At Dwell, we could fawn over midcentury homes all day. Sunken living rooms, sunburst colors, and post-and-beam construction—what’s not to love? But even as we sing our architectural paramours’ praises, we must regard them with clear eyes, admitting to ourselves that nothing is perfect.
One thing we can’t say for our beloved postwar homes is that they were easy on the environment. Bloated and drafty, many of the classics were designed with a mindset of limitless resources.
In Piedmont, California, renowned architect Michelle Kaufmann took aim at this legacy of waste, retrofitting a 4,000-square-foot, one-bedroom home built in 1965 with the latest green advances and a dose of commonsense. The agenda, per resident Shannon Bloemker, was to be as sensitive to the original architecture as to the wider environment.
Bloemker, the CEO and founder of preventive home maintenance service Glasshouse, finds short-sighted design hard to understand. "The home is a system," she notes. "And the way we currently deal with problems, by waiting until things break to fix them, overlooks systemic issues."
With the home’s long-term sustainability in mind, its roof was lined with photovoltaic film, a rainwater collection system, capable of holding up to 4,000 gallons, was added, and 90 percent of the demolished materials, including shag carpeting and parquet floors, were recycled via a local charity. These energy-saving moves earned the home LEED Platinum status, making it one of the first in the East Bay to do so and an exemplar for midcentury renovations everywhere.
Get the Pro Newsletter
What’s new in the design world? Stay up to date with our essential dispatches for design professionals.