Going Green

I recently ran across and am amazed by Showcase for a Green Eichler Remodel. This blog outlines a family's vision, plan, and actions taken to remodel their entire Eichler Home in Monte Sereno using the latest green building innovations and techniques.

Owners Bryan and Jo-Anne Mekechuk purchased their 1969 Claude Oakland designed Eichler home from the original owners' estate in 1997 and have been living in it since. On re-evaluating their living space needs as their family has grown, they decided to remodel the main floor and build a second lower level underground!

Per their website:

"Unfortunately, Eichler houses consume an immense amount of resources (i.e., energy and water). Importantly, we want to have an environmentally friendly house that will have a minimal adverse impact on our environment.

Our design objectives for the project are to:

(1) increase comfort levels (e.g., cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and quieter throughout);

(2) simplify cleaning and maintenance requirements; and

(3) lower ongoing operating costs.

.... Our building objectives include:

(1) using innovative building materials (e.g., hollow core concrete panels);

(2) using innovative building practices; (e.g., building as much of the structure off-site and only assembling the components on-site; and

(3) managing the costs of construction.

Hats off to the Mekechuks -- they are a real inspiration!

Here are some resources that I have personally used locally for greening-up our 1961 MCM ranch:

Castle Window Covers - magnetized window covers that go on the inside of your existing windows and provide extra insulation for a fraction of the cost for replacement.

Our ranch has single pane aluminum and jalousie (Florida slat style) windows. You can imagine how poor they were at keeping out the weather, bugs and noise as a result. One of the first things we did at the house was to cover most of our windows with magnetized plastic covers from Castle Window Covers.

Green Fiber Insulation - During our recent master suite remodel, we had an opportunity to insulate some walls decided to further insulate our attic with an environmentally friendly mulch. It also is fire retardant and dampens noise really well. Green Fiber claims their product:

* Delivers high-efficiency thermal insulation and effective R-value.
* Offers permanent and proven fire resistance for the life of the structure.
* Reduces nuisance noise when used in walls.
* Offers a more comfortable living space.
* Is made from 85% recycled paper fiber.
* Supports energy conservation programs focused on environmental responsibility.

Click on the picture above to see more pictures of how it was installed in our remodel.

The Eichler Network also has a list of preferred service companies that you may contact with further questions on how to make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient.

Feel free to add any other products or services you have personally used to "go green" at your home in the comments section below.

How to Party Like It's 1955

Today we have two 1955 vintage newspaper advertisements highlighting the Eichler Home way of life in Sacramento (and San Mateo, Walnut Creek, and San Rafael).

 Here's what this ad says:

"Hallmarks of the Eichler Home — the room everyone wants —

How many times you've longed for in extra room in your home — enough space for the whole family to spread out and enjoy living. You've seen It in your mind's eye again and again — a room at once beautiful and practical — ready to serve as family TV theater, children's rainy-day playroom, sewing center, family office, game room, library or guest room, as the occasion demands.

In this, as in every other family need, Eichler Homes has anticipated you — with a big, handsome all-purpose room like the one pictured below. A family-fun room which gets a feeling of light and spaciousness from high clerestory windows and big glass wall opening on the patio — and an air of quiet elegance from rich Philippine-mahogany-paneled walls and beamed ceiling.

Everything in the Eichler Home bespeaks beauty and quality. The plans were created with a lavish hand by architects Jones & Emmons, acknowledged leaders in contemporary design. And the skilled builders have spared no effort to translate those plans into beautiful homes. The result is a house which looks better, works better and holds its value better than any other house on today's market.

Eichler Homes range in price from $15,960 to $21,500. Eichler Homes — designed for better living."

What is really interesting to me about this ad is how the table (still have mine!) was originally attached in the kitchen area. My friend and fellow Sacramento Eichler Home owner Dane Henas told me about the original (and awkward) placement of the table -- wow!

Here's what the ad says:

"Hallmarks of the Eichler Home — the most important room in the house . . .

The kitchen of the Eichler Home is a miracle of well-planned convenience— carefully designed for the easy, casual, servantless lives most modern families prefer to live. And its utility is more than matched by its beauty . . . housework becomes less trouble, more fun in this cheerful, light, airy room with views of both the private enclosed garden and the entry garden.

The big, built-in Formica table is the focal point for informal family meals and snacks-and doubles as buffet or service bar to the adjoining dining area. Roomy built-in kitchen cabinets, above and below, give more storage space than you ever dreamed possible. They give the kitchen a smart contemporary look, too, finished in charcoal Zolatone with contrasting grey sliding panels. Handsome Eichler-designed lighting fixtures diffuse light evenly throughout the room.

The work surfaces—range, oven, sink, chopping block, Formica counters—are laid out to save steps and motion. And all surfaces—including the Philippine mahogany walls and the cabinets—can be cleaned quickly and easily with detergent and water.

Standard in an Eichler Homes kitchen are the built-in stainless steel Thermador range and oven, overhead exhaust fan, and garbage disposer. Many have built-in dishwasher as well.

As with the kitchen, so with the rest of the Eichler Home—the same combination of beauty, utility and quality is apparent in every detail. For the Eichler Home is designed to make life easier, more pleasant, more beautiful for the modern California family. Eichler Homes range in price from $17,250 to $21,500. Eichler Homes — designed for better living."
-- Well.... hahaha that housework becomes less trouble! Clearly that ad guy didn't help out around the house!

Wanna Get Out of Town?

Special thanks to my pal, Eric, who told me about this upcoming event on September 19, 2009 11AM - 4PM. An Eichler homes self-guided tour "Open Hearts, Open Homes" in the foothills of Lucas Valley, San Rafael. Docents and vintage cars will be on-site; entertainment and book-signing will also be available.

Register in advance via the site. Tickets are $50 each; proceeds will benefit Hospice by the Bay. Tickets are limited; any remaining tickets will be sold during the event day at the Lucas Valley Community Center at 1201 Idylberry Rd., San Rafael, CA, 94903.

Sacramento Home Girl: Ray Eames

Almost everyone who is interested in mid-century design knows about the Eames' husband and wife collaborations. Their body of work, ranging from architecture, furniture, film, textiles, art, industrial design and other intellectual pursuits is well-documented.

What many do not know is that Ray Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988) was born at Sutter Memorial Hospital (where my two children were born) and raised here in Sacramento.

According to Pat Kirkham in the book "Charles and Ray Eames: designers of the twentieth century"
Bernice Alexandra Kaiser was born on December 15, 1912 in Sacramento, the daughter of Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser. She was known as "Ray Ray" and later simply Ray. Her mother was a housewife; her father had been a jeweler and the manager of a variety theatre before finding more secure employment as an insurance salesman for the Californian State Life Company in the 1920's. Ray came from a loving but overprotective home. Her elder sister died a few months after Ray was born and her parents thereafter lived in fear that they would lose her too....

How far the California lifestyle's emphasis on the new affected the attitudes of the young Ray Kaiser is impossible to ascertain, but she later developed a passionate interest in new forms of art, design, film, and dance. She showed a very early aptitude for art -- she remembered drawing from the age of 3. At Sacramento High School she belonged to the Art Association and enjoyed French and English. Her talents as a decorator revealed themselves even then, and she chaired the decoration committee for the school's annual football dance....

After graduating in 1931, Ray spent a term at Sacramento Junior College before she and her widowed mother moved to New York to be near her brother, who was a cadet at West Point.
According to an excellent article written by Rob Turner for Sactown Magazine's Premier Issue in December 2006, Ray's parents met in Stockton and moved to Sacramento in 1911. Her father managed a vaudeville theater called the Empress Theatre -- better known now as the Crest Theatre. Through her father's theater connections she met many entertainers and later studied dance in town.

She attended elementary at Highland Park School, which is now Sierra 2 Center for the Arts and Community and went to Sacramento High School which was (and still is) in nearby Oak Park.

Ray (Kaiser) Eames' High School photo, 1931 Sacramento High School Yearbook
- courtesy of Nancy Pratt-Melton, Golden Nugget Library Sacramento County Genealogy Databases

Sacramento High School circa 1931

A record search of the Sacramento City Telephone Directories shows that during most of Ray's formative years, the Kaisers lived in Curtis Park. One of the homes literally is six houses away on the same side of the same street as my old 1920 cottage (where I lived for seven years!) Of course, when I learned of this today I went running out of the house with my camera.

This beautiful two-story home (six houses down from my previous home) is a quintessential Curtis Park Tudor with multi-paned float glass windows. I spoke with the owner, Adrienne, who was aware of Ray having lived there. Adrienne herself lived in an Eichler with her parents in Palo Alto (small world!) Many thanks to Adrienne for allowing me to photograph her home.

This is the Kaisers' other Curtis Park home: a lovely cottage/bungalow, also very representative of Curtis Park architecture. I also spoke with owner and native Sacramentan, Tami, who was not aware of Ray having lived there. Many thanks to Tami for giving gracious permission for me to take pictures. (Tami recalls when the Sacramento Eichler neighborhood was built. Apparently at the time Saramentans took note of the Eichler Homes' modernity.)

Even after Ray moved away, she reportedly returned to Sacramento to visit friends. Her legacy in the modern design world is unmistakable.

Ray's desk at the Eames' studios

I understand there is a Ray Eames display at the California Museum here in Sacramento, which has an online timeline, photos, and video.

Stay tuned; I hope to continue to add to this post as I find additional information, records and photos.

And all you mid-century and modern-loving Sacramentans: proudly wave your cowbells and rejoice in the fact that Sacramento has been and always will be the home of good design and talented designers. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

P.S. for those of you interested to see pictures of my previous home down the street from Ray's in Curtis Park --

-- plus a Sacramento Bee article regarding my Curtis Park home's interior from 10.31.98.