Maintaining Eichler Modern

When Dennis Budd tackled the renovation of a particular H-shaped Eichler-designed home in San Mateo, California, his challenge wasn’t completely transforming the home. It was maintaining the original design while connecting spaces and following California home regulations.

Joseph Eichler’s designs are emblematic of California Mid-Century Modern and generally credited with bringing the style to the mainstream. Eichler was one of the first developers to bring indoor-outdoor living to the public, regardless of class or race. His homes had nature-forward designs and simple styling to make the outdoors the center of attention.


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Residents are always connected to the outdoors through a glass wall and sliding door that lets fresh air in.

“The wow was already there,” Budd said of the San Mateo project. “The question was how do we keep that wow while following seismic regulations.”

This isn’t the first time Budd, principal of Gast Architects, has worked on an Eichler home, having previously worked with friends to renovate their Eichler, but this project was more comprehensive. Budd wanted to reinforce the simplicity of the home while improving the connectivity between spaces. This meant knocking down a wall that separated the kitchen from other living spaces, particularly the living room.

“Eichler’s design was pretty great back in those days,” Budd said. “But the relation of the kitchen to the home was not as important as it is now.”

Now, the kitchen is twice as big and connects to the living room seamlessly. The mahogany wood paneling that ran along the homes walls, a signature of Eichler homes, was replaced with white oak panels. The lighter wood panels maintain Eichler’s aesthetic while reflecting more light, filling the newly opened space with natural light coming through the surrounding glass walls. Budd also stuck to a modern, limited color pallet to draw attention to the home itself and not the décor.

The overall infrastructure of the home remains the same, with the original frame and glass atrium in the home’s center. Budd expanded the atrium by removing a wall that created a hallway to allow for a seating area and improved flow throughout the home.

“I think if Eichler was alive and renovating homes now, he’d be using modern things like we are,” he said. “He was building modern homes for his day. Using a pallet of contemporary colors in an Eichler is perfect, there’s no issue with his style.”

Through opening the kitchen, Budd improved the flow of the home and allowed natural light to highlight the home’s simplistic color pallet.

An open sliding door connect the outdoor seating area with the great room.

Eichler designed homes with walls that are nearly all glazing to connect people with the outdoors.

Clerestory windows and a large wall of glass in front of the pool next to an open door.

The large glass wall frames the pool and scenery outside perfectly, while the open door continues the view nearly uninterrupted.

“We didn’t add a lot to the home, and we definitely didn’t take anything away,” Budd said. “We chose Western Window Systems because it allowed us to keep the windows all aluminum like Eichler’s original single pane windows.” Aluminum windows have a sleek and modern style, highlighting the simplistic design of Eichler homes. Replacing the single pane windows with Western Window Systems aluminum windows kept Eichler’s aesthetic while improving energy efficiency. When looking at the front of the home, it still looks like it was built in 1956, with the original home numbers and mail slot on the garage door. Replacing the glazing throughout the home wasn’t a big hassle because Eichler homes are already primarily sliding glass doors and windows on the back side of the home. To maintain the home’s stability, the team brought in structural engineer Doug Robertson to install steel beams that run throughout the homes roof, creating a tic-tac-toe board pattern that supports the room during earthquakes. Western Window Systems Performance Line windows and multi-slide doors were the perfect choice for this glass home, especially because they follow California’s building energy regulations.
A view from the backyard of the home’s back façade with numerous fixed windows and sliding doors that open to a firepit seating area.

Both sides of the atrium open to outdoor seating areas, allowing for easy flow between indoor and outdoor spaces.

A view inside the atrium of two seating areas with glazing on both sides of the space.

Clerestory windows make the atrium roof feel like it’s floating, while the large pivot doors opposite each other allow for effortless flow between outdoor and indoor spaces.

A transom roof marks the atrium from the outside, wrapped with glass panes and situated above the roofs of both wings of the home. Budd’s favorite feature of the home is the transom roof because the glazings makes it feel like the roof is floating.

“This home is not just a pretty jewel box like the photos shows,” Budd said. “The family actually lives in the house.” 

Architect Dennis Budd, Gast Architects

Photographer Mariko Reed

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