Instead of tearing down their decrepit 1950s house and starting from scratch, a Manhattan Beach, California, couple recycled its materials to build a new one.
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When faced with the difficult choice of either razing and rebuilding their run-down beach house or spending far more than the oceanview property’s value on renovation costs, Dewanna and Mark Sharp took the eco-building high road: recycling more than 90 percent of the structure into an energy-efficient new home for their family.
This pair of self-professed beach bums love Southern California for its abundant coast and year-round sunshine. When the opportunity arose to build here, the couple enlisted design/build firm owner Gary Lane to create a house that fit the neighborhood and made the most of the area’s temperate climate and the lot’s Pacific view.
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Gary designed the 2,500-square-foot stucco-and-mahagony house to maximize natural light and ventilation, eliminating the need for air-conditioning. Wherever possible, he and designer Lori Dennis used recycled or sustainable products in the construction.
What you see: a light-filled room with sleek cabinetry, minimalist lighting, and contemporary hardware and fixtures―all with a modern, low-profile style that doesn’t compete with the view
What you don’t see: the already replenished wheat fields that supplied the fundamental material for the pre-pressed wheatboard barstools. Unlike woods like teak, whose harvest requires the destruction of slow-growing forests, harvested wheat replaces itself quickly.
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What you see: wraparound casement windows that take advantage of coastal breezes and make air-conditioning unnecessary
What you don’t see: improved air quality, due to Mark and Dewanna’s efforts to buy furniture―such as these dining chairs―from manufacturers who utilize flat-pack shipping, which helps reduce the carbon footprint by requiring fewer packing materials and less truck fuel
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What you see: floors made from reclaimed wood that had once been used as bleacher seats in a nearby high school. “The floors are one of our favorite features,” says Mark. “I have visited that high school and would like to think the wood is the same bleachers I sat on 20 years ago.”
What you don’t see: less depletion of scarce resources due to the Sharps’ choice of furnishings and accessories made from sustainable materials. The chairs and floor pillow are made from sea grass (a renewable plant that is trimmed, not killed, for harvesting), the throw from organic cotton, and the rug from bamboo.
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What you see: a headboard made of grass roots that provides textural contrast to soft, organic cotton linens
What you don’t see: the lack of harmful paint fumes. Throughout the house, Lori used a sandy white that has no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “All darker paint colors contain some VOCs,” she says, “so we chose a light shade and brought in color with wood paneling instead.”
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What you see: a graphic driveway made from grass and concrete pavers that adds a little green to the most utilitarian of places; a xeriscape (water-conserving) garden that makes a big eco-friendly statement
What you don’t see: all of the storm water the grass has absorbed and thus prevented from polluting the nearby ocean; much lower water bills, due to plantings like bamboo, rosemary, and Mexican salvia that require almost no water, a scarce resource in Southern California
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What you see: a sandlike surface made locally of hard-packed decomposed granite that serves as the setting for frequent family picnics
What you don’t see: a typical concrete patio that radiates heat, does not absorb rainwater, and requires the use of expensive fuel to be transported, mixed, and poured