Monday, March 28, 2016

Mid-Century Modern March: Eichler Homes

What would a month-long mini-survey of Mid-Century style be without a look at Eichler homes? Contrary to popular assumption, Joseph Eichler was not an architect but a real estate developer. As a businessman, he was inspired to create modernist houses after his family spent a brief period of time living in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. He initially teamed up with the architect Robert Anshen of Anshen & Allen to design the initial Eichler prototypes in 1949. In later years, Eichler homes were designed by other architects like A. Quincy Jones and Raphael Soriano, and by firms including the San Francisco firm Claude Oakland & Associates. Between 1949 and 1966, Eichler Homes built over 11,000 homes in nine communities in Northern California and homes in three communities in Southern California.

The Eichler style came to be known as "California Modern" since one of the main goals in his home design was to bring the outside in, to blur the line between interior and exterior, and our mild California climate certainly allows for that concept. Flat or A-line roofs cap façades that are mostly solid; floor to ceiling windows are placed in the inner courtyard and the sides and rear of the home, taking advantage of grassy views instead of asphalt streets. The exposed post-and-beam, open plan homes featured a lot of design and material innovations at the time such as radiant heat embedded in poured concrete floors, tongue and groove siding on ceilings, pocket doors, and bespoke kitchen cabinetry that featured sliding fronts.

Nowadays, Eichlers are highly sought after. There are entire real estate network sites dedicated solely to Eichlers, and there are forums specifically for owners of Eichlers. Remodeling one can be a sensitive undertaking since the homes have not stood the test of time too well. The flat or A-line roofs tended to sag or rot. When the radiant heating coils failed in the flooring, few people wanted to jackhammer up the entire foundation to repair them. The thin, laminated cabinet doors in the kitchen tended to chip and crack. But a properly restored Eichler can be gorgeous. I recently consulted on an Eichler kitchen remodel and it is important to pay attention to period details like globe lighting hanging from the ceiling or mid-century modern sconces on the walls. Using period-correct details like Heath tiles for bathrooms will add an air of authenticity as well. And finally, a liberal peppering of Eames chairs and Saarinen Tulip tables and chairs provide the proper set dressing.

The classic Eichler design even showed up in Pixar's delightful animated film "The Incredibles!" Look at the screen shots below and notice the Eichler-esque façade, the roof line windows, the stacked stone, and the general Mid-Century vibe of the interior!

Happy designing!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mid-Century Modern March: The Danish Modern Dining Room

A staple of Mid-Century interiors is the Scandinavian design sensibility referred to as Danish Modern. Starting in the 1920's during the Bauhaus revolution (previously here) Denmark produced a wide range of modernist furniture pieces. The style migrated to the United States in the 40s and thrived throughout the 50s and 60s with talented proponents and designers like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner. Seating and tables were minimal and sleek, generally made from light-colored woods. But nowhere was the Danish Modern style more at  home than the dining room. In the 50s and 60s, credenzas, buffets, and sideboards (see here for previous definitions) on spindle or hairpin legs graced dining rooms large and small.

Hairpin legs on a Danish Modern credenza

Happy designing!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mid-Century Modern March: Isamu Noguchi Cocktail Table

Isamu Nogchi was a multi-disciplinary Modernist master. Born in Los Angeles in 1904 to a Japanese father and white mother, Noguchi grew up in Japan until he was 13. During these formative years, he must have absorbed the respect and love of craft and form. He studied art and sculpture (with Constantin Brâncuși among others!) and created a vast body of work ranging from environmental design and sculptural gardens to product design to children's playgrounds to furniture design to sets for choreographers Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and George Balanchine, and composer John Cage. “Everything is sculpture,” Noguchi said. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.”

In 1947, he began working for Herman Miller and a year later, created his iconic cocktail (or coffee) table of two identical curved wood pieces and a glass top. Breathtaking in its simplicity, the biomorphic shape is truly a piece of sculpture for the home.

The table is available through Design Within Reach, here.
Visit the Noguchi website for more information about the sculptor and visiting the Noguchi Museum.

Happy designing!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mid-Century Modern March: George Nelson Clocks

This whole month of March, I am going to be posting about classic Mid-Century Modern designs and designers.

I previously posted about George Nelson's classic Marshmallow Sofa here (designed by Irving Harper for Nelson's firm), but as one of the founders of Modernism, his firm also created another classic Mind-Century Modern design: the sunburst clock. Working with the already popular motif of a sunburst, starburst, atomic burst, or asterisk, Harper tapped into the zeitgeist with his clock shape. It was the Atomic and Space Age after all, and people were responding to a new, modern sensibility and a cutting edge way of living.

Take a look at the many iterations of the ubiquitous Mid-Century Modern wall clock by George Nelson Associates. If you were alive in the 50s and 60s, chances are you lived in a house with some version of this on the wall. The firm made over 150 clock designs alone including the ball clock, first image below, the eye clock, and the sunflower clock.

Find out more about George Nelson at:

...and happy designing!