Small House, Big Idea

When the MacKenzies first approached Dennis Allen and Ian Cronshaw of Allen Associates and Brett Ettinger of Fergusen-Ettinger Architecture, they envisioned a massive 4,000-sq.-ft. remodel. After a few revisions, it was decided a more realistic renovation of the original footprint was more appropriate for the clients’ lifestyle and budget.

Before taking on this project, Allen and Cronshaw focused much of their business on practicing environmentally friendly building practices. And with no exception, this 2-acre parcel in the Santa Ynez wine country would be a prime example of the best in sustainable design.

Among the things the clients wanted to accomplish in the $335,000 whole house remodel was to efficiently use the modest size space to live comfortably during the six-month a year period they were living here, to create a nice transition within the home with the beautiful landscape outside and incorporate the use of as much recycled and earth-friendly products available.

“They wanted to make this their dream vacation home,” says Allen, the president of Allen Associates, Santa Barabara, Calif. “Along with the architect, we worked on a plan that called for a 4,000-sq.-ft. expansion. After careful consideration of the clients’ wants and budget needs, we presented a plan that kept the home at its moderate size and was more in line with their lifestyle.”

Citizens of Vancouver, British Columbia, the MacKenzies planned on residing in their California retreat for six-months out of the year. With that in mind, the clients did not want their vacation home to require a lot of maintenace and traded that for the opportunity to live simply.

Bringing The Outside In
It’s no secret that the design/build process provides an easy flow between remodeler and architect. Case in point, Allen Associates created a “green” team — where both the remodeler, architect, structual engineers and specialty contractors have the same goals of environmentally friendly building practices.

That’s how Allen Associates got this job. “The clients came to us because of our knowledge of green building,” says Allen. “I am the founding member of The Sustainablity Project and the Green Building Alliance.” He also works as a team member with Santa Barbara architects to achieve the highest level of efficiency in new construction and renovations.

The size of the home is a major part of its environmental sensitivity. Although a modernist design, it is fully rooted in the Santa Ynez Valley — recalling older winery building and barns with its metal roof and siding.

“We used corrugated metal on both the roof and for a large section of the siding, and the remaining walls have a plater finish,” says Allen. “While aesthetically pleasing, the high recycled content of corrugated metal makes it an excellent green choice, and both the metal and plaster were used for their fire-resistant and durability properties.”

Along the west exterior of the home, a large loggia was installed to aid in protection from the sunlight. Large windows were also installed to brighten up the small space, while providing a natural heatsource.

With a landscaper onboard the “green” team, the informal courtyard between the house and an adjacent barn creates a semi-enclosed outdoor space on one side of the house for the homeowners to enjoy their gardening passion. “Much of the garden accentuates the sustainability theme with drought-tolerent plants,” adds Allen

The foreground on the other side includes a stone patio with trellis, built-in barbeque and new pool, again tying the home into the outdoors.

Maximizing Space
After downsizing the 4,000-sq.-ft. remodel to the original foot print, Allen, Cronshaw and Ettinger had to design an innovative spacial layout for the entire house.

The kitchen area was one of the clients’ most important rooms. “Keeping with the open floorplan, the kitchen is compact, yet very efficient,” says Allen. “We used stainless steel countertops and European-style cabinets to maintain the modernist look and brought in light from two sides of the kitchen to bring more light in — which creates the feeling of a larger room.”

The biggest challenge was designing enough storage space to accommodate everyday household needs. “This issue was resolved with the use of large cabinet units in the bedroom and living room,” explains Allen. The bedroom cabinets, which are made of aluminum and etched plastic doors, fill one entire wall of the bedroom. “These units are manufactured in Germany and available through a Canadian source the owners had,” says Allen. “We are always open to new manufacturers; it helps broaden our offerings.”

The adjacent barn was also remodeled into a guest room for their out-of-town visitors.

The ‘Green’ Way
Allen Associates has been environmentally focused for more than 25 years. The group built the first solar houses in Santa Barbara in the mid-1970s and has continued to push education within the constuction industry.

“Few are opposed to the revolution,” emphasizes Allen. “We’re changing the way we build and the way we think about structures. At our best, we approach structures like living organisms, considering the whole product in its environment instead of treating it as an assemblage of components. Additionally, we’re trying to educate people that environmentally friendly structures can blend into today’s lifestyles and the way people want to live.”

Other environmentally friendly aspects that Allen encourages homeowners to consider and applied to this wine country home include a Rinnai tankless water heater for domestic hot water and space heating and an Isokern fireplace.

“The remote location of the home made energy efficiency an important goal,” says Allen. “The tankless hot water heater used about half of the energy of a conventinal water heater. We were also able to inset it in an exterior wall, providing a clean, finished look — reducing the need for a large closet for a furnace and tank water heater.”

The final project may be small but it exudes quality, attention to detail, and spaciousness,” adds Allen. “The use of both indoor and outdoor space, and taking advantage of the Santa Ynez Valley’s wonderful climate, made this seem to be a much larger project.”