Brad Burke wants to lead by example, so he designed his home with sustainability firmly in mind. Located on a three-acre site outside San Diego, the house produces more energy than it consumes, and it has as much outdoor living space as interior room. Ultimately, Burke hopes the homestead will allow his family of five to live entirely off the land. In the meantime, he planned the house to encourage family interaction, primarily through a wide-open kitchen. “The way we live—and most people live—the kitchen becomes the center of the universe,” he says. “It's the literal center of our home and everything spins off of it.”

On one side of the room, three sets of transparent folding doors open to a 600-square-foot side porch—a showcase for evening vistas of San Diego's distant lightscape. On the opposite side, the sink counter pierces the wall to become a serving area for outdoor dining. From the stove, views extend across an interior eating area and through single-glazed glass walls to a stone terrace and concrete-block fireplace. Within the kitchen are four distinct workstations, inviting everyone to get involved. A sink with a prep counter, the stove island, and a mail sorting/desk station define three sides of the room. A 4-foot-by-5-foot-4-inch island offers seating or additional chopping space in the middle. Part of Burke's green philosophy is to design small, but flexibly. The island, a case in point, is mounted on casters and ready to roll anywhere it's needed.

“If you sacrifice aesthetics, then it stigmatizes the idea of being green,” the architect says. In that vein, he designed the cabinetry “to be more than basic storage.” Diaphanous cabinets cantilever off a column just behind the stove. “They give you a sense of separation without interfering with the great view to the north,” he explains. Sleek cable lighting adjusts for brightness without detracting from the home's exposed post-and-beam structure, which is built of laminated strand lumber—a renewable timber product. Natural materials, such as granite counters and ground-slate floors, stand up to abuse and enjoy long life spans. Jatoba wood from sustainably harvested forests brings richness to the cabinetry, windows, and doors. Using one material in a variety of ways “creates a continuity throughout the house,” he says.

architect: Brad Burke, San Diego
construction manager: Burdick Construction, Escondido, Calif.
resources: dishwasher: Asko; faucets: Grohe; lighting: Red Dot and Tech Lighting; range: Wolf Range Co.; refrigerator and freezer: Sun Frost