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Joseph Eichler: Modern Home Design for the Masses

The term “tract housing” evokes, for many, the image of suburban sprawl and conformity. Many tract subdivisions are uninspired and banal, cookie-cutter neighborhoods that give little thought to aesthetics. Sprinkled throughout California, however, there are a number of housing developments that cut against this preconception. The residential communities constructed by Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and 1960s brought modern home design to the masses and introduced an appreciation for architectural innovation to tract housing.

Joseph Eichler had little exposure to real estate or home design in his early life. He was not an architect or a builder; he was, first and foremost, a businessman, and that enabled him to recognize an opportunity. He received a business degree from NYU and worked briefly on Wall Street before helping to manage his father-in-law’s poultry business. In 1940, Joseph moved out to San Francisco to assist in the West Coast expansion of the family business. Soon after World War II, a family scandal (the details of which are now, unfortunately, lost to history) forced Joseph Eichler down a different career path. He began developing prefabricated houses on individual lots in northern California. His natural business acumen, sharpened by years in the competitive wholesale food industry, put him in a good position to take advantage of the post-war demand for suburban housing in a manner unique to the progressive tastes of northern California

While in the Bay Area, the Eichler’s lived in the Bazett House, a Usonian-style dwelling in Hillsborough, CA, built by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright. Joseph Eichler had always had an appreciation for design, refinement, and modernism, but the years he spent in the Bazett House illuminated the possibilities of modern architecture for him. Modern architecture embraced clean, simple lines and understated elements that allowed the personality of the owner to shine through. Until Joseph Eichler, these styles were reserved for custom residences and corporate buildings. Eichler teamed with Robert Anshen, an architect fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania, to develop plans for residential developments that harnessed the simplicity of modern home design. Anshen, himself greatly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, brought the artful harmony of space and structure while Eichler ensured that these were easily reproducible and cost-effective. They started small, with a 50-unit neighborhood in Sunnyvale, CA. It sold out in two weeks. By the time Eichler passed away in 1974, he had built 11,000 homes and popularized modern home design on the neighborhood scale.

Eichlers, as the style has come to be known, are single story residences made mostly of glass and wood. The homes blur the distinction between interior and exterior space, to take advantage of the temperate California weather. Eichlers are designed around open-air atria with floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the backyards that connect the inhabitant to the environment and give the inhabitant a feeling of being cradled, rather than encapsulated. Many of the neighborhoods developed by Joseph Eichler are now designated areas of historic significance, ensuring that the groundbreaking home design concepts he popularized are preserved for future generations to call home.

Engaging Your Senses Through Home Design

Humans use five basic senses to experience the world around us. The senses include sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. We use our senses everyday, but we often forget the importance of appealing to them when we decorate our homes. Most people focus on how their room looks, with no regards to the other four areas. If you want to create a truly fabulous room design, you should find ways to engage all five senses within your space.

Sight is the most obvious of the senses at work in home design. Visual elements of design are extremely important. Sight is undoubtedly our most used sense. We use our sight in almost every basic activity we do from driving to working to surfing the internet. When you design your room, you can create visual appeal primarily through the use of color, shapes, and lines. Imagine a room that is designed with one color and one uniform shape and size. That space would be extremely boring, wouldn’t it? That is why designers choose colors that contrast to create stimulating visual effects. By using various lines and shapes within a room, you can also create visual interest that makes a room more inviting.

You may wonder how exactly you could appeal to someone’s hearing through interior design. While television or music is the most frequent noise heard in a room, these are not the creative solutions that will make your room stand out among others. Think outside of electronics about natural sounds that you can incorporate in your room. Consider wind chimes, for example. You could hang them right outside a window to let the sound drift through the windows. If you live in a very windy area, you might be annoyed by constant chiming, but you could still hang chimes indoors and just give them a flick now and then. Small fountains also offer a soothing sound to any room. The constant trickling of a fountain will remind you of sitting outside by a bubbling creek, creating an instant calming sensory experience.

Smell is another important aspect of our daily sensory experience and yet one we often ignore. When you incorporate smell into a room’s design, it’s easiest to combine smell and taste. Smells can actually stimulate our appetite. Most people love to walk into a home and smell freshly baked bread, or tonight’s dinner bubbling away on the stove. Many people remember their grandparents by the smell of apple pie or freshly baked cookies. You can incorporate this concept into your home without constantly running the stove if you are a little sneaky. Scented candles can be found in every scent imaginable. As the candles burn, your home can quickly begin to smell like a bakery. You could also place a bowl of fruit in a strategic location to evoke more sensory reactions. A large glass cylinder full of oranges and fresh mint leaves will look beautiful as a centerpiece on the dining room table. It will also send a delicious fresh fragrance floating through your home.

Lastly, the sense of touch shouldn’t be overlooked in any room design. We often interpret the world through our fingertips and it’s important for our homes to be soft and comfortable. Fill your house with a variety of textures to delight your hands and feet. Texture can be incorporated through soft furniture and silky curtains. Crushed velvet and silk covered cushions, smooth steel surfaces, and grained wood will give your hands plenty to experience.

The most effective way to use texture is on the floor. Everyone loves to sink their feet into a soft plush rug. Your feet have over seven thousand nerve endings so a soft rug can make the most profound impact on a person’s overall sensory experience. Choose a rug that is delightfully soft to create a maximum impact. Look for rugs in plush wool blends, hand tied varieties, or even sheepskin. Coordinate your rug to visually match or complement your other decorative choices and your room will be complete with design elements that appeal to all five senses.

Spray Paint For Easy Home Design Perk Ups

Fabric Spray Paint
This is an ingenious can of fabric wonder. Fabric spray paint can revive any old fabric piece of furniture or accent. From lampshades to lines, tennis shoes to sofas its machine washable, permanent and most importantly, soft to the touch. Use it indoors or out to update and revitalize. Perk up the interior of a car or boat by spraying it on the seats.

It comes in a variety of standard upholstery colors so instead of buying a new piece of furniture to change up a room…spray it, don’t change it.

Magnetic Spray Paint
With this can of spray paint anything can instantly become a magnetic surface. Give that refrigerator a break as the communication center. Magnetic spay paint can be applied to metal, plastic, glass, wood, ceramic; most any hard surface.

Spray it on the back wall of a bookcase for magnetic versatility with accents. Spray it on a kitchen cabinet door or as a back splash. It’s perfect for teens that love to devour wall space with poster and pictures.

Now they can use magnets instead of damaging the wall with tacks, nails and pins. Magnetic spray paint can be used as the under coat and can be painted over with any color to not detract from the overall room color scheme.

Mirror Spray Paint
This paint is too cool. Turn any piece of glass into a reflective surface. Spray the bottom of a glass dining table, end or coffee table for a more contemporary look. Spray the windows over the bath tub for more privacy. Use it with stencils on glass sconces to create seasonal centerpieces.

One warning; mirror paint will be reflective “like” and cannot give you a smooth clear mirror image. Use it for accent only.

Rubber Spray Paint
Rubber areosal paint is perfect for the DIY or crafty person. It can be applied to any surface including rope, brick and ceramics. It acts, feels and looks like rubber but it comes from a can. Colors are limited but, it also comes in a clear form, so any color can be used under the rubber application.

  • Spray it on a work bench or any horizontal surface where a no slip top is needed. Perfect for stamp collectors, and jewelry designers where small parts and supplies can easily roll off the more slippery surfaces.
  • In the garage, it’s a handy tool buddy. Spray it on those cold steel tools and other thingamajigs that need solid grip control.
  • Spray it on the bottom of furniture legs where hard wood floor protection is important.

Frosted Glass Paint
Where window treatments are too cumbersome or over stated, use frosted glass spray paint. It allows light by day and privacy by night. Nice over the bathtub when damp blinds or shutters just won’t do.

Instead of a reflective surface, try this frosted glass spray under those glass tables. Change up the look of glass cabinet doors by adding a stenciled design giving them a finish that looks like custom etched glass.

High Heat Paint
High heat spray paint is the must paint product for all grill masters. Guaranteed to not chip, crack, split or melt while barbecuing up to 1200 degrees. This spray paint will clean up even the most neglected grill, stove or even radiator. Rustoleum has some very nice colors to choose from to give that charcoal black grill an entirely new look.

Paint in a can is an amazing, neat and easy way to revitalize just about anything!