Why Eichlers Will Pop Up in the U.S. Mail

Low gable
California's newest Eichler homes are made of cardboard, not wood and glass, and are only 11 inches long. But these scale model Eichlers can be sent through the mail and are a handmade tribute to our favorite homes. Photos courtesy of Yuki and David Edminster

Four years ago neither Yuki nor David Edminster knew a thing about Eichler homes. Yet today Yuki is producing her own versions of the iconic post-and-beam constructions. Only she’s building them out of cardboard.

Her ‘Eichler Home Pop-Up Cards’ are available to the wide world through Etsy, under her moniker, YukiProductions.

They’ll make great holiday gifts, David says.

“In the current market,” Yuki adds, “these are only pop-up cards themed to Eichler homes.”

She makes them all in the Eichler she and David share with David’s children Mia, 20, and Kyu, 14, and two dogs, Coopper and Zuma.

There are three models, based on homes seen in Balboa Highlands, which is in extreme northern San Fernando Valley. Yuki, a crafts person, not a professional designer, handcrafts each card and pays strict attention to proportion, style and detailing, showing the vertical groove siding, window framing, and fireplaces.

Yuki creates the cards by hand inside her Eichler home, which she and her husband David had lovingly restored.

At $50 for six cards and envelopes, they’re not the cheapest cards you can find on Etsy – but consider what goes into them, David suggests.

“People don’t know how long it takes, the labor of putting that card together. It took at least 80 hours on that one model, just to get the design right, for it to fold properly, in and out, the positive and negative spaces. There were nights of not going to bed.”

“When Yuki latches onto an idea and a challenge, she doesn’t give up.”

What really makes the cards special, though, is the story behind them. How David, a designer who helps develop theme parks and other attractions for Walt Disney Imagineering, first saw the Eichlers at the advice of his real estate broker; and how Yuki, a recent arrival from Japan, fell in love with them.

Also how in 2014  the house they sought, they actually managed to buy, and how they took their time restoring the forlorn place.

The beautiful original wood paneling had been painted “hospital white,” Yuki says. Walls had been removed, and other bad remodeling done.

“It sat for a year while we were thinking about what to do,” David says, adding, “We began learning about Eichler, learning about the respectful things to do.”

“It lacked any character, any of that warmth it gets from the wood,” David says. “The lauan couldn’t be restored so we replaced it with good quality mahogany to duplicate the original. We did structural work too, in line with the original design. We put in an Armstrong linoleum floor, restored two bathrooms. We had the cabinets made to the original designs.”

While the essentials of the home remained unchanged, the walls had been painted and repainted, ruining the mahogany paneling, by the time the Edminsters arrived.

The intense restoration certainly got both David and Yuki into the minutiae of Eichlers. But that’s not what pushed Yuki into creating the cards. That came about, in a way, by chance.

It was at a New Years Day party in a neighboring Eichler that David got to talking to a man, and the talk turned to David’s Eichler house. Oh, the man said, that’s the house where I was born and raised. And my parents live in a retirement community in Thousand Oaks.

Those "parents" were Mel and Iris Penner, the home’s first owners – and not the ones who had fouled it up. It had taken a long succession of owners to do that.

Next thing, David and Yuki were inviting the Penners to visit. David and Yuki, who had interviewed another original owner in the Highlands, prepared a list of 20 questions.

“We wanted to try to take them back in time, to think about what the house meant to them, what it meant to live in this house,” David says. It worked.

“They were a totally hip couple,” he says. “It was almost a romance because we have a common denominator, with this house.”

David and Yuki Edminster got together with Mel and Iris Penner, the original owners of their house, to talk old times and celebrate the mid-century modern life.

Yuki says, “They are a very sweet couple and we feel with them almost like our own family. We share the house, the view and emotion toward the house, just 40 years apart. They grew their family here, and we are growing our family here too. The house was very special to them, and is special for us too.  We feel very fortunate to meet them and were even able to invite them to ‘come home.’”

“They were happy to be in the house. It reminded them of a lot of memories, and it means almost like approval for us, feeling all the restoration effort we tried our best was mostly correct,” Yuki adds.

They got together again, at the Penners’ house, and at another gathering at David and Yuki's, where they invited neighbors too.

Yuki decided to send the Penners a card of appreciation. “I generally like crafting, and this time I wanted to make a card with the house in 3-D so that they can feel and see the house in the card.”

Having made one card, Yuki thought – why not more? Perhaps her neighbors would enjoy them.

Back in the 1960s: Mel and Iris Penner, with their family, including two sons, one daughter, Mel's sister and aunt, in the atrium. Courtesy of the Penner family

Yuki's cards just hit the market. At the time this author spoke to Yuki, she had sold all of one set. But she has just begun. And the holiday season is just getting going. And she might not be a professional designer now – but that is her career goal.

And, no, she doesn’t see herself turning the Eichler Home Pop-Up cards into a mass-marketing business. Her home studio is not equipped to turn them out on a production line. She’d likely need to outsource.

“I would have to change the entire process,” she says. “I’m not sure if I want to do that.” But scaling up was never the point.

“I love our house and talk about it with others, as well as share its beauty and comfortableness in various ways.” Yuki says. “We throw a home party twice a year, inviting friends and neighbors. So I hope the cards help other Eichler owners and fans enjoy sharing such feeling with friends and families too.”

The new friendship between David and Yuki and Mel and Iris Penner brought in Balboa Highlands neighbors too for a get together at the Edminster home. Photo by John Eng

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