Magazine article Sunset

Eco-Design Goes Glam; in San Francisco's Mission District, Sunset Built an Idea House like No Other: Urban, Urbane, and Very, Very Green

Magazine article Sunset

Eco-Design Goes Glam; in San Francisco's Mission District, Sunset Built an Idea House like No Other: Urban, Urbane, and Very, Very Green

Article excerpt

Find more than 30 Earth-friendly ideas to make your own

Special section

Idea House

IN DESERTS, mountains, and suburbs over the past 10 years, Sunset has built Idea House projects ranging from big homes to cottages. But our San Francisco Idea House, set in the city's Mission District, is our first truly urban dwelling. And it's our first home modeled on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green-building principles.



Idea House builder and owner Robin Wilson wanted an energy-efficient place to call home. Enter Sunset and San Francisco architect John Lum, who devised a main house with a one-bedroom apartment on one end. The home's power comes from solar panels and a wind turbine installed in the backyard. A rainwater-catchment system channels roof runoff into two underground cisterns. And in the garage, a Phill system lets you fill up a natural gas-powered car overnight.

"We pulled as many green ideas as possible into a single house," Wilson says. "We know that may not be reasonable for most people. But we wanted to show that there's a whole lot you can do right now."


Hidden storage

Frosted blue-glass sliding panels provide concealed storage space and visual continuity with the adjacent clerestory windows.


Bright passage

The stairwell is an energy-efficient, ground-to-roof light well, thanks to channel-shaped glass panels filled with insulating Nanogel aerogel, which also reduces noise from the bustling city streets.


Well grounded

The mocha-colored floors are made of a 1/8-inch-thick overlay of cement, providing a smooth, reflective contrast to the grainy wood and plush wool rugs.

Hint of green

Low-water succulents are set in a built-in trough atop a two-sided steel shelf, bringing the garden indoors for an organic feel.

Interior views

A blue wall with tranquil bird paintings by local artist David Tomb complements the third floor's cityscapes. Wall paint is Serenata from Benjamin Moore's low-VOC Aura line.

Indoor-outdoor living

Taking full advantage of the Western climate, outdoor areas function as additional rooms, extending the livable footprint of the house and providing alfresco venues for family activities.


The floor plans

Architect John Lum's plans maximize natural light and airflow on each of the three levels, with rooms leading off an open, central stairway.


[white square] = main home

[blue square] = apartment

[yellow square] = gardens

Streetwise flair Rising three floors on a 50- by 75-foot corner lot, the contemporary house incorporates colors that blend with the neighborhood's more traditional homes. In the 3,577-square-foot main house, the living and dining areas and the kitchen are on the top floor to make the most of sunlight and city views. Fiber-cement siding by James Hardie.


Roomy kitchen In one corner of the third floor, ample work surfaces and storage blend with chef-worthy GE appliances for the serious cook, while an extra-large island, festive lighting, and a direct connection to the deck make it ideal for entertaining.


Trompel 'oeil cabinets

The "wood" cabinetry in the kitchen is actually a digital image of exotic wood laminated between two sheets of glass. Cabinet faces--here and throughout the house--can easily be updated without replacing the cabinet boxes, keeping material out of the landfill. Cabinetry by M8.


Opposing surfaces

Smooth, slim concrete counters from Concreteworks along the kitchen's perimeter contrast with a thick concrete slab on the island, which gets its texture and golden flecks of color from recycled rice hulls. …

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