Rethinking an Eichler Home’s Great Room with John Klopf

You’d think that by now, John Klopf might have run out of solutions to the challenge of renovating Eichler homes.

But no – not this architect.

In Sunnyvale, a Northern California town, Klopf has tackled one more in a neighborhood full of the slim little midcentury moderns.

This home involved a modest expansion, from 1,685 to 2,152 square feet. Klopf “stole” part of the living room to add a walk-in closet to the primary suite behind it. So where the living room was once L-shaped, it’s now rectangular.

The theft made sense. The bedroom ceiling’s flat, as was what he took from the living room. That left the living, dining and kitchen areas now in one great space, rather than three small ones – and all are under the original, low gabled roof.

Part of the living area includes the home’s original atrium, open to the sky and filled, terrarium-like, with plants. “The rain comes in and the wind too, and the owners open the door for cross ventilation,” he says. “It goes back to the Roman architecture of Pompeii in 79 A.D. – with a courtyard they called the impluvium.”  

The new living area is all about natural light. Klopf added skylights over its fireplace wall, so now the room offers light washing down all four sides. “It’s easier on the eyes,” he says. “It feels very evenly lit, and that was main idea.”

The 1959 jewel had never been renovated, and the new homeowners wanted to retain some of its original interior mahogany paneling. Their contractor removed and refurbished it, then installed it in some areas, and used drywall in others. Better yet, he bought new panels for other rooms.

There was some reconfiguration around the bedrooms, but the net result’s the same. “It was a four-bedroom before and it’s a four-bedroom now – there’s a bedroom at the rear, the middle and two at the front,” he says. “We took away one at the front for a new hallway, powder room and laundry room.”

And now there’s a combined office/exercise/TV room at the back. “It’s like one big long rectangular room, a multipurpose space where the family can hang out,” he says.

As for scale and proportion, Klopf credits the original architect. “It’s got a big open wall that feels like it’s not there, with that borrowed landscape that’s part of the room,” he says. “The ceiling, with its small gable, gives the right proportion so the room doesn’t feel like a bowling alley.”

Klopf’s still on a roll, renovating more than 300 midcentury moderns and 200 Eichlers during his career. And in this town, he may have hit the jackpot. “In Sunnyvale there are at least a thousand Eichlers,” he says.

That may not be an endless supply, but it ought to be enough for anybody.

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