Tag Archives: Joseph Eichler

Meet the New Ranch House — and its DNA

A Plan for All Reasons

I’m delighted to welcome designer Steven Murphy to our Signature Studio. Steven’s work is inspired by some of Southern California’s most famous modern architects, including A. Quincy Jones and Cliff May. His Solatrium Garden

House Plan 544-1 is a contemporary steel-framed ranch house that celebrates indoor-outdoor living. The view above shows how the main house and adjacent guest room/garage, open to the private pool terrace. The uncluttered shallow

gable is a signature of mid-century modern design and became increasingly abstracted in the work of May, Jones and other architects of the era. For example, here’s an image of Cliff May’s own house in Brentwood from 1953

the fourth house for his family), which was recently restored and updated with finesse by Marmol Radziner Architects. The surprise is the large skylight that

runs along part of the roof ridge to bring light deep into the interior (these two photographs by Joe Fletcher, courtesy Marmol Radziner). In Murphy’s plan the

skylight is narrower but runs almost the length of the roof to brighten every major room. The Murphy design also recalls the dramatic gable-fronted tract houses that A. Quincy Jones and his design partner Frederick Emmons

designed for developer Joseph Eichler in the Balboa Highlands section of Granada Hills, from around 1964, as shown here, with openings in parts of the gable to bring in light and air (photograph courtesy LA Curbed). 

Steven Murphy’s floor plan is essentially an H under a wide roof: you enter at the

crossbar; ahead is a small outdoor reflecting pool. The house is carefully zoned: public areas to the left in great room and kitchen facing the pool terrace; private

areas to the right in bedrooms and study. Window walls and sliding doors open each end to private patios. Thanks to Steven Murphy, our collection of Mid-Century Modern, Courtyard-Oriented, and Cliff May-and-Eichler-Inspired ranch houses plans is expanding.

Speaking of A. Quincy Jones: one of his most sumptuous estates, Sunnylands, built for publishing magnate Walter Annenberg and his wife Leonore in Palm

Springs in the mid 1960s, has just opened for public tours after an extensive restoration. Appearing to float beside its reflecting lake, it resembles a mirage of modernism (the hallucinatory pink of roof and foundation was meant to capture the color of a desert sunset, as requested by Mrs. Annenberg). It was here that the Annenbergs entertained presidents and British royals, not to mention Hollywood royalty. The Annenberg Foundation has also added the extremely elegant and contexturally deft Sunnylands Center (for approved retreats) by architect Frederick Fisher and Partners.

Eichler Excitement

Sixties Modern Revival

Big news! We have acquired the rights to sell copies of four original Mid-century Modern Eichler house plans — they’re the latest additions to our Signature Collection. These rare historical designs were done in the 1960s by architect Claude Oakland for California developer Joe Eichler. It was Eichler who brought award-winning modern architecture to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s when he hired contemporary architects like Anshen & Allen and Jones & Emmons to design his subdivision houses in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. At Anshen & Allen the principal designer for Eichler homes was  Oakland, who had studied briefly with maverick architect Bruce Goff. In 1960 Eichler contracted directly with Oakland, allowing him to start his own firm. Here’s a photo of Joe and Claude reviewing a set of working drawings:

ho_sigstyle_1 Claude Oakland Joe Eichler

Joe’s in the glasses. The firm became Oakland and Imada Architects in the 1970s — Kinji Imada had studied with Walter Gropius at Harvard. While most of their work was for Eichler, they also designed redevelopment housing and other projects. Oakland died in 1989; Imada in 2005.

The following image of a typical Oakland living room is emblematic (photograph by Ernie Braun / courtesy Eichler Network Archives, all rights reserved).

2437-1-interior Eichler photo by Ernie Braun

All the Eichler characteristics are here:  an exposed post-and-beam one story structure, floor to ceiling walls of glass, and the promise of easy indoor-outdoor living. Furnishings are casual, uncluttered, and contemporary. It remains a powerfully seductive  image of modernity for a mass market.

Our Eichler plans were designed for two Bay Area developments – one in Mill Valley and one in the East Bay Hills. Plan 470-4 is organized around an open-air atrium, a feature that Eichler made famous.


The front door is really the gate beside the garage and opens to a passage leading to the atrium. Straight ahead, the second front door opens to the loggia adjacent to the living room.


A friendly gabled street facade gives no hint of the spatial surprise — the atrium — within.

Plan 470-1 is distinctive in that it contains a so-called “hobby room” behind the garage.


The kitchen is conveniently situated between garage and the entry and can be entered from both sides. A long low overhanging gable running parallel to the street


pulls the facade into an orderly line.

Plan 470-2, for a somewhat narrower lot, puts the entry between


kitchen and garage and includes a large “gallery” that functions like a great room.


The facade combines offset flat and gable roofs in a crisp contemporary composition.

Plan 470-3, below, is an unusual two story Eichler.


The layout is wide and relatively narrow, with a generous entry to accommodate the stairway.

470-3mf-2143 large

An efficient and graceful circulation plan on the ground floor allows each room to flow into the other without wasteful dead-end spaces.


Upstairs, airiness and outdoor living dominate with front and rear balconies and a two-story living room.

A percentage of the price of each plan supports the Environmental Design Archives at U. C. Berkeley, which preserves the original Oakland/Imada drawings and the records of other significant California architects and landscape architects.

For an architectural history of  Eichler homes see the excellent Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream (Gibbs Smith, 2002)


by Paul Adamson and Marty Arbunich with photography by Ernie Braun. Information and advice about Eichler communities is available from the Eichler Network, which publishes the informative quarterly CA Modern.

We’ll provide ideas and advice for updating these Eichler plans for today’s energy codes and lifestyles in future postings. Also see our Eichler-inspired plans by New Jersey architect Gregory La Vardera, California architect Robert Nebolon, and Alabama designer Daniel E. Bush, which are part of the Signature Collection, with more to come.