Eichler homes of America

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Architecture, General

In the early chapters of Steve Jobs’ autobiography, writer Walter Isaacson details how the Apple cofounder’s upbringing and sense of aesthetic style was profoundly influenced by growing up in an architecturally designed home. And Steve Wozniak grew up in an Eichler home in California – a style now often sought after.

Eichler homes were a significant part of tract housing developments (Or new subdivisions) from 1958. Around 11,000 of these homes were built, around greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area by real estate developer Joseph Eichler, in the modernist style.

Credit: Old House Journal USA

However it’s important to note that Eichler homes were very different in structure and materials compared to Pettit + Sevitt homes and similar styles built a little later in Australia.

Early Eichler Homes featured more Miesian Bauhaus influences and were aimed squarely at the middle class. They were a post and beam construction but with steel, including in some cases metal ceilings and soffits. They were dominated by glass, and had concrete slabs… the latter of which was less common in Australia until the 80s. They also featured hallmarks of the aspirational leisure class: swimming pools, tongue and groove decking and fairly exotic timber such as Philippine Mahogany.

Eichler Homes from A.Quincy Jones Papers, UCLA Library Special Collections.

Some had atriums and few had front facing windows— instead, life was reoriented to the rear yard and pool, much the way many homes are designed today.

A quintessential Eichler complete with pool and outdoor spaces

Interiors were optimistic, bright colours and lashings of white – like the quintessentially mid century homes of sunny Palm Springs.

Family Circle magazine
Photo: Engel and Volkers

When I visit Harry Seidler’s Rose Seidler House, build around 1952, I often think its materials and interiors had more in common with optimistic Eichler homes than any form of Sydney modernism vernacular that came after, in part due to its strong colour use and Bauhaus lines.

Sydney Living Museums: Rose Seidler House by Harry Seidler

One thing that seems clear to me is, Lend Lease – another very prolific developer of post war modernist housing in Australia – must have been very influenced by the lines of Eichlers. As with the Eichler business model, they also engaged architects and had many similar styles in their own catalogue… albeit simpler, with carports, smaller footprints and front windows.

Lend Lease style home. Credit: Studio 101
Caroline Simpson Collection

To me, Eichlers were a future vision of the ultimate post war house from America, not just affordable housing.

I find them to be a fascinating commentary on rapid progress and post war psyche led by the US. Today many are coveted still, and are protected, maintained, extended or improved.

There are loads of wonderful sites, blogs and books with Eichler information – enjoy!

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