Suburbia: It has been a panacea and an expletive. Touted for affordability and maligned for automobile dependence, suburbia is a fact of life in the U.S.
The Green Company is known for homes that target empty nesters — properties that feature privacy, lush landscaping and spectacular views, of a golf course, water or woods. But vice president Dan Green is not yet at that stage in life. Prior to purchasing an 1876 Victorian farmhouse in 1999, Green and his wife had squeezed themselves and their three children into a two-bedroom...
The Green Company is known for homes that target empty nesters — properties that feature privacy, lush landscaping and spectacular views, of a golf course, water or woods. But vice president Dan Green is not yet at that stage in life.
Prior to purchasing an 1876 Victorian farmhouse in 1999, Green and his wife had squeezed themselves and their three children into a two-bedroom house in Cambridge, Mass. A 25-minute commute to work, when added to his workday, forced him to miss out on much of his third child's babyhood. "It became important to me to focus on family and privacy, so the purchase of the house started off with location," he says.
"Everything they say about location, location, location is really true," says Green of his new home, which is located in Newton Center, one block from the town's center and less than a half mile from his office. The move made a huge difference in both his business and personal life. The Greens are within walking distance of shops and restaurants as well as transportation into Boston for an occasional taste of city life.
"It's absolutely ideal. Although we live in the suburbs, we're located only eight miles out of downtown Boston."
Of course, this slice of heaven wasn't just sitting there for the taking. In fact, the old home needed to be gutted. In the 1970s, it had been carved up into rental rooms, and all the millwork had been stripped out.
"We had to recreate what was likely there in the past," Green recalls. "The house had been on the market for a while, so it was a big task to redo it. It was run down and worn out, including a barn with four bays only 18 inches from the main house.
The garage had also not been maintained. Worse, it was only 15-feet deep and most cars are 18 feet, so the doors were off of it."
Nonetheless, Green saw the project as an opportunity. "Being a builder, I was confident that if I took the time, I could do it right."
He started with designing the new home in July 1999. Demolition began in February 2000, and the Green family finally moved in during January 2002.
Green says the goal of the renovation was to incorporate family-friendly technology as well as amenities that would deliver comfort, safety and an enhanced family life — all while preserving the home's historic flavor.
A big contributor to the home's comfort is a Bryant heating and cooling system, combined with an Icynene insulation package. The latter is blown-in foam that stays soft and completely fills the space between wall studs and roof rafters.
"When it becomes really cold," says Green, "the foam is a barrier to wind, which makes the house much more livable and energy-efficient. We don't need as much heating or air conditioning to keep comfortable. Combined with an HAI home automation system, the house almost maintains itself."
The HAI system automatically switches to heat when the temperature falls below 55° F and to air conditioning when the temperature rises above 70° F. In addition, Green can control the home's six zones from a telephone or the Internet.
"Besides monitoring the temperature in any part of the house, I can turn the alarm on or off and see who has been inside," Green says.
"If we're away on vacation, I can turn up the heat or cool it down. If I know someone is coming to the house, I can disable the alarm remotely to let him or her in. Next, I'm going to experiment with a lighting package, so that I can turn the lights on and off in the same way."
Contributing to the health of the home's occupants are two LifeBreath heat recovery ventilators (HRV) that pull in fresh air from the outside and exhaust stale air. "It's much better than opening the window," Green notes. The HRV units change out the air on a regular basis.
"If the kids are sick or we're having a party, we'll adjust the speed of the HRV," Green comments. "We've eliminated any issues about the air inside being more dangerous than the air outside."
A Nortec unit humidifies the home, while radiant in-floor heating warms the bathrooms off the upstairs bedrooms. "Although this seems like a small thing, the radiant heating is a great feature with little kids," says Green.
"When they're sick, they will lay down on the floor on towels, and the warmth radiating from the floor comforts them."
For Green, little things like radiant heating make a huge difference. For example, a basement playroom boasts walls painted with Crayola blackboard paint and corkboards for displaying drawings. The kids can also play to their heart's content without fear of harming the Wilsonart, prefinished laminate floor.
In addition, the basement also houses an exercise room with a softer floor — like those found in health clubs — by Decathlon Sport flooring.
Green converted the original four-bay barn to a three-bay garage and attached it to the house, making the fourth bay into a family room. The new garage is heated, so that the children can play in the open space during the cold winter months.
Another kid-friendly area is the loft above the family room where Green and his wife set up a long table on which sit three computers. "The kids go there by themselves or together to play games or go on the web — it's great.
"Their computer activities happen in a public space in the home, but they quickly became accustomed to that. As they get older, that won't change, and we can better monitor what they're doing."
The home uses Honeywell's Structured Wiring package, including high speed Internet, cable, multiple phone lines, an audio system and even fiber optic cables to take advantage of future technology.
"Although their rooms are hardwired for technology," says Green, "we blank-plated the outlets. That way, they don't know the outlets are there."
The Greens' kitchen has walnut, random-width, long-plank hardwood flooring with a tung oil finish, providing a beautiful shine and a rich, Old World feel. According to Green, the best thing he did was install two dishwashers, flanking either side of the sink. These are helpful with the kids and when they entertain.
"We bought the GE Profile Triton, their quietest dishwasher. We can run it even when there are guests, because you can hardly hear it."
Green also likes the GE Advantium oven, which cooks eight-times faster than a conventional oven. He describes it as "a lifesaver with kids. We can cook a baked potato in six minutes, while broiling steaks and preparing steamed vegetables — an entire gourmet meal — in 15 minutes. We use it almost every night to cook something. The only downside is that it is not self-cleaning."
A computer in the kitchen is left on all day to make it easy to order groceries and catch up on email or even the latest weather forecast.
Green often feels like a product tester in his own home. That's because he wants to ensure that the products he puts into the homes he builds perform the way he and his team say they will.
"I feel more comfortable if I experience them personally," he says. "It is so powerful for our sales team to be able to tell a buyer that I live with these products every day in my own home."
As if all the above were not enough, Green says there are two additional "wow" factors in his home.
First, there is a hidden room off his wife's third floor office. Push a corner of a bookcase and the wall opens to reveal a secret room with two windows and a lot of storage.
The second is a wine cellar in the basement. "The foundation sits on giant rock, and the space features a comparatively low ceiling — 7 feet —and a very rustic feel, so it seemed the perfect space for a wine cellar," explains Green. He used leftover dark walnut flooring from the kitchen to make wine racks around the entire perimeter.
The renovation took more than two years, but in the end, Green says it was all worth it. His family has grown to four children, from seven years old to less than a year.
Meanwhile, his commute to his offices lasts all of seven minutes — if he walks, that is. Driving during rush hour is a breathtaking minute and a half!