Category Archives: Eichler plans

Architectural Real Estate and Home Office Ideas

Architecture Road Show

When I studied architecture in college it did not occur to me that the residential landmarks I was learning about — works by Frank Lloyd Wright or Louis Kahn, for example — could be sold or even changed. They existed in lectures as immutable ideals, much like paintings in a museum. So it’s exciting to realize how many architecturally significant houses are for sale at any one time. Here are three gems I just found on, a remarkable resource.

La Miniatura, in Pasadena, California, above, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses from the early 1920s, after his return from Japan and work on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Designed for his client Alice Millard as a way to take advantage of a difficult (and therefore inexpensive) site in a small ravine, it

was built of ornamented or “textured”concrete blocks in conventional mortar. He was evolving a less expensive version of masonry, aiming for an architecture that seemed to grow out of the land. He ultimately perfected a system of steel reinforced “textile blocks” that would be a way of knitting together engineering and architecture. The house has been beautifully restored, for at least the second time. I remember visiting during an earlier refurbishment and being struck by the way the house stepped down the slope to create a hidden indoor-outdoor world. You can have it for $4.495 million.

Or, on the same website, for much less money, how about Louis I. Kahn’s Esherick house in Philadelphia, of 1961, available for a bargain-sounding $1.25

million. This one bedroom, two story house has a monumentality that belies it’s

relatively small size, thanks to a rectilinear geometry, tall multi-faceted window walls, a double-height living room with balcony, and symmetrical chimneys. According to historians, Kahn used houses as a way to test his ideas for larger buildings; in this case there are similarities in outline and in the separation of “service vs. served” spaces with his Richards Medical Research Building of about the same time.

Another listing has special resonance for Houseplans —  it’s a mid-century modern Eichler tract house in Granada Hills, California by architect Claude

Oakland, shown here. It’s listed for $739,000 and has been carefully updated to meet current codes, not to mention appliance and fixture expectations.

I like Architectureforsale’s clever description of the wide gable design as a kind of airframe: “Like a B-2 Bomber’s absolute symmetry…seemingly as if lining up along a tarmac from one of the many Los Angeles area airports.” An apt description! (All above photographs courtesy Architectureforsale).  The significance for us here at Houseplans is that we carry copies of several original Claude Oakland plans in our Historic Eichler Plans Collection,

like this one, which is Plan 470-7, with its segmented gable organized around

a central gallery. Price? Only $4,500 — but you do have to build it.

Back to School at Home

Where do you work when you’re at home? In an alcove off the kitchen like this

one in our Plan 56-604. Or maybe at the dining table? Or perhaps in the

Oval Office? (Photo courtesy Wherever it is, you know home work spaces are evolving. They can be almost anywhere with a little help

from today’s shelving/storage systems, like this clever desk that converts to a

Murphy bed so you won’t miss an inspiration that strikes in the middle of the night — or where there’s not enough space for a desk. It’s called the “Harry” (sounds presidential!) by Smartbeds of Italy and is available from FlyingBeds. Sweet dreams.


“Mad Men” and Mid-Century Modernity at LACMA

Stereos and Studebakers

The start of Mad Men‘s fifth season this week on cable TV is fortuitous. Though the series spawned a new appreciation for slick Madison Avenue Modernism of the early 1960s — not to mention accompanying cocktails — it wasn’t easy to see

where part of that esthetic came from (photo courtesy But now you can, thanks to the exhibition running through June at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art called Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965 curated by Wendy Kaplan. In fact, the advertising firm that the character Don Draper runs, seen above at his desk with drink in hand, ought to be developing campaigns for many of the products in the exhibition, like the Studebaker Avanti of 1961-2 by Raymond Loewy, below.

California — and especially Los Angeles — became a remarkable incubator of modern design during the middle of the 20th century. The benign climate, burgeoning post World War II economy and population, and movie mystique attracted imaginative designers and take-a-chance clients. I toured the exhibit recently and was impressed with the way it explores connections between popular and high style design, from furniture and clothing to houses and cars while bringing the Left Coast side of the Mad Men era to life.

Time here begins in the 1930s, quite literally, with one of the first digital clocks,

the Zephyr clock by Lawson Time, from around 1938 (photo courtesy LACMA blog). My uncle had one of these and I always admired it — when the numbers turned over they bounced slightly before resting in place (perhaps a metaphor for hanging fire?). Time did appear to be hustling as new tracts developed across

the LA basin. Modern architects were designing houses and filling them with furniture like this 1931 bent plywood chair by Richard Neutra or this squared off

corner grouping by A. Quincy Jones from 1961 and Mondrian-esque glass coffee table of c. 1950 by Milo Baughman for Glenn of California  — which look like they belong in one corner of Don Draper’s office. Living In A Modern Way shows how California designers celebrated the casual indoor-outdoor living that

the California climate made possible, as in this promotional image for a development called Monarch Bay Homes at Laguna Niguel by delineator Carlos Dini, from 1961 (image courtesy LACMA).  My favorite part of the exhibit juxtaposes two elegant designs from 1961 by LA’s most minimalist architect,

Craig Ellwood: a superb elevation of his Rosen house and the Rosen’s custom stereo cabinet. Now this takes Machine Age abstraction to its logical extreme: house and stereo are extensions of each other, if not virtually indistinguishable —  do I live in the stereo or does the stereo live in me? Talk about surround sound! The only real difference, besides scale and some plumbing, is that the stereo has four bays while the house has only three. Clearly the sort of house where you would expect to hear Frank Sinatra, not to mention the architect, crooning My Way — and sotto voce “or the highway.” (Images courtesy LACMA.)

Even Barbie went modern, and her Dream House of 1962, shown below, is fun to

to see. The largest element in the show is a replica of the loft-like living room of  the Charles and Ray Eames house of 1949, the most famous structure in the

Case Study House Program of the late 1940s and early 1950s sponsored by Arts + Architecture magazine (photo courtesy NY Times). It functions both as a frame for nature and an elegant specimen box for the Eames’ collection (1,869 items in this space alone!). Which reminds me: Case Study House #3 shown below, by William Wurster and Theodore Bernardi is not in the exhibit but is in the Signature Studio and is Plan 529-1. See how it too blends indoor and outdoor space into a seamless whole: the house is the lot. Our Eichler Plans offer further variations on the modern living theme. They’re all part of the Mid-Century Modern design history you can own.

So, Don Draper — time to put down that highball and get back to work. You have a lot of selling to do!


Modern Paint Color and Eichler Plans

Nature-Oriented Paint Palettes

We’ve just added four more Eichler mid-century modern house plans (by architect Claude Oakland — see them at the end of this post) to our Signature Plans Collection and this has made me think about interior paint colors that might be appropriate for contemporary homes. And it’s spring: spruce-up time! The Yolo Colorhouse palette of no VOC paints (volatile organic compounds) sprang to mind.

The colors are organized in nature-based categories, from Air to Petal. One advantage of Yolo Colorhouse is that you can order poster-size color swatches (instead of smaller paint chips) to see how the color will look (remember that online paint color is only an approximation and you should refer to a dry paint chip sample before purchasing paint).

Because the range of color possibilities is so wide, I asked architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia of Colour Studio, who has directed color projects for Herman Miller and a wide variety of community developers, for her advice.

She suggested taking cues from the design, the materials, and the lifestyle characteristics of the typical Eichler home: its open plan, use of wood and warm-toned laminates, casual organization and clean lines; its rooms oriented toward and connecting with the garden; and its abundant daylight through window walls and interior transoms.

She says: “All of these basic characteristics set the stage for a range of natural  and organic colors that will harmonize with the building’s given elements.  Warm reds, rusts, browns, taupes, olives, greens, buffs, greyed tones that mirror those found in shadowed natural settings look wonderful in these homes. Sometimes an owner will find the colors heavy and oppressive and determine they want to paint the ceiling beams, and paint out the woods.  Subjective color likes and dislikes are deeply ingrained with the emotional connotations. This in no way means this is the only way to deal with an Eichler.  Some clients will choose to work in strong colors that suit their personal subjective color needs and can make it work. “

Jill suggested twelve Benjamin Moore hues in several categories as a starting point (swatches shown below).

Warm Accents

035 Baked Clay

077 Fiery Opal

194 Hathaway Gold

Softer Organic Warm Yellows to suggest light:

177 Mushroom Cap

186 Harvest Time


492 Dune Grass

495 Hillside Green


513 Limestone

1522 Inner Balance

Metal color:

1547 Dragon’s Breath,  for deep metal accents

and Deep Browns:

HC-72 Branchport Brown

2114-20 Mississippi Mud

On the Benjamin Moore website you can use their Virtual Fan Deck and Personal Color Viewer to see the paint applied to walls in several sample room photos, like this:

which uses Dune Grass on the fireplace and trim and Hillside Grass on the walls.

Here’s the same room with Hathaway Gold on fireplace and trim and Mushroom Cap on the walls. Beware, the click-and-cover feature can definitely become addictive… For information about colors used in the original Eichlers see CA Modern, the magazine of the Eichler Network.

Our latest Eichler Plans

The most recent additions to our Signature Plans Collection are four more historic Eichler plans from the early 1960s.

The 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2,733 sq. ft. layout of Plan 470-6 (original model HPO-15) — organized around an an open-air atrium — allows windows on two sides of every major room for cross-ventilation and balanced light.

The plan is both elegant and practical: a spacious loggia connects the kitchen/multipurpose room with the living room, and a laundry hall opens to the garage. The street front

centers a big welcoming gable porch over the entry beside the flat-roofed garage.

In Plan 470-8 (model NY-254), one of the very few Eichler homes also built outside California (in the Hudson River Valley outside New York City),

a long horizontal facade — part garage, part wall — preserves privacy for the  front courtyard.

The 4 bedroom, 2 bath 1,706 sq. ft., L-shaped house wraps around two sides of this open space. The living dining area and the master bedroom open directly to the rear yard.

Plan 470-7 (model MC-34) shows how the so-called “multipurpose room” is no longer part of the kitchen (where it appears in the previous two plans) but its own separate space,

that now really functions as a family room. The “Gallery” in this 2,364 sq. ft., 4 bedroom, 2 bath plan includes a variation on the atrium idea, only this time it has a roof and is part of the interior. The segmented gable

extends from front to rear, across the gallery. These Eichler designs celebrate easy indoor-outdoor living and remain seductive for people who want to live on one level. We are able to offer copies of the designs by special arrangement with the Environmental Design Archives at U. C. Berkeley; a percentage of the plan price supports the Archives.

Cool, not Cold, Storage and More

Customize Your Plan With Contemporary Cabinetry

Now that we’re able to offer copies of rare mid-century modern Eichler plans, it’s important to think about how you can update and customize them — or indeed any plan — for today.  For example, adding storage space can be an important consideration. Cabinetry is one way to go: Seattle’s Kerf Design — an especially inventive cabinetmaker specializing in sleek, vividly hued eco-friendly units — shows how, with everything from

bobwall kerf storage

entire walls of different sized open-and-closed compartments, to


sideboards for storage and display in the dining room or hall to

asagivanity kerf

elegant and efficient vanities to

kerf anderson

character-building kitchen cabinets, cubbies, and drawers. I like their three-pronged philosophy: honesty of material, which means revealing the beauty of the plywood edge; honesty of construction: keeping things simple with exposed   joinery, asymmetrical arrangements, inset doors and drawers, and notched hand holes; and honesty of function:  making sure there is a reason for every detail. I also love their color palette


as in this thin console, which to my eye is irresistible. And Kerf’s work is all green, using only FSC-certified plywood made with formaldehyde-free glue and finished using a process that eliminates all volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They also have a lower cost do-it-yourself product line that is shipped flat for you to assemble.

Kerf’s work is especially appropriate for modern houses because it embodies similar architectural values —  but it can invigorate almost any interior. Interestingly, Kerf’s founder, Nathan Hartman, just told me that his cabinets are being installed in a remodeled Eichler right now.

Build Your Own Updated Eichler

Thinking beyond storage solutions, here are some other suggestions to get you pondering how to make an Eichler layout — or any house plan for that matter — your own unique design. Take a look at Gregory La Vardera’s  Spirit of Palo Alto Plan 431-11, shown below,

431-11alt1-1985 rear elev w table

in a view of the rear elevation. The layout


is itself an update of  a classic Eichler atrium plan.  In fact it’s very close to our Eichler Plan 470-4, shown below:


Now, see how Greg tweaked the original plan for today. He took the washer and dryer out of the garage and gave them their own laundry room set between garage and kitchen; part of the laundry functions as a mudroom or family entry. And he opened up part of the kitchen to the living room by replacing a  wall and a door with a peninsula/buffet bar, as shown in this interior view:

431-11p1-1985 kitchen

The idea, according to Greg was to create a balance where “the kitchen is still a discrete room even though it may be open to the living space.” He also added a kitchen island to expand the counter space.

Another major change is in the master suite. Today most people want a feeling of spaciousness in the master bathroom, along with bigger closets. As this cropped view of Greg’s plan shows,

431-11mf-1985 for crop mast bath

he reconfigured the bathroom to accommodate twin vanities, which give a more luxurious feel without adding a lot of space — in his view “bigger bathrooms = more bathroom cleaning. Yech.”  Similarly he installed closets along the bedroom’s two interior walls instead of using a walk-in closet, which he considers a space hog.

Or consider architect Robert Nebolon’s Palomino Plan 438-1, which is an adaptation of an existing Eichler: his own house. The following view is from the backyard and shows how the family room opens to the rear patio.

438-1re-2587 rear view

A key move was to divide the galley kitchen into two sections —

438-1mf-2587 plan

one for  cooking and eating, one for and storage and desk work — while connecting it to the family room and living area on either side. He also added such eco-friendly elements as low-e glass skylights, a roof that’s composed of 10.5 inch-thick Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and is designed to support photovoltaic panels, and a fireplace insert instead of a conventional wood-burning fireplace (such units do not require a chimney).

Consider these ideas when you think about modifying a plan. Then work with our Design Department, run by Chief of Design Nicholas Lee. We’ll help you create your own unique living environment, whether it’s modern or traditional or something in between.

Eichler Excitement

Sixties Modern Revival

Big news! We have acquired the rights to sell copies of four original Mid-century Modern Eichler house plans — they’re the latest additions to our Signature Collection. These rare historical designs were done in the 1960s by architect Claude Oakland for California developer Joe Eichler. It was Eichler who brought award-winning modern architecture to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s when he hired contemporary architects like Anshen & Allen and Jones & Emmons to design his subdivision houses in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. At Anshen & Allen the principal designer for Eichler homes was  Oakland, who had studied briefly with maverick architect Bruce Goff. In 1960 Eichler contracted directly with Oakland, allowing him to start his own firm. Here’s a photo of Joe and Claude reviewing a set of working drawings:

ho_sigstyle_1 Claude Oakland Joe Eichler

Joe’s in the glasses. The firm became Oakland and Imada Architects in the 1970s — Kinji Imada had studied with Walter Gropius at Harvard. While most of their work was for Eichler, they also designed redevelopment housing and other projects. Oakland died in 1989; Imada in 2005.

The following image of a typical Oakland living room is emblematic (photograph by Ernie Braun / courtesy Eichler Network Archives, all rights reserved).

2437-1-interior Eichler photo by Ernie Braun

All the Eichler characteristics are here:  an exposed post-and-beam one story structure, floor to ceiling walls of glass, and the promise of easy indoor-outdoor living. Furnishings are casual, uncluttered, and contemporary. It remains a powerfully seductive  image of modernity for a mass market.

Our Eichler plans were designed for two Bay Area developments – one in Mill Valley and one in the East Bay Hills. Plan 470-4 is organized around an open-air atrium, a feature that Eichler made famous.


The front door is really the gate beside the garage and opens to a passage leading to the atrium. Straight ahead, the second front door opens to the loggia adjacent to the living room.


A friendly gabled street facade gives no hint of the spatial surprise — the atrium — within.

Plan 470-1 is distinctive in that it contains a so-called “hobby room” behind the garage.


The kitchen is conveniently situated between garage and the entry and can be entered from both sides. A long low overhanging gable running parallel to the street


pulls the facade into an orderly line.

Plan 470-2, for a somewhat narrower lot, puts the entry between


kitchen and garage and includes a large “gallery” that functions like a great room.


The facade combines offset flat and gable roofs in a crisp contemporary composition.

Plan 470-3, below, is an unusual two story Eichler.


The layout is wide and relatively narrow, with a generous entry to accommodate the stairway.

470-3mf-2143 large

An efficient and graceful circulation plan on the ground floor allows each room to flow into the other without wasteful dead-end spaces.


Upstairs, airiness and outdoor living dominate with front and rear balconies and a two-story living room.

A percentage of the price of each plan supports the Environmental Design Archives at U. C. Berkeley, which preserves the original Oakland/Imada drawings and the records of other significant California architects and landscape architects.

For an architectural history of  Eichler homes see the excellent Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream (Gibbs Smith, 2002)


by Paul Adamson and Marty Arbunich with photography by Ernie Braun. Information and advice about Eichler communities is available from the Eichler Network, which publishes the informative quarterly CA Modern.

We’ll provide ideas and advice for updating these Eichler plans for today’s energy codes and lifestyles in future postings. Also see our Eichler-inspired plans by New Jersey architect Gregory La Vardera, California architect Robert Nebolon, and Alabama designer Daniel E. Bush, which are part of the Signature Collection, with more to come.