Residential architects and home builders around the country know the Neil Kelly Co. name because of its environmentally friendly business philosophy and its highly regarded custom cabinets made of reclaimed or recycled materials. It follows, then, that the central component of this Parkdale, Ore., retreat for Tom Kelly—the company's president and son of its namesake—is a good-looking kitchen that's extremely green.

Notably, the project was the first on the West Coast to receive LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes pilot program. Although the milestone wasn't planned, it was a serendipitous outcome for a company that's been committed to sustainability since the 1970s. “The house was already under construction when the pilot single-family program” was introduced, Kelly explains, “so we applied and got it.”

Kelly credits his niece, a LEED-accredited architect who grew up spending vacations with her extended family, for the home's energy-efficient design. “Coming from a huge family, we always hung out in the kitchen, so there was no question that it had to be completely in the center of the living spaces,” Liz Olberding, AIA, says of the floor plan she conceived. Two sides of the open kitchen spin off into dining and living areas, and a punched-out opening above the sink offers a glimpse of the lower level. A two-story concrete-block wall holds all of the room's appliances and much of its storage. Olberding, who believes thermal mass is ideal for handling climates of widely varying temperatures, says she wanted the wall to function “as the backbone of the house.” And it does: The thick concrete and its interior thermal break act as a self-regulating system, absorbing excess heat from south-facing windows and releasing it back when ambient temperatures drop.

Other key specs come from, well, the trash, which Olberding spun into treasure for Kelly. Sleek drawer fronts and the island's base give new purpose to 100-year-old vinegar vats. Recycled newspapers blended with nontoxic acrylic become cabinet insets and a 14-foot-long eating bar. Kelly especially likes the whimsical countertops, which were made from cement mixed with crushed beer and wine bottles.

architect: Liz Olberding, AIA, LEED AP, Anchorage, Alaska

general contractor: Tom Kelly, Neil Kelly Co., Portland, Ore.

interior designer: Therese DuBravac, Neil Kelly Co.

resources: countertops: IceStone, Paneltech International (PaperStone); dishwasher: Bosch Home Appliances; exterior doors and windows: Marvin Windows and Doors; ovens and range: Dacor; plumbing fittings and fixtures: Hansgrohe, Kohler Co.; solar energy system: Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA; washer/dryer: Electrolux Home Products (Frigidaire)