Eichler and his Homes
As son Ned Eichler recalls in Eichler Homes: Design for Living, his father had had no interest in architecture until the family moved into a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in the early 1940s. Their stay in the rented home was only a few years long, but it changed the path of Joe Eichler’s life. When the family egg-and-dairy business was sold, and Eichler had time and money on his hands, he entered into a partnership with two young engineers who had begun a business prefabricating small houses.
A year after Eichler had bought out his partners, a real estate broker suggested that he buy enough lots in Sunnyvale, Calif., to build a tract; but his first tract houses, built in 1947, were conventional designs. It wasn’t until late 1948 that architect acquaintance Anshen, a Wright disciple, suggested that Eichler offer something different.
“How can someone like you, who loves real architecture, build this crap?” According to Ned Eichler, Anshen’s words sparked the Eichler revolution.
Joe Eichler paid Anshen $2,500 to design three plans for three-bedroom, one-bath, 900-square-foot houses. All of them featured redwood siding, paneling, post-and beam ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass on the rear façade, open-interior planning, and radiant-heated concrete floors.
Anshen’s first designs were the basis for more than 10,000 homes built during Eichler Homes, Inc.’s first 18 years. After an argument about money in 1953, Anshen and Eichler went their separate ways (temporarily), and architect A. Quincy Jones was hired by Eichler Homes. Later, Claude Oakland (who had previously worked for Anshen & Allen) joined the roster of Eichler architects. Eichler-owners may not always know the name of their floor plan off the tops of their heads, but most can tell you immediately whether it is an Anshen & Allen, Jones & Emmons, or Claude Oakland Associates design.