Two with a View - Page 3

Often misunderstood, Eichler’s original two-story homes are a rare breed that startle some, but surely please their owners
Crosby's backyard deck
Above the winemaking area is Crosby's backyard deck, which backs up against a steep hillside.
Inside Ann Everingham's two-story, where lovely mahogany paneling lines the hall leading to her staircase.
Ann Everingham.
From the backyard of the Everingham home.
From the backyard of the Everingham home.

Owners of giraffe-like Eichlers like the added height so much, some maximize the value of that height. Betty Toole, a scholar who’s written extensively about Lord Byron’s daughter, writer and mathematician Ada Lovelace, ‘the enchantress of numbers,’ began using her roof as a view deck. “I do come up here and sit and drink a glass of wine,” she says.

Bloyd and Smetana have their view deck near the top of the steep hillside that borders their house, a hillside they’ve otherwise filled with cherry and apple trees, kumquats and loquats, asparagus and peppers.

The deck’s got a view of several of Marin County’s ridgeline open space preserves. “We’re all set up for mint juleps here,” Ted says, “when we get the spare time to use it.”

Building two-story homes wasn’t something Joe Eichler undertook lightly. According to the late Kinji Imada, an architect and eventual partner with Claude Oakland Associates, one of the firms that designed for Eichler, two-story homes were built only when the site would not accommodate one-stories.

“The guiding principle was always to build a single-level house where possible because that was what an Eichler house was—easy connection to outdoor living,” he said in a 2003 interview.

“It’s always easier, cheaper, and quicker to build a single-story house.”

Eichler built two-story homes when sites were too steep to accommodate single-stories, or when the terrain, or the size, or shape of lots or setback requirements didn’t provide enough room.

“I would say that without exception, two-story houses came about because of lot limitations—that is, the building pad was too small to accommodate a one-story house, which was always the preference,” Imada said. “Two-story houses were preferred over grading the lot for a two-level house.” 

On Yorktown Road in San Mateo Highlands, “They just didn’t have room for the house,” says Bob Crosby, whose two-story Eichler from 1965 backs up against a steep hillside. It’s one of seven original Eichler two-story homes on Yorktown, mixed with a few single-stories, which include the famous Eichler-built ‘Life House,’ designed in 1958 by architect Pietro Belluschi.

Over his 40 years in the home, Crosby, a structural engineer and amateur winemaker, has taken advantage of his home’s placement against a steep hillside by burrowing out tons of rock to insert a wine cellar and winemaking area between home and hill.

He topped it with an extension of the home’s original deck, complete with a post-and-beam pavilion, and a skylight to the winemaking area below.

Similar site constraints resulted in the two-story Bloyd-Smetana house.We have the same square footage as the other four-bedroom houses, but our footprint is half the size,” Ted Bloyd says.

Bloyd brags that his home is an example of early passive-solar design, since the home is positioned on the lot to take best advantage of the sun. In his interview, Imada said each of the two-story homes was individually planned and sited “for specific site conditions.”

The result, owners say, is nothing like what happens when two-story additions appear willy-nilly. “I think they sort of blend together very well,” Phil Fialer says of the original two-story and single-story homes in his neighborhood. “The two-stories don’t stand out. To me, the street looks very harmonious.”