Intelligently Beautiful

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Geri Elfman

I adopted a dog last year, and during our twice daily walks, I’ve noticed that seemingly everyone is in the middle of a landscaping project. Black tarps smothering crab grass. Homeowners in wide-brimmed hats shoveling wheelbarrows full of gravel or mulch. Blank slates of dirt yards patiently awaiting plants and rocks. At one particular home, I’ve watched a contractor with an artisanal streak carefully lay out a large spiral of river stones and cement them in place, one at a time, over the course of several weeks. It’s been thrilling to watch these gardens take shape throughout the months, and to see new ones embarking on their own journey toward sustainability. (Ella, for her part, just wants to roll in the dirt.)

The drought kicked off this trend, but the beauty and practicality of these smart homes and gardens have been their own best PR.

Nowhere is that more true than at the breathtaking Casa de Maya. Taking inspiration from New Mexico architecture, landscape designer Geri Elfman created a hacienda-style courtyard that could have been lifted from a movie set. Augmenting the hardscape is a diverse array of plants: perennial ground covers as well as gravel, succulents and flowering shrubs in addition to cacti. Elfman managed to design a space that resembles a Southwestern desert bursting with wild, colorful, multiform life — all easily maintained by the property’s gray water system.

Richard Hauge and Ann Hewitt turned their staid suburban single-story home into a fun and funky two-story that is as attractive as it is eco-friendly, reusing materials and employing the latest in green products and technology throughout every stage of the makeover. Cork flooring, solar panels and internal restructuring to improve air flow have all contributed to an energy-efficient space. Materials left over from various construction projects helped create the second story and staircase. Now a mid-century-modernesque bungalow, the Hauge-Hewitt home boasts tons of character and an environmental pedigree to boot.

Ed Sanchez didn’t get into the window repair business because of the environment: He just liked old wood windows. But when he restores original windows — some close to 100 years old — in historical homes to perfect operation, he does more than just preserve that period look. He also keeps these beautiful, old-growth wood sashes out of the landfill, and negates the need for vinyl replacements. A win all the way around — and one of the reasons Home Window Repairs has been certified by the city of Ventura as a Green Business.

“Going green” once brought up images of composting toilets and humble log cabins. Today, we’re more likely to picture succulents, drip-water systems and energy-efficient lighting. The modern makeover is all about adjusting to a new climatic reality, without sacrificing style. Sustainable homes and gardens represent intelligent design, plain and simple. And that, as I see, time and time again, is truly beautiful, too.


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