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Green and gracious living on Cement Hill

As the Craftsman-style front door swung open, Annika Welch, 3 1/2, announced with a huge smile that her birthday was coming up shortly.

The family dog, Bronte, wagged her tail – and Annika’s 1-year-old sister, Aislinn, crawled quickly to help complete my first impression: This is a family home with enchantment, joyful energy and a spectacular view of the Sierra.

Parents Ed and Shannon Casey Welch extended a warm welcome too. Ed is a general contractor who specializes in green building, and Shannon is a yoga instructor at Grass Valley’s Down Doggie Studio. They moved here from Seattle, Wash. four years ago.



When they first saw the 1970s built home, “It was a typical rectangular house,” Ed recalls. “We fell in love with the location and its mural-like view – and that fired our imaginations.” Much of the five-acre property is flat, offering a clear, direct view of the Sierra mountains in all their seasonal glory. Sitting on the Trex® deck, the mountains are a stunning backdrop for the trees and raised flower-and-vegetable beds.

“We’re wannabe farmers,” Ed said. Yet the healthy specimens of maples, dogwoods, weeping birch, peach and cherry trees suggest that the care they receive is the real thing.




The Welch home was purchased in 2003. The remodel took eight months to design and one-and-a-half years to construct. It is now a 2,700 sq. ft. home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. It is also an inspiration for other homeowners who want to incorporate both style and environmental awareness for gracious family living. Notice I said ‘gracious’ – not formal. “That’s a really important distinction,” Shannon said. “Living in a home my husband built is a dream come true. It’s a sanctuary filled with sweetness and a calm that embraces our appreciation of nature, woods, colors, textures and family life.”

A recycling renaissance

Everywhere you look there is recycled wood: the base boards, kitchen-and-bathroom cabinets, interior doors and trim. “The variations create character,” Ed said. “In fact, the great-room ceiling is old wood from Stanford University.” The No. 2 maple floors, comprised of heart-and-sap wood, are full of character as well.

The shed-roof design opens up the home, so instead of looking out a window, you feel you are actually part of the garden, the mountains, woods and sky. “During our recent snow storm,” Ed said, “sitting in the great room made us feel as if we were right in the middle of it, except for the fact that we were completely warm, cozy and comfortable.”

The Welch home features many energy-efficient assets, including radiant floor heating that allows up to 90 percent efficiency rating; solar electric power; solar water heater; SIP roof panels for optimal insulation; and an on-demand backup water heater.

The windows use argon gas and low E technology to reduce heating and cooling costs. Even the plumbing fixtures and lighting were selected with energy efficiency in mind. The western red-cedar shingles on the exterior are stained with Cabot Low VOC formula semi-transparent 6300 series, and a radiant barrier stapled to the underside of the roof sheathing reduces exterior heat conduction. By the way, the old siding and windows were recycled too, and used in building projects elsewhere.

Another attractive, practical feature is the creative, interior use of concrete. The kitchen countertop and two bathroom vanity tops are custom fabricated concrete. The hearth is concrete as well. The wall-and-ceiling finishes are made with a gypsum-based cement, lime, sand and color which create a mottled, suede-like effect. “Besides the irregular, subtle textures, another advantage,” Ed said, “is the built-in longevity of the colors.”

Colors reflect nature

The interior color scheme is autumnal: terra cotta shades of red, sunflower golds, tonal greens and honey hues. Textures play an important part as well, and the fabrics vary as much as the dramatically placed artifacts and accents featured throughout – even in the downstairs children’s play room. A traditional craftsman, Ed studied furniture making at the College of Redwoods in Ft. Bragg. Some of the distinctive furniture and cabinetry you’ll find – even an inviting, couch-like window box in the upstairs hall window – are his own hand-made creations.

The house has a flowing, open feel that connects the many aspects of this young family’s life on Cement Hill.

“It’s easy to think that an environmentally aware home must be practical, even dull. That’s just not so. Thinking green encourages creativity and style. In the longer term, there are also economical advantages. Many people assume that environmental enhancements are just for new homes, not remodels like ours. There are so many improvements that can add to a home’s aesthetics comfort and value, and they’re well worth exploring.”

When I asked Ed what this home meant to him, his reply was heartfelt. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned along the way, as a craftsman, a builder, a husband and a dad.”


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