written by:
photos by:
April 17, 2009
Originally published in Born Again!

Sustainable consultant to the stars Jordan Harris convinces Hollywood starlets to go hybrid, but when it came to greening his own home, he enlisted outside help.

The Harris family rests easy on their new back patio abutting the Belvedere lagoon. The first order of business for this green remodel was to reconnect the house with its surroundings.
The Harris family rests easy on their new back patio abutting the Belvedere lagoon. The first order of business for this green remodel was to reconnect the house with its surroundings.
Photo by 
1 / 10
The living room. Ninety-five percent of the timber (including ipe, redwood, Douglas fir, and eucalyptus) for the external and internal framework was either salvaged or sustainably harvested. Low-VOC paint coats the walls.
The living room. Ninety-five percent of the timber (including ipe, redwood, Douglas fir, and eucalyptus) for the external and internal framework was either salvaged or sustainably harvested. Low-VOC paint coats the walls.
Photo by 
2 / 10
After purchasing the house from an elderly neighbor, the Harrises hired architect Christopher C. Deam to help bring their sustainable visions to life. The house was practically gutted.
After purchasing the house from an elderly neighbor, the Harrises hired architect Christopher C. Deam to help bring their sustainable visions to life. The house was practically gutted.
Photo by 
3 / 10
The large expanse of windows that now surround the house feature remote-operated awning and roll shades by Mechoshade and Eastern Awning.
The large expanse of windows that now surround the house feature remote-operated awning and roll shades by Mechoshade and Eastern Awning.
Photo by 
4 / 10
When the Harrises bought their house in 2003, it was strangely sealed off from its stunning setting. Christopher Deam opened the house up to the lagoon and nearby Mount Tamalpais in the distance.
When the Harrises bought their house in 2003, it was strangely sealed off from its stunning setting. Christopher Deam opened the house up to the lagoon and nearby Mount Tamalpais in the distance.
Photo by 
5 / 10
In the master bathroom, all boundaries between inside and outside and public and private are virtually eliminated. The dark tiles are by Ann Sacks.
In the master bathroom, all boundaries between inside and outside and public and private are virtually eliminated. The dark tiles are by Ann Sacks.
Photo by 
6 / 10
What was once a boat room now serves as a home office. The engineered bamboo floors are from Eco Timber. The modular shelving and storage systems are by Vitsoe.
What was once a boat room now serves as a home office. The engineered bamboo floors are from Eco Timber. The modular shelving and storage systems are by Vitsoe.
Photo by 
7 / 10
In the foyer, Deam left one surprise: The neon-pink guest bathroom is hidden behind heavy, dark-gray walls.
In the foyer, Deam left one surprise: The neon-pink guest bathroom is hidden behind heavy, dark-gray walls.
Photo by 
8 / 10
Architect Deam created the dining table from a fallen elm tree.
Architect Deam created the dining table from a fallen elm tree.
Photo by 
9 / 10
Julie enjoys her new kitchen with son Emerson. She wanted to conceal as many appliances as possible, so Deam disguised the Sub-Zero refrigerator and Miele dishwasher with panels from Downsview Kitchens that match the cabinets, giving the kitchen a clean,
Julie enjoys her new kitchen with son Emerson. She wanted to conceal as many appliances as possible, so Deam disguised the Sub-Zero refrigerator and Miele dishwasher with panels from Downsview Kitchens that match the cabinets, giving the kitchen a clean, uncluttered appearance.
Photo by 
10 / 10
The Harris family rests easy on their new back patio abutting the Belvedere lagoon. The first order of business for this green remodel was to reconnect the house with its surroundings.
The Harris family rests easy on their new back patio abutting the Belvedere lagoon. The first order of business for this green remodel was to reconnect the house with its surroundings.
Project 
Harris Residence
Architect 

Jordan and Julie Harris’s home in Belvedere, just north of San Francisco, doesn’t look like most of the other houses in the area. What sets this low-slung study in clean lines and uncluttered light apart from the rest of the buildings bordering Belvedere Lagoon isn’t the understated modernist aesthetic. It’s something subtler: the building’s orientation. While the neighboring properties all back squarely onto the lagoon, with views of gardens and docks on the opposite shore, the Harris residence is rotated 30 degrees, drawing the eye down the body of water toward the hazy, 2,571-foot peak of Mount Tamalpais beyond.

Yet for all the beauty of the house and its setting, the feature of which the owners are most proud is—improbably—the electric meter. “It’s running backwards,” says Jordan, revealing the ordinary-looking meter from behind a panel in the wooden fence that encircles the house. “Since last year, we’ve put hundreds of kilowatts of power back into the grid.”

The living room. Ninety-five percent of the timber (including ipe, redwood, Douglas fir, and eucalyptus) for the external and internal framework was either salvaged or sustainably harvested. Low-VOC paint coats the walls.
The living room. Ninety-five percent of the timber (including ipe, redwood, Douglas fir, and eucalyptus) for the external and internal framework was either salvaged or sustainably harvested. Low-VOC paint coats the walls.

The Harrises had one goal in mind when they purchased the building from an elderly neighbor in June 2003: to make their home reflect their values. As a cofounder of OZOcar, a New York–based luxury car service featuring low-emissions hybrid vehicles, and a longtime environmental and political activist, Jordan wanted the house to exemplify his passion for sustainability. Meanwhile, Julie, who comes from a fashion-industry background, was keen to create an indoor space as light-filled and open as the outdoors. “We renovated the house with a view to proving that style and sustainability are compatible,” says Jordan.

Bringing to mind hemp-floored mud huts and grass-roofed yurts, the green-building movement hasn’t previously had much truck with the architectural haute couture. Aimed at reducing the impact on the earth inherent in standard construction, occupancy, and demolition practices, the steadily growing environmental building crusade has generally focused more on making a hearty ecological statement than on making an arresting aesthetic one.

After purchasing the house from an elderly neighbor, the Harrises hired architect Christopher C. Deam to help bring their sustainable visions to life. The house was practically gutted.
After purchasing the house from an elderly neighbor, the Harrises hired architect Christopher C. Deam to help bring their sustainable visions to life. The house was practically gutted.

“Jordan and Julie felt that there was an image crisis with green design,” says Christopher C. Deam, whose San Francisco–based architecture firm CCD collaborated with Jonathan Cunha of Fusion Building Company, a local contractor specializing in environmentally friendly construction methods, on remodeling the Harrises’ property. “Most green architecture is associated with a completely different aesthetic,” says Cunha. “It’s unusual for a project to be both green and modern.”

That the Harrises’ home, in the words of CCD project architect Steven Huegli, “doesn’t obviously announce itself as a green house” is testimony to the designers’ enviable skill in seamlessly integrating sustainable building technology into an elegant architectural language. Aside from the solar panels installed on the roof, there is little about the house that visually hints at its tree-hugging soul.

The house is, first and foremost, a thing of beauty. The experience of wandering through the transparent, glass-walled rooms and out onto the central courtyard or waterfront garden is a bit like stepping into a clear pool. The open vistas between living areas create a sensation of continuous space between the outdoors and indoors. Carefully chosen furniture pieces, such as the expansive Moroso Lowland couch and custom dining table, fashioned by Deam from a wind-fallen elm, seem to float above the pale wood floor like the kayaks bobbing about on the water outside.

When the Harrises bought their house in 2003, it was strangely sealed off from its stunning setting. Christopher Deam opened the house up to the lagoon and nearby Mount Tamalpais in the distance.
When the Harrises bought their house in 2003, it was strangely sealed off from its stunning setting. Christopher Deam opened the house up to the lagoon and nearby Mount Tamalpais in the distance.

“It’s all about bringing the outdoors in; every room has a relationship to the garden,” says Julie, as she supervises her sons Emerson, six, and Lucca, three, as they play. “I love watching the fog rolling over the hills, and the way that the lagoon transforms itself into one big kids’ party in the summer.”

Less obvious to the naked eye, however, are the green principles upon which the home’s renovation has been based. Even though the house was extensively remodeled, original elements such as plumbing fixtures, timber, and cabinetry were—wherever possible—recycled. Old doors and windows were donated to Building REsources, a San Francisco–based reusable construction nonprofit. The old foundation and formwork were repurposed in other building projects. Even the carpet in what was once a boathouse and now serves as a combination office and den, found a second life: It was used to line Bedouin-style tents at the 2004 Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

In the master bathroom, all boundaries between inside and outside and public and private are virtually eliminated. The dark tiles are by Ann Sacks.
In the master bathroom, all boundaries between inside and outside and public and private are virtually eliminated. The dark tiles are by Ann Sacks.

Ninety-five percent of the timber (including ipe, redwood, Douglas fir, and eucalyptus) for the framework and external and internal finishes was either salvaged or sustainably harvested. Low-VOC paint was applied to many of the vertical surfaces, including a lovely exposed brick wall that was formerly hidden behind Sheetrock. One large wall in the main living area was coated with a silvery aluminum laminate applied to a recycled  substrate that captures the light. Most of the floors were made with sustainably harvested bamboo. Meanwhile, the garage floor, as well as the underlay for the paving stones outside, was built from 30 percent fly-ash concrete. “Concrete use and manufacturing is responsible for 8 percent of the world’s [human-generated] carbon dioxide emissions,” says Jordan. “Fly-ash concrete mixes waste from coal-burning plants with regular concrete to make a stronger, less ecologically damaging material.”

The house is also extremely energy-efficient. In addition to the photovoltaic cells, the property boasts a high-efficiency boiler, a super-insulated roof structure, a radiant floor-heating system, insulated glazing and low-e coatings on the windows and doors, adjustable solar shades to reduce direct solar gain as needed, high-efficiency household appliances, and no-PVC blinds. Cunha even went so far as to clad the walls with a material known to building professionals as UltraTouch cotton insulation, and to the rest of us as mulched denim. “When the insulation was added, the house looked like an enormous blue jean,” says Huegli.

Jordan dubs the marriage between style and sustainability “eco-chic.” As influenced by the design practices of architect William McDonough as he is by the power of celebrity and fashion to influence popular tastes, Jordan sees his home as part of a broader vision to use high style as a vehicle for increasing environmental awareness. As a board member of the environmental group Global Green USA, Jordan conceived of the annual Green Car to the Red Carpet campaign. The effort, now in its fourth year, has focused on persuading A-list actors like Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, and Robin Williams to arrive at the Academy Awards in hybrid cars, with a view to raising awareness about low-emissions vehicles. “The house, the OZOcar, and the Oscar campaign are all part of the same drive,” says Jordan. “They’re focused upon finding ways to educate people so that they can make smarter, more responsible choices and live well.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016
gable game austin texas cantilevered home facade windows upper level car port
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to indoor/outdoor living. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
June 18, 2016
Modern prefab lakeside home in Bloomingdale, New Jersey
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
June 18, 2016
Rectangular bento glass table with compartments.
These top-notch projects by design students earned a spot on our honor roll.
June 18, 2016
bozley all
Jory Brigham picks up his family’s trade and takes it in unexpected directions.
June 17, 2016
ph133407
The outlandish Belgian fashion designer, a member of the iconic Antwerp Six, creates a quirky pattern-filled capsule collection for the Swedish mega-retailer—with a high-tech twist.
June 17, 2016
2016 Triumph Pavilion
A creative take on the classic children's toy.
June 17, 2016
planar and simple chicago farmhouse addition kitchen mutina cabinets tiles pella window kohler faucet
A relaxed interior and radical roof make a home more sociable and energy-efficient.
June 17, 2016
up and away renovation san francisco family room richard wright painting sofa
A couple bring cohesion to an architectural mishmash in San Francisco.
June 17, 2016
new head of its class connecticut renovation summer home facade bleached cedar siding volumes glass bridge
A Connecticut home with a notable architectural legacy gets an expansive update for a family of six.
June 17, 2016
Rockefeller Center filled with cactus during the month of June.
To welcome summer, the plaza at Rockefeller Center transforms into a desert landscape.
June 16, 2016