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1959 Matt and Lyda Kahn time capsule house — an historic Eichler house for influential members of the Eichler design team

“The environment is a total work of art” — Matt Kahn

midcentury living room
All photos throughout this story Copyright David Wakely and Ira Kahn. All rights reserved, Matt Kahn Living Trust.

A piece of stunning architectural and design history recently came on the market for the first time it was built in 1959: The residence of artists and teachers Matt and Lyda Kahn — an historic “Eichler house” designed for and in conjunction with important members of the Eichler design team inside circle.

Eichler A. Quincy jones houseStarting in 1954, Matt and Lyda worked as principal design consultants for Joseph Eichler, doing the interior design for Eichler’s model homes and advising on the company’s branding. In 1949, Matt also had begun as a professor of Art at Stanford University, where he would go on to teach for 60 years. When it came time to build their own house at the edge of the campus, the Kahns naturally turned to Eichler and to A. Quincy Jones and his firm Jones & Emmons, designers of so-called Eichler houses during this period.

landscaping midcenturyNo ordinary client, the Kahns worked alongside Jones and Eichler to help plan the home’s decor and bring their vision for the colorful, eclectic, artful home to life. The results : A midcentury masterpiece filled with a lifetime of art and collections, arranged in a way that makes the whole home feel like one big living, breathing work of art. Matt Kahn himself called it “a riot” of design. This is a personal house — an autobiographical house — par excellence!

midcentury bedroomPenelope Huang of RE/MAX Distinctive Properties is the listing agent for this house, which could only be sold to Stanford University teachers or staff and indeed — was under contract very quickly. About the home from the property listing:

  • Year built: 1959
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms: 2.5
  • Square footage: 2,675

The Matt and Lyda Kahn house is being offered for sale this Spring. This mid-century masterpiece is the result of a collaboration between A. Quincy Jones – an extraordinary architect; Joseph Eichler – an enlightened developer; and Matt Kahn – a refined client and talented designer. Every detail of the house reflects the excellence of this superb team.

midcentury living room

The Kahn House was completed in 1959 and has been featured in many prominent publications including The New York Times Magazine, and the definitive Eichler book entitled Modernism Rebuilds The American Dream by Paul Adamson. The property defines the classic themes of the post-war Mid-Century Modern California home: an open floor plan, single level structure, post and beam construction, abundant natural light, and an openness to the surrounding landscape.

entryway midcentury atrium

Matt Kahn, educated at The Cranbrook Academy of Art under Eliel Saarinen, was a Professor of Art at Stanford University for six decades. As the principle design consultants for Joseph Eichler, Matt and Lyda were instrumental in shaping the distinct iconography of the Eichler brand. They provided a major contribution to the identity of a brand that has become the benchmark for post-war living throughout the United States.

vintage furniture

The house stands out for the purity of its architecture and distinctive design elegance. Flexibility of use is a key design element, and the juxtaposition of opposites heightens the house’s appeal and uniqueness. It is at once intimate yet grand, private yet open, exuberant yet quiet. It is both a stylish setting for social gatherings and an intimate retreat for family members. Matt held teaching sessions at the house where he imbued his students with his philosophy that “the environment is a total work of art”.


eichler kitchen

Upon entering the residence, its uniqueness is apparent. An enclosed atrium invites visitors into an elegant indoor garden which is visible from all the rooms.

midcentury decor

The spacious living room is at the center of the U-shaped floor plan, and is designed to separate the master suite from the west wing, with its two additional bedrooms and full bathroom.

eichler house

Natural light enhances the home’s interiors.

midcentury living room

In the living room, two floor-to-ceiling windows outline a twelve foot freestanding wall which houses a four foot wide fireplace.

midcentury fireplace

Fireplaces were a major artistic element in A. Quincy Jones work and this one is no exception.

eichler house

Enthralled by the California light, the owner created exterior stained glass hanging panels on the east and west sides of the living room.

eichler house

The light passing through the glass enriches the living space.

landscaping midcentury

The dining room, kitchen and multipurpose entertainment area open to a lush outdoor landscape and enhance the indoor/outdoor feeling of the space.

art studio

A covered breezeway leads to a stand alone studio with its own bathroom.

midcentury decor

There is ample storage throughout the house, floor to ceiling windows, built in mahogany shelving and cabinetry, as well as display and task specific lighting.

midcentury patio

The landscape is as thoughtfully designed as the house.

midcentury decor

Plants and architectural elements abound  and lend a serenity to the  environment. The Kahn House is a real gem in the inventory of Mid-Century modern luxury residences.

The house itself is pure perfection, but oh my — the landscaping and gardens are really something, too — we especially love that round patio, edged in stone. It is giving Kate some ideas for spiffing up her own oval shaped patio.

eichler bathroomeichler bathroomThe mahogany paneling even stretches into the bathrooms — and wow, we are in love with that striped laminate countertop and red sink!

Mega thanks to realtor Penelope Huang, the Kahn family including photographer Ira Kahn and photographer David Wakely for allowing us to feature the photos and information about this amazing piece of midcentury design history on our website. Much thanks, also, to reader Katherine for sending in the tip about this historic property.

Link love:

  1. tammyCA says:

    Really cool that the Kahns were a part of this historic house from its very beginning & co-designers with Eichler & Quincy Jones. All the art pieces & collections seem to fit well & carefully placed with the house & give it warmth…it feels both like a home & a neat museum.

  2. scott says:

    If this HVAC register scenerio is the case….I am blown away at that idea. It’s on the sides on some and bottom on others……hmmm…..

  3. Jackie says:

    Yes!! A modern house filled with color, texture, and personality! I know many people love ultra-minimal, all-white houses, but I’ve always had trouble reconciling that look with the rustic tiles, garden rooms, and wonderful hand-crafts that also emerged at the same time as this design style. Love this!

    A sad thought though….would any young designers and professors today be able to afford to purchase property and build such a home these days? Houses in that area now are so expensive that Stanford has a special financial aid program to help faculty acquire housing. Note that they don’t adjust the salaries, just provide extra financing for housing.

    Of course, affordable design has presented a dilemma at least as far back as William Morris, and probably earlier.

  4. virginia says:

    This is definitely my aesthetic. My house way more modest of course but full of artwork, books, ceramics, and fabrics. With a good eye and some daily attention it’s possible to keep a house like this looking great — and clean.

    I enjoyed the Kondo book and passed it along to my sister. Being a bit of a Felix Unger, I wasn’t too surprised to find out that much of what she states I’ve been doing for decades– not all of it, mind you. I don’t take my kitchen sponges out to the veranda to dry, for instance, and also don’t feel compelled to remove every item from my shower after we’re done bathing. But, yeah, good for her. A young woman with a mission that translated into enormous success.

    This is a lovely house — warm, personal, elegant, and in its refined way — relaxing. Thanks for the link.

  5. G S says:

    “Each item is given its own place to live.”

    YES!

    Just beautiful in every possible way. Unless I win the lottery I won’t be bidding, but at least I get to appreciate the home virtually thanks to RR.

  6. Rae says:

    Such an amazing and genuinely inspiring place! There’s something in just about every picture that is either reminding me of forgotten projects or else is sparking ideas for future ones! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  7. Rae says:

    I now have to add that, after reading this, I dug around the internet and came across http://www.eichlernetwork.com and am currently working my way through the articles in the features section. I would never have discovered it if it weren’t for you. Thanks again for feeding our minds and firing up our imaginations!

  8. Sabrina says:

    Wow, wow, wow! What struck me too is the warmth, and amazing design eye and attention to detail. It breathes creativity. Everything is so artfully arranged. Like notice the pops of texture from the glass and crafts, and all the bits of red and blue. Minamalism is appealing but this wonderful visual layering is more after my own heart, too!

  9. I see the invitation was specifically for Stanford staff only. I guess that was for the open house? Could it be available for sale only to the staff or alumni of Stanford? I wouldn’t blame the estate if it was limiting the sale to the school and their benefactors.

    I could spend a week in there taking in all of the goods. What a treasure trove– the art is as exciting and important as the house itself. In fact, it should stay with it, in its home of 50+ years.

  10. Susan d says:

    Holy moly is this fabulous! This would be a dream “alternate universe” for me – to be an art prof at Stanford &’live insuchna house.

  11. Maria says:

    This is an aftermarket item. These houses did not come with HVAC systems.

    I live in and grew up in the area and know several people who’ve lived in them. As beautiful as they look, these were inexpensive housing made for working class/teachers. There is no insulation in them and growing up it was common to see folks with sprinklers on roofs to try and cool houses on hot days. They are heated by radiant floor heating, which is nice, but considering all that single pane glass, can sometimes be chilly. Not to say I don’t love them, I do, but they require some special retrofitting. Oh and those sliding cabinet doors are little more than cardboard.

    However, this is near my favorite model – I’ve had many a wonderful dinner in those atrium entries.

    I see they don’t list a price, but considering the area it’s sure to be several million.

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