eichler spotting: willow glen

I've been up to a lot lately, but not a lot of blogging it seems.  I managed to grab my camera on an early morning walk this weekend, so I can give you a peek at another one of the Eichler tracts near where we live.

You can find these Eichlers in San Jose, along Dumbarton Avenue, Comstock Lane, Hudson Drive, Raleigh Drive, and Frobisher Way.  I'm not sure what this particular tract is called, as it seems to possibly be an extension of our own Fairglen tract.

The tract is small, just about sixty houses completed in 1962, whereas ours is around 250 houses.  It's cozy and has its own distinct feel.

The models built as part of this tract are much different from ours in some surprising ways.  One is that many of them have cinder block walls as part of their facade.  I love this style since it always takes me back to Palm Springs and the Racquet Club Estates in particular.  Cinder block paired with a flat top Eichler?  Swoon.

This house with the funky stone is one of my guilty pleasures.  It's a bit on the 70s side rather than mid-century.  I can't help but picture a Jonathan Adler-style party house on the other side of those double doors.

I'm keeping an eye out for paint colours lately and found lots of nice muted tones here.  And these great pops of colour too:

It's a varied neighbourhood, as Eichler tracts usually are.  Lots of flat top models, peaked roof atrium models, little semi-courtyard three-bedroom models (one of which a friend from work just snapped up!), and the inevitable second story additions.  And there are plenty of beautiful old trees to make it feel homey and lush.

If you'd like to take a tour, you can find these houses just south of Curtner Avenue where it intersects Meridian, in the Willow Glen area of San Jose.

All photos by Karolina Buchner

the great home improvement snowball effect

Now that we've sorted our closet door situation, I'm back to considering some significant changes we want to make to the house.  When we bought the place, we figured we'd be good for the next five years or so before doing anything big.  Rookie homeowner mistake.  We're such optimists.

Last year our backyard gate fall apart.  We mended it and it's now functional, but should ultimately be replaced.  Now, we figure if we're replacing the gate, probably we should do the fence while we're at it.  And upon closer inspection the fence really does need help!  Change the fence?  Maybe fix up parts of the yard too.  Fix up the yard?  Probably also the siding, so it doesn't detract from the landscaping.  Change the siding?  Well, then maybe it's time for new house colours.  And in an Eichler, that means painting both exterior and interior at the same time.

I give you:  The Great Home Improvement Snowball Effect.

Let's take some deep breaths.  Better.

Some of you may be wondering why I was painting things white lately, and this is it.  We've arrived at a point where we may be changing a lot of things.  The one I'm currently pondering is the colour situation.

It's not all stress-induced however.  Thanks to my work sabbatical, I'm feeling a lot of love for California lately and especially for the light we get down here.  This is all helping me focus on what I want conceptually for our house:  I want it to feel like we live in California.  Bright.  Not too serious.  Connected to nature.

These interiors are inspiring me lately, and I thought I'd share.

The gorgeous LA living room of Emily Henderson

Ocean-blue colours and perfect burlwood table at Smitten Studio

Quintessential California house tour by Cup Of Jo -- check out those white beams!
(In fact, check out the whole house tour, it's so spot-on.  Later.)

Fresh and eclectic living space in Melbourne, Australia via The Design Files

Living room with a healthy dose of colour and art featured in Inside Out magazine

Perfect vintage Danish sofas and citrus-y colours in a Californian midcentury home via Dwell

White + lots of texture (reminds me of the Parker Palm Springs) via Golden White Decor

For now, I'm going to try and nail down a colour scheme for our house.  Maybe just a shade of white to start.  Small steps.  And we'll get to that broken gate eventually.

diy reproduction eichler closet doors

dear house,
it's been a while since we've done something for you, hasn't it?
and so i have built you closet doors, out of purest love.

There's one room I haven't featured here on the blog, mostly due to shame:  our office.  It was formerly a nursery and now serves as an office/ironing room/general catch-all/room of shame, albeit with some pretty great wallpaper to deceive the unsuspecting.  Part of its shame came from the sad closet door.  Well, when say 'door' I mean a sad, random piece of red material strung up on an IKEA curtain wire.  Which eventually failed, leaving the crammed closet innards for all to see.

After the IKEA curtain solution gave out (taking some drywall with it, UGH), we were left with a choice: install some ready-made closet doors, or try to match the doors to the original Eichler doors in the house. Due to certain compulsions of mine, I opted for the latter.  I thought of getting salvaged doors from a renovation, but that would have involved waiting around until the perfectly sized set of doors became available (probably never).

So: we decided to build some.  From scratch.  With our own non-expert hands.  #YOLO

This lead to the inevitable acquisition of more wood-working tools, but since the living wall project, I’ve decided to just jump into this sort of thing head first. I don’t particularly care how long it will take to complete a project.  After some high-level planning and convincing ourselves this is indeed feasible, we were a go.

This is what the original Eichler closet doors look like in other parts of our house:

 The new doors are not a completely faithful reproduction. We didn’t use the same type of wood and we most definitely are not using the original hardware.  The original tracks of Eichler closet doors are made of wood, which at least in my house, are a total pain.

You can see the wooden track here (the black piece), looking up at the ceiling inside the closet:

And that's the "hardware" on one of the doors:  a metal slider at the top of the frame, and a cardboard bumper which looks terribly chewed up.  Our doors are often jumping off their tracks and getting stuck. For this project, we used standard roller and metal track hardware.

To start, I took down some of our existing doors to figure out the design. The original doors are built with 1 ¾” thick wood frames, and the panels are masonite boards.  We measured one of them carefully and determined what our dimensions should be.

The main challenge was to use materials similar to the original doors, but also to keep the weight as low as possible, given our use of modern track hardware.  The original doors use a rabbet cut along the inner edges of the frame, to create an inset for the panels to sit. You can see that in the above pics and in my sketch on the right.  This also keeps things from being too thick and chunky, so the doors can more easily slide past each other.

To make the rabbet, we got a dado blade to use with our table saw. There are various ways to do it  (for example, using a router) but we wanted to minimize the amount of additional equipment in our garage.  The dado blade produced perfectly good results and was super fast to use.  (It is awesome, I tell you.  If you've never seen one, come over.  It's a basically a huge stack of saw blades!  So.... evil.  I love it.)

In order to mimic the original door details, I also chamfered the edges of the frames and trim.  Yes, I totally had to look that up.  I did this using a block plane (and a jig) when cutting along the wood grain, and sanding across the grain at the ends.

My chamfering jig!  Basically two 2x4s clamped to our table saw fence, which helped me run
the block plane along the door frame edges at the same angle each time.
Profile of one of the door frame pieces:  chamfered edges, rabbet on the bottom right.
Chamfers lining up at the corners (almost).
 To build the frames, we used a pocket-hole join (created using a Kreg jig) to attach the top and bottom to the sides, like so:

Pocket joins at the top and bottom of the frame.

Here's a long shot of the frames, so you can see how things work:

Left:  closet door frame (front side up), right: closet door frame back with masonite backing

After fitting everything together and making some adjustments, we painted the frames, masonite boards, and trim separately.  To assemble, we used heavy-duty staples to attach the masonite to the frame and the front trim to the masonite.

A few learnings along the way:
  • Lumber from big box retailers is only OK-ish for projects like this.  After getting some really crummy trim that my block plane chewed up, we discovered Southern Lumber, here in San Jose.  Their stock is fantastic both in quality and selection.  (And they will totally rip and dado and band-saw things for you!  For a small fee.  Heaven.)
  • If you can, get masonite cut to size when you buy it.  Oh my goodness.  Dealing with these giant, floppy boards was horrible.  We decided it should be fine to cut them at home.  Uh huh.  We managed to do shorter cuts with a hand saw (an experience akin to digging your way out of Alcatraz with a spoon) and longer cuts with our table saw (which was pretty much a scene taken from the "how to cut plywood with a table saw and wheelbarrow" video, except with patio chairs and an ironing board standing in for the wheelbarrow).
  • Woodworking means you will be building jigs.  Like this one, which we mimicked.  I was attempting to chamfer wood freehand (bad idea), until I discovered this.  If you want consistent results, you build a jig to eliminate as much variability in how you apply a tool to a piece of wood as possible.  This is a new concept to me:  building something to help me build something else.
After painting the doors and putting everything together, we are really satisfied with the results.  The details I worked my butt off to replicate are almost identical to the original doors.  And the office looks a lot better now.  Hooray!

Ahhh.. a much nicer spot to work!

The closet doors are not perfect (I'm not a master with the block plane just yet, it turns out), but we love them.  And I'm happy knowing that I will leave a little bit of my own handiwork with this house for its next people.

Would we do it again?  Probably not, but it was a LOT of fun.  The whole project took us just over a week of work, due to the fact that we had to learn how to do just about everything as we went along.  The materials, to recap:
  • 2 sheets of masonite ($10 a piece)
  • 5 pieces of 6ft 3x1" pine boards ($6 each maybe?)
  • 2 pieces of 2ft 12x1" pine board ($14)
  • 4 pieces of 2ft 1x1/2" clear pine trim ($8)
  • closet door hardware ($14)
  • Zinsser BIN shellac-based primer ($14, it covers knotty pine like a dream, but might kill you with its vapours -- I actually wore a respirator mask when working with it)
  • semi-gloss latex paint ($30)

Total cost is about $150 (without the equipment I bought).  Not exactly pocket change, but I'm guessing a lot cheaper than having them custom-made by a carpenter.

Has anyone out there built something similar?  I'd love to hear about your experiences and any recommendations for improving the process - let me know in the comments or drop me a line!

(This is in no way a sponsored post.)

All photos by Karolina Buchner

the jungle eichler

Hi friends!  I'm not quite done sharing all of my travel finds, but there's been an interesting Eichler-related development in our neighbourhood which I've been waiting to tell you about.  It just reached a big milestone.  Hope you enjoy!

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will remember some excitement a couple of months back: one of the homes near ours was apparently sold and getting fixed up in a HUGE way.  This was the house we dubbed the Jungle Eichler.  Why, you ask?

(The house as seen from Google Streetview)
The original owner was no longer able to keep up the property and moved to a retirement home.  Clearly the vegetation was untended for some time.  A peaked roof (more visible below) was installed over the original flat top, apparently the best solution back in the 1980s when the original roof started to leak, and likely saved the structure from a lot of damage.  There was a lot of work to be done here when the house was bought by an LLC as a flip.

Watching the transformation has been really neat.  We're happy to see this house brought back to its former glory and not replaced by a McMansion, which is definitely a trend here in San Jose.

A few pictures I snapped during the process and now:

Sadly, I just missed the open house by a week and couldn't do my usual neighbourly snooping, due to my trip to Europe (boo hoo, I know).  Luckily the realtor Joey Portale has plenty of glamour shots so we can all get a peek inside.

It's interesting to see the finishes they chose in here, like the stained concrete floors.  I'm partial to raw polished concrete myself, so I wish I had the chance to see this in person.

The full set of glamour shots is here and construction was done by Ranch Homes Construction.

With the flip complete, the property was sold again while we were away.  All we need now is for our new neighbours to arrive and this place will truly come back to life.  Neighbours who won't need to resort to the use of machetes in order to reach the house.  Jungle, no more!

This is not a sponsored post.

All photos by Karolina Buchner
Except Google Streetview images and listing photos via Joey Portale Real Estate

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