Small, Southern Comfortable Home: Natural Home of the Year Winner

How two people live happily in an 800-square-foot space.
November/December 2000

For Giles Blunden, an architect who’s been designing solar homes for a quarter-century, living in an 800-square-foot cohousing unit powered entirely by the sun is just another step in pushing his sustainable agenda forward. The winning entry in the 2000 Natural Home of the Year contest is also a beautiful, comfortable, and efficient dwelling.

"This place is a combination of my real interest in nature and efficient use of materials not wasting things,’’ explains Giles, who spent his childhood in the woods on the fringes of the Australian outback before his family moved to Los Angeles, where he was shocked by "what an impact the car culture, in particular, had on the environment.’’

For $110,000 in construction costs, Giles managed to pack a lot of punch into the amount of space allotted to a master bedroom in many American homes. On the lower level, the bedroom and bath nestle into a berm on the north end and open up to take in sun, breezes, and long views of the forest to the south. Glass doors open onto a stone patio and garden, enclosed on two sides with a fence of scavenged cedar that offers both privacy and a perch for birds. Providing sound barriers on the east side, closets that include shelves and double racks for hanging clothes are built on top of drawers that eliminate the need for dressers.

On the west side, glass blocks enclose a luxurious four-foot-by-six-foot shower with two showerheads. (The decision not to include a bathtub was a conscious one; "don’t like to clean them,’’ says Ginger.) The only interior door in the home, salvaged from a local hotel, separates the toilet and the shower from the bedroom. Giles placed the sink in the bedroom, tucked behind a curved stucco wall whose exterior provides space for a super-efficient woodburning stove.

Check out the Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Natural Home for more about living in community, including:

  • How Giles and Ginger helped pioneer a thriving co-housing community
  • Why living without air-conditioning is possible in the South — see how it’s done in this profile!