Anshen Allen Eichler
These homes draw creative people, people who yearn for what we remember growing up.

Jon and Gayle Jarrett got more then they bargained for when they bought their ’60s modernist home in Orange, Calif. Although they weren’t immediately infatuated with the flat-roof residence, it did turn out to come with an impressive two-name pedigree: Anshen Allen.

An Eichler house with a center atrium, the four bedroom E-111 model had been designed by architects Robert Anshen and Stephen Allen, the firm that worked on Joseph Eichler’s own home and got the builder started on his forward-looking tract homes. In 1950 Anshen and Allen’s first 51 units for Eichler—Sunnyvale Manor on the San Francisco peninsula—sold out in two weeks and were widely praised. Admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, the two architects had launched their firm in 1940, and the multi-office company continues to work on international commission today, years after their deaths.

The Jarretts tracked down the blueprints of their home to help envision what it once was—and could be again—and now have a tasteful, easy-living home for themselves and their 4-year-old daughter, Ivy. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here; first came months of sheer fun.

“We weren’t completely thrilled with the house, to tell you the truth,” Jon admits, “but we had sold our previous home and were living in a condo while waiting for an Eichler to come on the market. There are waiting lists for these homes, so you’d better be ready to jump if there’s an open house.”

On a quiet cul-de-sac in the Fairhaven tract, the residence had aluminum horizontal siding covering the original thin-line grooved siding. “It also had torched sod and concrete stump-patterned stepping stones leading to the front door that had to go,” Jon says.

Coupled with the plastic lattice installed diagonally above the atrium, drip irrigation draped across the beams for watering hanging plants, sand-textured paint in several rooms, faux oak baseboards, industrial carpeting glued to the cement slab, artificial ivy stapled to the post and beam structure in the bathroom and a big-box kitchen, the house felt like a runner-up prize to others they’d bid on and lost. But white elephant or no, its 2,036 square feet were all theirs.

“It took two or three years for us to successfully bid on a house,” Gayle says about their 2002 purchase. “People thought this one needed a lot of work and when we got it we went, ‘Oh, no!’ Which was followed by, ‘Let’s find the vision and just do it.”

Down and Dirty in an Anshen Allen

Read about how the couple began a restoration of monstrous proportions in part 2 of this Anshen Allen house tour.