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A Classic 1970s House Shows Its Staying Power for a Young Bay Area Family

In Northern California, the name Eichler is shorthand for a brand of midcentury dwelling with a cultlike following—and an expansive one at that: Developer Joseph Eichler built nearly 11,000 homes between 1949 and 1974. Among the thousands of Eichlers nestled into the rolling ranchlands of Marin County and clustered into cul-de-sacs in Silicon Valley, only one is sited west of Interstate 280 in the South Bay of San Francisco. The exacting scale, detail, and location of this idiosyncratic residence is no coincidence: The 1971 home was commissioned by John Lynd, a personal friend of Joseph Eichler’s, himself an architect and the founder of Stanford University’s planning department.

Florie Hutchinson, a Swiss American arts publicist, recalls the coup de foudre she felt as she first peered through its windows in early 2018. She and her husband, Ben, an English expat who works in the valley’s tech sector, had been looking for a house they could renovate to accommodate their brood of three, soon to be four, young daughters. Thanks to their girls, in fact, just one year prior Florie had been pushing for a modernization of a different sort: lobbying the Unicode consortium to introduce a less gendered emoji for the word shoe, working with designer Aphee Messer to provide an alternative to the standard stiletto—a royal blue ballet flat.

the kitchen has an island with cabinetry below a walnut slab countertop with six stools and pendants hanging above, a large window is above a sink and blue cabinets, a yellow oven is at the far end

Alanna Hale

The kitchen island’s countertop is a custom walnut wood slab; the island and cabinetry are painted in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball. The chairs are from CB2, and the pendants are Schneid from Stillfried Wien. The sink is by Franke, the fixtures are by Watermark, and the countertop is Dekton. The refrigerator is Sub-Zero, and the ovens are Blue Star. The artwork is by Laeh Glenn.

That ingenuity served Hutchinson well in spotting the family-friendly potential in this particular Eichler. To bring it into the present day, she enlisted local architect Gustave Carlson and an interior designer out of Atlanta, Jessica Davis of Atelier Davis, whom Hutchinson had befriended years earlier when they were both in an a cappella group at Princeton. “In talking about the couple’s lifestyle with their daughters, it was clear the project wasn’t going to be too precious,” says Davis. “It’s similar for me: I have children, and they live with art and understand the value of things. But I also know that they’re going to get marker on the countertops.”

The home needed to be pragmatic while showcasing Hutchinson’s dual passions: art and family. Accordingly, Carlson came up with a sensitive scheme for the remodel, all based on how the close-knit family actually lives, works, cooks, and plays. “Eichler was an egalitarian in his design principles,” he says. “I wanted to keep those truths while allowing the house to grow more customized for Ben and Florie.”

outdoor dining area with gray wood table with ten yellow metal chairs and a vase with flowers and large leaf

Alanna Hale

In the outdoor dining area, the table is from RH, Restoration Hardware, and the chairs are from Petite Friture.

Client, architect, and designer found themselves then uniquely aligned: They relished the home’s original beams, its signature atrium, and the easy flow between indoors and out. But all were wary of common conceptions of what the midcentury looked like and were eager to add color and texture tailored to the family’s character. Thus, the material vocabulary of the interiors had to evolve: Cork flooring was introduced alongside terrazzo, the latter of which went through a dozen iterations before just the right aggregate presented itself; the original wood paneling was updated with a subtle Western red cedar version, typically reserved for exteriors.

living room has facing sofas, a round cocktail table, a pouf, a pair of leather backed chairs, all on a multicolored rug, two consoles are against the wood paneled wall with sconces and multiple artworks

Alanna Hale

In the living room, the sofa is by George Smith, the chairs are by Amura from 1stDibs, the pouf is from Etsy, the cocktail table is from Stahl + Band, and the rug is custom. The consoles are by Design Public, the side table is by Pfeifer Studio, and the sconces are from WAC Lighting. The wall paneling is Western red cedar tongue and groove, and the ceiling is painted tongue and groove wood. Artworks along the back wall (from left) are by Molly Metz, Didier William, and Mariel Capanna.

In the living room, a custom rug sets off plaid pillows in a Schumacher fabric, both in conversation with the Katja Seib work hanging above the fireplace. A color-block grid painting by Cassidy Early holds a place of honor on a ledge above the Hutchinsons’ bed, a custom Atelier Davis design. “I love that Florie was game to play with pattern, which is not something you might think to do in an Eichler, or a house from that period,” says Davis.

the bed in primary bedroom with curved wood frame and long striped decorative pillow, green nightstands on either side, artworks sit atop wainscoting ledge against leaf patterned wallcovering

Alanna Hale

In the primary bedroom, the bed is custom, the bedside tables are from Dowel Furniture, the sconces are from Lostine, and the wallcovering is by Marthe Armitage. Artworks (from left) are by Hope Gangloff, Sophie Barber, Andrew Cranston, Jenna Gribbon, Shara Hughes, Jesse Mockrin, Cassidy Early, Grace Metzler, and Hope Gangloff.

The decision to enclose the atrium was crucial, creating as it did a kid-friendly space at the literal center of the single-story residence. “Before the renovation, the atrium was austere, but also a thoroughfare,” Hutchinson says. “I wanted it to feel really homey and welcoming because I knew this would become where the kids would spend their time.”

Just off the atrium is what Hutchinson has dubbed the “single most defining element” of the home: a site-specific plaster fresco, created over the course of five weeks by the artist Mariel Capanna, that spans a 21-foot-long corridor leading to the entrance of the “girls’ wing.” Now, children and parents can walk together through the fresco—in which each section, or giornata, illustrates the family’s history—while getting ready in the mornings or on the way to bed. “I love the romance of it,” says Hutchinson. “It could be around for 10,000 years.” 

Styled by Glenn Jenkins

march 2022 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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