Adventures in Urbanity
Every home is a kind of idea laboratory, though its experimental nature may only develop gradually — as dry rot in the master bath makes you (I mean me…) think about upgrading the tile backsplash, or when the refrigerator dies and prompts you (me again) to start shopping for a more energy-efficient model. But time and the desire to experiment, or at least improve, speeds up for an innovative architect like David Baker. Known for his award-winning, sustainably conceived communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s now in the fourth home he has designed for himself. He’s in good company: Frank Lloyd Wright designed at least three for himself (though Taliesin East and West probably count as more than two) and ranch house popularizer Cliff May did five. I just toured David’s
latest home, a compact urban row house that preserves historical details on the street front, and found it full of lessons for how to be as space- and resource-efficient as possible. Take the kitchen. It occupies one
watering the garden — is collected from the roof in modular tanks called Rainwater HOGs. And there’s a 2.0 kilowatt solar photovoltaic collection array on the roof. Finally, the front door is sandblasted glass for
privacy but with a novel twist: it’s transparent at the bottom, adding a little surprise to the street — and reinforcing the idea that this a design with legs! (Photos courtesy David Baker Architect.)
Hunting and Gathering
David’s house is a sort of three dimensional design library. Here are a few more ideas to add to your own reference section.
Dining alcove instead of a dining room: Plan 508-2, by Nicholas Lee.
Extended hearth for seating and display. Plan 496-17, by Leon Meyer.
Pass-through from kitchen to living area. Plan 454-12, by Sarah Susanka.
Soffit over windows as bookshelf. Plan 547-1, by Prairie Wind Architecture.
A famous line uttered by the pickpocket in the film Casablanca comes to mind: “Vultures, vultures — everywhere!” Design is the same — but in this case you are encouraged to make ideas your own.