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March 08, 2012

Steve Jobs: one Eichler, two errors.

Not an Eichler #1: The Jobs family's ranch-style house in Los Altos, CA.

The architecture world was abuzz last October when Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs revealed that the Apple CEO grew up in a house designed by Joe Eichler. Unfortunately, most bloggers shared the news with a photo of Jobs’ Los Altos house (site of the famous garage, shown above), which is not an Eichler. The house Isaacson was referring to is in Mountain View, California, where the family lived until Steve was 14. However, that isn’t an Eichler either. Rather, it is the work of Eichler’s original architectural team, Anshen and Allen, for Mackay Homes. Eichlers and Mackays are similar, but there are major differences in the foundation, heating, materials and style.

Not an Eichler #2: the Jobs family's home in Mountain View, CA. Photo: David Toerge

What’s important about this story, however, is that Steve Jobs credited the simple modern house of his youth with instilling in him a passion for bringing well-designed products to as many people as possible. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said. “Eichler did a great thing. His houses were smart and cheap and good. That was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”

As for what inspired Joe Eichler, he briefly rented a small Usonian house by Frank Lloyd Wright, and said that the experience gave him his vision for creating inexpensive well-designed homes.

Lastly, while Jobs didn’t grow up in an Eichler, his Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak did. Learn more about Joe Eichler at


Thanks for the clarification. It's amazing how much impact great design has on anyone growing up. This is indeed proof that we need to surround kids and youth in general with good design as it shapes them in one way or another.

I think the writer means "famous" garage, not "infamous" garage.

Joseph Eichler did not grow up in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. He rented a FLW house in Hillsboro, Ca. and became a Believer ( in design) .


Nice research piece. I'm going to print it out to insert into my hard-copy of Jobs' bio. Is there any chance you have a photo of that Eichler that Woz grew up in?


Great catch Fred! Thank you. -DWR

Hi Chris,
I wasn't able to find a photo of Woz's house and unfortunately it was lost in a fire a few years ago (according to a report on SF Gate). I'll let you know if I find something. -GH

As researched as Walter Isaacson's book on Job's was, I felt that Isaacson had little or no understanding of design and am not surprised that this mistake made it into the book.

M110 Architecture: Thank you for the correction. That change has been made. -DWR

Joe Eichler's homes were marvelous - open floor plans, tactile materials, great traffic flow and privacy in high density masterplanned neighborhoods. Unfortunately, sixty years later an enterprising builder could no longer replicate Eichler's accomplishments given that "new" building codes, green energy concerns and over reaching restrictions from governments.

There was an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle re. an English gardener & landscape designer that Steve Jobs hired to create an "English Garden" at his Tudor style house in Palo Alto.

The article discusses their meeting & appreciation for design, etc. which anyone can assume would be a given.

The thing that struck me about the article as odd, is that it seems surprising to me in some ways, that SJ would live in a Tudor style house, and employ an English gardener, to create a garden that is an old design. Both are certainly not modern. I always imagined SJ was the quintessential modernist, & he would live in a glass box overlooking a Japanese rock garden while contemplating Zen or something.

The fact that Steve Jobs' childhood home was not built by Joe Eichler was reported by the Eichler Network in February (2012).

Your readers can see all the details at the source:


(I'm sure that not crediting your source for this story was just an oversight, considering you did include a different Eichler Network link.)


It seems like there was some miscommunication on who designed what. Nice garage though!

Know this area quite well, you have a whole bunch of mid century homes in this section of Mountain View. WE have early and late Eichler homes. There is even a street named after him, Eichler Dr.

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