Above: Eichler Home located in California and designed by architects A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons. Photo: Darren Bradley
My background is in film, media and marketing and after graduating from college I had countless jobs trying to support my artistic endeavors. I also worked in sales to make a living. When I made the move to real estate I was very green, and very lost. While I always loved working with people the work left me feeling empty. I felt no drive or passion for anything but to survive. I learned the “training methods” of other brokerages but was disappointed by the horrible service and real estate “coaching” which to me felt self-serving and simply wrong. One day I was driving around and came upon some unusual homes. I immediately stopped the car and felt an electric feeling as I stared at these futurist, flat-roofed homes. It was like I had just landed on the moon. I got out of the car and grabbed a man walking nearby and asked what they were. Immediately I could tell he was very enthusiastic about living there and no doubt amazed at my shocked expression as he explained the Eichler Homes. After hearing what these houses were I found myself literally running down the streets to find more of these Eichlers. After discovering these houses I drove back to my office in a daze, completely silent as I knew my life had changed. I felt excitement, urgency, a pounding in my heart, and an insatiable need to know EVERYTHING about these homes and who was behind their creation.
But in my real estate office everyone thought I was crazy. All I heard from other agents was, “Those are horrible houses”, “what a bunch of tear downs”, “don’t specialize in that crap, they will all be gone in 5 years”, and “they have a bad turn over rate”
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Despite their warnings two years later I found myself presenting the documentary film I produced about the Eichler Homes called People in Glass Houses to thousands of people. It wasn’t long after Modern experts and enthusiasts were asking me to make more films, for which I’ve since won awards. As well and my film work I began speaking to local communities and found new clientele eager to purchase these homes. In my work I came to know the Eichler family, as well as many members of the community who fight for the preservation of this important architecture. We all share a bond of loving these houses and I would soon find myself fighting for their preservation as well.
One day while I was working in the field I had a horrendous experience that would set me in a new direction. A buyer asked me to find Eichlers for him saying he wanted to tear them down as they were easy “targets for deals”. I told him I couldn’t help him do that and asked if he could simply remodel one. Annoyed by my passion for these homes he asked me why I was even a realtor if I didn’t care about a sale. He went on to say, “We all know you like these houses, Monique, but this is about making money. This is a BUSINESS”, he proclaimed. In my work I’ve even seen many agents marketing these Eichler Homes as lots that ensured a buyer tearing one down sight unseen. Agents would simply market them with a lot map and a square around the perimeter saying, “build your dream home here.”
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Faced with the lack of concern within my industry I decided to start my own real estate company. It is a company peopled with other ‘hard headed’ and passionate Modernists who work to ensure that these homes avoid demolition. With my clientele and our efforts we started to gain the attention of the press and have made an impact educating the public about preserving these homes. But it is not only about preserving Eichlers it is also about building new ones! I soon found myself with so many potential buyers that I was forced to create an inventory of them. I asked Ned Eichler how I would go about building new Eichlers and soon hired an attorney to find out who owned the rights to the original Eichler plans. I visited everyone at the archives and began creating lasting relationships and – long story short – I obtained the rights to the Eichler plans. I then hired my own architects to fit these plans to current building codes and have since sold them to developers in four states in the US and counting. As well as within the US we’ve had inquiries from Eichler enthusiasts in Brazil, Spain, London, and Australia.
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After my obsession with Eichler, I started studying as much as possible about Mid Century Modern architecture. I studied the works of Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, and Aaron Green to name a few. I scoured the Bay area looking for all of them and have accounted for around 30,000 Mid Century Modern homes. I have come to feel I have a duty to protect these houses and to keep them in the public eye. As well as People in Glass Houses I have produced two other documentaries, Little Boxes, the story of Henry Doelger and Lost Modern which documents the work of architect William Whifler. I continue to try to educate buyers, sellers, and – perhaps more importantly – the heirs of an MCM property on how to keep the integrity of the architecture and work to find the right buyers who will carry on the mission as well as appreciate this uniquely American style. This has become my life’s work and I could not be any happier. When I am in these homes and caring for them I know my purpose and it is my wish to reach as many people as possible. It is one of the most fun and fulfilling things I have ever been involved with and I’m very grateful to others who see my vision and support it.
The many styles of the Eichler Home. Click on image for full view4088 false false true false true true false auto false ease-in-out 300 false 0 true true
A video about those who love their Modern homes!
Monique Lombardelli is the owner of Modern Homes Realty and preservationist working out of Palo Alto, California. With a driving passion she has forged a career in keeping an important and vital part of American architectural heritage in the public eye. Monique is also an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary People in Glass Houses won her critical acclaim. Her most recent film, Lost Modern, is scheduled to be screened at Burlington, California’s City Hall.
Check out Monique’s documentaries and well as a great book on the Eichler Homes!