Roots of the Eichler Home – the ultimate Ranch

 

eichler-classic-front-elevation

eichler-post-and-beam-livingroom-to-outside-view The ‘Ranch Home’

Ranch Home.  Those two words together evoke so may different images for so many different Americans.

What is a Ranch Home?  The popular and somewhat clinical definition of a ‘Ranch Style Home’ goes something like this:

The modern ranch home design is typically built on a stretched out one-level floor plan where much of the common  living space flows together with little interruption lending itself to an airy open feeling where there are few, if any, formal and defined use spaces in the home (example the kitchen area is not walled off from the dining area and the dining area is multi-purpose and can run into the living area or ‘family room’.  There is often an emphasis on a large amount of natural light be invited into the home via large picture windows, sometimes floor-to ceiling windows.  The garage tends to be an attached garage or an attached covered parking area.  By attached, meaning attached to the living structure directly or by a covered attached ‘breeze way’. A ranch style home tends to feel larger in square footage that it really is due to its open floor plan and uninterrupted lines of sight from one end of the interior of the home to the other. See the link below:

Ranch House Style: Defining the Suburbs

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A California Ranch

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Poolside of a California Ranch home

The Roots

This style of home was first hinted at by the early to later designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, who loved open spaces.  Lloyd Wright came out West from Illinois and so did his style.  An even more extreme emphasis on light and open and less defined spaces reached an extreme with the designs of Richard Neutra – an Austrian immigrant trained in landscape architecture as well as being heavily influenced by the German Bauhaus architectural movement.  He even worked for Frank Lloyd Wright for a time after coming to the United States.  He soon settled in Southern California in the 1920’s.  See more here on the German Bauhaus movement and Neutra:

Los Angeles Conservancy Richard Neutra

Mies van der Rohe

Neutra’s background in landscape architecture combined with California’s year-round temperate climate resulted in designs that Neutra used to bring the ‘outdoors’ inside – or better yet to expand the indoor living space to include California’s’ outdoors as part of your interior – expanding  the viewing area in a room of a home beyond its walls through the use of large window/walls and wall sized sliding glass doors that were hung on large structural beams that were at the higher end of the home occupants field of vision.  Best combined with a carefully landscaped outdoor environment – designed to draw the eye of the homes occupant far into the outdoor environment, the interior of a home seemed to include the very lot lines of the homeowners land and beyond.  When built on view lots, a carefully landscaped yard in a Neutra home was designed to seamlessly transition views from inside the center of the home to the outer edge of the homeowners landscaping and then to panoramic city and country views out to the horizon.  Neutra designs completely transformed the idea that a home only existed inside its own walls.  The modern home was to be an outward explosion of the homes walls into nature and the outside world itself.

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Neutra design – the outdoors and the indoors seamlessly transition into each other

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Kaufman House by Neutra – Southern California Palm Springs area

The 50s, the suburbs and Eichler

The Frank Lloyd Wright to Richard Neutra progression in home design concept – which became known as ‘California Modern’ was to reach the masses in the 1950’s through the early 1970s when those home design concepts were embraced by a number of California tract home subdivision builders.  Those builders, some conceptualizing their own pedestrianized versions of the Wright / Neutra concepts.  Others commissioned the best architectural firms versed in the new concept to create exquisite designs for home designs that were affordable to the masses.  Foremost in this group of forward thinking developers was Joseph Eichler.  Eichler commissioned  Robert Anshen of Anshen & Allen to create his first 1949 concepts.  Later he commissioned Claude Oakland & Associates and the Los Angeles firms of Jones & Emmons, A. Quincy Jones, and Raphael Soriano.

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A Los Angeles area Eichler – Granada Hills

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An open Atrium and entrance area in an Eichler home

Dsign and Materials

An Eichler home wasn’t just about design it was about affordability and comfort.  Eichler pioneered in the widespread use of hot water powered radiant heating in slab floor construction.  Eichler homes famously featured open atriums in the middle of floor plans with direct access through large floor to cieling sliding glass doors.  Stylish and affordable materials like Luuan (Philippine Mahogany) paneling was used inside and slotted plywood paneling and cinderblock on outside walls.  Transom windows were used to open up walls from floor to the roof peaks in order to let in the light and expand the sense of space by bringing the outdoors to the inside of the home.  Opaque glass was used to let in light from the street side of homes while still ensuring privacy.  Carefully planned landscaping, much like a modernized and highly stylized California-meets-Japanese Zen heightened the experience of spacious living.  Homes usually appeared much larger than they were as it seemed like the home was just a few wide open rooms and the garden was invited inside to be part of the living space.  By opening large garden sliding doors, the outside and inside literally became one.  The design was perfect for the outdoor easy living lifestyle promoted my publications such as Sunset Magazine

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A Northern California – lovingly restored

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An Eichler home community celebrates its special place in Mid Century Modern architecture – use of original elevation sketches from the time of the subdivision being sold as a backdrop for the 50th anniversary Bar-B-Q

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Eichler styled home – pool and tropical plantings transition the interior views into a c outdoor environment that has an updated Japanese aesthetic.

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