Nearly everything Joe and Kathy Bush need is an easy stroll from their historically inspired home in Santa Barbara, California. Joe walks six minutes to his law office, and the couple can easily go by foot to restaurants, parks, and stores. "Kathy was going to the bank yesterday and started to drive-like we have for 40 years-and then said: Hey, I can walk and get there and back in quicker time because I don't to have to look for a place to park," Joe relates.
The Bushes were living in a 4,000-square-foot house in the Santa Ynez foothills outside Santa Barbara when friend and contractor Dennis Allen suggest they move downtown. Allen, who specializes in green building projects, had purchased a lot with a sorely neglected house and rundown garages that he was developing into environmentally responsible residences.
The timing was perfect. Joe and Kathy's children were grown and no longer living at home, and the couple was ready to downsize. Although it took two years to get permit approval from the famously strict Santa Barbara city planners, the Bushes finally moved into the new 2,250-square-foot, two-story residence in 2009. Located in the heart of town, the place was loaded with energy- and water-saving features. It has even been submitted for platinum (the highest) rating certification through the U.S Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for homes program.
The home boasts the best in eco-design, but it looks like a charming old Victorian farmhouse, which is just what Kathy hoped. "I wanted the house to look authentic," says Kathy, who grew up in a Victorian house nearby. The existing 1877 house on the property had been too dilapidated to restore, but the new home was built with a façade that closely resembles the style of the original Victorian. Materials were salvaged and reused when possible, including redwood exterior siding and several interior doors. The contractor also donated salvaged building materials to Habitat for Humanity and diverted as much waste as possible from landfills.
Other green features include energy-conserving insulation and windows, plus a high-efficiency heating and cooling system. There are dual-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads and faucets. Solar panels garner enough power to heat the water supply, and there is a backup tankless water heater.
Lumber is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified as sustainable, and cabinet boxes are made with FSC-certified wood and formaldehyde-free melamine. An old Douglas fir railroad trestle was planed into planks for the tongue-and-groove wood floors and finished on site with a low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) sealer.
Green building was new to Joe and Kathy, who is an interior designer, but they quickly got up to speed. Kathy worked closely with architect Dennis Thompson to create a floor plan that took advantage of natural light and was also period appropriate-with nooks and crannies and odd-sized spaces to give the home character. Many of the walls have beadboard wainscoting made with FSC-certified lumber and painted with low-VOC paints.
Kathy incorporated antiques and vintage furnishing throughout the house, including a chandelier that a client was ready to toss. Kathy rescued it from her client's garage, had it refurbished, and hung the chandelier in the dining room. The dining table, chairs, and sideboard were also hand-me-downs. The designer opted for linen, organic cotton, and hemp fabrics for draperies, bed linens, and some furnishings. Mattresses for all the beds are made with organic materials and plant-based foams.
One of Joe's favorite rooms is the library, where his books fill shelves on two walls. Redwood wainscoting on the other walls was fabricated from wood salvaged from the original old house. "We just put a light finish on it," Kathy says. "I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was."
Nearly every morning Kathy and Joe start the day with coffee on the front porch. An upper level porch offers evening views of the sunset. "We really use the outdoor spaces," Joe says. "The porches are great places to sit and enjoy the sunsets, mountains, and city views."
Architect: Dennis Thompson, AIA, LEEP, AP, Thompson Naylor Architects Inc., 900 Philinda Ave., Santa Barbara, CA 93101; 805/966-9807, thompsonnaylor.com.
Interior design: Kathy Bush, Kathy Bush Interiors, 805/966-9680.
General contractor: Dennis Allen and Bryan Henson, Allen Associates, 201 N. Milpas, Santa Barbara, CA 93103; 805/884-8777, dennisallenassociates.com.
Garden design: Margie Grace, Grace Design Associates, 3010 Paseo Tranquillo, Santa Barbara, CA 93105; 805/687-3569, gracedesignassociates.com.
Photography: Luca Trovato
Produced by Andrea Caughey