Perched high on a hillside in Carmel, CA, with stunning views of the ocean is a house that was originally built by Joseph Eichler, a 20th-century post-war American real estate developer known for developing distinctive residential subdivisions of Mid-century modern style tract housing in California. The recent challenge for the team at Lewis Builders was to hold true to the home’s aesthetic, while updating its features and function. In the end, a streamlined contemporary design was achieved, which was still reflective of Eichler’s initial intent.
Among the obstacles cited by the design team during the seven-month renovation was a heating and ventilation system that was poured into the concrete slab foundation and had pest intrusion, a choppy floor plan where a person had to walk through one bedroom to get to the other, a crowded kitchen that blocked views to the dining room and the ocean, a misplaced fireplace and areas of the interior space that lacked natural light.
“We pride ourselves on being able to accomplish any kind of architectural design — Victorian, contemporary, Carmel Cottage, craftsman and so on,” said designer-builder John Lewis of Lewis Builders in Carmel, CA. “With this house, we wanted to pay homage to Eichler and do something he would do in 2020. He was pretty modern for his time, so we call this an ‘updated’ Eichler.”
Rich Morf, design/build manager at Lewis Builders, explained they respected Eichler’s design style by keeping the similar clean lines and finishes. “We also added additional windows to bring in more light and allow for a seamless transition between the interior and exterior,” he said. “The original home was built as a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,389-square-foot home. We added additional square footage and reconfigured the interior. The end result is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,572-square-foot home.”
The change to the interior design required constructing a hallway to allow three separate entrances for the bedrooms, opening up the kitchen, dining and living room, moving the fireplace and bringing more natural light into the space by adding six skylights, four patio doors, two French doors and glass transoms on both interior and exterior walls.
In keeping with the contemporary flair of the home, quartz surfacing was chosen for the kitchen and bathroom countertops. “We liked it for the clean simple design,” said Morf. “[Also], quartz is easy to fabricate, therefore the corner mitering/seems are less noticeable.” For the kitchen countertops, Caesarstone in “raw concrete” was selected.
Morf went on to say that quartz is a first choice for most of the firm’s projects. “It can be used for kitchen, bathroom and multi-use countertops,” he said. “As mentioned, it is easy to fabricate. There are also many designs and patterns to choose from.”
To further enhance the interior design and add a hint of rustic elegance, the quartz countertops were complemented by a fireplace and backsplash wall of Cottonwood Antique Ivory dry-stacked limestone. The material was quarried by Earthworks Natural Stone Inc. of Perryville, MO, and supplied through SBI Building Materials and Landscape Supplies in Windsor, CA.
“We wanted to use clean simple lines and natural elements such as wood to add a warmth and softness to the space,” said Lewis, who calls the design “organic contemporary.” “We honored Eichler’s design by keeping some of the main aesthetics in place.”
Lewis said he learned a lot about Eichler’s design sensibilities by working on the house. “As a student of design, I’m immediately attracted to these types of homes,” he said. “I would do anything to learn from the masters like Eichler. So this was a close, intimate experience to work with this house and its design. It was enhanced with modern conveniences, while being true to Eichler’s mid-century modern design elements. We believe Eichler would be pleased.”
According to Morf, the newly renovated home has been well received. “We constantly have people stop and comment how beautiful the house is,” he said. “They love the simple clean lines and design. We just won the 2019 Chrysalis Regional Award for Whole House Remodel over $700k.”
Developer: Joseph Eichler
Builder/Design Firm: Lewis Builders, Carmel, CA
Stone Quarrier: Earthworks Natural Stone, Inc., Perryville, MO
Stone Distributor: SBI Building Materials and Landscape Supplies, Windsor, CA
Quartz Manufacturer: Caesarstone