Home to an array of wildlife, Mark Feichtmeir and Karen Boness’s property is officially recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the

National Wildlife Federation and listed as part of the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitats.


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loving kindness. E r i n P h o t o g r a P h y M i l g r a M b y b a r b a r a b o u r n E Natural Home March/april 2008 41 .Homestead Luxurious and self-sufficient. this northern California house takes advantage of the best of the old— and the new—in sustainable technology. stands outside the gazebo. the Buddhist embodiment of compassionate. Modern A statue of Kuan Yin. gazing across the yard and garden.

” The property’s southern exposure enables passive-solar design—orienting a house so the sun warms its thermal mass (rock. a mix of locally mined earthen material and concrete. a variety of green materials. but I really didn’t know much about it. The façade’s series of gentle curves appears to be an organic extension of the hillside. “I’d dreamed for many years of building an ecological home. adobe).” Karen says. the couple needed walls with high thermal mass.” says Mark. they began to envision a modern homestead where they could live off the land and eliminate their need for fossil fuels. “We wanted it to blend in with the environment as much as possible. While Karen and Mark were specific about their goals regarding permaculture design and energy use. love the kitchen’s ample counter space. natural and organic. they headed to the bookstore where they found a wealth of information about environmental living.” says Karen. who works in prop42 erty management. cookbook storage and built-in banquette. Building with the land Mark and Karen bought five acres in Sonoma County. concrete. who specializes in sustainable building and has studied permaculture. interdependent systems that serve both nature and humans. “We didn’t necessarily want to live in wine country. stabilized earth). California.com . they didn’t know they would end up building an almost entirely self-sufficient house. They chose a method of earth construction called PISE (pneumatically installed. The couple’s research led them to he concept of passive-solar design. a computer programmer at the time.700-squarefoot structure tucked into the site’s south-facing slope. www. 2. brick. and perma-culture—an ecological design practice that creates functional. both serious cooks. NaturalHomeMagazine. Jersey let the property’s sloping topography guide him in designing a three-bedroom. when Karen Boness and Mark Feichtmeir got the opportunity to create their dream home. which stores the heat and releases it throughout the evening. their only aesthetic request was that the home be simple. For passive-solar heating. Unsure of what they wanted.Mark and Karen. E ight years ago. Using these principles. “but we were lured by the oak savannas with all their trees and open space. The couple enlisted Berkeley architect Todd Jersey.

because I can see everything I love from there: all the curves. incorporates symbols from nature that Karen selected from a permaculture handbook. The front gate’s design. the kitchen views. the banquette.Permaculture: An ecological design practice that creates functional. comments and questions on our new photo-sharing web feature: http://CU. light pours through the upper windows. MarK FeIcHtMeIr: except for the guest bedrooms. which is so different from our previous home. the living room. Did you save money where you didn’t expect to? KareN: We’re saving a lot on produce these days! How can people who aren’t building a new home connect to their land? MarK: Grow your own food. B ed B ath B ed L aundry M ech d ressing a rea e ntry K itchen n ooK d ining B ath s tudy o ffice M aster B ath M aster B edrooM L iving In the hallway. Mark and Karen stand beneath the covered walkway between their house and garage. interdependent systems that serve both nature and humans. I also recommend being aware of the environment and conscious of what you consume—that’s the beginning of the process. the gardens. submit photos. You can grow an amazing amount of food on just a balcony. by metal artist Amy Blackstone. The plaster wall was treated to duplicate the exterior PISE walls. If you have a green home-building project of your own. a conversation with the hoMeowners What do you love most about your house? KareN BoNess: My favorite room is the dining room.NaturalHomeMagazine. Natural Home March/april 2008 43 .com. we use all the other rooms on a regular basis.

a device that models the sun’s path across a site. In the summer. Run-off from the green roofs on the house and garage fills the cistern. They’re also able to collect much of their own water in a 50. the panels produce more energy than Karen and Mark consume. which helps keep the home cool and allows the structure to nestle into the hillside. The home’s 96 solar panels are placed on the roof of the garage/workshop and above the covered walkway. truly self-sufficient In addition to using passive-solar gain for heat. and high. They send the excess back to the electrical grid for credit. berry bushes and an olive orchard.com . the couple has little need for outside produce. 44 www. citrus and fruit trees.A retaining wall forms the back of the living quarters. This uniquely shaped garden uses a permaculture method to create a “keyhole garden. and the “keyhole” design creates the most edges. NaturalHomeMagazine. operable clerestory windows enable “night-flushing”—wherein the cool night air can flow through the house and pull out the daytime heat that’s been absorbed by all the thermal mass.” When two ecosystems come together. Heat and energy aren’t all nature gives them: With vegetable and herb gardens.000-gallon rainwater cistern. which they use in winter when they need more energy than the panels can provide. almond. Jersey’s team calculated optimal dimensions for the overhangs and windows with a heliodon. the home is equipped with 96 photovoltaic panels that provide all the electricity needed on the property year-round. Deep roof overhangs provide relief from the brutal summer sun. which provides water for the home and irrigation for the land from November through midsummer. the edge where they meet is the most diverse.

Karen and Mark are also developing Kenwood Permaculture. The other walls are plaster with integral color veneer plaster to maintain the warm tone and organic look. Coburn chose new furniture made from recycled or renewable materials and nonsynthetic fabrics when possible. ARCHITECT: Todd Jersey Architecture. She recently founded Wild Willow Landscape Design. Natural Home March/april 2008 45 . and she used remnants from the stone yard’s “boneyard” for the granite breakfast table. In the master bath.KenwoodPermaculture. She now holds certificates in permaculture design. sustainable interiors Before breaking ground. Coburn used allnatural pigments and stains to bring the warm colors of the hillside indoors.net SuSTAINABlE TouRS AND CoNSulTINg: www. vintage-stone pavers. www.ToddJerseyArchitecture.” Karen says. Karen made the screen that hangs above the headboard from recycled materials. designer Deborah Coburn used a moderately priced field tile to line the shower and soaking tub. “I never imagined I would live in such a beautiful place. The kitchen’s backsplash is made of recycled. which provides design and consulting services. landscape design and landscape horticulture.The exterior wall at the right of the master bedroom is PISE with no treatment.com A kitchen garden on one of the green roofs contains herbs and an espaliered Fuji apple tree against the garage wall. (415) 258-0543. www.NaturallyInspired. the couple teamed up with interior designer and color consultant Deborah Coburn of Naturally Inspired in San Rafael to create rooms that connected the home with nature. (510) 528-5477. through which they offer educational programs on sustainable living.com INTERIoR DESIgNER: Deborah Coburn. Naturally Inspired. She recycled many furnishings from the couple’s previous home and seamlessly incorporated wall niches for their display pieces. Tumbled marble adds a lavish accent.

NaturalHomeMagazine.The open great room lets guests mingle—whether they’re sitting at the table or relaxing by the fire. 46 www.com .

com. irrigation r harvesting and storage for ain household and irrigation water Green roofing systems by american Hydrotech Geothermal-exchange heat pump for hot water and in-floor radiant heating c oncrete floors containing fly-ash byproduct Natural cork kitchen flooring Kitchen cabinets made from Medite II non-formaldehyde fiberboard.NaturalHomeMagazine. passive cooling system Locally quarried material for PIse walls Kyocera solar panels (130 watts each) for electricity Maximum-efficiency smart-house automation systems for thermostats. Natural Home March/april 2008 47 . covered with naturally stained cherry wood Backsplash created from recycled French pavers Breakfast table and bathroom countertops made of granite and marble remnants e nergy star appliances. including washer and dryer Nontoxic stains and finishes High-efficiency Kiva.the Good stuff ■ ■ Passive-solar design No air conditioning. habitat plants that attract wildlife WEb E xtra : To find items used in this ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ house.umford r masonry fireplace o rganic gardens and medicinal herbs Native. visit www. lighting.

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