We recently completed a project with a client in San Rafael. An Eichler. Eichler and Marin County are practically synonymous. Words like development, basic, and cookie-cutter might come to mind but are quickly replaced by the pleasures of simplicity, spaciousness, and lightness that an Eichler, especially a thoughtfully-updated Eichler, can have.

The floor-to-ceiling windows emphasize connection between indoors and out, a seamless flow. The clean lines create a blank canvas, so that the smallest touches, in furnishing and fixture choices, can have big impact.

Is Mid-Century Modern right for you? If you tend towards restraint, if you have Nordic/Danish roots, then of course. But even if that is not you on first glance, this is an aesthetic that plays well with individual tastes. When you bring in your finds, your beloved objects become the things that create the energy in the space.

Opportunities abound to imprint your personality.

For our client in San Rafael, we wanted her sparkling personality and her loves of travel and gardening to be the focus.

Structurally, we removed the wall between the kitchen and the living room. This wall is characteristic of Eichlers and is often a decision point for homeowners, whether to keep the wall and stay true to the classic floor plan, or take out the wall to increase the flow of light and connection between the two areas.

Kitchen, Before:


The wall on the left side of this image is the one that we had removed

Kitchen, After:


A lighter and brighter kitchen!

Living Room, Before:


Living Room, After:

Removing the wall between the kitchen and living room and changing the orientation of the sofa created a cozy area around the fireplace while opening up the flow of light.

Taking out the wall served to bring more attention to the views, highlighting the gardens that the homeowner had planted herself.

Another non-traditional choice we made that updates the home while staying true to the mid-century feeling was the custom-stained concrete, installed with in-floor heating. (Previous owners had already replaced the original floor with a low-quality bamboo flooring that was yellowing by the time our client purchased the house.)

The concrete is the perfect canvas for fluffy, toe-warming wool rugs as well as the colorful carpets from the international bazaars of our client’s travels.

In another update that is arguably an improvement to the original plan, we replaced traditional Formica kitchen countertops with engineered quartz (Caesarstone). We also improved the work height of the counters which felt exceptionally low, at 29”, relative to our client’s height (5’10”). New counters are 36”. We updated the island with a wider top and waterfall sides, and a walnut veneer inside — innovations that harmonize with the mid-century aesthetic.

Taking advantage of how the clean lines highlight well-crafted materials, we selected furnishings and finishes with highly-defined textures. We chose to work with walnut, not only inside the waterfall countertop, but also for the built-in media cabinet, and the Maxwell sideboard in the living room. To add subtle tones, we applied texture within a quieter color palette. Nubby fabrics play well with natural woven wall coverings. Neutral-toned sofa and chairs host pillows in bright colors that uplift without overpowering. Choosing accent objects in white, like the feathered African headdress over the fireplace and the baskets beside the hearth, emphasizes the lightness in the room, and adds to the rhythmic interplay of the varied surfaces.

Sideboard Wall, Before:


This image also more clearly shows the opposite side of the wall we removed between the living room and kitchen areas

Sideboard Wall, After:

The interplay of textures is highlighted here, with grasscloth wall covering, nubby fabrics, and a unique geometric facing on the handcrafted Maxwell sideboard in solid walnut 

A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post

Before photos, credit: Ramona D’Viola

After photos, credit: Suzanna Scott