Located just 15 miles from Oakland, the City of Walnut Creek rests on the base of Mount Diablo, considered the sacred point of creation by California Native Americans. Today, it’s home to about 70,000 people, and its historic downtown is a medley of hundred-year-old buildings and luxury retail stores.
Walnut Creek is also home to about 350 Eichler-designed residences. Now hot commodities with architecture and design enthusiasts, Eichlers were the original mid-century design style tract houses developed by real estate developer Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and 1960s.
Considered to be one of the most influential builders and architects of modern times, Eichler aspired to build homes for middle-class Americans of any religion or race, in an effort to build inclusive and diverse planned communities. His signature aesthetic was to “bring the outside in,” defining California Modern by utilizing skylights, glass walls, post and beam construction and open floor plans.
I had the immense pleasure of touring a classic Eichler as a guest of Mollie’s (@mollieandclyde), who proudly owns one with her partner Rene. And naturally, we had a chance to discuss her favorite secondhand finds!
Tell us about yourself and how you ended up in Walnut Creek.
I grew up on a farm in Nebraska and since then have lived in a lot of places as an adult – from Boston to Chicago and many spots in between – and now in Walnut Creek. Professionally, I lead sales and customer success for a high-growth, VC-backed start-up. It’s high-stress but very rewarding and frankly the start-up world is way more fun than corporate America (where I started my career almost 20 years ago).
You were part of an intense bidding process for your Eichler home. Why specifically were you interested in owning an Eichler?
About three and a half years ago, Rene and I decided to combine our households, so I sold my townhouse in Oakland and alongside that, we began searching in earnest for a home where we could become a family with his two children. We knew we wanted to be in Walnut Creek or adjacent to take advantage of the excellent public schools. I didn’t go into the process wanting an Eichler but through research became rather obsessed with them.
We looked at some smaller ones in Rancho San Miguel, an adjacent neighborhood and even put a bid on an Eichler of the same style in a different Walnut Creek neighborhood. The day that offer fell through (they didn’t even bother to negotiate, so infuriating!) was when our agent found our current home. I like to think we manifested it; the stars truly aligned but we went very aggressively after it and Rene even offered up his ’66 El Camino as a part of our final offer! (Spoiler alert: he got to keep his car!)
How did you fall into styling and design? What inspired you?
I mostly attribute it to our current home; the space is so inspiring with the indoor-outdoor floor and the connection to nature. I was going through a difficult period with the first start-up I worked at, and created my Instagram account as a creative outlet to share my home and find like-minded individuals in the design community. That said, I’ve always loved fashion and was very into vintage clothing and accessories in my 20’s and 30’s. I guess you could say that I’m now cheating on fashion with home decor?
When and why did you start using secondhand finds in your designs?
Vintage and secondhand finds add soul to a space. For me personally, I would hate my home looking like everyone else’s. New is fine but it honestly doesn’t make my heart sing like an amazing vintage piece that no one else has. Since moving into our Eichler, the Alameda Point Antiques Fair really accelerated my love for vintage. It’s truly a treasure hunt!
What is one design rule you swear by?
If it makes me feel something in my gut, I buy it. So I wouldn’t call it a rule per se but I’ve definitely purchased lots of items where I didn’t necessarily have a spot figured out for it in advance but it spoke to me and I knew I’d figure it out. (Much to Rene’s chagrin.) I think that sometimes people in mid century homes in particular feel like they have to only have mid century pieces, but for me, I’m not interested in living in a time capsule. Don’t get me wrong; I love mid century furniture but the mix is more interesting to me. In summary: my rule is no rules!
Do you have any design regrets?
What are some tips on how to properly blend secondhand finds in your spaces?
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on this at all but the juxtaposition of old or secondhand with new is always interesting to me. See design rules above, i.e. if you like it for real (and not just because you saw someone else with it on Instagram,) it should work with the rest of your space.
That said, most people I think find it easier to incorporate smaller secondhand or vintage finds, at least initially. So pair your newer couch with a vintage marble side table or that decorative vintage chair with your newer coffee table. Accessories are also easy because they’re movable and you can play around with them until you find the right mix.
What are some of your favorite secondhand finds?
Gosh, too many to list BUT I’ll name a few:
– My beloved hand chair I bought for myself in Carmel as a 40th birthday gift
– My cactus lamp from Merit LA (if you ever come across one, buy it. They’re rare and expensive but totally worth it
– The Ikea lounger that we now have in our atrium that was literally for free outside our neighbors’ house. Turns out, it was the collaboration with Storvik and now goes for $800 on 1st Dibs!
– Rusted Bertoia diamond chairs and one side chair that I picked up at Alameda and had powder coated; they’re like new now!
What is the “one that got away”?
This literally happened today. It was a gorgeous Togo set that I was a couple hours late in snatching up from @eichler.rotation. He has the best finds!
What was the hardest thing to get in your house?
My dining room table was quite the saga. I bought it on auction (Merit LA helped me source the online auction where it was available) because I knew I wanted a Saarinen style, large oval marble table, as our dining space is good-sized and those pieces can be hard to find.
I was so excited when I won it in February of 2019; it took three months to travel here from the East Coast. The driver didn’t have anyone on hand to help him move it once he arrived so he attempted to bring the slab inside by himself, fell coming out of the truck, almost broke his leg and the marble top of course broke into three pieces. After making sure the driver was ok, I was so angry and devastated about my beautiful table. He ended up hauling it all the way back to the East Coast for repairs and another three months later I finally had my table. It’s still not perfect and never will be but it definitely makes for a good story!
What are some of your favorite places to go treasure hunting in person?
I love Narrative Oak in Oakland and they also host a vintage market in their parking lot the first Saturday of every month. Of course, Alameda Point Antiques Faire is a must. It’s an early start on a Sunday but totally worth it in my opinion.
I’ve also become virtual “friends” via Instagram with many of the Bay Area vintage dealers @sergeantsailorshop, @found.eastbay, @houseofhiroshi, @shopmoodgoods just to name a few. I also love checking out the vintage shops whenever I travel, as it’s fun to have a memento (or two or three) from travels.
Mollie, you are an incredible human. Thank you so much for inviting us into your beautiful Eichler!