About Us

Karen and John

Hi. We’re Karen and John and we own a mid-century modern home in Walnut Creek, CA, built by developer Joseph Eichler. For our day jobs, we both work in Product Management at Bay Area start-ups. For fun, we enjoy home DIY and interior design projects, in addition to being professional photographers and raising our two young boys.

If you are into midcentury modern, Eichlers, home renovation, home restoration, vintage furniture, and diy rehab projects, then join us here for our chronicles rehabbing a 1950s home. We have quite a long list of projects planned, so we should be here awhile!

Recent Projects

Check out our latest projects and design inspiration.

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Tour: Iconic Home

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Tour: Iconic Home

We’re so painfully behind on posts due to the kitchen/house renovation [consuming our lives].

Getting caught up on some of our favorite photos from the San Mateo Eichler Tour. This house was a favorite, with many iconic original furniture pieces and decor, and a welcoming modern outdoor space, seen from the back window wall of the house.

San Mateo Eichler

Eames Fiberglass Chairs

Modern concrete bench with Heath Ceramic Tile

Mini Outdoor Studio

EIchler Modern Landscaping

 

San Mateo Eichler Tour: Renovated Classic

San Mateo Eichler Tour: Renovated Classic

San Mateo Eichler

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San Mateo Highlands Eichler Tour: Exterior and Landscape Ideas

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Tour: Exterior and Landscape Ideas

We were pressed for time to get back to the East Bay (to start the demo of our kitchen!), so took a few more shots of exteriors before we headed back home.

So many beautifully restored Eichler exteriors, updated with original paint colors and trim, along with gardens featuring drought-resistant landscaping. It was a day full of design inspiration and homage to a historical Eichler community.

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Eichler Exterior

Eichler Landscaping

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Joseph Eichler

Joseph Eichler

“Ike-ler? Itch-ler?” Growing up in the Concord/Walnut Creek area, I always was subconsciously aware of an “Eichler home,” especially a small neighborhood off of Cowell Road in Concord. I remember driving to my sister’s swim practice at Cowell pool, looking at houses with car ports and flat roofs; houses that were distinctly different than the 1970s rancher I grew up in.

It was not until a few years ago that we actually saw the inside of an Eichler home. We fell in love with the walls (and walls) of glass windows, making the house feel expansive. We visited an atrium model, with the house built around a center courtyard. It was like nothing we had seen in other homes in our area. The home maintained classic modern lines and its original layout matched the (now popular) concept of open floor plan living.

I started researching more about the homes and discovered the history of Joseph Eichler, the builder of these homes and neighborhoods. He was not an architect, but a merchant builder who partnered with prestigious architects of the time to design and build modern homes for the “average” American family. From the 1950s to 1970s, Eichler developed tracts of housing developments in Northern California (Concord, Walnut Creek, San Rafael, San Mateo, San Francisco, San Jose, Castro Valley and Palo Alto) and Southern California.

Our model is a 1226 atrium model, designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and Fredick Emmons as part of Eichler’s Rancho San Miguel neighborhood, located in Walnut Creek, CA. Our home had already been updated over the years, but we hope to restore some of the mid-century modern aesthetics, while also making it a modern, comfortable home for our young family.

Here’s just the beginning of what’s bound to be a tireless (tiring?) and exciting journey!

Love this original 1226 floorplan, found on an Eichler Blog that documents a remodel of our same model.

A. Quincy Jones floor-plan-1224

 

Eichler Kitchen Renovation: Ikea Cabinet Assembly

Eichler Kitchen Renovation: Ikea Cabinet Assembly

Thanks to help from my brother, we got over the fear of assembling the gigantic mound of Ikea cabinets awaiting us in the garage. He helped lay out the assembly line for the first few cabinet bases, showing where to put the screws and parts. Once I assembled a few, working through the rest were easier to assemble, if you laid everything out the same way each time. I constructed about 10 in the first weekend.

ikea-boxes-kitchen

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Eichler Kitchen Renovation - Ikea Cabinets

A few days later, our much-anticipated new 6-burner BlueStar range arrived. Thank you to our friends Stevie and Debra for waiting for the delivery for us in the middle of a work day!

Eichler Kitchen Ikea Cabinets

We placed all the base cabinets where the island will be, and the additional wall of cabinets along the far wall. John mounted 2 x 4 platform bases to underneath the cabinets for extra support. Those Ikea plastic legs are supposed to hold up, but we wanted to ensure maximum support for what will be our concrete countertops.

Another few weeks pass as we assemble all the upper cabinets, mount them, and then secure all the cabinets in place. Also thrown in there at some point (it’s all a blur), John installed the plywood counter base, which will support the concrete, and so that we would have a working sink and dishwasher again, installed the sink and faucet (which we will have to re-install when we put the counters in).

We also started to hang our coveted Semihandmade cabinet doors, made from Flatsawn Walnut veneer.

 

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Home Tour: Multi-level Modernism

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Home Tour: Multi-level Modernism


Here is a stunning Eichler renovation, designed with a very modern aesthetic. This two-level Eichler (yes, there were a handful of 2-story Eichlers) was just around the corner from our friends’ home and featured stunning panoramic views.

I was pleased to see many classic lighting designs from my employer, in person for the first time.

Modern Eichler Renovation

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Eichler Kitchen Renovation: Planning Stages

Eichler Kitchen Renovation: Planning Stages

Kitchen Planning

The kitchen planning project has had (and will continue to have) several stages, of which we are just in the early phases. I have a feeling this renovation will becomeThe “massive project we will always remember, but be so happy it’s done.”

First, is the dreamy stage, and mass accumulation of Pinteresting ideas andHouzz-worthy photos, saving brochures (the Miele and LBL ones are just so pretty to look at), and tearing, saving, and posting beautiful kitchen remodels articles from the likes of Dwell, AD, Interior Design (Eichler cover feature!) and Atomic Ranch.

Next phase included feeling overwhelmed by all the aforementioned pretty photos, ideas, and possibilities.How big should the island be? What if it is too big? What type of floor? We know nothing about appliances! Wood or white cabinets?

And then realization steps in: How much is this going to cost?!

So this past weekend, we decided to bite the bullet and make the trip to Ikea to really get the planning underway. Big win; we decided to go on a Friday night after work when Ikea was relatively empty and the Kitchen planning Sales people were just sitting around chatting. This trip was just to get confirmation of what cabinets we wanted to go with and how the sizing works. We survived the trip (with two kids in tow – we should have fed them first not last, but I was so ready to get to the kitchens that I made the poor choice to feed later). We will soon go back to make the final purchases and take advantage of their big Kitchen Sale. Next time, I’ll stick with Friday night, sans kiddos.

So with the help of our lovely architect BFF Gabs, we spent the following night sketching out where each cabinet would go, defining the work spaces, measuring out and marking with painters tape all the major elements (stove goes here, sink goes there) and detailing out dimensions and cabinet purchasing list with Ikea’s [great, but quirky/buggy] Kitchen Planner Tool.

So here’s a rough idea of the new design:

Kitchen Plans

And inspired by the famous Faith’s Kitchen Remodel on the Kitchn (which I consider a bookmark/must-read for any kitchen renovation, detailing the entire process, including pricing) we are inspired to see what some custom doors from Semihandmadedoors will cost us. I am utterly wowed by their beautifully crafted wood veneer doors, designed specifically for Ikea cabinetry.

Here’s how Faith’s beautiful kitchen turned out:

The Kitchn - Faith's Kitchen Remodel

And another kitchen renovation inspiration is Stacey’s masterpiece at another favorite blog, The Goode House:

The Goode House

Lastly, here is my new love, A Bluestar Range in orange! (Ballard Residence from Houzz):

Bluestar 36" Range - Orange

So next steps include:

  • Await quote on doors and panels (fingers crossed)
  • Order some VCT/Linoleum samples (in cool white)
  • Practice some concrete projects (John, that’s for you)
  • Place IKEA order before sale ends (4/27)
  • Order appliances (Range, Sink, Faucet, and Wine Fridge)
  • Order doors (if we can afford them)
  • Plan demo/build phases (aka How Long Can We Live Without a Kitchen)
Eichler Kitchen Renovation – Demolition

Eichler Kitchen Renovation – Demolition

The lovely kitchen to be demo’d.

We are finally nearing the end phases of our very own Eichler Renovation, which started officially in May.

Months of planning, budgeting, and weekend warrior DIY have been very exhausting (did I say exhausting?!), but in that DIY mentality (slightly crazy), has been incredibly rewarding and satisfying.

We’ll start to post backwards a bit to get up to speed on all the phases of the project, and soon, be able to show off the Final Reveal!

Removal of all the old cabinetry:

Eichler Kitchen Renovation

Here’s John post Hulk Smash Tile and granite Demo:

EIchler Kitchen Renovation DIY

There were definitely better ways to demo the tile, but keeping our costs low, we decided to use the simple sledgehammer instead of what we should’ve used: The Bosch demolition chisel

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Tried various ways using a jack to carefully remove the granite countertops, but in the end, it was a sledgehammer that prevailed. There was too much adhesive in the way of a clean removal.

Eichler Kitchen Renovation

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We rented the floor buffer from Home Depot for $120 for 4 hours to scrape off the tile mortar – the worst part about this whole project.

Eichler Kitchen Remodel

Grinding bolts from the cement.

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But the place looked like this:

EIchler Kitchen Remodel

Tip: Use ZipWalls or simply get some Husky thin plastic sheeting in a roll and tape it up to seal off the roof. We rented the buffer at 8pm for a 4 hour slot, but definitely worked about 7 hours ’til 3am, then returned it at 8am to meet the 4 hour window.

 

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Tour

San Mateo Highlands Eichler Tour

EichlerTour_SpecialEdition

To benefit the Highlands Elementary School PTA, 10 families are opening the doors of their homes to the general public. These houses look great from the street, but the real magic is past the front door and under the beams. Panes of glass and architect designed spaces bring the outside in and the inside out, a feel and a look that defines California living.

The Event Will Feature:

  • 10 amazing original and remodeled homes will be part of the tour
  • A comprehensive Tour Booklet is included in the ticket price for you to keep
  • A vintage Airstream up close – come take a peak inside!
  • Meet and shop from 9 mid-century modern inspired artists within the homes. Artists include Steve Cambronne from Palm Springs, Victoria KlochAtomic Mobile by Debra Ann, Gretchen MichaelsMae PerlsonJW PippenChris RanesMichael Murphy, and Jeffery Crussell.
  • Meet the home owners
  • Meet the contractors and architects behind the remodel work
  • The Modern Hub – offering a look at vintage Eichler brochures and photos
  • Free showings of the film People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler by Realtor-turned-filmmaker Monique Lombardelli
  • Lunches can no longer be ordered online for catering count reasons. However, a limited amount of ‘day of’ lunches will be available for purchase at event for $12.
  • A limited edition, numbered commemorative event poster available for purchase (please purchase with ticket)

Some unique home features that will surely offer inspiration:

  • Solutions that represent a wide-spectrum of every budget – from DIY, off-the-shelf products, to one-of-a-kind custom solutions
  • An inspiring range of kitchen and bath remodels
  • Various interior design styles – from vintage mid-century style to contemporary
  • See a wide range of flooring materials in situ : cork, concrete, radiant-friendly walnut wood, natural slate, ceramic tile, and terrazzo-style glass tile
  • Innovative built-in storage solutions
  • A fresh take on interior wood panelling for walls
  • A small backyard turned into a big retreat, featuring an artist studio
  • Natural wood ceiling beams
  • A great room with a completely retractable sliding glass wall
  • Modern native-based landscaping with a zen edge
  • Storage solutions that define the space
  • Add-on detached office space that ties it all together
  • Maximized connection of living space to open space
  • Smart solutions to “where to put the laundry machines”
  • Color palettes that suit every mood and style
  • Do-it-yourself projects
  • Smart home expansions and additions that retain Eichler qualities
  • Fences / hardscaping ideas
  • Usable front yards – Creating a front-yard courtyard
  • Living large in a small space, maximizing space
  • Modern updates to classic Eichler elements

 

Eichler Restoration Project

Eichler Restoration Project

My Eichler renovation side project is finally done. Soon, it will become home to a new set of Eichler owners. I hope they absolutely love their new home! Mark and his team gave extra attention to detail to preserve so many beautiful elements of this Eichler home, while updating to modern standards. It has been a joy to work with him.

Remember this? Eichler Kitchen Before:

Eichler-Kitchen-Before

After: Maintained the same original footprint. New Ikea Cabinets (Abstrakt), modern Galaxy Pendant globes, and new appliances. I convinced Mark (after much persuasion and many samples) to install new VCT floors, in Armstrong’s Cool White. Cork and linoleum were original floor materials used in Eichler homes; I love the bright, fresh look that these floors give to the home. And super durable as well.

Modern Eichler Kitchen Renovation

Before:Eichler Kitchen Before

After: All original windows/glass and doors. Just cleaned Eichler Renovation After

Living Room/Dining Room Before:Eichler Dining Room Before

Living Room After:Eichler Living Room Restoration

Nelson Bubble Suacer Lamp

Atrium Before:Atrium Before

Atrium After:Atrium After

Ok, tired of the befores? Here are a few more after shots – enjoy!

Eichler Renovation After

Midcentury Modern Backyard

Eichler kitchen from outside

Master Bedroom:Master bedroom

Hallway

Hallway

Eichler Windows

Modern outdoor sconce

Eichler Renovation

Eichler RestorationThank you Mark for giving me the opportunity to help you preserve this Eichler home back to it’s original midcentury modern glory. It’s a real beauty! Now we need to get to work back at our own place!

Updates include:

-New exterior paint and trim. I recommended the original dark charcoal color (after finding a spot of it in a far corner for the outside siding, under several layers of scratched paint) and the atomic orange beam accent

-All doors and windows kept original and restored and meticulously cleaned. Original door buzzer kept in tact.

-Original luan panels, oiled

-New VCT (vinyl composite tile) throughout

-New Ikea Kitchen, original footprint

-New lighting –  YLighting, Home Depot & Lowes

-New front and backyard landscaping

-New fencing

Eichler Kitchen Inspiration

Eichler Kitchen Inspiration

We are getting closer to the true planning stages of our kitchen renovation.

Here is a photo of beautiful original Eichler kitchen from 45 Wall Design: 45 Wall Design

LOVE the paneled doors and white linoleum. Though I love the original cabinetry, anything original is sadly long gone from our house and we are likely to go with new cabinets that have a hint of the history, but with more modern bent.

I just discovered Kerf and their beautifully designed cabinetry:

kerf-1

A nice idea for a banquette or built-in bench: Kerf

And of course, my favorite, Semihandmade doors made specifically for Ikea cabinets:

Semihandmadedoors Mahogany

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