Karen and David Bergman are close siblings—they shared an apartment in New York City for several years before they married their respective spouses. So when Karen Bergman and her husband John Thyfault moved into a 1960s ranch in Menlo Park, California, of course Karen called upon her big brother for renovation advice—even though he still lives in New York. An architect for 25 years, David increasingly specializes in sustainable design and teaches a class on the subject at New York City’s Parsons the New School for Design. "We see green design as an inseparable part of good design," David says. "Green principles—promoting both our own health and the health of the planet—are woven into all our projects, incorporated so that they enhance rather than compromise design."
David’s eco message struck a chord with Karen and John, who have two daughters, Julia, 6, and Isabelle, 4. "Karen has some allergies, and she and John wanted their kids to grow up in healthful surroundings," David says.
The existing L-shaped kitchen and family room were torn down to the studs and about 150 square feet of floor space was added to "fill in the elbow of the L," David explains. (Some of the old cabinets were installed for storage in the garage and others were given to a friend who reused them.) The new floor plan opened the kitchen more fully to the adjacent family room and allowed for more natural light as well as improved access to the patio and outdoor areas.
Karen Bergman and the architect she trusts completely: her brother David Bergman.
New cabinets were built at a nearby shop, eliminating the need to transport manufactured cabinets cross country. Door faces are made of Lyptus, a brand name for a fast-growing eucalyptus hardwood raised on managed Brazilian plantations. The trees are planted in reclaimed rain-forest areas, and the plantations meet Brazil’s national sustainable forestry standards. "It is not an exotic wood from virgin rain forests, but a managed-growth wood," David explains. Cabinet interiors are built using non-formaldehyde plywood.
Countertops are IceStone, a product manufactured in Brooklyn, New York, containing 75 percent recycled glass and 25 percent concrete. Tints are added to color the material. Although David prefers using locally made materials to avoid fuel-consuming transportation, in this case he decided IceStone’s virtues outweighed the negative impact of cross-country shipping.
"IceStone represents, for me, a company that aims to encompass everything I teach my students in sustainable design: a truly eco material that does not compromise on design, produced by a company with high standards of ethics and social responsibility," David says. "I take my students to tour the factory every semester.’’ The material comes in a broad range of colors and is comparable in cost to mid- to high-end granite, he says.
Translucent backsplash tiles are made with recycled glass too. Because recycled glass tiles tend to be more costly than those made of virgin materials, David limited their use to a strip under the windows, along one side of the refrigerator, and around the cooktop. Stainless steel covers the backsplash behind the cooktop, coordinating with the stainless-steel built-in ovens, refrigerator, and other (energy-efficient, of course) appliances.
Water-conserving faucets were installed at both sinks, and a designated tap provides filtered water so the family can avoid drinking bottled water. (Empty plastic water bottles are a growing litter and environmental issue.)
Energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps were used in the recessed ceiling fixtures. Because most fluorescent lights are not dimmable, David put the recessed fixtures on two separate switches or lines. That way, when less light is needed, only half of the recessed lights—interspersed throughout the room—are turned on. (Lighting manufacturers are developing dimmable fluorescent lights for residential use, but traditionally dimming fluorescent bulbs requires adding expensive controls, and is mostly done in commercial buildings.)
Countertop task lighting in the kitchen is provided by halogen lights, which can be dimmed.
For the family dining area, David designed decorative pendants made of recycled materials. Circular fluorescent tube lamps are housed in two translucent boxes fashioned from resin of 40 percent post-industrial recycled content. David designs eco-minded light fixtures for his business, Fire and Water.
Existing skylights were repaired and new energy-efficient windows installed. Air quality was also improved with a new central air- conditioning system equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter.
Karen Bergman and John Thyfault’s daughters Isabelle and Julia.
"We didn’t operate from an all-out, green-as-we-can-be, off-the-grid idealism, but from a more pragmatic time- and budget-oriented approach," David says. "We made things as green as could be within those constraints."
As for Karen and John, they are now are spreading the green message. "We have started to entertain in our new kitchen and renovated home, and we are sharing sourcing, materials selection, and design thoughts with many friends who are, in turn, considering alternative materials for their projects," Karen says. "The greening of our suburban California ranch may be infectious."
To view another kitchen in our GreenSpace series, click here.
Design: David Bergman Architect, and Fire & Water, 241 Eldridge St., #3R, New York, NY 10002; 212/475-3106, cyberg.com.
Photography: Michael Skott
Produced by Doris Athineos and Heather Lobdell
Lyptus cabinetry: The Village Collection, 650/594-0152.Hardware (9464 series): Omnia Industries, 973/239-7272.
Countertops (recycled glass and concrete): IceStone, 718/624-4900, icestone.biz.
Backsplash tile (recycled glass): UltraGlas, 800/777-2332, ultraglas.com.
Ovens; range hood: Viking, 888/845-4641, vikingrange.com.
Cooktop: Sub-Zero/Wolf, 800/332-9513.
Microwave: Dacor, 800/793-0093, dacor.com.
Main sink ("Orca’’ #ORX-110); island sink ("Regatta’’ #RGX 110): Franke Kitchen Systems Division, 800/626-5771.
Faucets ("Stratos’’ #06695000): Hansgrohe, 800/334-0455.
White oak flooring: Bruce Bauer Lumber, 650/948-1089, brucebauer.com.
Wall paint ("Norfolk Cream’’ #261, Eco Spec Low VOC); trim paint ("White Dove’’ Eco Spec Low VOC): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
Windows ("Integrity’’): Marvin Windows & Doors, 888/537-8268, marvin.com.
Table, chairs: Ligne Roset, ligne-roset-usa.com.
Light fixture: Fire & Water, 212/475-3106, cyberg.com.
Bar stools ("Compasso d’Oro’’): Design Within Reach, 866/377-0825, dwr.com.