06 June 2011

Cool House Tour Highlights

Yesterday was the Cool House Tour. The main lesson I took from it was OH MY GOSH I'm glad our house wasn't selected for the tour. It was a long day even without having to be "on" all day for hundreds of people passing through our house. (Plus, after waking up at four-something in the morning for a triathlon, I was completely exhausted by early afternoon.)

On a more "green building" level, the primary thing I took from the tour was that there really aren't any big new green products that we missed out on (a fear of mine -- that something fabulous will come out that we can't easily add). There are certainly things that we didn't incorporate -- solar panels, low-flow showerheads ('cause some things just ain't worth compromising, and we decided that a good shower is one of them), rainwater collection cistern, etc. -- but nothing new that made us think, if only we had known about that when we were designing our house.

So, since I've already written bunches about the various green measures we used, I'm not going to rehash all of that. But there were a few things that caught our eye -- mostly on the landscaping/hardscape front, 'cause, yeah, we're STILL working on that....

Metal edging with a rusty red patina is really popular in the yards of cool, modern green houses, and I liked this raised bed of succulents:

Not right for our house, of course, but a striking look (dare I say "edgy"?).

The same house had this front walkway made of individual concrete panels set in gravel:

Several houses had similar walkways, actually. Some of them were set right into the lawn, with grass instead of gravel.

Or the same idea, but with slabs of limestone:

That one leads to a patio made of the same materials:

The yard of one of the houses on the tour was done by our landscape designer. She had encouraged us to use stone edging on the beds, which we were initially on board with, but we decided against it when she failed to tell us just how much more that was going to cost (call us crazy; we prefer to know how much we're spending beforehand). We can always put in stone edging later...and after seeing how nicely it turned out at this house, it's tempting.

We really liked how she worked larger stones into the smaller cut stone rows. Such a nice, natural look.

The hillside architectural marvel that I wrote about last week turned out to be decidedly not our style, but the grounds were pretty special. We chose to approach the front door via the stone stairs in the front yard:

And the front door -- again, not our style -- was pretty neat:

Then there was this house, where I had planned to ask the owner about the rain chain setup (our gutters were cut wrong, and we need to get the holes enlarged once we figure out where to get those inserts that hang down around the chain):

It was a hot, hot, sunny day, but within minutes -- minutes -- after we started discussing the rain chains, the sky opened up and I got to see them in action:

Thanks to Mother Nature for that demonstration.

The first year we attended the tour, we were looking for -- and definitely found -- ideas for our house. The second year, we looked at the houses through the lens of what it would be like if our house were on the tour. This year we were mostly glad we weren't in the tour. We've come to the conclusion that it's the kind of thing that, for us, is more fun to see than to be.

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