On a typical residential lot with neighbors on three sides and prominent utility lines, the Pfahnls used common hardscape materials (concrete block, gravel, concrete) and tropical plants (palms, bamboo, cannas, aloe) to good effect.

Bill and Kim Pfahnl lived in a Craftsman bungalow for 15 years before they bought their 1959 four-bedroom, two-bath Eichler home in San Jose. As a kid, Bill had biked past the house every day on his way to school. Down-at-the-heels and overlooked as it languished on the market for six months, the couple needed something like 20-80 vision to see its potential.

In the master bedroom there was an octagonal window and a curious bump out courtesy of owner number three. The living room had a potbellied stove and a brick planter that truncated the floor-to-ceiling window. There was bland beige carpeting. The kitchen, a “horribly non-functional ode to cheap ’70s wood cabinets and yellow tile with wide brown grout”—Kim’s description— was grim. And the back yard featured dirt, cement and a crumbling retaining wall. Who wouldn’t be enamored?

Bill, for one, saw past all that. “This house is about livability,” he says. “No one got what it could be again.”


New mahogany paneling and a vintage Eichler photo blown up to poster size delineate the dining area. The table and buffet are from IKEA and the Design Within Reach natural-finish Kyoto chairs match the kitchen stools. The silk-shade pendant is from Lite Line Illuminations in Los Gatos.

The first project they and their sons, Mark and Eric, tackled was backyard landscaping. Bill wanted to get plants in and growing before he took on the interior, so they put in a row of bamboo along the perimeter for privacy and to camouflage an ugly telephone pole, planted palms and installed a new retaining wall and hardscape. One concrete patio got a fire pit with built-in bench seating and the other houses a dining table next to a raised planter bed.

During their first six months, the Pfahnls re-enclosed the bedroom jog and ditched the stop-sign window, inexpensively spruced up the master bath and rebuilt the front door area with its translucent glass panels. Next, they removed the potbellied stove and the low exterior brick planter in the living room, putting in a new full- length window to the right of the fireplace.

How did the Pfahnls tackle the kitchen of this amazing Eichler home? Check back in to part 2 to find out!