As I mentioned in one of my earliest blog posts, when we designed our home, I included space in the bathroom and the kitchen for growing plants indoors.  I wanted to design this in for so many reasons including improving indoor air quality, the ability to have fresh herbs during the winter and …the smell of Jasmine makes me happy! 

 While I do love gardening, I do not have a green thumb.  I have killed all of my indoor plants by neglect.  But by designing these indoor planting areas next to a water source and next to south and west facing windows…and in places where I am looking directly at them SEVERAL times each day…I am hoping to improve their odds of survival and my odds of success. I have been looking for months for a planter to start my indoor plant experiment in the kitchen. I found a planter online a few weeks ago and after several shipping snafus, have planted my first indoor box.

Now, for the Jasmine.  I started with Arabian Jasmine because it is my favorite.  While it does really well in warm and tropical climates, this “true” jasmine has to be a houseplant in the Pacific Northwest.  This is the kind of  jasmine that is used in tea.   The smell is amazing…soothing, lovely.  I put three small Jasmine plants into the planter and within two weeks it bloomed.  The scent in the kitchen is SO wonderful.  It makes me take a deep breath every time I walk up to the sink…another benefit. 

 There is almost nine feet of windowsill in the bathroom.  That’s going to be the next target.  Nine feet of Jasmine!  Yum.  I wish this blog had “smell-o-vision”. 

The next experiments will be with herbs in the kitchen.  I may have to find larger planters.

So, I highly recommend this to anyone that has a windowsill!  Enjoy!

Glass window sill planter

wonderful scent, small white flowers turn purple.

Many readers have asked about the green features we designed into our house. So allow me to elaborate.
Achieving a ‘green home’ was NOT the main driver of our design and planning but a result of other decisions we made. These decisions were mostly driven by short and long term affordability, indoor air quality and what I think is just common sense. (And I guess if I look a little more closely, having been so immersed in passive solar design and geomancy in architecture school, I could not have made design decisions that work against nature.)
Let me just list the elements that would fall into the category of “green”:



  • We salvaged plumbing and electrical fixtures, doors, wood, cabinetry, metal, appliances etc. from the old house to donate to the ReStore for reuse and our kitchen cabinets were installed at the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool for a whole wing of new storage space, food prep and reading area.
  • Foundation is slab on grade to minimize earth disturbance and ground water disturbance.
  • Placement of the building on the site for maximum solar gain for passive solar heating and daylighting. Placement also allows south facing patio to absorb sun/heat during the day and radiant heat during the evening allowing for longer outdoor time.
  • Placement on site to allow utility areas to be located on the north side and social uses and food growing areas on the south side.
  • Roof form and orientation to allow for installation of solar photovoltaic and hot water panels.
  • Window placement for multidirectional natural daylighting in each room. Each room has windows on at least two different walls. This cuts down on the need to turn on the lights during most of the day.
  • Window, door and room opening placement to allow for natural cross ventilation and cooling. No AC.
  • Hydronic tubing in the concrete slab and minimal hydronic tubing in the second level floor joists allow for even heating of the whole house. Half of the house is not even directly heated but stays warm due to high levels of insulation and natural heat flow patterns that are aligned with daily life.
  • Highest efficiency, on-demand, natural gas hot water heater only fires up when you need it. A recirculation loop on a timer helps to conserve water during peak demand times (morning showers) by eliminating water waste while waiting for the hot water to get to the fixture.
  • Motion sensor lights for energy conservation in rooms where people are likely to forget to turn the lights off…bathrooms, laundry, hallways, mudroom, etc.
  • Soy based insulation…and lots of it.
  • Use of exterior grade plywood throughout the whole house instead of OSB (Oriented Strand Board) to prevent outgassing from the OSB and allow for better indoor air quality.
  • Indoor plant growing areas in kitchen and bathroom to take advantage of window orientation, natural moisture and access to water. Indoor plants help clean the air. And I am less likely to kill them by neglect if they are right next to a water source and the natural steam from a shower helps them be a bit more independent.
  • Simple building and roof forms and efficient location of walls and windows allowed for efficient framing, minimized cuts and minimized construction waste.
  • Bamboo flooring, marmoleum, natural tile and other sustainable materials.
  • Simple, basic cabinetry so that the interior style of the house can change/adapt over time but the underlying “bones” do not have to be disposed of and replaced with a more current style. My plan is that you will never walk into my house…30 years from now…and say “that’s SO 2009!” and I will not have had to replace the cabinets.
  • Energy efficient lighting, energy star appliances, dual fuel range/oven.
  • Low flow toilets, showers and sinks. Low water use washer.
  • Under counter composter and recycling areas in the kitchen.

This is not an exhaustive list. And again let me emphasize, the green element was a byproduct of our other design goals. We didn’t “build green” to gain a new marketing angle, to sell something at a higher price, to impress anyone or to make a point. The house is “green” because it made good sense to us to make these decisions. That, I think, is the most important piece that someone may take out of this.

The main focus of our design was family functionality and social interaction. These are my favorite to talk about and teach. I will spare you a long explanation now. But if you want to know more, I would love to share. I am  leading workshops on this type of “intentional design” and how you can do it yourself before you engage an architect. More to come!