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.

| May/June 2006

Michael Funk’s 1,200 acres along the Yuba River in the Sierra Nevada foothills above Nevada City, California, are nothing short of magical. Anyone lucky enough to spend time on this land can’t help but leave rejuvenated and inspired; the majestic waterfalls, dramatic gorges and fairy-tale woodlands seep inside and become a little part of you. You leave with a renewed reverence for nature’s magnificence, a refreshed commitment to preserve endangered places such as this.

That’s just how Michael planned it.

Michael had two primary intentions when he acquired his land: to maintain the area’s pristine nature and to share it with others. He envisioned a refuge, permanently protected from the development that’s sweeping up many of the river valleys and gorges around Nevada City, a Victorian gold-mining town now swarming with retirees and real-estate speculators. He also dreamed of creating a retreat for his business associates and members of the environmental groups in which he’s active. So when it came time to build his home on this land—after six months of breaking trails and scaling its creek gorges—Michael asked architect Jeff Gold to build something grand enough to meet these needs and match the setting, but humble enough to know its place.

“I wanted to put roots in real deep and be here the rest of my life,” says Michael, the president and CEO of United Foods, the nation’s largest wholesaler of natural and organic products. “I wanted to build a house that blended with the property and was an example of green building and sustainable processes—a place where we could have meetings and draw people to do environmental work. It’s important to provide places where people can experience a direct connection to nature.”

Organic design 

“Very early in the design process, Michael expressed a desire to do something that was organic and outside the box—not conventional or traditional in any way—expressing the natural qualities of the site,” Gold says. “That immediately inspired my thinking toward doing a home that was not rooted in rectilinear geometry.”

Anabell Jones
12/15/2013 8:57:25 AM

More important sign of this interior is its interior because the real enjoyment is from the inside, whose pictures you did not share. Besides, how is its environment sounding from the inside, and whether there are any introduced to reduce the echo, you said nothing about it.

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