People in Glass Houses – The Legacy of Joseph Eichler

Photo courtesy of Monique Lombardelli

While we were on hiatus, Monique Lombardelli’s wonderful new Eichler documentary arrived – much to our delight. The film is a breezy and informative guide to the history of Eichler homes, told through the perspectives of their owners, fans, and architectural experts. It explains why these homes are so very special, and does it in a way that is always interesting, educational, and fun.

The film can be purchased at www.buyeichlerfilm.com on EBay, or seen at scheduled screenings. Please check Monique’s Facebook page (“Eichler Homes”) for notifications. In fact, the film will be showing at the Orange Public Library on January 16th at 6:30pm (main branch community room). Bravo!

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Modern LivingHome Installation in Long Beach

We were onsite at the Long Beach LivingHome C6 installation at Long Beach’s TED conference. Temporarily tucked into the shadow of the Aquarium and conference preparations for TED, this 1232 square foot home shows that modern prefab can be affordable (179k), open, cool, and green.

The actual build took one day. It’s great to see that since the lost days of train delivery of Sears’ kit homes, new prefabs can have the quality and attention to detail that made pre-assembled or ready-to-assemble homes of the past popular and long lasting.

More information can be found at www.LivingHomes.net including company details, previous installations, and links to YouTube videos.

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Forever Fullerton

We recently toured a section of over 100 houses by Eichler’s Jones & Emmons.

According to Fullerton Heritage and the Fullerton Museum Center, “In 1954, developer Joseph Eichler convinced his two major architects, A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons, to appear on the “House that Home Built” segment of the NBC “Home” television show….On the nationally syndicated show, hosted by Hugh Downs and Arlene Francis, Jones and Emmons offered to create house plans for any developer that could come up with $200. The plans were designs that Jones and Emmons had created earlier for Eichler. The local building firm of Pardee-Phillips took up the challenge.” The resulting development is known as Fullerton Grove, and was advertised as being “Forever House” models.

The original Eichler-like design features are apparent in the neighborhood. While many of the homes are in disrepair, we did find at least one house that is undergoing a beautiful restoration.

The houses are located south of Valencia, between Richman and Euclid – streets to look for are Maplewood, Jefferson, Rosslynn, Adams, Oak, West, Ash, Elm and Washington. Fullerton is also home to many other mid-century gems (e.g. Hunt Branch Library), as well as retro-cool shops Otto and Out of Vogue.

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Mile High Remodel: Updating a Cliff May – in Denver’s Harvey Park Neighborhood, Part 1

This month, special guest contributor Mia Sorensen shares her family’s adventure with remodeling a Cliff May house in Denver. We’ll check back with Mia and will be posting some before and after photos.

Hi! We’re the Sorensen Family, your high-altitude neighbors from Denver, Colorado. We live in a Cliff May/Chris Choate home built in 1955. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood of Cliff May-designed homes here in the Harvey Park Neighborhood, very much like the “Ranchos” of Long Beach, though the floor plans are a little different. We grow juniper bushes instead of palm trees, and it’s too cold for a pool!

I have always loved mid-century architecture. I grew up in Northern California, where Cliff May and Joseph Eichler homes were abundant in shaping my love for modern design. I lived in a ranch house built in the 1960s in an old olive orchard. I also spent summers in Palm Springs, and my grandparents had a home in San Clemente they built in the 1950s on top of a hill.

I fell in love with the modest, functional designs of the 1950s when I was a kid. After Ava was born at the end of 2010, Curt and I decided that this was the style of home we wanted. We wanted to live in a cool house, be part of a community of like-minded people, and live within our means. We stumbled across our Cliff May several months later. Before the home was officially on the market, we were under contract – $20K under budget! We moved in at the end of September, 2011.

Our particular model is called RM3112, designed by May and Choate and built by Burns Realty in 1955. The RM stands for Rocky Mountain and distinguishes it from the Long Beach Ranchos. Ours was modified from a three bedroom to a two bedroom and was last remodeled in 1983.

The plans we have are simple and mostly cosmetic. We need to paint the interior and the exterior. The hardwood floors need to be stripped and refinished. The tile in the bathroom needs to be fixed, and while we’re at it, we’re getting a new vanity, sink and better storage. The kid’s room needs better flooring. The living room needs better lighting.

Our biggest project involves the kitchen since we have 30-year-old pressboard cabinets in very sad shape, and boring beige Formica that was all the rage in 1983. The L-shaped wall is still intact in our home, but we would like to partially demolish it to open the kitchen to the dining and living rooms. The vinyl floors need to go and we need new appliances. We need better lighting, more storage and a more functional workspace. We need to create a laundry room because our machines live side by side and take up space. We’ll call in a contractor and maybe someone to help refinish the floors, and going DIY on the rest of it.

Before we moved in, we decided any changes we make be sympathetic to the original house design. Eco friendly, energy efficient, vintage, salvaged or recycled where possible – and made in the USA are important to us. Sounds like a challenge, right?

We invite you to check in with us over the course of our “restovation”! We’ll show you the before and after of each project, reveal our budget, materials list and paint colors. If it’s made in the US, we’ll tell you where we found it! You might have to deal with photos of our ugly couch left over from the 1940s design in our Chicago apartment, but I promise a proper photo shoot when we’re all done!

Thank you, Mia! We hope your family continues to smile through the remodel adventure, and we’ll check back with you on your progress.

Here’s a link for more information on Harvey Park and their love of modern homes: www.HarveyParkModern.com

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People in Glass Houses – Previewing the Upcoming Eichler Documentary with Filmmaker and Eichler Aficionado Monique Lombardelli


Photos courtesy of photographer Chris Wehling
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We were excited to have the opportunity to ask Bay Area Eichler fan, documentary filmmaker, and realtor Monique Lombardelli about her passion for Eichler homes, and her upcoming film, “People in Glass Houses – The Legacy of Joseph Eichler”. The film is expected to be released in April.

Where did your passion for Eichlers get its start?

I was going around prospecting for work in Sunnyvale and saw them. I was so blown away by the style of the homes, that this incredible joy came over me. I couldn’t explain it, but I literally wanted to go door to door and see every single one of them from the inside. I felt like I had just landed on the moon – they are so different and I had never seen anything like them before. I fell in love with the style, but as soon as I started to learn about Joseph Eichler and everything he did and accomplished, I was truly inspired. Then I got to know the people and started to see these communities for what they were: Time warps of good, old traditional values that make up the spirit of our country. I became a true believer and a follower of this truth and this community. I want to share it with everyone.

For people who aren’t familiar with Eichler homes, what makes them special? Can you place the importance of Eichler in perspective in terms of mid-century modern architecture?

Eichlers are the epitome of true form and fashion. They were built for function and in such a smart way. The fronts of the homes are simple, minimalist style. The home opens up with many windows and glass usually all along the back side of the home. Some of them have atriums appealing to our homosapien need to have nature around us. It allows the inside/outside feel of living. This allows us to live in a relaxed and natural setting which is so uplifting and light. Some owners have said “Why do I need to go on vacation? I’ll just stay in my house.”

Some people argue that they are not sturdy or not tough enough to withstand forces of nature. But when you look at how many of them were built, and for the masses – Joe Eichler needed to have them cost effective to provide all of these homes. He had a vision and created these homes for people who would not have been able to afford them before. He also instilled in them a community feel- a sort of code to live by that if you live in an Eichler neighborhood, you have a sense of responsibility here. You have a pride and a reason to protect these places and make sure that your neighbors are safe and secure. Don’t you find it a coincidence that EVERY Eichler neighborhood has their own block party/4th of July party, and weekly get togethers or “pot lucks” ? It is a standard of living that only exists in these developments. When was the last time you saw anyone doing such things? When was the last time you all gathered at your neighbor’s house for badminton or a surfer themed block party? I could go on and on, but this is why I view them as so special.

Tell us about the process of getting your documentary made….how did you take it from an idea to a reality?

It was a long and tiring process but very inspiring to say the least. I started door knocking in ever neighborhood of Eichlers in the San Francisco Bay Area asking if people would be interested in filming their home. I tracked down Marty Arbunich of the Eichler Network, and CA Modern Magazine and scheduled a meeting with him. He then started letting me know who everyone was in the community. I then had other homeowners contact me asking if they could be in the film. All of the conversations that I have had with these owners really confirmed to me that this love of Eichlers and mid-century modern style is real and is POWERFUL. People have gone out of their way to help me and just seeing how self contained these communities are, every single need I have had has been met by referrals of each member in the film. It sort of took on a mind of its own.

I then had a conversation with my scriptwriter and treatment writers about approaching Ned and David Eichler. Through some cold calls, I got their information and set up times to meet with them as well. They, ( thank God) were ok with being on camera. After reading “Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream,” I knew that I wanted to approach Paul Adamson the writer and architect. He was great on camera and also gave me some other referrals for a voice-over person and music connection for the film. Everyone believed in the spirit of the ‘Eichler phenomenon,’ and helped me so much to accomplish a full and detailed story.

What did you learn about Eichler homes that you didn’t know before you started your venture?

I was incredibly impressed with meeting an original owner, who is an African American woman in Castro Valley. She told me that she felt forever grateful to Joe Eichler for establishing a non-discrimination policy for his homes. While other developers and banks actively discriminated based on ethnicity, Eichler offered his homes to everyone. I didn’t know that, and almost cried when she told us on camera how Eichler facilitated a different life for her and her family. AMAZING!

Do you live in an Eichler house? If so, what do you love about it?

I live in an Eichler inspired building with my adopted cat named Buzby. The building is my dream with a retro style lobby, and simple clean lined architecture. The penthouse floor units all have atriums and the back sides of all of the units are entirely made up of windows/glass so it’s open to the views on the peninsula. There are balconies beyond the floor to ceiling windows, and it is great for entertaining. I am very much at home here. I have my eye on almost every Eichler I see: They are like people, always unique and something to rave about with each individual style. I think in a sense, people treat their Eichlers like a blank canvas. This is our art form and allows us to express ourselves.

For those interested in restoring significant mid-century houses such as Eichlers, any tips on what they should consider?

I am a huge fan of the complete original style. I believe in keeping the integrity of the architecture and restoring the spirit of them. Many of us, including Elizabeth Torbit and Mark Marcinik (two of my favorite remodeling and restoring geniuses) have lists and lists of “the rules” involving mid-century modern style. Everything from where to find the original doorknobs and just the right color of gravel stone for the front landscaping….even finding the right vendors for the exact perfect numbering for the front door. There are style gurus here in the Eichler community who all have opinions, and have become master collectors and speakers on this religion of style. To me, it is the equivalent of going into a vintage shop and discovering your own personal style- finding a ‘60s-style jacket and a pencil skirt… you make it your own. Go bold! – but keep the original sensibility and sleekness.

When is your documentary being released and where can people view it?

I have a team of editors working on it right now. It will be released at the latest in April. I want to honor the Bay Area with it and show it in theatres here first. I have been approached by some architectural committees here that want to have viewings, too. After this, I will be having it available online through Amazon for anyone who wants to download it. You can search “People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler.” I have two Facebook groups started where I will be posting clips of the film, as well. The groups are called “Eichler Homes” and “Eichlers.”

Are there any architects currently working designing homes (on a mass scale) that resonate with current buyers in the same way that Eichler’s homes did with buyers in the 1950s/60s?

Not on a mass scale, no. I don’t know of anyone. I would be anxious to know if they are out there. It would be hard to resonate that kind of spirit of history, strength, perseverance and bold changes that Eichler mastered. He really created something special and had the mindset and the power to put it into action. He was an innovator and a leader. And a pretty balsy guy. I hope you really enjoy the film!
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Thank you, Monique!

We will be posting a film preview Link on our Facebook page.

For Monique’s website: http://www.MoniqueLombardelli.com

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Want more Eichlers?

Well, who doesn’t.

We can’t make more, but we can post more.

Our regular readers know our enthusiasm for Eichlers as well as our feeling that Open Houses are a great way for architecture lovers to see the homes of their dreams up close (and perhaps pick one up, too).

So when we learned that there may be an Open House in Orange’s Fairhaven neighborhood, we had to go check it out.

The one featured here has 2000 square feet of well-designed, thoughtful, flowing, serene space. Thanks to an energy efficient foam roof coating and fantastic exposure, the interior felt naturally comfortable on a warm Orange day.

Special thanks to Realtor Philip Talbert of Team Sackin/Star Real Estate for being so gracious and informative. www.TeamSackin.com

We’re also excited about the upcoming documentary “People in Glass Houses: the Legacy of Joseph Eichler” by Monique Lombardelli, due out in January. We’ll feature more details in an upcoming post.

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LACMA’S California Design Exhibit

Much has already been written about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s current exhibition, California Design, 1930-1965 – “Living in a Modern Way”.

You know with a 1936 Airstream, over 300 design objects, a re-creation of the Eames House Living Room, and no waiting in line (on a Saturday), we had to be there…..

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Want to Rehab a Modern or Craftsman Home? Architect Jeff Jeannette Answers our Questions…

Photos courtesy of Jeff Jeannette

We didn’t ask just anyone….Long Beach-based architect Jeff Jeannette has completed many stunning Southern California projects, and he graciously fielded our questions ranging from restoring Cliff May homes to retroactively judging tract homes:

For a homeowner wanting to complete a remodel or rehabilitation to their Eichler or Cliff May house, what are some of the challenges they will face?

Jeff Jeannette: The biggest challenge I have experienced remolding these homes centers around their post and beam connections as well as their wide roof spans. Today’s building codes don’t allow the beautiful, lightweight connections done during the Mid Century Era. Often, we’ll introduce steel members and creatively designed structural connections to marry today’s codes with the aesthetics of the original homes.

How about challenges for an older Craftsman home?

Our early Craftsman homes are equally challenging in the structural realm. The old wood wall studs used back in the day are physically different sizes than today’s standard wood making it difficult to integrate today’s materials. We work very closely with our engineers and plan creative solutions to keep the integrity of old homes. Detailing is key; copying existing details of the home into new spaces from moldings to window and door trims help make that addition look as if it were original to the home.

We occasionally see a trashed or mistreated Cliff May in Long Beach that would need serious gutting and rehabilitation (i.e. drywall removed, new plumbing, possibly new electrical, framing work to rotted rafter tails, etc). Given that the final costs will depend on the quality of finishes that the homeowner chooses, is there an average square foot price that can guide a homeowner with budget planning in terms of costs to factor in?

Preliminary Cost Estimates to rehab mistreated homes is nearly impossible to realize without knowing the scope of work required and the spaces involved. New construction is fairly easy to estimate however fixing old homes depends on the size of the home, the current electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems and the overall goals of the project. It’s best to invite an architect out to discuss the project scope up front. Most licensed professionals will understand the systems involved and be able to make recommendations for you or bring in a contractor who as experience with the style of home for more tighter budgeting purposes.

How will the average 1980-2000 era tract home in the U.S. be judged in the future?

I’m still looking for that crystal ball to tell the future! My feeling is they won’t stand the test of time and be that “iconic architectural masterpiece.” Often, these mass produced homes were built quickly and some developers cut corners to save costs. Their condition is based on how well the homeowner has cared for them. I’ve been in and out of many of those homes and typically our scope of work includes replacing insulation, plumbing, upgrading heating and cooling systems and electrical systems. The efficiencies of those homes is fairly low so bringing in new materials can make a sizeable difference in utility costs. Generally, the style of those homes were not very exciting as they were designed with construction costs rather than aesthetics in mind.

What’s the most exciting part of your job and is there ever a bad day in Design/Architecture?

Sure, we all have bad days on the job but for us they are generally few and far between. I love meeting with the people who will have the opportunity to enjoy the spaces we create. Seeing the smile on our client’s faces when they move into their new or newly remodeled home is a wonderful experience. Merging today’s technologies with yesterday’s architecture is also an exciting part of my career. Introducing Sustainable Design Concepts into an old home and transforming an inefficient home into a “Green Home” is a lot of fun. Designing homes is much like putting together a giant 3 dimensional puzzle; blending the design of spaces, aesthetics, and the physical needs of the family. There’s a challenge about it that I really enjoy.

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Many thanks to Jeff Jeannette!

For more information and to view photos of their projects, go to
www.JeannetteArchitects.com

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After Hours in Fullerton

Danny Heller at the Fullerton exhibit opening

No stuffiness here. It’s not surprising that a museum with a permanent Fender guitar collection would venture to host an exhibit of the most famous mid century modern architecture photographer, Julius Shulman, along with the mid century modern paintings of Danny Heller. Think cool and relaxed….that’s the vibe at the Fullerton Museum – 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton.

The Shulman photo exhibit is in the main gallery and features an extensive Palm Springs collection of modern residences and commercial buildings – everything from the Frank Sinatra house to architecturally significant modern buildings on Palm Canyon Drive. The exhibit runs through July 17th. More details are at: http://www.ci.fullerton.ca.us/depts/museum/

Paintings by Danny Heller were on display in the smaller gallery this past weekend, and it was great to view his amazing realistic style, in intricate detail, up close. Affable and talented, Heller was the perfect choice to compliment the theme of the main exhibit – bravo Fullerton Museum Center!
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Future Heller exhibit listings can be found at: www.dannyhellerart.com

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Mining for (Vintage) Gold

In Long Beach, the 4th Street shops are across from the fabulous Art Theatre


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Need some cool, authentic furniture for your Eichler? A new lamp for your Cliff May house?

We wanted to find some less obvious options than a store like Crate & Barrel’s CB2, so with a little detective work, we stumbled upon a few more obscure stores that specialize in mid century modern everything.

If you’re in Orange County, vintage shops in Fullerton are:
Out of Vogue (109 E. Commonwealth)* and Otto (111 E. Commonwealth).

In Long Beach, 4th Street is a fun adventure with Trebor/Nevets (2116 E. 4th St.),* Xcape (2236 E. 4th St.), and Déjà vu (2238 E. 4th St). Located across the street from the Art Theatre, 4th Street also offers vintage clothing stores, gift shops, and more.

Of course, you can continue your hunt on EBay, or at local thrifts, antique malls, and garage/estate sales. Additional retailers like Hive Modern, Modern Furniture Warehouse, and a host of smaller online stores offer new items that are either based on original designs or new variations on vintage designs. Retailers Plummers or IKEA will work if you’re on a budget and need something Danish in a hurry.

And remember, today’s Mid-Century finds might be tomorrow’s “What were they thinking?” discards (although we doubt it), so buy what you like and what appeals to you. While future value appreciation will be welcome, it’s not guaranteed.

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Speaking of Fullerton, this week offers the triple-treat of the Fullerton Art Walk (Friday, June 3rd 6-10 p.m.) along with the Fullerton Art Museum’s opening of Danny Heller’s exhibit, and the continuation of the Julius Shulman exhibit.

Modernism Revisited - Danny Heller Art - Fullerton Museum 301 N. Pomona Ave. Fullerton

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*Special thanks to Out of Vogue and Trebor/Nevets for their hospitality and patience while we strolled!

Vintage shops in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and San Diego will be detailed in a future post, and we’ll be adding all of the shops to the Links section.

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