Eichler Film Debuts Sept. 21

New video documentary shines a light on the builder and people who love his homes
Monique Lombardelli
Eichler filmmaker Monique Lombardelli at the Bazett House.
(photo: David Toerge)

It didn’t take long for Monique Lombardelli to fall under the spell of Joe Eichler—but it’s taken her two years and close to $40,000 to work through that spell.

On September 21, Lombardelli will debut People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler, a 45-minute documentary she made as executive producer with director Kyle Chesser, who lives in an Eichler. It is the first film ever about the Eichler homes.

Free screenings will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 at two venues—the Lucas Valley Community Center (1201 Idylberry Road, San Rafael), and Zinc Details (a modern furnishings shop at 1905 Fillmore Street, San Francisco). Lombardelli will be present—at both—to answer questions.

“These are special houses that have a huge meaning to people in the Bay Area,” Lombardelli says, explaining why she sunk so much time and money into the project. “To me, they mean freedom, integrity, a connection to the past.”

Lombardelli interviewed people who knew and worked with Eichler, and visited people who live in his homes today, including the owner of the famous ‘Life House’ in San Mateo.

Lombardelli’s filming at one house, an important place to Joe Eichler, led to an exciting development. That was the Bazett House, in Hillsborough, the Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian home that Eichler rented from 1943 to 1945. It was here that Eichler first felt the power of modern architecture. Inspired, he began building modern tract homes a few years later.

Today, Lombardelli lives in the Bazett House just as Eichler did, renting a portion of it from the family that has owned it since 1945. “I want to live here,” she told the owners.

Eichler Film

“I wanted to live there and experience what Eichler experienced,” she says.

The home has not disappointed. “I can feel this spirit of innovation and the feeling of being completely engulfed in the design,” she says.

Lombardelli, a realtor who sells homes for McGuire Real Estate, says making her first film was “really the most fun experience. I cried. I was either emotionally overwhelmed or laughing my ass off the whole time.”

Making the film has helped her business, she says. “I’ve had so many referrals it’s basically paid for itself already.”

Lombardelli actually started out in show business, getting a degree in broadcast media, acting Off Broadway in New York, modeling, and appearing in commercials in Los Angeles. But acting is a tough field, she says, and she was good at sales and interested in architecture. Real estate proved “the path of least resistance.”

She appreciates how producing the film made use of her talents in both real estate and broadcasting. “I used my broadcast background to calm people down, get them comfortable before we turned on the camera,” she says. “People would be laughing.”

Showings are planned throughout the fall in Menlo Park, Foster City, at the Neutra House in Los Altos, elsewhere on the Peninsula, in the city of Orange, and in Tucson during their ‘Modernism Week,’ with more to come.