Michelle is an architect, designer, and advocate for smarter ways to design, build, and live. Her mission with all of her work is to make thoughtful, sustainable design accessible. With her firm, Michelle Kaufmann Studio, she specializes in sustainable lifestyle design, including single-family homes, eco-luxury resorts, and multi-family communities. Kaufmann is a design and modular consultant to home owners, businesses, and developers, and is an adviser and consultant to Blu Homes.
She was the founder of Michelle Kaufmann Designs, a designing and building company that led the movement for prefabricated green homes. The firm was given the 2008 Top Firm Award by Residential Architect. Kaufmann's book Prefab Green describes off-site construction and the green design principles of homes such as the Glidehouse®, the Sunset® Breezehouse®, the mkLotus®, and others. She has been called "the Henry Ford of green homes" by the Sierra Club and was named 2009 Green Advocate of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders, was included in Business 2.0 magazine's list of "100 People Who Matter Now," and was listed as one of the "The Green 50" by INC magazine.
She has been featured on the Sundance Channel, HGTV, Discovery, and Planet Green, and in numerous magazines including Town + Country, Dwell, Sunset, Time, and Smithsonian Magazine.
MindBodyGreen: How do you start your morning? Do you have a routine?
Michelle Kaufmann: My typical morning begins with being woken up by our two dogs, Otis and Peekay. We then go for a walk—which on good days when my husband Kevin is home includes him, as well. Our Glidehouse home is basically in the country, so we can go for a lovely 30-minute walk in the fields and by the bay. The walk usually includes run-ins with deer and turkey and, every once in a while, ducks. Upon our return home, I make coffee (I have tried to make the conversion to tea, but haven't been successful with that in the mornings) and then head to the office. Most days, that means a 20-foot walk to my home office, which is a separate structure to the house. That is an amazing and efficient commute. At least one or two days a week, I work in an office with friends in Sausalito, California. Sausalito is one of the most beautiful towns, and our office is on the bay. Spending the day working with the water and sailboats floating behind my computer screen helps keep me balanced and puts things into perspective.
MBG: Were you always passionate about great, green design?
MK: I suppose I have been. But for the first 35 years I didn't know that it was called "green design." I thought it was just "good design" that was thoughtful and smart. My mother used to call many of the green design elements "being frugal" when I was growing up.
When Kevin and I decided to build our own house, we wanted it to be healthy, with no mold (as I was getting migraines in our apartment in Sausalito, and we found it was because there was mold in the walls); we wanted no energy bills (we were and are on a budget); we wanted low water bills (that budget thing again); and we didn't have a lot of money, so we couldn't build a big house but still wanted it to feel spacious. Also, I thrive on natural light, so I wanted the house to use natural light in a smart way, so that we wouldn't have to turn on lights during the day. Kevin wanted to make sure we chose materials that would last a long time with little maintenance. In the end, all of our qualifications defined a green home. But it was before the term "green" was being used. And definitely before green was cool.