Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Living Large - But leaving a small footprint.

By Tom Swick
Photos by Kara Starzyk
May & June 2013 | FLMag.com

Enter Carolyn Plummer’s house on Nurmi Isle and the first thing that impresses you is the spaciousness. Soaring ceilings, distant walls. “I removed
one of the barrier walls,” she says. If not for the steps down into the living area you could move the sofas, hang a backboard, invite the neighbors and have a half-court game. Easily.

There’s also the light. Even on an overcast day it streams in through the large windows, and gets magnified by the predominantly white interior.  But probably the most impressive thing about the house is something you can’t see: It is Broward County’s only LEED certified remodel. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) Inside – as well as outside – it appears to be a brand new house, contemporary and clean and, as you discover, eco-friendly. But it is actually a renovation.
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“I wanted to live in this area,” says Plummer, who is co-owner of It’s A 10 Hair Care. She was living in Parkland, and drove up and down the isles on either side of Las Olas Boulevard looking for something that had “good bones.” What she found was a house – “very 1980s” – that had been sitting empty for over two years. Her five-year-old daughter, Kyana, called it The Cucaracha House. “We pretty much brought the house down to the cinder blocks,” she explains. And then she created a minimalist palace with “a modern Zen feel.” The front yard contains a small Japanese garden of sand and rocks, with spare, rustic wood furniture (including a bench that stretches strategically over the gas tank cover). Some of the trees that border it are recycled from the previous landscape. A three-tiered fountain provides a soothing sound and, on the front steps, three large, perfectly smoothed stones sit atop one another.

Plummer’s goal was “naturalist modern,” with “a mixing of elements: water, fire, wood.” In addition to the fountain in the front, the original pool –
now resurfaced – overlooks the canal in the back. Underneath the kitchen sink sits a Kangen water machine, which puts the tap water through an ionization process, making it more alkaline. It also frees Plummer from buying bottled water. In addition, she installed a rain barrel by the side of the house. Even the sprinkler system is conscientious, judiciously seeping water into the lawn rather than spraying onto the street. The kitchen – a high-ceilinged space that flows freely into the living area – has a hibachi grill and an energy-efficient induction stove. Ventilation fans pop up at the push of a button as do, on the counter, electrical outlets. The gas fireplace sits across the way, under a wall of humidity-absorbent tile. Plummer splashes some water onto two small squares to show how quickly the drops disappear. The wood throughout the house is walnut, including the dining table, which is “one huge slab of walnut.” The bedroom floors are American walnut.

The second master bathroom has a champagne tub, its bubbles coming up quietly from the bottom (with none of the noisy pumps of a Jacuzzi). Plummer points to two narrow parallel vents high up in the ceiling; they’re part of the cooling and heating system. The windows all have e-coating for UV protection and also reduction of the sun’s heat. Plummer says her electric bill is $400 to $500 a month, while her neighbor’s is over five times that. The lighting is also LEED certified. “It’s not symmetrical,” Plummer says. “It’s for ambiance more than for direct light.” Outside, a two-story vertical light, encased in granite tile, flanks each side of the main entrance. The lighting, like everything else – temperature, security system, blinds, cable, music – is controlled by Crestron, which Plummer can operate from her laptop anywhere in the world. Sitting in the garage, naturally, is a solar and electric car.