New construction blends old world charm with eco-friendly technologies in an established neighborhood.
In lieu of a large foyer, a long hall beckons guests into this new 2,400-square-foot midtown home.
Photos by Ben Chau
Tulsa-area homeowners know the drill: You have to choose between convenience and closet space. An older home in the midtown area doesn’t always have the amenities today’s lifestyles demand.
But Shawn and Susan Miller chose all of the above and decided to create the best of both worlds in an environmentally sustainable way with their custom home near Brookside.
They worked with J. Madden Homes and W Design Architecture to create a new home in an older neighborhood that didn’t stick out as if it got lost on its way to the suburbs.
“We really wanted to make it fit into the neighborhood and be as sustainable as possible,” Susan Miller says. “I can walk anywhere I want to go from here.”
When the Tulsa native and her husband decided to move back to Tulsa in 2012, they started looking at homes in midtown and in the Maple Ridge area.
“I had just lived in Oklahoma City in a 1924 home that was great, but it had horrible energy efficiency,” she says. “I wanted to live in midtown but knew we’d be getting into all of that again. That’s when we started thinking about building our own home instead.”
Buying a lot and building from scratch was what they opted to do, but they wanted to honor the integrity of the neighborhood and keep their footprint to a minimum.
“We will probably retire in 15 years, so we wanted a home where we could stay long-term,” she says. “And my bills are so low. I’d guess my utility bills are $50 a month in the spring and fall and $90 in the summer.”
The approximately 2,400-square-foot home with three bedrooms and 2 ½ baths is comfortable, but not a sprawling mini-mansion. It features the latest environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, including a Climate Master geothermal heating and cooling system, spray foam insulation, a GE Geospring hot water tank, Anderson Smart Sun Windows, Water Sense plumbing fixtures and Energy Star appliances.
“Technology continues to get better and better, which makes building a ‘green’ home more cost-effective,” says John Madden, owner of J. Madden Homes.
By using these materials, including a BIBS insulation system — in which the insulation is made with specially manufactured fiberglass to keep outside elements from penetrating the home — the result is an “enclosed, conditioned space that’s insulated evenly so everything is running with the optimal energy efficiency,” he says.
Architect Weldon Bowman of W Design Architecture says it was important that the look of the house fit in with the neighborhood, so he created what he calls a midtown “Mediterranean-style home, but more downsized and simplified.”
“It feels a lot bigger than it is,” he says. “It has that new, south Tulsa home feel with all the features but in a much smaller footprint.
“The Millers were all very adamant about not wanting a midtown McMansion,” Bowman says. “And because it was 2,400 square feet — which is very efficient — we knew we had to maximize every inch.”
Instead of a large formal foyer, guests walk in and immediately see an attractive staircase.
The Millers use the front living area for entertaining and relaxing, but keep the media and TV tucked away in what Bowman calls the “hearth room” in the rear of the home’s first floor behind the kitchen. As Susan walks through the traditional kitchen, she also points out a convenient desk area, which is built into the staircase and many of her favorite cabinets and storage spaces.
“I love all the storage — that’s one of my favorite parts,” she says.
The first-floor master suite, which was an absolute must for the couple, was designed to make every inch count, especially storage and closet space.
“The utility room goes right into my closet,” she says, noting that she and her husband have separate closets. Hers flows from the utility room through to the master bath, which makes doing laundry much more convenient.
The polished concrete floors on the first floor were “already a finished product, aside from the color,” Madden says.
The home’s exterior is made of stucco and engineered stone, and it even has a detached garage in the style of other homes in the area.
“With the stucco and the man-made stone, the plaster ceiling of the front porch and the cedar beam, we were trying to create the look of an older home,” Madden says.
But it’ll be much easier to keep clean.
“The biggest upkeep will probably be cleaning spiderwebs,” Madden says.
The home’s watershed is another essential element to creating a sustainable home.
“The goal is to minimize water runoff and lessen the burden on our storm sewers,” Madden says. “We ran (drainage) lines under the driveway to the yard, so the water will naturally permeate the ground,” adding they are focusing on the all-around effect, trying to minimize the impact on the environment.
Despite their initial concerns about building a new home in an older neighborhood, the Millers say they couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.
“I really hate it when houses come in and don’t respect the neighborhood,” Susan says. “I have neighbors come by all the time and say that it fits in really well.”