Carole Eichen, the interior designer who pioneered the concept of designing model homes specifically for targeted buyers, has died. She was 70.
Eichen, who was dubbed the "goddess of model homes" by home builders, died of cancer March 31 in her Newport Beach home.
An innovative designer who brought the "California concept" -- a comfortable, lived-in look that utilizes tile and patterned rugs -- to Europe and Asia, Eichen was best known for creating "buyer profiles" for home builders, a merchandising technique in which model homes were designed specifically for a particular buyer group, whether upscale families of four or bachelors.
The idea jelled in 1964, when she heard about a housing development under construction in San Juan Capistrano. She persuaded the salesman for the project that people preferred walking into a model home and seeing a whole color scheme, a complete design concept that fit their lifestyle.
Eichen's moxie and business acumen catapulted her to the top of her field and earned her a stellar client list, including KB Home, Warmington Homes and William Lyon Homes.
"She was one of the pioneers of the home-building industry from a marketing and decorating point of view," said Bruce Karatz, chairman and chief executive of KB Home. "She was an incessant businesswoman who worked seven days a week, and was very loyal to her clients."
Eichen won numerous interior design and marketing awards, including the Max C. Tipton Memorial Award for marketing excellence and Professional Builder magazine's 1994 Achievement Award for her "Lifespace" concept, a home design that features nine "interior spaces" but no living room or dining room.
Eichen was the first person inducted into the California Building Industry Hall of Fame who was not a builder, in 1993.
A Southern California native, Eichen attended Los Angeles High School. She had no formal interior design training, but from an early age was interested in decorating homes.
She began her career by designing models for her first husband, architect Howard Eichen, with whom she had two children. The couple later divorced.
She founded Carole Eichen Interiors in 1966, and by the '80s, it had 139 employees.
Known for perfectionism and high expectations for employees, she had the respect and admiration of her co-workers, for whom she once cooked a St. Patrick's Day dinner of 15 corned beefs, 40 heads of cabbage and 65 potatoes.
"Carole had an iron will when it came to business, but was amazingly sensitive and loyal to her friends," said Karen Stark, president of Carole Eichen Interiors. "Her dedication was unbelievable."
Despite her time-consuming schedule, Eichen never wavered in her numerous community service commitments. She established a design program at UCLA, for which she also created a scholarship fund. She designed Safe Place shelters for battered women in Orange County and "dream rooms" for Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Eichen is survived by her husband, Robert Passovoy; daughter Cheri Steinkellner; son Jeff Eichen; and three grandchildren.
Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Mount Olive Cemetery in Costa Mesa. Memorial donations may be made to Wellness Community of Orange County, 540 North Golden Circle Drive, Suite 315, Santa Ana, CA 92705.