Eco Savvy

This Seward Park resident was always environmentally aware, but his remodel took “eco” to the max

Story by Kathryn Renner
Photo courtesy Brian Francis

Midlife crisis or renaissance? Michael Huffman isn’t sure what led him to take time off and travel around the world, but when he returned, he found himself totally—and unexpectedly—committed to simple, green living.

Perhaps it was his short stay in a bare and basic Thai hut that rang the resounding bell. Or visiting a neighborhood in Copenhagen built on a former dumpsite, now restored with windmill energy and recaptured water. Or maybe hiking through an Australian rain forest, where he met a fellow building a 100 percent sustainable house.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been encouraging corporations to be economically as well as environmentally effective,” says the part-time financial audit consultant. “Some listen and some don’t, and now I wanted to do more—do something bigger than me.”

That something was launching Just Green, a new showroom at Seattle Design Center that represents new home materials—byproducts of scrap and surplus from all over the world.

While Huffman thinks globally to find innovative, green products, he acted locally when he remodeled the kitchen in his Seward Park home. It was the time to push the green envelope, he decided. With the help of his partner, Kyle Smoot, he demolished the original dark, cramped space and hauled old cabinets and drywall to a King County recycling station. He salvaged only one piece of varnished pine, previously a bar counter, to cut and use as shelves for living-room stereo speakers.

But recycling wasn’t enough. Huffman also curbed what he considered to be avoidable consumption. Rather than push out walls to add light and square footage, he worked within the kitchen’s slight 10-foot-by-15-foot footprint. Even the major hurdle of refitting old in-floor ductwork for the new Thermador gas stove did not deter him.

Huffman’s environmental choices on everything but the kitchen sink paid off. (“The sink came from Home Depot; at the time, I couldn’t find a recycled one the right size,” he says.) The space is hip, stylish, easily workable. And its cost to the planet? Minimal.

For the full text of this article, see the June 2007 issue of Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, on newsstands now.