Eichlers Go Generation Z on San Mateo Highlands Tour

Tourists are coming and going through one of the tour houses. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Some of the spiffiest, most outrageous and -- in one case -- over-the-top Eichlers ever, strutted their stuff May 3 and 4 during ‘Outside Inside 2014,’ the San Mateo Highlands Eichler Home Tour.

The tour, which benefited the neighborhood’s elementary school, attracted more than 1,200 fans, many of them Eichler owners but some from as far away as Florida and Texas, who enjoyed sunny skies, cool breezes, cooler vintage cars, and each others company.

“After you live in an Eichler,” one woman told another in a not atypical exchange, “you can never live in another house. You have to have the glass.”

Eleven Eichlers were on display, with one non-Eichler ringer. Tourists enjoyed a home with wild, atomic-age colors and décor; several homes with flat screen TVs showing before-and-after images of the home’s redo; and paintings and other artwork displayed in the houses, including attractive work from the late Chris Ranes, who created them in her own Eichler.

Several artists were on hand to show their work, including Michael Murphy of Forgotten Modern fame, and Jeffery Crussell, who lives in an Orange County Eichler and shows drawings of Eichlers.

Contractors who work on Eichlers, some of them Eichler Network service providers, set up displays in the homes.

Members of an engaged cohort discuss the subtleties of a remodel on Lexington Avenue

Organizers even provided shuttles so visitors could get from one side of the neighborhood to the other to catch all the houses.

There were stone tiles, restored cork floors, and one home wrapped not in Eichler siding but in “Peruvian Huangana wood, shipped from Peru,” in the words of the well-designed catalog.

The over-the-top Eichler, whose owner's neighbors appreciate for renovating a longtime eyesore, had a 12-foot ceiling in the living area, and its interior had been opened up so much it suggested a big city railroad depot more than a home.

If 'open' is good, is more open in a floor plan always better?

Several more modest remodels on the tour suggest the answer is no, including the home of Margo Tomaszewska-Richter, one of the tour organizers.

The remodel, done with her husband Brad Richter, continues to set the kitchen off from living and family areas, as did the original Eichler plans, giving the living space a homier feeling.

Margo and Brad also emphasized the original woodsy look in their remodel, using beechwood paneling to provide the warmth of the original mahogany paneling and stripping their beams to show the raw wood.

Inside this 1948 Buick Roadmaster Sedanette was a 1948 Life magazine with Judy Garland on the cover, and a ukulele.

“Because the property is woodsy, with the hill (that looms behind the house), and tons of pine trees, we added the wood elements back to the house,” Margo said. And unlike many remodels, they did not expand the footprint.

“We wanted to show people what you can do with a smaller house,” she said.

The 700-home Highlands neighborhood itself emerged as a star of the tour.

One of the hilliest Eichler neighborhood, and providing some of the finer views, the Highlands is also home to some of the developer’s most unusual and famous houses, including the all-steel X-100, the multi-story ‘Life House,’ named for its appearance in Life magazine, and several rare original two-story Eichlers. (Not to mention some unfortunate second-story additions.)

Linda Siguenza, the lead tour organizer, says the next neighborhood tour will take place in two or three years. The last was five years ago. She says she will not chair the event a third time, due to the amount of work and to give others the opportunity to handle what is ultimately a deeply satisfying task. “It’s almost a full-time job for eight months,” Linda said.

“We’re really pleased with the turnout,” she said, “and the energy of the group.”

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