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