It’s Easy Being Green

Cape Cod Home  /  Winter 2020 /

Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

From the cozy three-season porch of their charming Sandwich home, Judith and William Holt are saving money, energy and the Cape’s most enviable resource: the environment.

In Judith and William Holt’s stylish kitchen, the phrase, “A watched pot never boils” is never used. Like much of their home, efficiency is key—right down to the induction cooktop which boils a pot of water without ever igniting a flame. And, the stovetop itself stays cool to the touch throughout. While it might seem like a process that belongs in the magical pages of “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings,” there’s actually nothing mystical about it; Judith and William’s unwavering commitment to green living is to thank, with not only the wondrous induction stovetop, but also the heat pump that meant the duo never even turned on their gas heat last year, the 100 percent renewable electricity that fuels their home, and the restful nights they spend knowing that they are doing their part for the planet while, believe it or not, saving money.   

Bench swings and 270 degrees of French doors make the porch a light and airy escape.

“When we chose this house, we wanted to have a good ‘walk score,’” laughs Judith, explaining that their home is only a short stroll away from both the hustle and bustle of Sandwich and the dreamy shores of the beach. “But, beyond that, the first thing we looked at was whether or not we could make the home energy efficient.” As principal of her own interior design and architectural firm, Judith is no stranger to sustainable design; in fact, it’s a foundational principle of her company, as well as her lifestyle. 

This custom wooden kayak, built by the homeowner’s father, George, is a feature element on the living room wall.

“About 40 percent of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which is a driving force behind climate change, comes from buildings, and particularly in Massachusetts, that refers to residential buildings,” explains Judith. To elaborate, the 2017 United Nations Environment Program reported that the global buildings sector is growing at rapid, unprecedented rates. “Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230 billion square metres in new construction—adding the equivalent of Paris to the planet every single week,” the U.N. surmises. For people like Judith and William Holt, this means that reducing their carbon footprint is more than just a way of life; it’s an impassioned last pass into the endzone for the world’s environment. And, it’s a pass that they hope will be caught by others around them—their friends, neighbors, and clients serving as the running backs in the fight against climate change—which is why Judith Holt Design’s main tenants are saving people money and reducing the amount of carbon put out by residential homes. 

Working with Cape Light Compact saved Judith and William an astounding 80 percent of the cost of the energy-saving updates they made, and Judith contends that this is important to note for existing homes. A no cost energy audit can show homeowners a variety of ways to save energy, money and stress.

“It’s a grave misconception that green design has to be expensive,” says Judith. “Through Cape Light Compact, we received a no cost energy audit followed by $8,800 worth of work, of which we paid only $1,500.” Together with other local providers, Cape Light Compact (CLC) is a sponsor of Mass Save, a collaborative of energy efficiency providers working to save customers both energy and money that has earned Massachusetts a ranking of number one in the country for energy efficiency (as per the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy). “Mass Save, which on Cape Cod is represented by Cape Light Compact, offers incredible incentives and rebates to take measures toward an energy efficient home,” says Judith, referring to the astounding savings she was able to achieve through working with CLC—more than 80 percent of the cost of the work completed. “Now that our remodel is complete, we save money every day by using less energy. Last year, we never even turned on our heat thanks to the heat pump we had installed by Cape Cod Heat Pumps. It’s so important to make these kind of green-focused changes to existing buildings.”

The Holts also invest in 100 percent renewable electricity. Being the default electricity supplier for Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, CLC combines the electricity use of all of its customers across the region and solicits bids from power suppliers right here in New England to meet that usage rate with stable prices. Through this process of electricity aggregation, CLC is able to provide competitive rates while also supporting renewable energy. Their Local Green program matches each of CLC’s power supply customers with renewable sources for their energy usage by working with those competitively selected power suppliers to secure local Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Customers can opt in to the CLC Local Green program for either 50 or 100 percent of their usage to be matched with those RECs. And, since the Holts’ home is too shaded for solar panels to be effective, choosing to handle 100 percent of their energy usage through the CLC Local Green program was the perfect solution for them to continue their mission of sustainability. 

Green isn’t the only color on Judith’s mind, though. Her remodeled space, completed with the help of Upgrade Construction & Painting, is a vision of inviting neutrals lit by the vibrant natural lighting that streams through custom glass doors (crafted with the effervescent personality reflected in his company name, by local glass artist, Neil Maciejewski of Neil Neil Orange Peel Designs) and large skylights. In the kitchen, the induction stovetop blends seamlessly into a waterfall countertop, textured in swirls of bright tan and warm brown quartz in a leather finish. In keeping with the theme of sustainability, the kitchen cabinets are virtually all original fixtures with new doors for a clean, modern look. “Being able to recycle that material was really important to us,” notes Judith.

Past the kitchen and adjacent living area is the star of the show: a screened-in porch turned three-season haven. Judith and William replaced the screens with 12 30-inch French doors that wrap fully around the space. With two skylights, the light in that room is spectacular, and replacing the screens means that the couple can lift their spirts by relaxing in the space even on more gloomy days, snuggled up with their adorable Miniature Goldendoodle, Emma, of course. “Being in the back of the house where the kitchen overlooks the living room, the porch makes what’s really a small house feel expansive,” says Judith. Sitting on the navy upholstered swinging benches on the porch and looking into the home, a glossy wooden kayak has found its home up on the wall. An homage to family and a testament to the personality of this couple, the kayak, built by William’s father, George, is an unexpected touch that ties the home together beautifully. 

Another big change to the home was the addition of a second bathroom. “We turned the original bathroom into two by utilizing a hall space. I probably drew that part of the remodel 100 times to get it to flow correctly,” laughs Judith. A natural creative, it’s no surprise that Judith is always looking at how to redesign the spaces around her. “I’m always thinking about how to do things differently. We don’t always have to do it, but I do have to dream,” she jokes. 

Judith and William’s most often shared advice is to work with existing space as much as possible. “An addition isn’t always the answer,” says Judith. “Try to work with what you have as much as possible, and often, there are ways to use that space more effectively so that it works for you.” For a place like Cape Cod, that message is one about preserving a rich history and storied beauty; for the Holts, it’s also one about saving energy and by extension one day, the planet. 

The homeowners enjoy a night around the firepit with family, friends and their beloved pup, Emma. 

Visit Judith Holt online at judithholtdesign.com!

Cape Light Compact was featured in our 2020 Home Annual, check it out here!

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.