Living Green? Small Space? Check out the Space Saving Furniture!


According to Kentfield, Marin county Architect, Sarah Robinson, an Alumni of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; that Being Green is not just to tear down and build from scratch but it’s about “Seeing the untapped potential that already exists.”

“Green Living” is not limited to only use ‘Green’ products such as energy efficient appliances, water saving faucets, shower heads, toilets, bamboo flooring, recycled water, drought resistant plants, solar energy, double/triple paned windows, reuse building material, no VOC paint, and such.

Today, a friend of my shared a video of space saving furniture, which I thought would fit in nicely with green minded, sustainable living friends. these furniture has intelligent design where each piece of furniture has several purposes and fits in a tight space, are artistic an allow for smaller space thus reduce footprint of the new building design.

On a practical side, for friends or college kids who live in small apartments, houses, dormitories; these furniture allow them to have better quality of life while dealing with the tight space.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do


Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Luxury Real Estate 
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frank Howard Allen Realtors 

MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa.   Starter Home to Luxury Property.  REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architectural Distinctive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange.

Millworks Novato Grand Opening brings New Dimension to Town!

mw_logo_rgbA controversial project due to the sheer size, the location and what it is and what it is not (a bit vague?  Ask me!), Millworks Novato had it’s grand opening today (April 25th).  What a pleasant surprise the development is!

As a Novato resident and a Realtor; although I missed the design, approval phases of the project; I, as many Novatans,  have watched with great interest and concerns in the progress of the building.   Today, I got to tour Millworks with my friend, Barbara.  We came away quite impressed!

Millworks – According to the developer, Millworks Novato is “Nestled among the North Bay’s rolling hills landscape, charming Old Town Novato is the home to Millworks, and environmentally sustainable and pedestrian-friendly new home community”. 

Millworks Novato

Millworks Novato

The building, sits atop the coming-soon Whole Foods,  located at the east end of Old Town Novato, consists of 124 flats and townhomes.  The homes are designed to be a combination of 1 bedroom/1 bath, 2 bedrooms/2 baths flats and 2 bedrooms/2 baths plus Den Flats. 

Amentities — Other than a few larger units on selected locations; first and second floors are mostly for Whole Foods and parking for Whole Foods and third floor is mostly for residents parking.  In addition, there is a library, a fitness center and a social room for gatherings.


'Roof Garden - Living Roof' on 4th Floor

Roof Garden – One of the Millworks’ most unique design is the rooftop garden on the 4th floor where the interior units all have patios on the ‘Roof Garden’.  This Living Roof – centrally located with open sky courts – have living gardens and flag stone patiors, gives the 4th floor residents a sense of being on the ground floor which is a very appealing, surprising feature!

Views Galore – For outdoor lovers, the floor to ceiling windows brings tons of sunshine and the breathtaking surrounding Novato hill views inside.  I can only imagine how beautiful the night time views will be with the twinkling lights from the distance.

Kitchen and Living Room

Kitchen and Living Room

The Interiors – Millworks have open floor plan where kitchen opens into living and dining rooms (area – depending on plan).  Kitchens have granite slab counter tops, break fast bar, Bosch stainless steel, Energy Star appliances, Kohler sinks and faucets.  Bathrooms have Kohler faucets, Marble slab counters and surrounds on bathtubs.  Dual flush toilets conserve water.   All units are equipped with air conditioners (although I always say that we really don’t need that in Novato – the breeze from the ocean cools down most hot days by night).  Schlage hardware, recessed lighting, sustainable flooring, cable ready.

Green Features at Millworks

Green Features at Millworks

Building and Living Green – Millworks is also designed with ‘Building Green’ in mind as Sustainable is a big concern for environmental minded Marin Residents.  The building is designed with

  • Money Saving features such as emergency efficiencies while determining the direction of the building (South facing), insulation grades,  dual paned windows, doors, Energy Star appliances..
  • Preserving Health – such Cabinet doors are free of formaldehyde, none-toxic and low VOC Materials are used throughout
  • Environmentally Sustainable– Pre-engineered lumber, waste recycling during construction, Build-in recycling centers, sustainable flooring’s and cross ventilation windows are some example of the environmentally friendly design.

The Units and Pricing – One Bedroom / One Bath unit (812 sf to 883sf) starts from the low $400,000s; Two Bedroom / Two Baths Flats (1260 sf to 1360 sf) starts from the mid $400,000s and the Two Bedrooms, Two Bath plus Den Falts (1452 sf to $1595sf) starts from the high $500,000.  

HOA Fees – HOA fees ranging from $393 to $494 monthly.  An interesting chart provided by Millworks compares  HOA fee to the average single-family detached homowner’s regular maintenance cost per year, and of course, Millworks HOA seems more reasonable according to the chart – email me if you are interested!

Keep in mind the price includes standard features, and any and all upgrades will be additional costs to the buyers.

As a baby boomer and looking forward, I thought this will be a great place to retire – low to no maintenance, single story (elevator up/down), walk to town, new, green building, etc.  Having a Whole Foods downstirs works well also.   However, as a  young, single professional living in Chicago many years ago, I also enjoyed staying in downtown highrise for the amentities it provides (Millworks is not close to the 45th floor I was on before).  

Releases – The current plan the developer has is to release 10 homes at a time while gauging the interest ,control inventory and proper pricing. 

Tax Credit – And don’t forget the Federal First Time Homebuyer Up to $8,000 Tax Credit as well as the California State Up to $10,000 Tax Credit for purchasing new contrustions !

Interested in Checking out Millworks? – I enjoyed my visit to Millworks with Barbara.  Let me know if this stirs up your curiosity.  Please give me a call (415) 717-0293 or email me at sylvia@SylviaSellsMarin.comif you want to check out Millworks.  I would love to come with you and get your input about the building that changed the face of Old Town Novato, For Better For Worse, and hopefully, since it’s already here, we will make it ”For Better’ because that’s the only way we can all benefit! 


Kentfield Home Earned a Red Hot “Most Sustainable Renovation’ Award from Met Home

redhot According to Kentfield Architect, Sarah Robinson, an Alumni of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; that Being Green is not just to tear down and build from scratch but it’s about “Seeing the untapped potential that already exists.” Kentfield, Marin County Architect, Sarah Robinson, was thrilled, when her house earned the ‘Most Sustainable Renovation’ Award from the prestigious Metropolitan Home Magazine.

Robinson’s 1963 fixed-upper home incorporated the following winning features:

redhot1) Retain and Expand upon the original mid-century contemporaries design. Robinson’s usage of rich wood, glass, American clay plaster and copper echoed the ‘sensual surfaces’ from the outdoors. She also retained the original custom mahogany paneling and cabinetry.

redhot2) Resourcefulness- Adding 1200sf space (office, family room, extra bedroom) blow the building allows Robins the retain the original footprint of the building. Large dormer captures light and provides views of outdoors

redhot3) Usage of Reflective Surfaces Such as stainless steel, high gloss woods, glass cabinets, white ceilings makes the most of the natural light that streams into the space.

redhot4) Reused 80% of the original building material and incorporated with recycled materials from other sources – including reuse of the redwood framing from the attic for additional trim, exterior siding and new kitchen dormer. She also bought the seconds from a local tile manufacturer (Heath Ceramics in Sausalito).

redhot20090313__14finelivingxx_2005) Incorporated the outside environment to be the primary decorative feature for the home by using ‘floor-to-ceiling glass’, adding skylights and creating a large dormer to bring the outside in.

redhot6) Usage of Energy-Efficient Mechanical Systems Suchas soy-based form insulation, Eco-friendly American clay plaster, no-VOC paint and double-paned windows.

Footnote – I was contemplating about what to write for the RED HOT contest on ActiveRain eCO-All Star Group’s March challenge, and my upcoming presentation to my Rotary Club (of Novato Sunrise  about LEED and Local Green Buildings, when the Marin IJ Article about Local Architect, Sarah Robinson’s winning design caught my eyes. This is an excellent, timely example of how to creat a “RED HOT” Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Home while thinking Creatively Outside of the Box.

The idea of not having to build an eCO-friendly building from scratch, using recycled, reused, local materials to avoid the commonly expensive GREEN features, which is the main concern in a heathy economy and a huge hinderance in the current dismal economy while creating stunning buildings in the process makes this RED HOT for me!

* The post incorporated information from Met Home and Marin Independent Journal. – a news article caught my eyes and just in time for the RED HOT entry!

‘Commons At Mt. Burdell’ Commons Collaborative Meeting with San Marin Neighbors – 7PM, March 2nd, Novato, Marin

Common at Mount Burdell and FFIC Current Facility
Common at Mount Burdell and FFIC Current Facility
The following announcement was sent by San Marin Improvement Association, inviting residents to participate in a meeting with ‘Commons Collaborative’, concerning the

‘Commons at Mt. Burdell’ Project.







Time: 7pm, Monday, March 2nd
Meeting Objective: 
The proposed Commons at Mt. Burdell mixed-use development would eventually add approximately 750,000 square feet to an existing the 710,300 square foot Fireman’s Fund site (3 four-story office buildings). 
Phase 1 of new development would convert existing surface parking on the east side of the site to a 170 room hotel with a sports club and spa, first-floor retail space with 150 apartments above, and parking structures. 
Phase 2 eventually would add two new 250,000 square foot office buildings to the west end of the site, plus a day care center facility, community center, underground parking, and playing fields.  For more information, see:
The Commons at Mt. Burdell site is located on the northwest corner of the Atherton San Marin off ramp from Highway 101.  A SMART (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) train station is planned adjacent to the east end of the site.  Environmental credentials for the proposed development are significantly enhanced by the carbon neutral design, including onsite wastewater treatment, biodigesters to convert restaurant waste into fuel, photovoltaic panels, composting, and other green building features.
American Assets, Inc, (AA) the owner and developer, is just beginning the official City land use approval process. During the past year American Assets has met with a variety of local stakeholder groups.  Beginning in July 2008, representatives of numerous community groups formed the Commons Collaborative to work with the developer, AA, and the City, to ensure that the Commons maximizes advanced green design and affordable housing opportunities in this extraordinary smart growth location.  
Representatives of the following groups currently participate in the Commons Collaborative:
Sustainable Novato
The Commons Collaborative is distinct from other advocacy groups in that it does not seek to achieve its goals by applying pressure on decision makers and community leaders.  Instead, its approach involves listening to all stakeholders and looking for solutions which advance a number of complementary goals. contact a real estate agent


Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Real Estate
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frankk Howard Allen Realtors

 MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa. Starter Home to Luxury Property. REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architecural Distictive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange. Chinese Realtor.

Make Dreams Real – Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise Youth Services 

Novato Disposal Service – Highest Recyclable Waste Collection

As a Novato Resident, surrounded by Open Space, Natural Parks, Bay front; we are proud to be the city with the highest recyclable collection and lowest solid waste rate in Marin county.

The distinction can not be achieved solely by residents with good intention without the service provided by Novato Disposal Service

The Novato Disposal Service provides weekly pick ups of Green (Yard) Recyclables and Blue Recyclables (plastic containers, newspaper, bottles, jars, etc), Bi-Annual (spring, fall) large items, large volume and eWaste free-collections which the neighborhoods overwhelmingly participate and look forward to.

The service utilizes plants with state of the art equipment to sort, accept and reject wastes, ensuring proper waste recycle to allow for most waste being processed.

Their website provides timely guidance on recyclable plastics, cans, paper products; safely dispose of cooking oil, fluorescent lights, how to pack for lunches to produce the least solid waste; and where to dispose of hazard waste; etc.

The Novato Disposal team also participates in chamber and school green activities; and Novato July 4th Parade, putting on a great waste collection routine to promote their recycle program.

The latest improvement for Novato Disposal Service is the new Garbage Trucks they purchased.  hese new eco-friendly split-body vehicles decrease the number of trips through neighborhoods by one-third, while inside two separate compartments keep the materials separate. Collecting two materials in the dual compartment trucks decreased the amount of fuel and energy used, not to mention reduced traffic on highways and neighborhoods.  This allows for picking up both green and blue wastes on the same route; eliminating double pick ups and providing savings on resources (manpower, gas consumption, ozone depletion).

Not only is Novato Disposal Service mindful of local recycling programs, they also participate and donate generously to local schools.  They are the annual supporter for the local high school Safe and Sober Grad Night fundraising effort; where the high school helps residents in recycling their Christmas trees in exchange of a small donation to the worthy cause.  For a week after Christmans, the Novato Disposal donates huge derbris boxes and the drivers to transport and dispose of the Christmas tree.  ( Note – Please come back later for 2011 Christmas Tree pick info)
For the ECO minded readers, I encourage you to go to their website to learn more about how to properly recycle and save the environment. 

Commons at Mt. Burdell – Going Green, LEED Plantinum + Design

Novato Real Estate – For my Novato Neighbors and FFIC Friends

Background –

I recently (June 17th) attended a neighborhood presentation by American Assests, developer of the FFIC Site, about the proposed plan for their new project for the site – “Commons at Mount Burdell”.

I attended the meeting as a member of San Marin Improvement Association (SMIA) as well as a concerned Realtor who lives close to the project site and an ex-FFIC employee.  I have a vast interest in the project, for me, for my neighbors, for my friends and for our local community.  

I was probably the only one from SMIA, while most others were residents across from FFIC. 

Since this will have a major impact on our neighborhood, I have decided to share with you the information I gathered at the meeting.  The following are notes at the meeting.  In the interest of accuracy, I asked Ms. Margi Goodman,  representative of American Assets, to review the notes and have made corrections accordingly.  

To start with, from the information I received, I have created a graph with current FFIC topography and  American Assets’ “Commons at Mount Burdell” plan for comparison.   

Common at Mount Burdell and FFIC Current Facility
The Meeting –

John Chamberlain, CEO of American Assets, the owner of the site, was the presenter at the meeting. 

Since this is a project still being revised, please do check with the developer for details and updated plans (they are conducting meetings to get feedback from the community and will revise the plan if needed):

1. The project is called ‘Commons at Mount Burdell’, a place developed to serve the local community.  All the development is confined in the ‘LOOP’ – meaning the driveway surrounding FFIC campus with two entrances – West Campus and East Campus drive.

2. The plan is to keep and improve the three current FFIC buildings

3. The additional buildings will be built on the current parking facilities. All future parking will be underground with the exception of parking right in front of the center FFIC building, which they will keep as well as parkings for the two residential buildings.  Parkings for the two housing structures will be in the middle of the buildings and not visible from outside. 

4. There will be a new ‘world class’ hotel (similar to Sheraton Hotels) with a comprehensive health club (not a gigantic one but a luxury hotel quality facility). The health club will include swimming pool with possible retractable roof, weight room and will be accessible for FFIC employees.  (Note – Partridge Knolls neighbors wonder if they can get community membership)

The hotel will be located at the far east side of the property. The plan currently calls for a craftman style facility with 175 rooms, meeting facility, a large banquet room – capacity of 450, restaurant and the health club.  

5.  A residential facility in between the Hotel and FFIC building. The facility will house 150 units. The current plan is around 1/3 1BD/1BA units and 2/3 2BDs/1BA units. Rentals for 6 months to 12 months leases. All rental units will be on 2nd floor and up. 20% will be low income housing.

The first floor of the rental building will be shops and restaurants. Although after further inquiries (comments were there is really no need for restaurants and shops there), John said that the eateries will mostly consist of coffee shop, small stores, etc. for the hotel, apartment residents and office workers.

6. A few small office buildings will be built between the West Campus Drive and FFIC building. These will be built in the future pending needs.

7. They will donate a small parcel to Novato Rotary to build a community center.

8. The current ball park will increase in size. Some feedback is for multi purpose field. My personal feeling is that, the field and the community center for Novato Rotary, are part of what the developer wants to do to give back to the community and build local goodwill.  The exact plan is not clear at this point.  American Assets has contacted little leagues, etc, and will possibly be looking at a mixed use facility which they will build and maintain for local usage. 

9. The total projected usage will be for 5,000 people – the original maximum occupancy designed for the FFIC site. At the height of FFIC, there were 2,000 occupants and they currently have around 1,000 people on campus.

10. A big selling point is the green building aspect of the whole structure, hopefully a LEED Platinum (or exceeds Platinum) Certified complex. Platinum is the highest rating you can get from the LEED certification (Note – I did a research on this when making presentation at San Marin High School Green Week recently. So please do contact me if you need further information about LEED certification.)

11. Current FFIC buildings are up to 80ft tall.  The new buildings will be 40 feet at  most (most parkings will be underground).

If you are concerned, be sure to drive on San Marin Drive and imagine how it might look – which I do every time I drive by FFIC now. Good thing is that the trees at FFIC are more mature and the site sits lower than San Marin Drive.  My own feeling is that the new buildings might not be as intrusive as I first feared.  (Added 6/28- Also try to imagine how the site will look at night and when the leaves fall. It’s pretty dark now when you drive by, but it could be more lively at night with hotel, residential structures and community center. )

12. Per developer, they hope by doing this, they will be able to lower FFIC operating costs which will encourage FFIC to stay in Novato (there is always that speculation) and keep local employment rate up. With the new facility, they hope to attract other occupants, prevent the buildings from sitting empty and increase sales revenue for the city.

Major Concerns –

1. Traffic in and out of the site and how dangerous (per residents across from FFIC) it is currently and what it might do in the future. There are also concerns about the 101 interchange. Per developer, they are doing a traffic study including both and the plan will not go forward if 101 interchange needs to be improved – cost prohibitive.  In addition, the plan might change from Traffic Study Findings.

2. The effects on home values – opinions are divided on this. Some worried about what they will see out of their windows, some worried whether the residential units will affect the value of homes. Some thought the addition of world class facilities will add to home values.

3. Energy/water usage – see Green building plans

4. Views from residents who live on the hills across from FFIC

5. Noise level – from construction and from additional traffic

6. Secuirty (Added 06/28) – Another concern is the security of the site, especially the parking structures. The residential ones will be secured parking and public ones will have patrol – American Assets will be researching this.  

Design Review –

American Assets submitted the plan to the city on June 10th.  The city shall respond in 30 days after submission.  They will be conducting more neighborhood meetings to get feedback and anticipate revising plans from feedback received.   They will be going through Novato Design Reviews.  The high level time frame is estimated to be two years.      

Please make sure you attend future meetings for updated plans and let them know about your concerns. 

Comments –

I welcome your comments and do let me know if I have missed or misrepresented anything.  I will gladly make corrections. 

Updates and Meetings – (added 07/08) 

Ms. Margie Goodman has kindly agreed to keep me informed of updates and future meeting schedule so I can post them on this blog.   Please come back and check periodically. 

September 4, 2008 Update – The Fireman’s Fund meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept 9th at 6.30pm at the Nova Ro meeting room.  (From San Marin, take a right on Redwood Blvd, then take another right on Pinheiro Circle.  The meeting is at 31 Pinheiro Circle, upstairs in the mtg room.) 

The President of American Assets (John Chamberlin) will be there to show you the proposed project, listen to your feedback and answer any questions.   

Please bring neighbors along.
Thanks for your interest!
eMail Notices –  (added 07/08) 

Please email me at if you would like to be notified of future meetings.

References –

1. City of Novato Planning Department – Redevelopment of the Fireman’s Fund Office Campus – including two PDF files for detailed information.  

2.  Marin IJ Article  This article basically talked about the Green building aspects of the project and did not touch upon the concerns of the neighbors who attended the meeting – mainly the additional traffic in and out of the campus with the new Hotel, residential units and office buildings. Note that the first picture showed the angle from Ball Park to the campus, but the truth is the green space on the proposed campus is much smaller.

3.  Novato Advance Article, June 11, 2008

4. Another Marin IJ Article – announcing the Sale.

Premium Gas – Get Most For Your Money

With Gas price skyrocketing ($4.00+ May 6th and $4.50+ June 20th per gallon in Marin), I really appreciate getting the follwing tips on how to effectively pump gas and save the precious commodity – money and Gas.  And yes, I have been doing everything wrong until now…

1) Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold.

Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground, the more dense the gasoline. When it gets warmer, gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening…your gallon is not exactly a gallon.

In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role. A 1-degree rise in temperature makes a big difference.  The service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps as the distributors do.  So make sure you only pump the gas when the temperature is low.    2) When you’re filling up, do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look, you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you would be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return system. If you are pumping on the fast rate, more of the liquid that goes into your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are sucked up and fed back into the underground storage tank, so you’re getting less gas for your money.

3) One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL (or HALF EMPTY). The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank, the less air there will be occupying the tank’s empty space. More air = more evaporation.


Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves to create zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so as to minimize the evaporation of the fuel.4) Another reminder:  If there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up–most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles to the bottom of the tank.


Hope this will help you save a little when you pump those precious gas!