(Bruce Damonte Photography, original photo on Houzz)

Design Envy: An Eichler Home in Palo Alto Gets a 21st Century Update


With floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding glass doors and open floor plans, the homes designed by developer-builder Joseph Eichler are icons of midcentury modern design. But this particular Eichler home in Palo Alto had seen better days.

When the Finlay-Lister family, including four children, moved to the area from Canada, they loved the location and purchased this 1973 Eichler knowing it would need significant interior work. Following a lead from a local mother's group website, the family connected with general contractor Scott Flegel of Flegel's Construction, a firm with extensive experience working on Eichler remodels in the area. Flegel met with the family and with project architect David Yama, and "we all hit it off very well," Flegel says. The Finlay-Listers have since moved back to Canada, but the home updates made by them and the design team will last for many years to come.

Houzz at a Glance

Location: Palo Alto, California

Size: 2,000 square feet (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a powder room)

The clients' goals were simple, says Flegel: "They wanted a complete interior remodel that would simplify yet modernize the house." By maintaining the original Eichler layout overall and carefully planning interior changes to enhance the flow and use of space, the team created a fresh, modern space suited to busy family life. Architect Yama's concept "shows the modern design they were looking for in a thoughtful and low-key way," Flegel says.

With open space on all sides, vaulted ceilings and big, comfy seating areas, the main living space can easily host a large family and is ideal for entertaining. One striking modification by the design team is the central brick fireplace, which was reconfigured to hold a wide-screen TV on the opposite side. "This was an on-the-fly design," says Flegel. "I worked directly with David and the owners to design and implement this feature in the house. I was very happy how this came out."

Interior designer Alison Damonte joined the team near the end of project, and lent her expertise in selecting sleek, modern furniture and accessories with a fun twist—like the disco ball propped in the fireplace (obviously meant to be moved when the fireplace is in use). Colorful artwork and textiles pop against large expanses of white to create a fresh, open feeling.

"The original kitchen was reconfigured, allowing for a large dining area, suitable for children's projects as well," says Flegel. Damonte outfitted the casual eating and project space with a Saarinen table, Eames chairs, a modern pink glass pendant light and hot-pink stools at the breakfast bar.

"We did change the area of the house where the utility room and powder room are now," says Flegel. The area that is now occupied by the laundry room had been a hodgepodge area of the garage before the remodel. "We leveled up the floor area to incorporate it into the conditioned space of the home," he says. The area that housed the washer and dryer became the new powder room.

"As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of wallpapered walls which were done after all the finishes were installed, which added a level of difficulty and challenge," Flegel says. Greenblat knocked them out of the park.

The exterior of the 1973 home has been left pretty much as is. Like many Eichler homes, it is quite unassuming from the street ... you would never guess that the interiors were so wide open and light-filled. —Laura Gaskill, Houzz.

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