Say the words “Eichler home” and a very specific set of images are conjured up: patios, atriums, floor-to-ceiling windows, glass transoms, post-and-beam interiors, the nostalgic glow of the midcentury good life in Northern and Southern California. Now these houses, built between 1950 and 1974 and designed by some of the leading lights of Modernist architecture, are prized possessions, with a demand that far outstrips the supply.
Bay Area real estate agent Monique Lombardelli knows the situation all too well. For several years now she has been selling homes and all-too-frequently finds clients who want one thing: an Eichler home. Trouble is, they don’t come on the market that often. “People wait for months for Eichlers to come up,” she says, since homeowners who have them tend to hang on to them.
That the passion Eichler homes inspire comes as no shock to Lombardelli. She’s passionate about them too—so much so that she recently produced a documentary People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler. The film covers the genesis of Eichler’s firm and developments and features interviews with son Ned Eichler and seven current Eichler homeowners. With the film, Lombardelli tries to get to the heart of why these houses inspire such devotion.
Now she has an even more ambitious project brewing: building new Eichler homes. “My clients want Eichler homes,” says Lombardelli. “I know architects who only work on Eichlers, I have clients who have land. I talked to the Eichlers about reviving the company, and we decided to put all the pieces together.” To get the project going, Lombardelli had to track down and obtain the rights to the original plans. She now has the rights to five designs, including a double-A frame and a standard A-frame model. They’re being update to meet 21-century code requirements and will be stamped by Ned Eichler.
Lombardelli looks to have the first homes completed within a year, with interest not just in the Bay Area but throughout the country as well. She has received inquiries about building houses in Oregon, Arizona and even Kanas. It’s an all-cosuming project at the moment, but, she says, “I have more happiness with this, than with anything I’ve ever done.”