Eichler Homes: California Modern Architecture

Eichler homes are considered part of California Modern architecture, a branch of Modernist architecture. An Eichler home, is a type of construction originally popularized by Joseph Eichler. As a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eichler learned about the beauty of clean lines, effective use of light and other lofty architectural concepts. These ideas were integrated and mass-produced in Eichler homes. The Eichler is characterized by flat or low slope A-frame roofs, post beam construction, open floor plans, radiant heating, and clean geometric lines. Skylights, sliding glass doors, and full wall size windows effectively integrate indoor-outdoor living. Later models incorporated an indoor entryway atrium, to further “bring the outside in”.

Eichler
Above: an Eichler with both foam roofing and solar power installed.

Joseph Eichler’s company built about 11,000 or more of these types of Eichlers throughout California between 1950 and 1974. Highly efficient construction methods were used to cut costs which allowed Joseph Eichler to market these highly innovative and stylized homes to the middle class. Several other firms later followed suit with similar architectural designs. Eventually, the Eichler became a well known architectural style in California.

Eichler
Above: a low-slope A-frame Eichler with a Dura-foam roof system installed.

Unfortunately, the Eichler design was never actually profitable for Joseph Eichler (his company eventually filed for bankruptcy). Partly, this was because the style was more expensive to produce than conventional homes and Eichlers were not initially embraced by consumers. Some blame ex-military servicemen for seeking more traditional homes. Other builders recognized that some Eichler innovations were too good to ignore. Some of Joseph’s concepts were used make cheaper, Eichler-esque, mass produced homes. However, as mentioned above, many builders eventually adopted the Eichler building style, making it popular all over California.

Today there are many thousands of Eichler homes throughout the California Bay Area, and Southern California. As a side-note, the 2008 movie, Speed Racer features a number of digitally re-created Eichler homes. For more information on the history of Eichlers see Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream.