Mother Earth Living

Gold in the Hills: A Solar-Powered California Retreat

A handcrafted, solar-powered home in the Sierra Nevada foothills serves many purposes. Enchanting and inspiring visitors is just the beginning.

Wildflowers on the hillside provide a colorful, low groundcover around the solar panels that provide hot water for the radiant heating system. The dining room, in the westerly wing, faces toward the Yuba River.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
Homeowner Michael Funk (left) and architect Jeff Gold
Photo By Barbara Bourne
Michael had rocking chairs made from oak trees that were felled from the house site. “I look at those every day in my bedroom and pay tribute to the oaks that were cut,” he says.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The kiva-like living room provides the home’s central gathering space. A soapstone Tulikivi stove, radial beams, cedar paneling and oak flooring offer warmth to this space. Hot air that gathers in the high ceiling can escape through cupola windows and operable vents around the perimeter of the central ceiling window, which is etched with a Native American design motif.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The roof of the barn building at the garden and orchard site supports an extensive photovoltaic array. Inside, a room is dedicated to storing the batteries and electrical panels that monitor and control the system. A portion of the barn is a greenhouse for starting seedlings for the garden.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
Michael’s favorite room is his office, which offers a breathtaking view of the Rock Creek waterfall. Michael likes the rustic feel of the stone and the ponderosa pine beams in this room.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The entry door plays on the imagery of the traditional keyhole and includes a moon/sun window and references to the four directions and seasons. A two-ton boulder slab was set into the entry wall to provide a bench for removing shoes upon entering.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The backsplash behind the stove is a woven design with a Native American bird motif using black and green slate. The sustainably harvested mahogany and oak cabinetry was finished with natural oils for a low luster.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The house’s radial lines are reflected in the curving soffit and ridge beam. A local furniture maker created the dining room table and chairs using native black oak and pine from the property
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The sun terrace follows the living room’s radial lines and overlooks both the Yuba River and Rock Creek. A built-in planter provides herbs for the kitchen.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The posts supporting the entry walkway are ponderosa pine logs harvested from the property, peeled by hand with a drawknife and shaped at the bottom to fit the supporting granite boulder. A steel pin drilled into the boulder and the post assures a positive connection.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
Granite stepping stones weave a path through the courtyard garden with perennial color and native groundcovers. Dogwoods bloom on the hillside beyond.
Photo By Barbara Bourne
The “bunker” adjacent to the house entry contains a fire hydrant connected to the water stored for emergencies and fire-fighting, and for the building and garden sprinkler systems.
Photo By Barbara Bourne

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