Minarc transforms a former five-plex into an eco-friendly single-family home
When Rachel Klauber-Speiden first challenged architects Tryggvi Thorsteinsson and Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir to transform a 1962 apartment complex into a single-family home, they did not ask her for a wish list of things. “They asked me, 'How do you live? How do you want to live?'” says Klauber-Speiden.
She and husband Josh Empson wanted a family-friendly space that was both open and private. She also wanted her architects to build in a way that was “as kind to the Earth as possible.”
She turned to Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir and Thorsteinsson, principals of the Santa Monica firm Minarc, largely because of their passion for green design. “I don’t like wasting things,” she says.
The architects started by gutting the first floor and creating a free-flowing open floor plan but leaving the second floor largely intact.
“We left more than 50% of the building walls,” Thorsteinsson says. “As architects we have a responsibility to build something that is sustainable.”
What was not used was donated to Habitat for Humanity. “Our garage doors, sinks, everything that was reusable was donated. Someone came and salvaged the iron from the original staircase,” Klauber-Speiden says. Repurposed wood from the original apartment complex was even used to create arresting beams over what had once been the mailbox area.
Eco-friendly inventive touches accentuate the whimsical spirit of the house. Inexpensive recycled rubber was used to create bathroom sinks. Kitchen drawers are made from recycled cork and rubber, and the kitchen countertops and dining-room table are made from recycled wood scraps. “It looks like a giant cutting board,” Klauber-Speiden says.
The Icelandic architects say the house represents what they want to do in the world: maximize materials, minimize waste. “We come from a land where everything was imported, everything was valued and used. We didn’t even see plastic bottles until the 1990s,” Thorsteinsson says.
-- Lisa Boone
Photo credits: Nancy Pastor / For The Times