Suburban Simplicity

A professional couple with two young children lived in a glassy corner condo on the water, dreaming of gardens, grass, stars and fireflies. So they bought a 1950s house in a leafy neighborhood north of downtown.

From the moment we met, this project was on a very tight schedule, with closing coming in two months. A design-build approach was the best way to meet the clients’ needs. We started with a design workshop to get a feel for the bones of the house and begin to speculate how it might be altered to fit their taste and lifestyle. Design work included a master plan to tie the house to its site with gardens, trellises, terraces, and a swimming pool, and to locate a future guesthouse for grandparents.

The focus was on simplifying and reducing the space to essentials. We substantially altered the first floor by removing two later additions, shrinking the house’s footprint. Two walls were also removed to open up the living spaces and allow sweeping views of the outdoors.

Stair composite_610w

An airy, modern stair connects to the second floor. Separate his and hers bathrooms became one master bathroom, taking advantage of an old back stair to create a laundry chute. The other bedrooms received new windows and finishes, and bathrooms were updated.

The new master bath was made snug with recycled denim insulation

The new master bath was made snug with recycled denim insulation

Family room, before and after

Living room, before and after

Exterior before-after_450w

Front entry, before and after

Composite demo_450w

After removal of rear addition

With new, energy-efficient windows and a fresh coat of paint, the updated house is ready for landscaping, which will include a front entry trellis and back terrace. The fireplace and chimney were retained when the old family room addition was removed, extending the indoor living room to the outdoors.

A fast-tracked design and construction made good communication critical. We made use of web sharing technology and 3-D computer visualizations to keep the team up to date and help the client through the many decisions required. Having Greenbuilders involved from the beginning made it possible to complete the project on time and on budget.

 

 

 

 

This video has many great views of the house interiors, as well as comments by industry experts and project team members on the collaborative design process.

Strawbale Transformation

The musician owners of a 1960s-era house are planning extensive renovations to the living spaces on the first floor. They are committed to using low-impact, non-toxic, sustainable materials. They also desire to wean themselves off fossil fuels, so energy efficiency is a high priority.

As part of a long-range master plan by Gabrielli Design Studio, the first phase was a small addition to the kitchen. Built by Greenbuilders on the existing foundation of a dilapidated screened porch, the structure is post-and-beam with infill strawbale walls and fiberglass-clad windows . The green (planted) roof drains to a chain drain and a rain barrel.

Meloncon_Knopp_composite2_copy

The new room brings daylight deep into the kitchen, while sweeping views upwards along a steep hillside to the sky. The straw walls are clad in lime plaster, the floor is the existing concrete, finished with a natural, plant-based stain and beeswax.

Polly Bart, President of Greenbuilders, Inc on 1-8-2006. ES

The next phase was going to be a kitchen renovation. But the new room has changed the character of the existing kitchen so dramatically, the owners may not need to renovate it for a long time.

Existing_croppedWorking with this family has been an inspiration. During the year we worked together on this project, they also chipped away at wasteful practices all around the house. Using tips from friends and from green websites, they reduced their electricity use by 64%! What a difference a little curiosity and a lot of motivation can make in a household’s budget, as well as the health of our planet.

Strawbale Reconstruction

It all started when a tree fell on the house. . . .

We had just met with the client about doing a master plan for renovations to their house. One night during a storm, an enormous tree crashed into the house, shearing off a small powder room and leaving most of the rest of the house mercifully untouched.

Tree removal

Tree removal

New plan

New plan

We reconstructed the half bath and entryway with straw bale construction and clerestory windows for privacy. The cabinetry could not be salvaged, so bamboo cabinets were installed. The granite countertop was reused, with a new sink and water-efficient toilet. Exterior siding was salvaged and reused to finish the sides above the strawbales. The shed roof was planted with sedum and a chain rain drain elegantly channels excess water into shallow copper bowls in the garden.

Finished addition

Finished addition

This project included a kitchen facelift with new cabinet doors of bamboo, a recycled tile backsplash, Energy Star refrigerator, and decommissioning the old trash compactor in favor of composting, resulting in more storage space.

Section through addition

Section through addition