Beth & Lindsey’s Coffeehouse Commute

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Lindsey Lee and Beth Rosen
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Size: 1721 square feet
Years lived in: 1 1/2, owned

How dreamy would it be to live right across the street from your favorite coffeehouse? For Lindsey Lee and Beth Rosen—owners of Ground Zero Coffee in Madison, Wisconsin—doing so is more than a lucky coincidence. Living directly across from their coffee shop business makes good, green sense. And the light, bright industrial style of the popular meeting place and the historic warehouse in which it’s housed inspired the design of their urban home.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Lindsey opened Ground Zero coffee in 1998 on a busy thoroughfare on Madison’s funky east side. For years he looked out the front window at a residential property that was in an increasing state of disrepair. As a business owner, Lindsey believes in sustainable practices, buys and sells from local businesses, and supports neighborhood groups and causes. So when the property across from the coffeehouse came up for sale, Lindsey and Beth decided to purchase it and build a family home on the lot. “Live where you work,” says Lindsey. Walking across the street is the ultimate close commute.

Because the existing home had an assessed value of only $2,000 and umpteen problems, it was clear it would have to be replaced. With the help of architect Todd Barnett, a Ground Zero regular, Lindsey and Beth built an energy-efficient home, using a variety of materials salvaged from the old property. After the contractor built the “white-box” structure, Lindsey stepped in and, with the help of his twin brother and father, completed the interior carpentry, painting, and kitchen and bathroom installation.

Challenges included an urban infill lot that was barely 1,600 square feet and that had a grade change of seven feet from front to rear. But the resulting home feels open and spacious. A two-story light well lets in the sunshine. Large windows allow for views of Lake Monona to the southwest, historic power plant stacks to the north, and a tiny pocket park to the west. The house has six alternating levels, with the family rooms and kitchen on lower floors, bedrooms on the middle floors, and a family get-away space and rooftop deck on the top level.

The sweat equity was worth it, says Lindsey, even if it did mean squeezing a family of five into a 600-square-foot apartment during construction. In a neighborhood where shop owners have lived above or nearby their businesses for generations, living across from Ground Zero Coffee feels natural. It feels like the right thing for a committed business owner (and coffee drinker) to do!

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Re-Nest Survey:

Our style: idiosyncratic contemporary

Inspiration: Honda Element

Favorite Element: the Rubik’s-Cube-like feel of the house

Biggest Challenge: the small size of the lot. It’s 36 feet by 42 feet, with a 6-foot rise.

What Friends Say: “Do you drive to work?”

Proudest DIY: constructing the railings out of Kee Klamps and large wood dowels

Biggest Indulgence: Fisher & Paykel half-size dishwasher

Best Advice: There is often a less expensive and cooler way!

Dream Source: Dwell magazine

Green Elements/Initiatives:

  • we built in Madison’s urban core on a “recycled” parcel, rather than on a virgin site
  • from the original structure on the site, we salvaged and reused shelving, copper piping, wood sheathing and the historic verge boards from the roof
  • rather than air conditioning, we use a whole house fan to supplement natural ventilation
  • radiant heating with a high-efficiency boiler
  • sun shades
  • fluorescent lighting
  • trusses were locally fabricated instead of being shipped long distances
  • we incorporated engineered wood products
  • many of the interior furnishings are repurposed or recycled

    Favorite Green Element: We built our home across the street from our business. Live where you work!

    Future Green Goals: Solar panels

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    Appliances: GE stove and oven, LG fridge, Fisher Paykel dishwasher, Amana washer and dryer

    Furniture: St. Vinny’s thrift store

    Lighting: utility lights from Farm and Fleet

    Tiles and Stone: Habitat for Humanity Re-Store

    Artwork: My brother Lynn Lee, who is an artist

    Paint: Hallman Lindsay, a Wisconsin-based paint company

    Flooring: particle board, concrete

    Design and Architecture: Todd Barnett, Barnett Architecture

    (Thanks, Beth and Lindsey!) See archives of past Green Tours here!

    Interested in sharing your home with Re-Nest? Contact our editors through our Green Tour Submission Form.

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