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It’s not production; it’s art.. Many hands created this SMART, Green, Accessible Palm Springs Oasis By Kris Grant

Editor’s note: We first shared the story of Maureen Steiner’s “green build” while it was under construction in our March/April 2008 issue, and we promised to show it upon completion. This is part two of that story.

Maureen Steiner didn’t realize she was going to be building a “green” house when she purchased a 1950s Coronado ranch house that hadn’t been remodeled since 1987, and whose look could best be described as “tired.” She just wanted to take out a closet and remodel a bathroom. Or so she thought. Steiner bought her house on Alameda Avenue in 2007 mostly for its large back yard, complete with oval pool. The back corner of her master bedroom had a big cedar closet, and while “I hate to waste anything, I knew that closet had to go,” said Steiner, who envisioned a new spa tub and walk-in shower, both offering expansive outdoor views. “I guess that vision came from my childhood summer camp days where we took showers outdoors,” Steiner laughed. “People told me, ‘you really should contact an architect,’” Steiner said, and begrudgingly, she called a few, but found their plans were too grand for what she thought she wanted. And then Steiner recalled an architect she had met at a fundraising auction, a gal who did “green” design. Enter architect Laurie C. Fisher, AIA, a LEED-accredited professional. She met with Steiner, and when they walked the house and discussed ideas, Steiner’s vision grew, “probably even grander than what the first architects had in mind,” she ruefully admitted. “Two bedrooms didn’t have a hallway, and then I thought I needed to redo the kitchen and then it just grew and grew.” 26 Coronado Lifestyle • Holiday 2009

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photo by Greg Lambert

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photo by Greg Lambert

Steiner next interviewed several contractors and soon Bruce Woodruff of Woodruff Construction, Inc., of Coronado joined the team. Bruce’s wife, Thera, put Steiner in touch with Morgan Lloyd, now a LEED-certified interior designer, who was just getting into green design at the time. “Morgan was wonderful,” Steiner said. “She helped with finding products, and expedited things, and worked out all the cabinet schemes so that it would fit my AV equipment and all my kitchen utensils. She helped translate the whole wall into drawings. She even helped with the design of the closet space in the master bedroom.” Soon, the team, including Steiner’s partner Camille Davidson, were meeting regularly and brainstorming. One member of the team would bring an idea to the table, another would add to it, and the result was 28 Coronado Lifestyle • Holiday 2009

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a totally cohesive and individualized design that perfectly reflected Steiner’s wants and sensibilities. “It was a many hands-on effort,” Steiner said. “I love collaboration. So much of the design of the house was evolution. And that’s the way it should be…one good idea builds on the next.” “Laurie designed the square steelframed light fixtures in the living room, then her friend made them,” said Steiner. The living room’s teak cabinetry’s interior lift is mechanically activated to expose a 52-inch television. “Our cabinet maker, Steven McMillan, said it was the most challenging job he’d ever had,” Steiner said. “But he loved it, and he even made the curve on the end of the cabinetry.” Steiner said she would get starter ideas from design magazines. “That’s how I knew I wanted concrete countertops and the clean lines of Danish modern,” she said. Other ideas, like the spa-with-aview, came from childhood memories. “I had cork floors in one room when I was a kid and I wanted them everywhere.” The more Steiner learned about the innovative products on the market, the more she became a devotee of green building, which resonated with her psyche. Steiner had always been conservationminded in how she conducted her life. She

would walk instead of drive whenever possible, and was a stickler for recycling. Steiner is a retired attorney who often advocated for the disabled and who worked with the city of Coronado on ADA accessibility standards, including the first ADA accessible sidewalk to Central Beach. And so she naturally wanted to make her home ADA accessible. Doors throughout accommodate wheelchairs and both showers are roll-in and barrier free. “I don’t need this now, but you never know, and I planned this remodel with the thought of living here for another 20 years,” Steiner said. The project grew from green and accessible to SMART, and now all electrical circuitry from lights to televisions to outdoor fountains are controlled by a single device. Sliding doors with screens have been replaced by multi-pane folding doors, allowing beams of sunlight to filter into interior spaces. Each room has individual heating and air conditioning controls, allowing for increased energy conservation. Of course, going green (and SMART) came with a price, Steiner said, shrugging it off now that it’s all in hindsight. “I remember the day Bruce said, ‘It looks like we’ll have to take it all down to the studs.’ But he was right — we had to in order to

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upgrade all the plumbing and electrical. It was like a new house, but it had the same 3,400 square-foot footprint.” Steiner said she had a little luncheon with Woodruff, Fisher and the electronic consultants. “And after lunch, Laurie said, ‘Wow, looks like it’s going to be a lot more expensive.’ Yeah, she was right. It was. Oh well.” Lloyd helped Steiner plan every inch of cupboard space. Steiner didn’t want knobs; all cabinets open at the touch of a hand, as does the full wall of teak cabinetry in the living room. The home takes full advantage of Coronado’s sunny days and ocean breezes. “The home is an extrovert; every architectural vista terminates outdoors,” Fisher says. Every room has an indoor/ outdoor connection: The living room, office, kitchen and master bedroom open

to the main pool area, the guest room and den, to private gardens. To minimize heat gain, deep overhangs, awnings and shade elements are used as well as high-grade, low E glass for all the glazing. Every room is cross-ventilated to ensure a minimal need for mechanical cooling. The exterior is outfitted with a sunand-rain resistant material called Trespa. Steiner chose to leave the fasteners exposed, providing a sleek, semi-industrial finish. Two tankless water heaters provide plenty of hot water on demand, without the need to keep it heated round the clock. Clerestory windows let in more light to interior spaces. The roof, which is pitched to the south to collect light for the interior, is manufactured from recycled metal and topped with photovoltaic solar panels, one green component of the house that actually paid for itself from the

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first day. (See story on solar, page 64.) Floors are a combination of palm wood and cork, along with concrete in two of the baths. Bathroom counters, the living room base for the teak cabinets and the spa tub surround are fossilized marble. Low-voltage lighting, window shades and doors are programmed to operate remotely in order to take advantage of the seasons.

The former rough-hewn lawn was replaced with a far more interesting and drought tolerant landscape plan that included hard surfaces, artificial turf, natural rock and flora that included olive trees, Mexican bird of paradise, papyrus, Australian lion tail, Asian willow and variety of different grasses. The process was full of surprises, as

many a homeowner discovers during the course of remodeling. “We found that the floors weren’t level and doors from Europe were on back order. Our builders didn’t realize some of the engineering would be as complex as it was; we needed to reinforce walls, for example. Then the architect went to work in Central America for a month.” Steiner sighed in mock resignation: “It took almost two years to complete.” And it’s still a work in progress, she admits. Today, she still has painters, including artisans Emma Wright of “The Wright Touch” and Sasha Seyb who have crafted a Modello design, creating custom decorative artwork from stencils in one bath and artisan drawings, including a 32 Coronado Lifestyle • Holiday 2009

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Geisha and a cherry blossom tree in a guest bedroom. The painters have turned the Steiner garage into “paint central,” where they create intricate decorative patterns using paint, plasters, waxes, stains and gilding. “The house next door also was remodeled,” Steiner said. “They started after us and finished before us. So, our team would say to one another in our defense, ‘It’s not production; it’s art.’” When the house was “finished” this summer, Steiner and Davidson held an Open House party, where they presented all 20 members of the team with a commemorative T-shirt, with the team logo: AART — Alameda Architectural Renaissance Team. 34 Coronado Lifestyle • Holiday 2009

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