Name: Vicki, Richard and Dino (Portuguese water dog)
Profession: Owners of Museum of Robots, a modern housewares company and KÜNGDESIGN, a creative studio specializing in design for Web and Second Life.
Location: San Rafael, CA
Size: 1600 sq. ft.
Years lived in: 14, owned
What would Joseph Eichler do? That's the question Vicki and Richard Küng continued to ask themselves when remodeling their Eichler home. As a result, most of the original features remain the same and the home continues to carry the retro-modern characteristics that inspire and inform the couple's life and work...
As the owners and designers behind Museum of Robots, the couple creates products inspired by their mutual love of robots (Richard has been collecting them for 25 years and Vicki got her first one at age six) and the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic. The smooth continuation of these interests from work to home is apparent in every aspect of the space, from the odd robot placed here and there to the obvious respect given to Eichler's original design of the home.
The house had been a rental for some time before the Küngs bought it, so few if any renovations had been made. They saved most of the original mahogany paneling, sanding and refinishing every inch to its original luster. Major changes to the galley kitchen might have disturbed the home's still-functional radiant heat system, so in order to brighten the room the central wall was simply lowered to create a bar/counter area. It still keeps with the Eichler aesthetic but opens up the space to the surrounding living area.
When looking through the Küng's home, one can immediately tell what interests and inspires them; it's a completely honest look at their style, which we love. As Vicki puts it,
"In our products we are inspired by robots which are modern and nostalgic, at once futuristic and retro, technical and playful, functional and entertaining: our Eichler home has the same qualities so it's the perfect environment for us to live and work in."
Our Style: Our taste spans a range of design and architectural genres, but we live with modernist furniture in a Mid-Century Modern house. The toy robot collection surrounds us, and we fill in with urban vinyl and other toys we like. We also collect post-war chairs ranging from an Evans-made Eames LCW chair to a prop chair from the recent TV show 'Battlestar Galactica'.
Inspiration: The most important thing is that the house is easy to live in - it could easily become a museum of toys and chairs but we mix the collectible pieces with furniture that we can actually use, and that's dog-friendly. Any updating or remodeling is done with a touchstone back to the original vision of the builder so we always ask: "what would Joseph Eichler do?" We use contemporary materials, but try to translate their use to fit with the Eichler aesthetic of open, indoor-meets-outdoor living spaces.
Favorite Element: Lowering the original 7' tall wall that separated kitchen from living room and making it into a counter and bar transformed the public area of the house by opening it up and making the kitchen a real 'command central'. The galley kitchen was no longer a tunnel but an open workspace and the living room became much more usable. The garden off the living room is also now visually much more part of the interior environment.
Biggest Challenge: We did the remodel work ourselves, so the challenges involved everything from getting design drawings and permits completed, to picking materials, to actually doing the work. We didn’t move out, but moved our stuff from room to room as the floor was installed and rooms completed - we were packing and moving things constantly for 7 months.Now a challenge is keeping things open and uncluttered while finding homes for the robots and chairs. The other challenge is to stop collecting things.
What Friends Say: Our friends say we bought a house to match our furniture, and it's true.
Biggest Embarrassment: There are a few things from the remodel that are still not quite done, and it’s been three years. There are little bits of trim that still need fixing and the painting around the exterior windows still needs to be done. Someday.
Proudest DIY: Reusing materials from neighborhood Eichlers in our remodel. We wanted to preserve as much of the original mahogany paneling as possible but a few walls couldn’t be saved. Neighbors who were remodeling at the same time recycled their old mahogany panels and some door hardware our way so we were able to keep a large part of the interior original.
Biggest Indulgence: The cooktop and oven were the biggest splurge. The kitchen is electric and since the floor is concrete slab - and our original radiant heating system still works - we couldn't bring gas in through the floor, and over the roof was tricky. Keeping the kitchen electric meant we could justify good appliances so got a Dacor Millenia Touch cooktop and 36" wide Dacor Epicure oven.
Best Advice: That we got for the remodel: be prepared to go 5 months with no kitchen. We planned for that and did just fine with a microwave, electric kettle and lots of salads.
That we'd give for a remodel: Measure twice, cut once.
Dream Source: We spent most of our dream time in Italian magazines like Abitare and Domus. Then we'd go shopping at IKEA. It was all about balance - and budget.
Floor: 12"x24" charcoal slate tiles. We split a container of slate tiles with a friend who imported it from China.
Countertop: Mélange Porcelain floor tile in Praline. We also used this on the bar top opposite the kitchen. To avoid cutting the 60 cm x 60 cm tiles we used aluminum trim and edge components from Schlüter Systems.
Bar Counter-Backsplash: Bisazza Logos glass slab tiles in white.
Cabinets: IKEA, Akurum system
Faucet: Hansgrohe Solaris HighArc 2
Barstools: Onda barstools in white/orange
Dining chairs: Bellini Chairs
Bisazza Glass Mosaic tiles in Blue, Porcher Sapho Pedestal Lavatory, Hansgrohe Axor Starck faucet.
Halls: we removed the rigid sliding closet doors and hung silk dupioni curtains on hospital curtain tracks. It adds a soft element that complements the slate floor and gives us easy access to closet space.