Black is the new Green
Interior designer Lynn Rush does not like the ordinary — in her life, her design, or her homes. She is a rare designer with foresight, and the guts, to do something few would try in Texas, or anywhere: build a black house that is 100 percent sustainable.
Her home at 14651 Winnwood in Addison, listed by Coldwell Banker’s Valerie Van Pelt for $2.2 million, is created of dark plaster walls on the exterior that are slowly, carefully being enveloped by swaths of lush green ivy. That same green ivy, though, could just as easily be trimmed back. And the house could be painted stark white.
No need, really: though the house is entirely black on the exterior, it earned highest LEED Platinum certification and can actually give more energy back to the grid than it takes.
And lest you think a home of this color, perched on a coveted luxurious residential street — Emmitt Smith lives up the block — sticks out like a sore gardener’s thumb in a sea of beige Mediterraneans, McMansions, and McModerns, you would be wrong. The home, all one story, retains a low profile and dissolves seamlessly into a backdrop of native plantings. It is a home you would see in the Texas Hill Country, reminiscent of a famous Lake Flato design.
The architects are Yen Ong and Paul Merrill of 5G Studio, who say they “envisioned a solid black mass within an enclosed garden.” Interesting.
“We challenged the idea that Texas is so hot, you cannot have anything other than light-colored stucco,” Ong said in the Dwell Magazine article about this home in January.
Built by Robert Hopson, the home has a geothermal heat pump, solar roof panels, and complete rainwater harvesting for the 0.7-acre property, all which helped the project achieve LEED Platinum status.
The landscape architect was David Hocker. He delivered a “lush, colorful yard full of texture” to his client who wanted it all but with very limited use of water to achieve that LEED rating. How he did it: masses of native and drought-tolerant grasses, trees, and flowering shrubs, with a cistern to collect rainwater for reuse. Beyond the large west patio and outdoor kitchen, a lawn of zoysia grass offers a place to stroll or play croquet.
There is a lowered fire pit area, and tall, 50-plus-year-old oak and walnut trees — trimmed with Yaupon Hollies — completely block out the neighbors behind. Three cattle troughs have been repurposed as raised fruit and vegetable beds, seedlings from which are then planted in the property’s greenhouse.
The home is a study in native, drought-tolerant landscaping mimicking White Rock Creek Park, the conservation greenbelt directly across the street.
The entrance is covered by a triangular lumber awning, just enough to “protect the front door,” says Merrill. It sheds water into a small garden between the garage and the house, which is then recaptured and reused for watering.
Absolutely everything is watered by drip irrigation or water-efficient sprayers, utilizing the rainwater harvesting system. Ninety percent of the roof-area rainwater is collected then stored in a 6,000-gallon underground tank. You could almost, says Hocker, shut off the home’s irrigation system and just use it supplementally.
Inside, the house is incredibly bright, light and airy.
“I never turn the lights on during the day,” says Rush, “even on very cloudy days.”
That’s because of myriad cut-out openings — the largest being 28 by 14 feet — that allow streams of sunlight to shine through. The many oversized, retractable windows allow the landscape to “paint” itself onto the white plaster walls. Yes, plaster. The atmosphere and scenery changes with seasons and even the time of day. One room, says Merrill, turns a beautiful blue-green, while another turns amber, just from the reflection of the trees.
For evening and night, Rush has recessed LED lighting, creating an extremely low energy demand for a 4,600-square-foot house. In fact, check in the garage to see the home’s energy reading. Thanks to a rooftop photovoltaic solar array and a geothermal heat pump, monthly energy bills run as low as $84 for electrical (3-month average).
You enter the home to a foyer that opens immediately to the sweeping formals, dining, and kitchen. The outdoors can be viewed from every room, enabling a smooth, invisible transition between indoors and out. Except for the wet areas, floors are all reclaimed stained oak hardwoods — including in the kitchen. The focal point of the living room is a centered, 4-foot by 20-foot skylight.
Rush, being an experienced interior designer, had worried that sometimes skylights can get too hot from the sun and interfere with the home’s even temperatures. She voiced this concern, and her architects devised a silver foam on the inner openings of the skylight that reflect the heat back up and out the skylight. In the center of this skylight is a prism that breathes color and light into the main room.
The kitchen is by Bulthaup, completely custom with cabinets that maximize storage. The appliances are top-of-the-line Thermador and Bosch, and the center island is a huge slab of thick white neolith Carrera marble. To the back of the kitchen is the mud area and three-car garage entrance, laundry room, a huge storage room, and butler’s pantry. There is also a sweeping glass door to the backyard patio and outdoor kitchen.
To the front of the house are four well-sized bedrooms, all with en suite baths. Rush's office is in bedroom number four, which doubles as a guest room complete with Murphy bed. Off this room is a pleasant secondary patio to the front of the house. There are three other bedrooms with full baths, including the master bedroom suite.
This room is large, airy, and sports a full wall of glass that is retractable to a private resting patio. The king-sized bed is recessed into a custom-built cove with floor-to-ceiling bookcases on either side. There is also an additional built-in shelving system with desk.
The attached master spa bath is simply breathtaking: the soaking tub in white Carrera marble centers it all, with a wall of cascading marble tile separating the walk-through car wash shower from the rest of the room. While in the tub, watch one of two recessed televisions, or gaze at the flickers of an ethanol fireplace. There are separate his and her closets, commodes, and washing sinks.
Every inch of the home has been designed for use, not waste, making it a most efficient 4,688 square feet. Just another way that 14651 Winnwood has stepped outside the typical Dallas stucco box.
A version of this story originally was published on CandysDirt.com.