25 Eco-Savvy Rooms
Homeowner Diane Morris wanted to re-create the feel of a timeworn cottage. She selected recycled materials, such as refurbished vintage light fixtures, to achieve an aged look and save natural resources.
This South Carolina home, with its shiplap walls, painted wood floors, and antique light fixtures, shows that you can build both green and traditional. Most of the home’s Earth-friendly aspects hide behind its walls. The building team utilized the “envelope method” of construction, insulating and mildly conditioning the attic and crawlspaces so that mechanical systems and ductwork aren’t exposed to extreme temperatures.
Architect Joel Newman sited this house so that a wall of windows in the great room overlooks a lagoon. Though more windows typically means greater energy loss, these low-E (low-emissivity) units have a special coating that helps keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer.
The front of the house retains its original character, but homeowner Tinker Hatfield and architect Dick Baty designed new construction so that it sheds winter winds and captures cool summer breezes. “It’s almost fish-shaped,” Tinker says.
Free and Clean
In the spacious kitchen, Tinker chose formaldehyde-free cabinetry and doors, concrete floors and countertops, and Energy Star-rated appliances. “There’s a little bit of nautical, ocean flavor,” Tinker says. Porthole windows pierce walls, and the handmade kitchen island―fashioned from recycled wine vats―is shaped like a surfboard.
Glass inserts in the dining room ceiling eliminate the need for lighting during the day, and a garage-style door admits cooling breezes. The custom kitchen table features an inlaid map of the 50-mile stretch of Oregon’s northern coastline.
Wheat-board panels frame walls in the upstairs bedroom. Shaped to catch summer breezes, the glass-enclosed sanctuary resembles a captain’s bridge. “It’s a little gesture to the ships that pass up and down the shipping lane eight miles out,” Tinker says. Recycled items―Douglas fir floors, spruce and fir walls, and beams and columns―come from the original structure, salvage centers, and even an old boat.
A metal ladder, fashioned in traditional yacht style, leads to the roof. A wind generator and solar-powered lighting systems for the top floor are still in the works.
Due to the owner’s health issues, this Bald Head Island home couldn’t be constructed with any materials containing a polyurethane base. Instead, builder Jeff Krueck installed solid wood throughout the house, from sub-flooring to kitchen cabinets to the beam that supports the second story. “We built the entire house using timber framing―just like they would have 100 years ago,” Jeff says.
A mix of sustainable and healthy products, such as bamboo floors and formaldehyde-free fabrics, introduced fewer chemicals in the environment. Designer Celeste Wegman aired out the dining room chairs for months before coating them with a sealer to prevent offgassing.
Pure and Pretty
In the master bedroom, Celeste used American Clay, an all-natural plaster that resists mold and contains no VOCs, to coat the walls. “As a bonus, its suede-like texture adds depth to the interiors,” she said. Solid wood furnishings were custom-manufactured with white glue rather than yellow, which contains irritating chemicals.
Celeste painted the interiors with environmentally safe paints, proving that healthy can be stylish. Low-VOC paints don’t give off a new-paint smell. Working with designer Barclay Butera, she had all fabrics triple-washed before custom-making sofas and chairs. Even the carpet, which Celeste had custom-woven, went through a rigorous triple-cleaning process before installation.
For this Fire Island, New York, house, architect Fred Stelle used durable building materials, which tolerate seaside conditions better than standard options. Their long life spans will counter the high-embodied costs, he said. With little need for replacement, less waste will be generated in years to come. Outside, instead of using pine, Fred chose siding made of cedar and roofing crafted from cement (cast to resemble corrugated tin) that won’t rust and should last 100 years.
Shelving scribed around wall studs gives the kitchen a clean, casual feel. In planning the home, the homeowners were inspired by the look of Bali pole houses and the openness of loft apartments.
Inside, Fred also specified materials that easily could be fabricated and installed by a carpenter with just a saw and drill. He chose bamboo floors, which can withstand tracked-in sand, and limited detailed finishes. He left most surfaces unfinished but stained some inside walls a driftwood gray.
Built to Last
Fred chose cedar siding, a cast-cement roof, and mahogany decking. “They had to stand up to the beating they would take, without requiring maintenance or looking like hell after a few years,” Fred says. “There’s nothing as beautiful as a house that’s been in the elements.”
Nautical and Neutral
Throughout the house, wood walls and nautical light fixtures give rooms a shiplike feel.
In one bath, Fred used cedar panels in lieu of tile to simplify construction and save energy.
“Curved roofs aid airflow for natural ventilation,” architect Nathan Kipnis says of his 2,600-square-foot design. He improved on this model by adding a tower between the double-height living area and the two-story bedroom wing. Opening the windows on the lower level draws cool air up the center tower to the second-floor bedrooms, forcing warm air up and out through remote-controlled windows. Ceiling fans expedite the process.
Worth the Effort
Interior windows made of translucent reclaimed acrylic connect the second-story bedroom with the living room below. Set on simple pivots, the windows (which are embedded with leaves for privacy) swing open and funnel air into the home’s central ventilation tower. Nathan’s innovative design not only conserves energy but also make the living spaces cozy.
In the bath, Nathan installed a sun tube in the ceiling, which redirects sunlight from the roof, saving energy and money on electricity usage. Other green features include Energy Star-rated appliances, low- or no-VOC finishes, and fluorescent light fixtures.
At an Advantage
Large banks of windows capture natural light, and the southern exposure takes full advantage of the sun for solar gain in cool weather. Nathan selected bamboo for cabinets and some floors, and tiles with recycled content. A high-efficiency hydronic boiler produces in-floor radiant heat and, for extra warmth on winter weekends, a wood-burning stove anchors the living area.
Slender but strong columns of wood sandwiching steel bear much of the sod roof’s weight, permitting generous use of glass. The roof’s pitch echoes the angle of trees shaped by strong onshore winds.
The architect recommended building on a sweeping slope facing the water, on a lower hill among massive stone outcroppings. The landscape for this 120-acre property is a mix of fields and woods, and a shoreline ranging from tall cliffs to low, rock-bound bays.
Rooted in Place
With rock walls, branching wood columns, and a sod roof, this low-slung Oregon home mirrors its setting. Although the roof required sturdier, more costly construction, it helps cool the house in the summer and insulate heat during the winter, and therefore reduces energy consumption. A cistern under the outdoor terrace stores rainwater used to irrigate the sod.