When Margaret Hyde and her husband bought a tumble-down Craftsman in 2007, they made a major decision: instead of simply restoring the home to its original 1910 splendor, they would transform it into a "green" house.
Today it stands as quiet testament to their commitment, what she describes as "one of the greenest old homes in America."
One block from the beach, nestled between larger homes in an affluent Santa Monica neighborhood, the home is largely obscured by a lush organic garden of fruit trees and vegetables.
The house also sits in the shadow of a huge, 164-year-old fig tree that was fitted with a guest-room size tree house designed by Roderick Romero, musician-turned tree house builder to the stars.
"We really wanted to honor the tree," said Hyde, the author of the "Mo Smells" series of children's books as well as an accomplished photographer and film producer. "The tree is a real part of the house. You can feel it in almost every room."
Through the years and previous owners, all that had been left intact from the original home, according to Hyde, were some exterior windows and original cabinetry. "
It gave us the leeway to really make the house as green as possible," she said.
Beyond the double- and triple-paned windows and solar-generated power and hot water, Hyde has incorporated many less common green features, such as:
- The first legal residential greywater in the city of Santa Monica. All the laundry and shower water is recycled for use in the garden.
- A "Roman Cooling" system (originally designed in ancient Rome), which required drilling 150 feet into the front yard, to vent the earth's cool air into the house for air conditioning.
- Blue jean insulation. Blowing recycled denim remnants into the home's old walls.
The house now holds a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum rating with 104 out of 108 LEED points, according to Hyde.
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The home motivated Hyde, her husband and their four children to bring their lifestyle in line with their living space.
"We were consuming more and living in a way that I didn't want to model for my children anymore," Hyde said. "So we had to reduce everything that we had and also reduce everything we bring into our lives."
Even though the 3,100 square-foot home is listed as having three bedrooms, not enough for all four kids to have their own bedrooms, Hyde and her family are comfortable in their green home.
The proof, she says, is that the kids are constantly telling her how much they love their home and that they never want to move.
"What I really like," she said, is that "our house, you wouldn't know it was green unless I told you."