Sustainable treetop home

High design meets LEED-certified sustainability in the Marin County hills

Mill Valley home exterior

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Eco-friendly design meets high style

Scott and Tracy Lee’s house in Mill Valley, California was built on a small hillside lot which made for a challenging vertical floor plan. To compensate for lack of yard space, the home has as many outdoor rooms as it does indoor. On top of being breathtakingly beautiful, the 2,100-square-foot house, which Scott designed, was recently named the first LEED for Homes Platinum home in Marin County.

Take the treetop home video tour courtesy of Eldorado Stone. Designer and architect Scott Lee shares how high design meets LEED-certified sustainability.

Click next to step inside with a room-by-room tour plus view the home's floor plans.

open living room

Photo by Thomas J. Story

The great room

The top floor is essentially one large space that includes a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and an outdoor (but roofed-in) family room—complete with barbecue and wine fridge.

eco-friendly dining room

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Dining area

“It helps that the kitchen is elevated by one step, so if you’re the unlucky one doing the after-dinner dishes, you’re still part of the action,” says Scott. “And there’s a lot of privacy up there among the treetops.”

Sustainable resources: Reclaimed Douglas fir roof and beams, radiant-heat flooring, cabinets made from FSC-certified walnut, a dining table made from a salvaged tree, double-paned low-e glass windows and doors, antique pendant lights.

eco-friendly kid's room

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Timeless decor

An eco-friendly design concept should withstand the trends of time, points out the project’s interior designer, Erin Martin, so that rooms don’t have to be redone as styles change and children grow.

In the girl’s room, the palette is neutral, though punches of color appear in transient accessories like the rug and a stuffed animal. Throughout the house, Erin used antiques and reclaimed materials wherever possible.

Sustainable resources: Organic cotton bedding, zero-VOC wall paint, wool rug.

outdoor bath

Photo by Thomas J. Story

The great outdoors

Almost every room has a balcony or deck, accentuating the treehouse feel and essentially doubling the living space. The master suite includes an open-air bathtub, accessible from the bedroom terrace and the bathroom shower.

Lawn-covered balcony

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Faking a lawn

Off the second floor is a “lawn” where Tracy does yoga and the girls can play.

Sustainable resources: Western red cedar siding, 50 photovoltaic panels, 2 thermal solar panels, soy-based synthetic lawn.

lower levels floor plan

Floor plan: Lower levels

The floor plans for the garage and first floor

Team Hillside House: Scott Lee, architect, McDonald Construction & Development, Erin Martin Design. For a full list of contributors and resources, visit 

upper level floor plans

Floor plan: Upper levels

The floor plans for the second and third floors

What is LEED-H anyway? 

Launched in 2008, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes is a rating system for green building administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. From the use of low-flow faucets to the diversion of construction waste, each project is rated in eight categories, earning points toward a LEED-H level of Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

This house got points in the “awareness and education” category, for instance, because Scott created a website pointing out the features of LEED homes.

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