made Eichler history of sorts by becoming the first home in Orange's newly designated historic neighborhood to pass through its new, rigorous design codes. Photos: courtesy Jen and Matt Coykendall

Browsing copies of Atomic Ranch magazine in their Kansas home and longing for a modern-style house, Jen Bailey-Coykendall and husband Matt soon acted on their dream—to a degree they had not yet imagined.

"We kind of got into the mid-century modern aesthetic," recalled Jen recently from her partly restored home in the Fairmeadow tract of Orange, in Southern California. "We just never thought we could have an Eichler."

Much less did they anticipate making Eichler history of sorts by becoming the first home in the newly designated historic neighborhood to go through Orange's new, rigorous design codes—and, in the process, permanently doff one of the largest 'hats' ever plopped onto an Eichler.

Fridays on the Homefront
At the beginning of the Coykendalls' attic-removal project, workers surmise the project ahead.

"It was much bigger than it needed to be," said Matt of the enormous attic roof the previous owner added in 1991 to the four-bed, two-bath designed in 1963 by Jones & Emmons. The software engineer said the home stood out so severely in the neighborhood, he added with a laugh, "We were called 'The Mothership.'"

Residents of the 339 Eichlers in Orange are protected from such architectural missteps ever occurring again, since the city approved Eichler design standards in protecting its three Eichler tracts in 2018. The Coykendalls, however, were the first owners to attempt a renovation of this scale since the protections were instituted.

"It was always the plan," Matt said of the project he and Jen have been planning since buying the home in 2018. "It was kind of a matter of seeing the house for what it could be rather than for what it was."

  Fridays on the Homefront
Matt and Jen Coykendall: "We were called 'The Mothership.'"
 

"We were really happy to find a home that needed some work," Jen admitted, explaining that it was their only hope for buying an Eichler they would treasure. They bought the house from its original owners, and the nearly original condition of the interior was a factor.

"The [attic roof] was kind of the only thing they did," Jen says of the family who sold it to them in 2018 after the patriarch died there. "Almost everything was original except for that."

Other Eichler owners have done similar restorations of Eichlers, including some in San Jose's Fairglen that we reported on last year. Fortunately for the Coykendalls, Matt noted, "There's a lot of architects in our neighborhood."

They settled on Carol Tink Fox, part of a husband-and-wife team that owns the Orange-based Stratos Form design firm.

"It was actually a really easy, natural project for her," Matt said of Tink Fox, also a Fairmeadow resident. In 1991, when the previous owners originally installed the roof attic, "all they did was bolt a giant roof on what was there before," he explained. "They didn't remove much [in the process]."