See Inside this LEED Platinum Certified Home
A family-friendly renovation earns this warm, contemporary home LEED Platinum certification.
When artist Hadley Williams and her husband, Ben, were looking for a new nest for their growing family, they wanted a home that would provide a healthy and eco-friendly environment for their children. They found an unassuming house in the East Bay—within walking distance of schools and parks—that had a level backyard and room for their two kids to grow.
“But not too much space,” says Williams. “We wanted to enjoy living here once the kids were grown up and on their own.”
Though they liked the size and location of the home, the look was too elaborate for their tastes. So they enlisted the help of Mill Valley artist, architect, and interior designer Sherry Williamson, who directed a team of professionals to open up the existing structure and create a quietly sophisticated backdrop for their busy family life. They also asked that, wherever possible, the team use materials that were environmentally friendly and wouldn’t be hazardous to their health. The end result is a warm, contemporary home.
“Since adulthood, I’ve been interested in trying to live healthily, and when I got the chance to design our home, making it as healthy as possible was a natural expression of this interest,” says Williams.
At Williams’ request, the inner workings of the home are as green as the visual environment is clean. The oak is sustainably harvested and finished with low– or no-VOC stain. The superthin insulation is made from aerogel—a space-age insulation material used by NASA. Both the wall-to-wall carpets and antique area rugs are wool, and are backed with natural latex or cushioned by carpet pads that don’t contain off-gassing chemicals. Mattresses and pillows are nontoxic, as is the custom upholstered furniture. A 46,000-gallon underground cistern in the backyard collects rainwater, and the landscape design incorporates low-water turf and edible plants like blueberry bushes and plum and apple trees. These and many other construction details earned the project LEED Platinum certification—the highest designation for eco-friendly design.
The first step in the remodel was to strip back the interiors. After removing the flat ceilings, Williamson used steel trusses to vault the ceilings in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. “Our goal was to find a minimal truss concept—whether wood or metal—and to utilize as few trusses as possible so that the interior spaces would feel more open and spacious,” says Williamson.
When it came to the finishes, Williams and Williamson agreed on a limited palette to enhance the spare, open feeling in the home. Along with American white oak paneling throughout, custom stairwell railings and plumbing fixtures were all done in brushed steel, while the hardware was finished in brushed nickel. The countertops in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms were fabricated from white Calacatta Caldia marble, and the bathroom floors were done in the same off-white penny round tile. “Using fewer materials means that the eye is not drawn to a lot of different surfaces,” says Williamson. “It’s the ultimate in simplicity.”
This same principle of calm coherence drove the furnishings selection. Vintage amber glass light fixtures and Martz lamps illuminate the home. Antique Asian rugs woven in muted tones cushion the floors. And sophisticated but kid-friendly furniture upholstered in aniline-dyed leather or natural fibers provides areas to perch while still allowing plenty of space to spread out.
Williams likes the pairing of the intricately patterned rugs and textured light fixtures with the simple, smooth oak paneling. She’s also fond of the small, artful details found throughout the home, such as the round art-glass discs she designed for the entry hall. “I love how the irregular, lively composition balances the linearity and static quality of the wall,” says Williams.
“Happily, achieving these green goals never meant sacrificing the aesthetics of the house,” says Williamson. “Usually, a project has one driving factor, like budget or schedule or design or LEED requirements—with the others taking a lower priority. But here, we were able to meet the green goals as well as the clean design aesthetic. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about incorporating sustainable, healthy design.”