Article by Asheville Citizen – Times – Asheville, N.C., Author: Paul Clark

Some 20 years ago, when they were just married, James and Amanda Boren lived on a 35-foot Pearson sailboat.

Solar panels, no refrigerator, spearfishing as they went, they piloted it all over the Caribbean and up a jungle river in Guatemala. Seeing people there live so simply and in concert with their surroundings inspired them to do the same.

Amanda Boren

Amanda Boren

Last winter, James, a builder by trade, began the Boren home on a wooded corner lot in West Asheville. The uneven tract presented challenges — challenges but not problems — to James’ way of thinking. He and Amanda chose the space because of the trees, not in spite of them.

So, incorporating the live-and-let-live philosophies they learned in Guatemala, they designed the house to fit its locale. In part to honor the ecosystem that sustains their beloved trees, they built a gold-certified HealthyBuilt home that gets maximum usage out of a small footprint. Carrying the eco ethos further, the couple installed a home fueling station for their natural gas-burning SUV.

James and Amanda moved in in March. They’re still tweaking the home, but only along green lines. “Anything to keep it natural,” Amanda said.

Solid as an oak

With hues that coordinate with the forest around it, the house seems like an organic extension of the lot itself. Incorporating the outside on the inside, James and Amanda Boren used one of the few trees taken down during construction — a massive scarlet red oak — for the gnarled bar top in the kitchen and shelves and railing throughout the house. Just off the deck is another scarlet red oak leviathan that reins majestically over the lot. “This house is part of the forest, rather than the forest being a part of the house,” James said.

Driving the future

James Boren

James Boren

In the driveway is the natural gas home fueling station. It wasn’t cheap — James said the natural gas home refueling appliance cost $10,000. And he had to install a $10,000 double fuel tank in the SUV, work done by Altech-Eco in Arden. But he’s paying nearly one-quarter less per gallon for fuel than everyone else is. With each new efficiency, the price of green homes comes down, James said. With its large contingent of environmentally conscious builders and designers, Asheville is at the center of the green building movement nationwide, he believes.

Unobstructed view

James built the house in six months (he’s built 87 homes over two decades). In the kitchen, he staggered the hickory cabinets to vary the view. Everyday items go in the lower units, and lesser-used things go in the upper. To keep the site lines uncluttered, he installed a telescoping down draft in back of the gas range. The flooring is sustainable bamboo so hard “you can’t drive a nail through it, you have to glue it,” James said.

Keeping their cool

The house is so air-tight that James bought a natural gas stove for the living room that has an electronic switch for the pilot light. Otherwise, the continuously burning light would heat the house. “You can light a candle in the house and feel the difference,” he said. The rock surround was done by Ricki Pierce (The Rock Pirate), of West Asheville. At the bottom, near the floor, Ricki installed a ceramic “fairy door” by his talented wife, artist Damaris Pierce.