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A Modern and Sustainable Cabin in Marin: The Hillside House Story

Who said green homes have to look like hay barns?  Here is a great example of how sustainability does not have to define the aesthetic.  This was exactly the idea behind this ultra chic “Hillside House” in Marin that is on track to be the first Platinum LEED certified home in Marin County.

Scott Lee, the mastermind behind the project and the president of SB Architects, said he and his family envisioned a sustainable and warm home that would be comfortable to raise children and did not aspire to museum quality finishes.  They wanted some quirky interior design elements that would make the house playful and inviting and that is exactly what they have accomplished.

Lee’s brand-new home, a 2,100-square-foot, four-level dwelling built on a 50 percent slope, is clad in Western red cedar. It’s tucked into the hillside on three floors and fronted with glass, wood and balconies.

To an interview given to Houzz, Scott says the house is really quite small by custom home standards. It’s just 3 BR and 3.5 BA. “We didn’t want or need a large home.  The house appears to be large from the exterior because of the variety of decks and terraces at all levels. Efficient design and not building more than you need is very sustainable.”

All of the home’s abundant interior exposed wood is Douglas Fir, salvaged from a single seed plant in Idaho.  The house’s exterior is sustainable Western red cedar. Offsetting the wood is the salvaged metal that makes up the features, including twin armoires in the master bedroom and the grand fireplace in the living room.

“It’s really like a traditional tree-house home with a contemporary twist and there isn’t one inch of wasted space, says SB Architects marketing director Heather Hebert.

From a system perspective the house had employed a solar hot water, radiant floor heating, solar electric, fresh air intake and exhaust to supplement the many operable exterior doors and windows, natural day lighting, high efficacy lighting in the form of LED and fluorescent, recirculating hot water loop, energy star appliances by Whirlpool, super insulated walls and roofs, super insulated doors and windows that are thermally broken by Fleetwood and Nana, reclaimed exposed roof framing, no VOC interior paint by Mythic, FSC Certified cabinet cores, engineered Walnut flooring, high fly ash content in all concrete, home automation system that controls lighting and sun shades, close proximity to services and public transportation to limit automobile usage, low-flow plumbing fixtures by Kohler, High recycled content in all concrete counters by Concreteworks, high recycled content in the exterior stone, drip irrigation and no lawn.

Thank you Mariko Reed, the Photographer for contributing the photos, and Scott Lee, President & Principal/SB Architects for the story!  You can find more articles and photos on the AIA San Francisco website.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Led Lights July 8, 2010, 10:35 pm

    That is one gorgeous home. Hard to beat that red cedar for siding, and combined with the salvaged doug fir and metal work, it’s pretty spectacular. It really does look much bigger than 2100 sq feet though. Beautiful design and furnishings as well. Now, if I just had a gazillion dollars, I could have a sweet house like that in Marin as well.

    Thanks for the write up though, and the great photos.

  • Cameron Benz July 30, 2010, 6:37 am

    That home is absolutely breathtaking. Be interesting to see how the house is oriented in relationship to the compass points.

  • Cameron Benz August 3, 2010, 10:32 pm

    Back for another visit. 😀 I was just curious if there was any solar panels on this house or other green energy source that might take things one step further?

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