Cliff May’s Influence on Other MCM Builders in Orange County

Cliff May homeowners in Orange County have a lot to be proud of. Their homes are iconic due to their style and history. He had a vision for creating affordable, practical and stylish community-oriented residences for families. Residences that would live modern, but still look familiar to homebuyers.

Cliff May himself was friends with and influenced by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. May was a sixth-generation Californian and felt that the California lifestyle was very important. He emphasized indoor-outdoor living, open space, privacy and modern conveniences. May as the father of the California Ranch House, which encapsulated all of his values. The builder was never done improving on his design, however. He constantly evaluated how families used the home’s features and made improvements to each tract of homes he built.

Although he never pursued formal credentials as an architect, May was a licensed building designer. He drew up his own house plans with a sophisticated mid-century modern flair and often incorporating native Californian design elements. Cliff May homes can be found around the world but most were built in California with distinguished tracts in Anaheim, Garden Grove, Costa Mesa and Tustin in Orange County, as well as in San Diego and Long Beach. There have also been individual homes built throughout Southern California.

Eichler Homes

Builder Joseph Eichler was also inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. This inspiration propelled him to develop affordable, but stylish, residences in the same vein as Cliff May.

Eichler homes can be found in Orange County in three tracts in the city of Orange. Eichler seems to be more widely appreciated than May, possibly because of the evangelistic community of homeowners residing in the Bay Area Eichler developments. However, some of the principle aspects of Eichler homes are modeled from May’s designs — most notably his fanatic pursuit of indoor-outdoor living.

Architectural historians report that Eichler homes are adaptations of May’s suburban ranch house design. Eichler blended Wright’s use of modern lines and warm tones with May’s floor to ceiling glass walls and open concept. In many ways, the Eichlers are the next logical progression of May’s tract home designs, swapping the trademark courtyard for a fully-surrounded atrium.

Deane Brothers Homes

Although both May and Eichler predate the Deane Brothers, who were building homes starting in the 1960s, all three are considered to be in the same general category of modern in design. The Deane Brothers built late mid-century modern homes throughout California with tracts in Mission Viejo, Huntington Beach and Lake Forest.

Deane Brothers homes feature floor to ceiling windows towards the backyard that let in tons of natural light while preserving privacy. This concept of of limited windows on the front facade and big glass to the private portions of the home follows path established by both May and Eichler.

The Deane Brothers are famous for their own innovations and have received much positive publicity for their developments. For example, the Deane Brothers invented the “garden kitchen” which incorporated a large window that opened into the backyard with a shelf for growing herbs or passing food and to and from the kitchen. There was a very big emphasis on backyard entertaining.

The main difference between the Deane Brothers homes and Eichler and May homes is their size. The Deane Brothers recognized a change in the times, where families wanted extra rooms for guests, offices, etc. but would not necessarily have the lot size to accommodate such a large home. Like May, Deane Brothers felt their homes shouldn’t just look modern, they should “live” modern. Often times, the homes look unremarkable from the front facade, hiding the cool features and design inside.

The Deane Brothers and Eichler incorporated Cliff May’s revolutionary concepts, using them as a springboard to produce their own inventive designs. May is a lauded pioneer of his time, having inspired many other builders to pursue innovation in mid-century modern style.

Looking for a Deane Brothers, Cliff May or Eichler Home? Give us a call or shoot us an email. Stephen: 949-280-6481 – . Stephen@BetterLivingSoCal


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1 Comment

  • Reply From Eichler to Rummer | Rummer Reno July 3, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    […] only vaguely heard of Eichlers, but mentioned that where I rode my horse in Sullivan Canyon where Cliff May (known for his Californian ranch-style homes) had his home called Mandalay, that there seemed to be […]

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