Magazine article Sunset

Small Wonder: Architect Isabelle Duvivier Turned Her Little Venice Bungalow into a Water-Saving Powerhouse

Magazine article Sunset

Small Wonder: Architect Isabelle Duvivier Turned Her Little Venice Bungalow into a Water-Saving Powerhouse

Article excerpt

In a town where multimillion-dollar homes are popping up where tiny cottages once stood, architect Isabelle Duvivier didn't take the bait to build big. Instead, as she remodeled the 1912 bungalow where she lives with her husband, cinematographer John Tipton, and their 11-year-old son, Finn, her priority was to make the home both eco-friendly and in sync with the 100-year-old Venice, California, neighborhood. So as she drew up plans to renovate the 1,000-square-foot bungalow--adding a master suite, a bathroom and closet, and an open loft upstairs--she capped the new size at just under 1,700 square feet. "For three people, we didn't need a gigantic house," she says. "And if it were bigger, it really would have eliminated our garden space."

Duvivier has been building environmentally conscious homes for others for years, and hers was no different. "It doesn't have to be more expensive than building another way: It's just about making certain decisions early on," she says. The house is powered by solar panels--even after Duvivier charges her electric car, the family has surplus energy to give back to the city. Almost every surface contains recycled materials, from the concrete kitchen countertops to the insulation. Duvivier also repurposed the original Douglas fir wood from areas they demolished to build stair treads and a bookcase. Her plan almost went bust as she ran out of wood, until she struck up a conversation with a neighbor. "He was storing some wood under his house after he remodeled," Duvivier says. "Our houses were built at the same time, so it might even be from the same forest."

Against the striking organic materials, Duvivier kept the furnishings simple, mostly classic mid-century shapes in black and white. The color comes from the rugs, the family's books, and the plants growing outside every door and window, which draw attention to the real highlight of the property: the garden.

The entire yard is watered exclusively by gray water and rainwater that's diverted as it runs off the roof, landing in two cisterns and flowing over a waterwheel. One of the cisterns is open, like a trough, and circulates water in a fish pond. …

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