Loving Eichlers in Many Ways

CA Modern Insider
Palo Alto Eichler owner Rosalie Taimuty (above, in her garden) preserved her Eichler home in almost pristine condition, adding her own personal touches through art created by herself and others. Photo: Sabrina Huang

What's not to love about an Eichler home?

We all know their appeal. The openness. The light. Direct connection to the out of doors and nature. But it's more complicated than that.

Owners love their Eichlers for many different reasons.

Over the past 20 years we've visited thousands of Eichler homes, meeting thousands of owners—almost all of whom sincerely love their Eichlers. Many cite the same reasons; those mentioned above, but also the atrium, the functionality, the modernity, the homes' evocation of an Asian sensibility, the detailing, the warmth and textures of paneling and more.


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Rosalie Taimuty's wild and colorful art lines her hallway. Photo: Sabrina Huang

And when we say love, we mean love in an almost romantic manner. How many Eichler owners have told us this story?: "We fell in love with the house the minute we walked in and knew this would be our home." Easily one in ten.

Margaret Parra, an original owner of a Community Center Eichler in Palo Alto, focused on light and its Asian sensibility as reasons for her love affair.

"To me, [the home] had a Japanese aspect. I really loved the light," she says. "And we were lucky enough to get this lot that is situated so that when you look out the back, you only see trees. So it looks like you're in a wood."

"The light is beautiful at every season," she added. "I just never get over it."


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Margaret Parra's living room. Photo: Dave Weinstein

Among the categories of Eichler owners, based on our informal taxonomy, Margaret comes close to being a 'purist,' someone who so appreciates the Eichler as designed by its architects, as a kind of art object, that they make no changes.

You won't find many Eichler owners whose homes are absolutely unchanged. But you will find owners who go out of their way to preserve—and replace, if necessary—original kitchens, bathroom fixtures, and mahogany paneling—just to stay true.

It's human nature, after all, to want to put your stamp on your home, and not just through décor. Margaret and her husband themselves did that—by prevailing on Joe Eichler, as he was building their small subdivision, to make a few changes in doorways and materials even before the home was built.


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Margaret Parra (above) has made very few changes in her Palo Alto Eichler. But she did get Joe Eichler to agree to some changes in the plan, as the home was being built.

Another Eichler owner who could be placed in the 'purist' category is Rosalie Taimuty, who has lived in Palo Alto's Palo Verdes neighborhood since 1976. A friend and neighbor described Rosalie's Eichler as "the best maintained original Eichler you will ever see."

When we visited, the home was almost entirely original—except the kitchen, which had been remodeled, "in the Eichler style," she said. Beams had also been painted white.

Rosalie, an artist, still managed to put her very personal stamp on the house, where she'd lived since 1976, through her own artwork, including murals on hallway doors, and art and collectables by others.

CA Modern Insider
Rene and Karl Underwood (above) showed off their well-preserved Eichler in Concord, which they tuned into part of a lifestyle that involved vintage clothing, vintage décor, and furnishings, and friendships with likeminded 'nostalgics.' Photo: James Fanucchi

Closely related to the purist are the 'nostalgics,' who not only love the homes for their architectural distinction, but also play up the period appeal through restoration and displays.

Among classic nostalgics, we met Renee and Karl Underwood in their Eichler in Concord, which was filled with period collectables. We saw closets filled with Hawaiian and Western shirts, and classic cocktail dresses. Vintage fashion made up most of their wardrobe.


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The Underwoods Eichler. Photo: James Fanucchi

Their Eichler contained two jukeboxes, and in the driveway sat a vintage Ford Thunderbird and a 1931 Model A.

For nostalgics, the Eichler lifestyle and all it entails becomes a way of life. Through the vintage clothes, collectables, and cars, Karl said, "We get to know people who have exactly the same interests and hobbies as we do."



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Modernist architect Dave Paoli's remodeled Eichler dining room. Photo: Dave Weinstein

Undoubtedly the most populous sort of Eichler enthusiast—the type that loves the look, openness, and social-historical aspects of the home (Joe's willingness to sell homes to Black people, the way the home advanced new ways of living)—are those we call the 'we-don't‐want‐to‐live‐in‐a‐museum' crowd.

It's a sentence we've heard so often from Eichler owners who consider themselves practical, not nostalgic dreamers. They appreciate the value of the homes as places to raise children, throw parties, and work out of home offices.


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Dave Paoli (above) altered his Eichler home in Marin to improve comfort and safety while preserving the essential Eichler look. Photo: Dave Weinstein

But, they'd also say, wouldn't it be nice if the home were a bit bigger? Couldn't we scooch out a bit for a larger living room? If it's an early, small, pre-atrium Eichler, couldn't we add a room in the front, for more space and to form an atrium-like front courtyard?

Dave Paoli, a distinguished architect who lives in an Eichler in San Rafael's original Lucas Valley tract, has made significant changes to his home. He replaced the original mahogany siding with sheetrock, arguing that it is safer, and aluminum doors with wooden doors. "We did little bit of adding on," he said.

Still, he assured us, it retains its "contemporary expression of a way to live."

In a future article here we will continue this topic by considering owners of Eichlers whose appreciation for the homes' modernity, openness, and lightness, while bringing them into the 21st century, runs the risk of loving their Eichlers to death.

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