Tour a Cool Eco-Conscious Los Altos Hills Home



Architect Noel Cross and landscape firm Strata Landscape Architecture created a eco-friendly home for their passionate clients.High in the Los Altos Hills overlooking Silicon Valley, the property Eric Evans shares with his wife, Cheryl Breetwor, has virtually no carbon footprint. But the opposite was true when they acquired it a few years ago. Then, a small, ramshackle house competed with felled trees, mounds of used tires and the charcoal remains of a burned-out barn. Once they assumed ownership, Evans, a contractor with an artist’s vision, donated the house, board by board, to Habitat for Humanity and then embarked on the laborious task of uncovering a series of buried equestrian trails he’d spotted on a decades-old aerial map.

Meanwhile Breetwor, a master gardener, spent days wrangling poison oak vines and hacking back overgrown blackberry thatches. “Clearing out all the debris seemed to fit into our dream of living self-sustainably,” says Evans, expressing the train of thought that led them to commission architect Noel Cross to create an “über green” estate.

The sizable house Cross designed for them treads lightly on the land and boasts a net-zero energy consumption thanks to its geothermal and solar systems. Settled into the hillside where the winter winds leave it unscathed, its mass is diminished and it remains private from neighbors. When Dustin Moore of Strata Landscape Architecture joined the project, he expanded on the environmental program by converting the few roofs that weren’t needed for photovoltaic arrays into living gardens. Planted with luscious succulents and Carex pansa, a durable sedge from the sand dunes of Monterey, they provide insulation, allow structures to unify with their setting and cleanse rainwater of any pollutants.

“We set out to be as low maintenance and water-wise as possible,” says Moore, who preserved several mature oaks and selected plants for their hardiness and drought tolerance. He transformed more than three acres into borders, beds and outdoor living “rooms,” each one with a distinct personality depending on whether it sits in the sun or shade, encloses a seating arrangement or sidles up to an infinity-edge pool or a fire pit. Purple, as a primary flower color, crops up in sages, penstemon, Pride of Madeira and California wild lilac. Lined up in a row of oversized pots or contained by limestone or rammed earth walls, sweepings of stalky grasses exude a restrained drama. Swaths of delicate, silvery green heathers read as rhythmic, textural geometry and conjure up images of prairies and meadows.

Diverted rainfall now irrigates an orchard where apples, apricots, cherries, ficus, nectarines, peaches, persimmons and pomegranates thrive. In addition to the orchard, Breetwor tends a raised-bed, rooftop garden where armloads of flowers reseed themselves every year. Nearby, a convenient dumbwaiter shuttles the seasonal cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, from kumquats to kale, down to the kitchen where Breetwor serves up dressing-free salads and concocts curds, jellies and marmalades, and a renowned Limoncello.

Needless to say, it’s a chemical-free domain where birds police pests and feast on aphids. In a prime spot, a chicken coop accommodates a handful of dapper black sex-links, Egyptian Fayoumis and red barred-rock cochins. Then there are the occupants of two beehives who pollinate all the edibles and florals. Breetwor shares their large yield of honey with friends and also administers it to the family’s two golden retrievers to keep their allergies at bay. “We’re healing the land,” she says, “and it’s healing us.”

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Living Landscape.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags

Designer Spotlight

Edit Module
Lovas Architects
Every project is a unique response to each client's lifestyle and programmatic needs as well as site characteristics and surrounding context. We create buildings that harmonize with their environment and dovetail into existing buildings when necessary. Styles are based in classical forms yet designed for a modern lifestyle. We work closely with our clients, to interpret their desires and are committed to providing each project, large or small, with the utmost in personal, specialized attention.

Lovas Logo

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Builder Spotlight

Ben Krupinski Builder
Ben Krupinski Builder has been building luxury homes of the highest quality for over 30 years. From custom coastal, country and city residences to remodels and historic renovations, they are respected for their integrity and innovation by discerning clients, visionary architects and world-class designers. For projects of both modest and expansive scale, they work to exacting standards delivering consistent excellence through value engineering, deep knowledge and vast resources in the Hamptons, NYC and Connecticut.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Builder Spotlight

Yankee Custom Builder
Yankee Custom Builder’s priority is maintaining your original concept within budget and on schedule. YCB strives to make the process of building a home gratifying rather than overwhelming by providing clear communication and valuable product knowledge. This allows our clients to feel comfortable every step of the way. Because of our excellence in service, the majority of our business comes from architects & designers who feel confident in recommending us to their valued clients.

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags