William S. Duff Jr., AIA, and his clients approached eco-friendliness in a holistic way at the Wheeler Residence in Menlo Park, Calif. They wanted the entire house, including the kitchen, to reflect a subtle yet strong environmental commitment—one that happily co-existed with the architecture. “The key notion of the project is that sustainability is fully integrated into the design of the home,” Duff says.

To that end, he created an L-shaped, freestanding wall that carves out room for the kitchen at the center of the house. Because it sits within a large, open space, the wall also serves to define a formal living room and a main circulation spine. It stops about 2 feet below the ceiling, allowing natural breezes to waft over the kitchen and up through a cooling tower in the adjacent family room. And the wall’s lowered height lets ample daylight into the space, lessening the need for electric lighting. Another key element of Duff’s sustainable approach—a radiant heat system powered by a rooftop solar array—is embedded in floors of stained flyash concrete. The kitchen cabinetry and millwork consist of a mahogany veneer on a 98 percent recycled core, and all appliances are Energy Star–rated.

Like most modern families, the clients desired a casual dining area in the kitchen. So Duff’s team cleverly attached an engineered stone table at a 90 degree angle to the taller island, made of the same material. The effect suggests an angular waterfall, and the table neatly divides the kitchen from the family room. “The idea is that you get the same cascading volumes in the kitchen as elsewhere in the house,” Duff explains.

project: Wheeler Residence, Menlo Park, Calif.
architect: William Duff Architects, San Francisco
general contractor: Bay West Enterprises, Redwood City, Calif.
landscape designer: T. Delaney/Seam Studio, San Francisco
resources: accordion doors: NanaWall Systems; convection steam oven, vent hood: Miele; countertops: CaesarStone USA; dishwasher: Bosch Home Appliances; kitchen fittings and fixtures: Dornbracht Americas, Julien, Kohler Co.; lighting fixtures: DaSal Industries, LEDS–C4 (GROK); paints/stains/wall finishes: Dunn-Edwards Corp., L.M. Scofield Co.; range, wall ovens, warming drawer: Thermador; refrigerator, wine chiller: Viking Range Corp.; tile (glass): Ann Sacks Tile & Stone.