Above photo: Eichler Home designed by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons in 1960. Photo: eichlersocal.com.
“My first vision for Apple”
– Steve Jobs reflecting upon the clean lines and open esthetics of the Eichler home in which he grew up.
Born in 1900 Joseph Eichler was an American real estate developer known for creating a distinctive style of residential housing that became known as the Eichler Home’. Unlike most developers of the American post war building boom, who focused on mass output and offered little in the way of choice of styles, Eichler had a vision of bringing the popular Modernist aesthetic to the middle-class home buyer. The ‘modern’ house being, up until then, only accessible to the wealthier clients who could afford to hire an architect. Eichler also felt that developments also be inclusive and diverse with planned communities that ideally featured green space, parks, and community centers.
After founding his company Eichler Homes, the first prototype Eichlers were designed by Robert Anshen (a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright) with later commissions by high profile architects including Claude Oakland, the firm of Jones & Emmons, A. Quincy Jones, and Raphael Soriano. These architects were tasked with designing the ideal Modern American home. With a variety of looks and styles available to the consumer, these Eichler Homes owed a great debt to the Modernist International Style and often featured flat or low-sloping A-Framed roofs and spartan facades with clean geometric lines.
A signature of an Eichler home is the concept of “bringing the outside in,” which was achieved with skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows with glass transoms, expansive patios, and private ‘outdoor rooms’. The house also included the quintessential Eichler feature – the atrium / courtyard. Other features included a master bedroom bathroom ensuite and few if any front street-facing windows. Eichler instead preferred to have large windows at the back of the house to take in the garden, which often featured a pool. The features and styles that defined the Eichler Homes would go on to become known as California Modern.
Another admirable way in which Joeseph Eichler was unlike most developers of the era was that he was the first to establish a non-discrimination policy, offering homes for sale to anyone of any religion or race. So strong was he in his belief that everyone should be able to live in a well-designed, well-built home, in any neighborhood, that in 1958 he resigned from the National Association of Home Builders when they refused to support a similar non-discrimination policy.
Between 1950 and 1974, Joseph Eichler built over 11,000 homes in California making him one of the nation’s most influential builders of Modern homes. The Eichler Home is much sought after today not just for their beauty but also for their ease of use and livability. The demand for these homes is such that the first Eichler Home to be built in over 40 years was just completed in Palm Springs, California. However selling at 1.3 million dollars this new Eichler is a far cry from the egalitarian view Eichler had of middle-class America being able afford a well-designed, well-built Eichler Home.