Michelle starts by working with the homeowners to understand their goals: they want to preserve the quiet profile of the house, improve its light and flow, and reduce the family's environmental impact. She studies how the family uses its space, and creates 3D home renderings based on their conversations. She helps them select green materials, designs separate-yet-connected spaces for each member of the family, and integrates earth-friendly features like solar panels. In the last half of the video, we jump ahead to see the results of the remodel, which has become a living exhibit on sustainable design as well as a comfortable place for Michelle's clients to raise their family.
Skill Level Intermediate
(MUSIC). We are seeing again and again a sustainable design actually can be accessible for everyone and that there are principles within these homes that even with a small space, make it fabulous. Make it so you feel really great. Make it healthy for you, and make it beautiful.
When you're designing a home for a family, it's not just understanding the site, and understanding the programmatic needs. But it's really trying to understand and get to what the essence of the client's vision is. If you can get to the kernel of the ideas, if they're talking about how they live and what their goals are for their family, and then imagine how that could sort of flourish. And in order to do that well, you have to have a really good relationship with your client.
So, this is a client that is an amazing woman, Shannon. She called me and she told me about her house and about her family, and at first I said no, you know, I really don't do remodels. I think it's great that people are doing those and it's really important but it's just not what I've been doing. But then she's like, okay, well just hear me out, and then she started talking about it more, and about her vision, and about how she thinks about, how she wants to use this home not only as a place where her kids will grow up, her four boys. but also that she wants the house to be very educational, not only for her family, but also her neighbours, and the community.
It's acting as an exhibit where it's a big difference between people just seeing physical materials or reading data on sustainable systems or recyclable materials. But it's a very different thing when they can walk into a space and they say wow, I feel very good in here. I don't know why but, I feel great in this space, and that's when they really get excited, and start to make changes in their own lives. When Shannon sent me photos of her house, it's this existing ranch-style house, and the existing house is actually really beautiful, however, it did not function at all for their family.
It's thirty-five hundred square feet, two bedrooms, not going to fit for a family of, with four boys. So there were a number of things, in order to achieve their goals for their family, which is living in a really efficient, really sustainable home, that didn't really work with this existing structure. But we wanted to keep the bones of it and keep the feel of it. It has this very intimate feel, whether you're inside or outside. And we really wanted to maintain that. So we started working with the existing structure but as we began looking at how it could work functionally for their family, we came up with a design that used the same footprint but, we built a second storey on top of one wing. And then we kept their existing garage space, but made it in this outdoor covered courtyard space.
We kept this idea of the courtyard and we fell in love with this design. And felt like it was, it was really working to, the the goals. Except for the main goal, which was we wanted to keep the essence of the house, and even though we fell in love with this design, both Shannon and her husband Rob and I were like. We lost the essence of the house. So we went back to the drawing board and looked at how we could capture all the special moments we had with the two storey design, but do it within the existing buildings envelope.
Same roof, same walls. So they have this library space which is open to the kitchen, and it has a workstation for three people. And as we look to making homes timeless, part of that is allowing for a lot of flexibility for the future, so not only as this family will grow and their needs will change but also how much technology is changing, how we're currently living in our homes, and that, the old idea of, like, okay, you have the TV room. That's sort of gone. A lot of family time and family sharing has to do with our computer screens, and things that we're sharing with one another.
And so how do you kind of rethink how to collect that, so that we're all not in our separate areas?. But, we're able to share it together. And we tried it in the bathrooms, used materials that are very liquid and water-like, so that way you're always feeling a sense of celebrating water when you're in those spaces. So, in choosing the bathroom tiles, we knew that we wanted them to be from recycled glass and it can be kind of tricky to find really great products, and this is one we just both fell in love with.
This is 70% recycled glass materials and then just with a little bit of coloring in as it's pulled into the material, it has these beautiful textures that feel very unique, but they're all from the recycled glass. If a client says, I want a stable house and I want it to be lead platinum, they don't actually mean they just want the numbers that they can check off, and the lead sheet where okay, yes, we're using energy efficient systems, and LED lights, and you know, water conserving systems, which is great, don't get me wrong.
But the essence of what that means, is probably that they really actually care about the future, they care about their family and how healthy the space is going to be but they also want to feel connected to the outdoors. And so things like windows are a really important part to how we can poetically allow them to always feel connected to that which they love, trees, garden. It's not this separate house structure with land around it but that it's all in collaboration.
(MUSIC) There's views of the bay, there are views of the bridges, there's views of San Francisco, there's trees everywhere. It's a spectacular site, and in a lot of ways, the job here is to not ruin anything and to have it be visually quiet as a house, and have it be about the experience of nature. I feel very fortunate that I worked for (INAUDIBLE) learned a lot in thinking about natural light, because in museums, it's really important to have natural light, but natural light can't directly touch any artwork.
So, they work really hard in coming up with strategies for how to wash surfaces with light to have this space feel really great and feel naturally lit but not have the direct sun. And to apply those kinds of strategies to a living environment is actually pretty fabulous. We wanted to really think about their family and how they live and they have four boys and they are really this great collective family. And so even with the bedroom we wanted it to not be everyone runs off to their own private little spot and they don't actually spend time together.
So, how we handle that is, we have the master bedroom, which has great views, filled with light. But then what we did is, we opened up the master suite through a six foot wide opening to all the boys' bedrooms. And all the the boys' bedrooms are open to one another. So, they can close off when they do want some privacy, and I'm sure they will at times. But for the most part, they will be able to just have this whole big wing be open, and be a big living space. So even when they are in their separate spaces, and doing their separate things, they'll still feel connected. And that's really who they are as a family, which is great.
So the sketch up models are other things. Those renderings. That's which Shannon and I use as our communication device. It's, like, our translators. So, as we experience the space, and as we watch the construction we keep looking for those renderings to start to come to life. And, while right now it's a little bit tough to see how those renderings will actually compare with the existing house, in a couple of months it's going to look like those renderings. (MUSIC) >> So good to see you! >> I know and you to.
>> And see the house and how you're living in it. It looks, looks so good from here. >> Its amazing and it's so much better than we ever thought it was going to be. >> What I love is that, it really did capture one of your intents of just having it be visually quiet from the street and using the landscape and having it melt in. >> This is, you know, intentionally indoor-outdoor. And when you live in a glass house, I mean, everywhere that you look out is part of what you see from within and how you feel about yourself.
And so this is exactly what we wanted the space to be. (MUSIC) at, and it, it's my favourite thing about the whole house because of the breadth of the gallery, and the fact that you are always transitioning from the kitchen to the living spaces. (MUSIC) Through this space, it's, it's a, it's a, it's an energy that I live for every day. >> The original home had a solid roof above this outdoor, deck so this space was pretty dark most of the time. But by opening that up, still leaving the original structure, but opening it.
Now, the light comes all the way into the room. And it fills this space with light. >> My seven year-old says we live in a tree house. And it's this feeling, this feeling, like you're suspended out, and part of the trees. >> It's also something that doesn't really change the architecture, but it changes the way that you feel in the space. >>It changes the interaction, it changes how you live, and yeah, exactly. How you feel about the whole thing. I have to admit, when you sent me the sketch of your kind of nutty idea, I was like, yeah, like, okay.
You want to open up all the bedrooms to one another, you, you know you have four boys, right? >> I know. I know. >> And of course, you know exactly what you're talking about. Having these bedrooms have the ability where they can open up to one another but, they're separated by this kind of, corridor of light this breeze space that connects the courtyard to the back play area. And it really feels that way, like you can actually see through all the bedrooms. So your family's connected but having this space than connect the courtyard and that tree, and centering on that tree, so in every space you have this connection to the landscape.
>>You're never not outside in the house. (LAUGH) Even when you're in the shower. >>I know, even in the shower. >> And the glass tiles look fantastic. >> They did. All that recycled tile was such a great choice. I remember picking it out with you, and it was so amazing. >> It has a kind of depth to it, and each one is unique. This part of the house. The footprint is exactly the same. >> Oh yeah.
>> But it feels so different just by opening up the dining and the kitchen, adding the skylights, changing out the cabinetry and the counter tops. >>We, today, like having the kitchen be part of the family and part of the living space, so it makes so much more sense to include it. You know, have the TV room sort of blur into the kitchen. >> Mh. >> And, and also the dining room. So, even though all the dimensions are the same, it really just feels better. (SOUND) >> At this time of day, you cannot even see the (LAUGH) So it works really well in terms of being visually quiet.
>> Yeah, yeah. >> Performance wise, I know it's not as good as if we would have done the solar panels just seated on top. >> It's not. It's, its, its not. I'm are you, are we surprised, I was surprised by the performance. I was surprised by how How temperamental they were. >>Um huh. >> So, they need to be cleaned like every couple of months. That's a challenge. if any shade hits them at all the entire panel itself doesn't function. that was a challenge. >>Yeah. >> But, you know, visually, I think it's, it's beautiful, and I'm not sure even how much sun that, side would have gotten anyway.
>> Yeah. >> what I would definitely entertain the possibility of putting, you know, more intensive solar panels on the side, that we really. >> Yeah. >> Don't see it all. >> Yeah. >> The kitchen side. >> I'm so glad we did not do the second storey addition. (CROSSTALK) That we were once thinking about. (CROSSTALK) >> Yeah, it would've been too big of a house, really. >> It would've been too big of a house. The flow would have been completely different. And I like respecting the fact that the original architect, really, was thoughtful about that whole thing. >> Yep, and a lot of times it can be so easy to just keep adding and thinking that, we need this, (CROSSTALK) and we need this, more and better, but what happened here was no less.
>> Yeah. It is better if you're really smart about it. (CROSSTALK) And rather than building more, do more with less. (CROSSTALK) Open up walls, get, sort of double function. And get more out of existing spaces. >> Recognize how you use spaces and maximize them to whatever point you can. I think that's absolutely true.