Magazine article Sunset

Two Ways to Go with Open-Plan House of the 1950s

Magazine article Sunset

Two Ways to Go with Open-Plan House of the 1950s

Article excerpt

How do you adapt an open-plan, post-and-beam tract house when you need more space or a different configuration of rooms?

The two San Francisco Bay Area houses shown here were built by developer Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and '60s. Eichler-house hallmarks such as open floor plans, light-yielding atrium spaces, and low-pitched roofs with exposed beams were considered innovative in their day. But as the years went by, some owners found their otherwise-workable houses lacked spaces they wanted or contained spaces that got little use.

These remodels took two approaches. In one, reclaiming space from the atrium gave more square footage indoors. In the other, adding a new wing meant the entire house could be reorganized to "live" in a different way.

1. Atrium remodel

In this house, an open-air atrium lay between the carport and the front door. The owners found they used this outdoor space only as a passageway, not as a garden room. At the same time, they lacked a handy place for informal entertaining.

Architect Ernst Meissner of Menlo Park, California, devised a way to enclose the atrium while increasing the amount of light it brought into the rest of the house. He extended the atrium's perimeter walls up 2 feet on one side and 4 feet on the other, ran a new beam across the length of the space, and covered the area with shed roofs made of translucent insulated fiberglass (Kalwall) panels. Clerestory windows along the ridge above the new beam provide additional light. Enclosing the atrium dealt with one of the house's major energy flaws--its large, outside-facing windows. …

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