Eichler Home Tour presents 12 Eichler Homes, original and remodeled a variety of single-family plans and sizes.

Story in Palo Alto Online Real Estate

An Eichler dozen

Hundreds of Palo Alto homes built mainly in the 1950s are hitting their jubilee year — and many owners are seeking inspiration for bringing them into the 21st century.

A dozen Eichler-built homes in the Greenmeadow, Palo Verde and nearby Los Arboles neighborhoods will be on tour on Saturday, Sept. 6, as a fundraiser for Peninsula Habitat for Humanity. The homes represent a range of remodels and updates, from a popped-up gable roof to wooden interior siding replaced with Sheetrock.

Rosemary Wardell, chair of the home tour, has lived in an Eichler for close to 45 years.

“I grew up on Frank Lloyd Wright and Eichlers,” she said, noting that her brother was one of Joseph Eichler’s architects.

Her affinity for Eichlers doesn’t mean she hasn’t changed them. But, as an interior designer (R.M. Designs, Palo Alto) she’s blended her essential respect with modern-day materials and energy-efficient goals.

Rosemary and her husband, Jack Wardell, a building contractor, bought their current Eichler, which is included on the tour, two years ago. Since then they’ve taken Eichler’s indoor/outdoor sensibility to new heights, transforming the atrium into an “outdoor” entertainment area with a raised gable roof, complete with vented skylights.

“I like the flat roof, but I also liked some of the newer Eichler designs that had a gable,” Rosemary said.

Light streams in from all directions: through a huge pane of glass separating the living room and outdoors, as well as from the skylights and windows in the gabled roof.

That pane was formerly in the dining room, which was moved to another area. Instead a formal living room is entered through sliding glass doors just beyond the atrium.

“We haven’t done structural changes, but modified,” she said.

Today’s kitchen is still a galley — but wider, and now open to the family room (the former living room). Horizontal wood-grained cabinets from Italy extend to the ceiling. All the new appliances are sited close to where they were before, and Wardell chose Thermador, an Eichler favorite, she said. The double sink, drawer pulls and appliances are all stainless-steel, with the large refrigerator faced in wood.

A skylight, with round, amber LED track lighting, brings in much-needed light.

“We’ve gone to as green as we could get,” Wardell said. “It cost more, but it’s certainly worth it.”

Double-paned windows were used throughout.

“Eichlers are extremely efficient,” she said, pointing to the copper pipes used in radiant floor heating.

Off the family room is what Wardell laughingly calls her “back porch” — a modern laundry center with matching Bosch front-loading washer and dryer. “It’s extremely efficient,” she said.

Another skylight was added to the master bathroom, which features an oval Deca sink and high-efficiency Toto toilet. Spanish porcelain tiles cut in 36-inch by 12-inch pieces “make it more contemporary,” she said.

Porcelain tiles are used throughout the home, with darker tiles in a second bathroom, and lighter squares in the former atrium. Wardell chose porcelain for its practicality, as well as beauty. “It’s not porous; it’s user-friendly. You can spill anything,” she said, and there’s really no need to re-seal it.

Most are earth tones — part of the Eichler palette, she said. Wardell did opt for a touch of red, contrasted with her black table, for her home office. Although most of the furniture in the house would be deemed “contemporary,” her husband kept his antique rolltop desk in his home office.

To lighten up the hallway, old plain hollow doors were replaced with doors inset with frosted-glass, which lets the light in but still provides privacy in the bedrooms.

Outside, the Wardells removed a swimming pool that took up most of the backyard, and replaced it with an eco-friendly deck, with a raised seating area at one end. At the opposite side is a fountain with a dry river-rock stream bed.

About half the homes on tour have been remodeled — meaning walls have been moved — while the rest have been updated, with new kitchens and bathrooms, flooring or painting.

Several share the same floor plan, “but each is so different, yet with very minor changes.

“Joe Eichler would want you to be current. He wanted to be ahead of the times. He was a stickler for really good design. I truly believe that,” she said.

What: Eichler Home Tour

When: Saturday, Sept. 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Begin at Eichler Swim & Tennis Club, 3539 Louis Road, Palo Alto, then continue to 12 houses in Greenmeadow, Palo Verde and Los Arboles areas

Tickets: $40, benefits Peninsula Habitat for Humanity

Info: Call 650-568-7337, e-mail info@eichlerhometourspaloalto.com or visit EichlerHomeToursPaloAlto.com.