A Quintessential Midcentury Home Goes LEED Platinum

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By Dwell / Published by Dwell
Architect Michelle Kaufmann transforms a 1965 home into a paragon of sustainability.

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. 

Shannon Bloemker’s hillside home in Piedmont, California, is arranged in a C-shape with a protected courtyard landscaped by Gardener’s Guild. The fire pit is by Spark Linear Burner.

Shannon Bloemker’s hillside home in Piedmont, California, is arranged in a C-shape with a protected courtyard landscaped by Gardener’s Guild. The fire pit is by Spark Linear Burner.

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. 

The Mexican river rocks that hardscape the outdoors continue in the interior hallway, which connects the bedroom and living spaces. The green wall system is by Woolly Pocket. The flooring is Ecotimber strand-woven bamboo. 

The Mexican river rocks that hardscape the outdoors continue in the interior hallway, which connects the bedroom and living spaces. The green wall system is by Woolly Pocket. The flooring is Ecotimber strand-woven bamboo. 

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."

Bloemker calls the original kitchen, which included such Space Age wonders as built-in can openers,  an "afterthought," disconnected from the rest of the home. Architect Michelle Kaufmann set about removing walls to open up the space. The countertops are Caesarstone; the maple cabinetry is by Randall Wilson & Sons Fine Carpentry.

Bloemker calls the original kitchen, which included such Space Age wonders as built-in can openers,  an "afterthought," disconnected from the rest of the home. Architect Michelle Kaufmann set about removing walls to open up the space. The countertops are Caesarstone; the maple cabinetry is by Randall Wilson & Sons Fine Carpentry.

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.

The 4,000-square-foot home previously contained a single bedroom, an egregious waste of space. Subdivided into three bedrooms, the house is shared by the Bloemkers and their four children. The modular carpet is by FLOR. 

The 4,000-square-foot home previously contained a single bedroom, an egregious waste of space. Subdivided into three bedrooms, the house is shared by the Bloemkers and their four children. The modular carpet is by FLOR. 


The home’s deck extends outward toward a vista. General contractor McCutcheon Construction was tasked with improving insulation and installing double-pane windows throughout. 

The home’s deck extends outward toward a vista. General contractor McCutcheon Construction was tasked with improving insulation and installing double-pane windows throughout.