Roof Beam Specialist
CA License# 712822
Roof Beams
Q & A
Before You Repair
In Depth
About Me
Contact Me
Site Map
Sac Bee Article
Sac Bee Article

(This article was originally published in the 
Sacramento Bee, Saturday, November 13 2004)


What do you do when you've filled a conventional house 
with modern furniture?
"Look for a modern house to put it all in," says graphics 
designer Dane Henas, explaining why he purchased 
home in South Land Park two years ago.

The modern house he bought was actually built in 1954 
and is known as an "Eichler," named for Bay Area 
developer Joseph Eichler who constructed homes in 
California between 1949 and 1974.
While today's new-home construction leans toward two-
story stucco hulks, Eichler's low-slung structures stand 

out like a '56 T-Bird in a parking lot of SUVs.
Eichler built only 60 homes in Sacramento. He did most
of his construction in the Bay Area (10,365 homes). He 
also built 575 homes in Southern California and three in 
New York. His influence here, however, can be found in 
some 3,000 houses built between 1957 and 1988 by 
local developers Jim and Bill Streng.

Seen as quintessentially Californian, Eichler and Streng 
homes are highly regarded in architectural circles. 
Articles featuring them pop up regularly in such 
magazines as Sunset and Dwell.
"They had a huge influence on affordable modernism," 
says Dwell magazine senior editor Andrew Wagner. 
"Well-designed homes for the middle-income person, 

they were - and are - very good places in which to live."
There are, of course, other modern homes. But they're 
mainly custom designed and built. Eichlers and Strengs 
are unusual in that they were built in tracts and 
competed with conventional tract developments for 
Strange, funky and still avant-garde, the Eichler and 

Streng homes were constructed for parents of baby 
boomers. Ned Eichler, Joseph's son and marketing 
manager, once told an interviewer: "Our market was 
really selling to people with upper middle-class taste 
and lower middle-class incomes."
Now, however, Eichler and Streng homes are highly 
prized older homes. Some Eichlers have gone for more 

than $1 million in the Bay Area, although most 
Sacramento Eichlers and Strengs currently are in the 
$400,000 to $600,000 range.
Such prices probably would shock Eichler, despite his 
pride in the distinctiveness of his homes. He sold them 
for $20,000 or less.
David Heitz, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who 

specializes in Streng homes and lives in one himself, 
thinks the main appeal of modern homes is that they 
"beautifully blur the line between indoors and outdoors 
and represent California living at its best."
Although not an architect, Eichler, who died in 1974, 
was influenced by pioneer modernist architect Frank 
Lloyd Wright. His interest began when he lived in a 
rented Wright home in Hillsborough in the 1940s.

"Eichler built what he liked," says Paul Adamson, 
author of the coffee-table volume "Eichler: Modernism 
Rebuilds the American Dream." "He had modern 
sensibilities, but these attracted only a certain 
segment of society, essentially the socially progressive 

and creative."
Looking to build more contemporary-styled homes, the 
Streng brothers checked out Eichler's homes and met 
with him several times, says Jim Streng, now 74. "At 
one point Eichler even proposed that we merge our 
businesses. It never happened, though, because there 
were some things we just didn't see eye to eye on. But 

we respected his work tremendously." (Jim Streng left 
the home building business to run for county 
supervisor; he was elected and served from 1986 to 
1992. His brother, Bill, 78, closed the building 
business two years after Jim left.)
Eichler and Streng houses have achieved a cultlike 
status among owners and would-be owners, complete 

with clubs, meetings, newsletters and referral services.
San Franciscan Marty Arbunich noticed interest in such 
homes burgeoning in the early '90s and started the 
"Eichler Network," a quarterly newsletter and Web site 
(www. to help interested people 
share their enthusiasm, compare notes on remodeling 
and offer referrals for repair services.

Nevertheless, even during Eichler's heyday, nine out of 
10 new-home buyers opted for other home styles. 
Many considered Eichlers and Strengs too extreme 
then; many still would today.
"They're not for everyone," says Richard Gutierrez, who 
with his partner, Paul Torrigino, bought a 42-year-old 

Streng home in the Overbrook area two years ago. 
"We thought they were really cool. We love all the light 
and space and the '60s look."
What distinguishes Streng or Eichler homes, each of 
which have a variety of floor plans, from most other 
homes? A mix of some or all of the following:
Few or no windows at the front but plenty of glass (often 

floor to ceiling) almost everywhere else with glass 
doors opening to the back and side yards; flat or nearly 
flat roofs; large overhangs; high ceilings; post and 
beam construction with ceiling beams exposed; 
atriums; minimal internal walls and doors; merging of 
living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens with one 
another and seemingly with the outdoors.
From the street, both Eichlers and Strengs tend to be 

inconspicuous, looking like little more than wooden 
walls with landscaping. Entry doors often are on the 
side, making the front a complete blank. Inside and 
from the yards, however, their beauty shines.
Irene Koutchis, who recently and quite reluctantly 
decided to sell the Eichler home in South Land Park 
that she and her late husband bought in 1956, says, 
"I love the privacy the lack of front windows gives and 

the openness of all the other glass. It gives you the 
feeling of living indoors and outdoors at the same 
Jon Siler, a former furniture store owner who 
introduced modern style furniture to Sacramento, has 
lived in a Streng home since 1966.
"I bought it mainly for the looks," says Siler. "But it's 

more than that. For me, Streng is a way of life. I love its 
easy access to and emphasis on the outdoors. I love 
the simplicity, the openness, the high open beamed 
ceiling and the clerestory windows up near the ceiling 
which light up the rooms while giving privacy."
Tom Graham and his wife, who are buying an Eichler 
home, faced the same dilemma as Dane Henas: 
finding the right home to match their modern furniture.

"We read about the Eichlers in magazines dealing 
with modern furniture and thought they might be for 
Graham, as almost all Eichler fans, likes the 
"openness and how the house becomes one with the 

"That's their real charm - the way they suit the 
California climate, landscape and lifestyle," says 
author Adamson.
No builder is building tract homes like Eichler or the 
Strengs today. If you want a new modern-style home, 
it has to be custom built.

"Modern design, obviously, never had universal 
appeal," says Adamson. "That's one reason no one is 
building them. Another is that they're not that easy to 
Jim Streng adds another reason:

"With today's energy requirements and all their glass, 
they'd be much harder to make and sell at a 
competitive price.
"It's a pity, though. I'm surprised no builder has figured 
out a way."

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
The open floor plan of this Eichler home 
allows light from the living room to pour 
into the kitchen as well. Irene Koutchis 
says of the house she bought in South 
Land Park in 1956: "It gives you the 
feeling of living indoors and outdoors at 

the same time." .

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
Dane Henas stands in the living room of 
his Eichler home in South Land Park. 
The graphic designer has long been a 
fan of mid-20th century furniture and 
bought the Eichler dwelling to house his 


Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
Streng Bros. houses, such as this one in 
the Overbrook area, look very much like 
Eichler designs. The builders admired 
each other's work and at one time thought 
of merging their businesses. Eichler built 
homes between 1949 and 1974; the 

Streng Bros. closed their business in the 
late '80s.

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
Another Eichler design, this one is in 
South Land Park.

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
Richard Gutierrez stands in the kitchen of 

the Streng house he bought with Paul 
Torrigino two years ago. Gutierrez says: 
"We fell in love with our house when we 
first saw it. We love all the light and space 
and the '60s style architecture."

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
The kitchen of Richard Gutierrez' and Paul 

Torrigino's home practically merges with 
the patio making for easy entertaining.

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer
A wall of glass in a dining room in South 
Land Park shows how the Eichler homes 
blend the indoors with the outdoors, a 
major attraction for their owners.

Sacramento Bee/Owen Brewer

The windows in an Eichler home face 
mostly toward a secluded back yard, the 
solid front offering privacy from the street.


A 1950 advertisement in the Daily Palo Alto Times newspaper for Eichler homes. Price: $9,400.