Gallery: RENOVATION: A Home Built Around 3 Trees


Trees are often the victim of building construction, so we were excited when Jeremy Levine shared his design for a Eagle Rock renovation and addition — built around three existing trees — in Los Angeles with us. The project included renovating the current home while adding 400 square feet to the existing house. Jeremy’s design for addition not only preserved the existing trees on the site, it integrated them into the design of the home by creating a courtyard to help the owners appreciate the trees’ beauty. Additionally, the home features everything from passive daylighting and evaporative cooling to keep the interior comfortable and solar panels and a green roof to minimize the house’s environmental impact.

The home has an abundance of green elements, both in materials and integrated features for its residents. The home was built of re-claimed lumber and recycled fly ash concrete and was finished with low-VOC paint. Solar panels provide energy for the home while a green roof increase the literal green-ness of the home. To make the home comfortable, an evaporative cooling fountain and mobile sun screens provide relief during hot summer months. For cooler breezes and dropping tempearatures characteristic of winters in the desert, the home is equipped with a thermal chimney and rock wall.

We also love the xeriscaping we see in the courtyard, but is that a lawn we see?!? In Los Angeles? As a southern California native, I can safely say that lawns are not a smart use of water and I hope the owners are thinking of replacing it with low-growing plants that require much less water. On the up side, the landscaping, which includes the trees, are fed through a greywater recycling system and stormwater collection system.

+ Jeremy Levine Design


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  1. Florida Contractors May 12, 2009 at 12:47 am

    That’s a really cool house!

  2. Shropshire Architect April 30, 2009 at 7:10 am

    A wonderful design and a noce mix of materials and inside and outside spaces.

  3. sschultzela April 27, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    I’ve been in Levine created homes. His architecture is a perfect example of how design meets nature. You engage his environments much like a walk in the woods. The texture and functionality insure that your experience, however long, is welcoming, inspirational and a renewing of the spirit. That is precisely why he will be designing my next home.

  4. DesignJunkie April 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    This design is a brilliant example of how to integrate a building with it’s environment. Here is a house that treats the existing trees as something to be preserved rather than a nuisance or a problem to be removed.

    It is also quite beautiful the way natural light fills the interior and is shared between the spaces.

    I would love to see the ‘before’ photos to compare.

  5. amaljacob15 April 27, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Loved the feeling and usage of the sliding wooden frames in the exterior and the natural way of protecting the interiors from harsh sun by using huge stones…..and there is nothing more refreshing than bringing the nature into our homes and using the existing trees as a part of out architecture….. wow……. would love to have a house like this one…….

  6. englished April 27, 2009 at 5:12 am

    now i was going to come on here and rant about this BASED on the first picture

    but seeing the rest of the pictures of the house it looks absolutely amazing

    just a shame hes built around that tree in the first pic looks so stupid, green movement or not

  7. Olivia Chen April 27, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Hi David!

    Thanks for writing. I love the renovation as well.
    I agree that the green movement often demonizes things that other people enjoy. I, for one, enjoy meat on a regular basis.
    My issue with grass lawns is that they aren’t as environmentally sustainable in Los Angeles as they are in New England. I grew up in southern California so I know how much water they use. I also understand that besides astro turf (which is arguably not as soft as real grass) there aren’t any alternatives for green lawns. But I wonder why everyone needs their own lawn? I wonder if people would be willing to adjust to grass only in designated public park land. That way, homeowners could save money + water with their xeriscaping and leave it to city government to take care of the lawn. Haha. Well, perhaps that is wishful thinking. Anyway, my point is that the green movement doesn’t want to take everyone’s luxuries away, but I think to be more environmentally-friendly, everyone has to sacrifice a few things here and there.


  8. David Gregg April 26, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Very beautiful design. I was just looking for a house yesterday in Eagle Rock with my wife and son.

    I just want to address the writer’s beef with green grass. I do know that lawns require quite a lot of water, but let’s be honest. Green grass is not going away. In fact, a green lawn is a thing of beauty.

    One of the great shortcomings of the green movement is its desire to demonize features of civilization like manicured lawns, meat, cars – stuff that other people outside of the movement happen to love.

    Anything that can be done can be done better and with less dedicated resources. Why not push for lawns that use less water but still give you the satisfaction of a living, breathing, feels good on your bare feet ground cover? Why would I want to have a baseball catch with my son on a patch of crushed stone, rosemary, and lavender?

    Reform does not need necessarily mean activism.

  9. Alan Zulch April 25, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Outstanding design. I love the light, and the stone/wood/trees balance. Very nicely executed!

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