Eco dream kitchen

Acting as contractor put this owner on top

French doors

French doors connect the kitchen to a deck.

Thomas J. Story

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"I wanted my kitchen to be as green and affordable as possible," says Mary Richerson, a marketing-event producer. She remodeled her 1920s Berkeley bungalow and achieved her goal by researching materials herself and acting as her own contractor.

One feature best captures the inventive but cost-conscious spirit of the building process: the 2-inch-thick cast-concrete counters. Architect, friend, and cobuilder David Milner says, "We built our own molds out of melamine-faced particleboard in the backyard, used sacks of fence-post concrete, and reinforced the counters with a grid of threaded rod."

By asking friends for recommendations, Richerson was able to find subcontractors with multiple skills, such as an electrician who was also a plumber. She did all of the painting herself.

The effort was worth it: "I had a construction bid of $65,000 from one contractor to do just the kitchen, and I was able to do the entire project ― which included refinishing all the floors, rewiring, and painting ― for about $40,000," Richerson beams.

DESIGN: Adam Barton and David Milner, Form Design Workshop, Berkeley; 510/524-5090



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