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YOUR HOME   -   INTERIOR LOOKS
History in Every Corner
August, 2006 - Issue #22
Marty
Marty's creation, the attached wine cellar. The door was made for the family by a neighbor.
What do you do when, as Sand Canyon homeowner Dalian Eichmann says, "you have champagne taste on a beer budget?"

If you are Eichmann, you have two options and you take both of them: utilize quality items that have stood the test of time and can be obtained from family or estate sales and, when that's not possible, make it yourself.

Dalian and husband Marty purchased property in the gated Sand Canyon Oaks community in 1983 and simultaneously began a multi-decade home creation project of grand proportions.

Not content to sit by and allow a contractor to create a cookie-cutter home for their family of seven, the pair built and designed the house themselves, commuting daily from Alta Dena. "We wanted to get away from the smog and have something better for our kids. We needed more space and we liked the idea of having a new family and starting out in a new home," she says. While the SCV was an attractive choice, it didn't come without a great deal of effort. "I came out to Santa Clarita everyday and even put the kids in school out here. I sat with the builders and made all the changes so that it would be right for us," says Eichmann.

In 1986, Dalian, Marty and kids Ede, Ame, Erica, Lukus and Marda, officially began making the 5,000 square foot house a home. The main living space, found upstairs, contains four bathrooms, four bedrooms, and a kitchen. Downstairs is the wine cellar, game room workshop and storage area.

"It was wonderful to have all that space, but I did a lot of driving in the beginning because no one lived by us. It was all dirt roads! A lot has changed since then," says Eichman.

A couch that belonged to Dalian
A couch that belonged to Dalian's grandparents is host to a variety of her handmade pillows. "I'm very aware of the quality associated with old furniture. The quality of a dovetail-fitted piece versus that of today's standard of glue and plywood appe
Now grown, the children (all graduates from either Canyon High School or Academy of the Canyons) have still found ways to utilize the large space. Erica's wedding was held on the 2.5-acre lot and Dalian and Marty are now preparing the home and yard for the addition of their first grandchild.

"There was lots of space to be developed, and it's still a work in progress. We're moving onto the yard to do something more for outdoor entertaining and preparing for grandkids next," she says.

But it's impossible to set sights on the future without revisiting the past. Lucky for Marty and Dalian, married 33 years, that their home is one large homage to days gone by.

"Our home is a collective of a lot of my family's heritage. There are antiques mixed along with personal items that mean something to me and my family," says Eichmann.

The couch is from her grandparents. "My mom had it for years before she gave it to me. I'm very aware of the quality associated with old furniture. The quality of a dovetail-fitted piece versus that of today's standard of glue and plywood appeals to me much more," she says.

The coffee table is made from an old door that was purchased from a dear friend. "She helped me design the kitchen in our home, too," Eichman recalls. "We used that door as a table before it was fashionable to do so. I guess we were before our time!"

"Our home is a collective of a lot of my family
"Our home is a collective of a lot of my family's heritage. There are antiques mixed along with personal items that mean something to me and my family," says Eichmann.
Then there's the piano, a reminder of the family's communal past; the kids all took lessons. In the dining room, the custom-finished antique glass mirror reminds Eichmann of the old home estate sale she attended on the West side years ago. The buffet table was a find at a local antique store. A hallway boasting 14-foot ceilings, skylights and a stairway is also home to multiple antique frames and mirrors, some placed inside of each other, to fill the space.

When asked what her collection "says," Eichmann jokes, "That I've gotten old now!" More seriously, though, is the following reaction: "I don't put a label on it. I'm a decorator and I don't think people should decorate with the same rules. Collect things on the way, and not because of what someone else says the style needs to be. Pieces speak to you throughout your life, and that's what makes a true collection."

And when nothing out there seems to work, do it yourself.

"I'm a hands on person, so I gravitate towards buying things that aren't a finished product. I choose the finish and final design, or select fabric or pictures for certain frames."

Hands on is right. "We refinished all the kitchen cabinets ourselves. When everyone wanted oak, I hated oak. We had it all done in cedar that we pickled. It's a type of finish where you bleach the wood first, then apply a milk wash, than a darker wash. Then you handscrape it so that all the colors show."

The fountain
The fountain's electrical motor and surrounding brickwork was done by Marty.
Undergoing long processes that lead to great results is nothing new for Eichmann. While her kitchen refurbishment was definitely successful, her true calling for home embellishment more often comes with Dalian behind a sewing machine.

Floral pillows, faux fur throws, patchwork bedspreads, curtains and the like: if it's in the Eichmann's house, it was likely created by Dalian.

Her creations were so extraordinary, in fact, that her daughters encouraged her to begin selling the items she had previously only produced for her home. "Erica knew someone who was hosting a fundraiser. I got a resale license and a booth and begin selling pillows, dog beds, throws and purses. I attended many of those events," she says.

Her products were so well liked, in fact, that they inspired daughter Ede to create a retail store around some of her mother's creations. Madalian, located in Valencia, offers custom and ready-to-buy designs by the namesake.

Dalian isn't the only one in the family who has invested thousands of hours in home improvement. Her husband Marty is very proud of the attached wine cellar he designed and created. He's also responsible for the rock and brickwork that adorns the outside of their property, as well as the fountain and the multi-tiered stairs. During a stay in Northern Italy while working on the movie "Cliffhanger" (Marty is a grip by trade), the couple was enchanted by the patterns of brickwork found on the old streets. He recreated those designs with cobbled bricks laid in sand at their own home. He's translated his passion for innovation into a new business, Sports Sherpa - a modular attachment that allows for the attachment of bikes to the rear of a vehicle while allowing access to the car's cargo area.
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