the first home

photos by John Swain Photography

Light, simplicity, and sustainability – these are the inspiration for our home design. In 2002, when my husband, Kevin Cullen, and I were looking for an affordable home to buy in the San Francisco Bay region, we were frustrated by the lack of options. From this challenge, however, came Kaufmann’s determination to create an alternative, and the design for our home was born. Since we wanted an affordable home, we knew that much of the challenge in the design would be making it “feel” big even though the square footage was modest. We created models to study light and window placement. Recognizing that smart design choices can drastically reduce homeowner’s reliance on energy-demanding air-conditioning systems, I studied prevailing breeze patterns. My own negative experience with unhealthy indoor air in a rental home convinced me that the design should prevent unhealthy mold and moisture accumulation. The home’s foam cell insulation and green materials ensure a healthy, clean indoor environment.

The interior embraces form, function, and aesthetics. Light-colored, rapidly-renewable bamboo flooring and an elegant open floor plan make the home appear spacious. A stepped kitchen island screens clutter without closing off the space to other rooms. One of the more notable features of the home is an FSC-certified wooden storage bar that stretches along an entire wall of the living room space. The wooden bar, with its sliding doors, not only offers considerable storage options, but it is also easily customized. It can be designed to accommodate collections of books, artwork, or any number of other objects. This allows the living space to remain open and uncluttered, adding to the spacious feeling.

Most importantly for Kevin and I, who are committed to sustainable living, we designed the home to have as little impact as possible on the environment. The dual-pane glass windows and doors placed throughout the home maximize cross-ventilation and natural lighting while minimizing the need for artificial lighting and climate control. The main living space features a long wall made of sliding glass that, when open, allows natural light and air to flow through the home, reducing dependence on central air-conditioning. Ample kitchen windows bathe surfaces with natural light, and strategically-placed skylights and windows offer privacy and light in bathrooms. Bedrooms in the home feature clerestory windows and sliding glass doors to further promote natural lighting and ventilation, as do exterior gliding wood sunshades.

The sloped roof encourages hot air to move upwards and quickly out of the house, and it is designed to accommodate the placement of solar panels. LED and fluorescent lighting as well as Energy Star appliances all promote energy sustainability. The sliding doors and wood screens further extend the home’s usable space by opening on to generous decks and a stunning view.

The merging of sustainability and beauty is best observed in the exterior design. Here, long-lasting, low-maintenance materials such as cor-ten steel provide warmth and allow the home to nestle unobtrusively into its hillside lot. Unlike the cold, harsh image that “steel” conjures in most people’s minds, cor-ten steel is almost velvet-like in its appearance and texture, a tactile material reminiscent of the beautiful rusted steel structures of my childhood in Iowa.

Full-size replicas of our home were built for educational purposes at both the National Building Museum and at Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend.
Here is a VIDEO of the home that was at the National Building Museum in DC.

The home design depicted in this photo is the personal home of Michelle Kaufmann and Kevin Cullen, and is not available for purchase from Michelle Kaufmann Studio.

5 Responses to “the first home”

  1. Sidd Maini says:

    I would love to have a home like this. The design is simply superb and very inspirational.

  2. Betsy Sharpe says:

    I am very impressed with the smooth lines of your design. Our last home was one of the first energy efficient homes built in Colorado with a passive solar design. It was featured in a SERI magazine.
    I would like more information on your pre-built property plans. GO GREEN!

  3. Karen Madsen says:

    Your work is beautiful while also being accessible design!


  4. Karen Madsen says:

    Your work is beautiful while also being very accessible design.


  5. Rosa Chapa says:

    Hi, I want to build my dreamhome like this in Chicago. Can you please point me in the right direction.

    Thank you,

    Rosa Chapa 773-574-7442

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