This Is What an Off-Grid Passive House Looks Like

This Is What an Off-Grid Passive House Looks Like

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Name: Jennie Hoekstra, Luke Hoekstra, Jude (9), Neve (7), Wilder (4), Marmalade (the cat), Miki and Mandu (Australian Zebra Finches), and a flock of semi-retired hens.
Location: Kemble — Ontario, Canada
Size: 1,665 square feet
Years Lived In: 6 months, owned

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In the spring of 2017 a lovely four-acre lot came up for sale in the rural village where we live. We knew the property well and loved it, but understood that it was on an unmaintained road with no hydro, so building would be tricky. Luke is an electrical engineer with a long-time interest in renewable energy and green building, and I’m an aspiring designer who had been itching for a major project to undertake. With some early guidance from Evolve Builders out of Guelph, Ontario, and a modified stock plan from Passive Design Solutions of Halifax, Nova Scotia, our off-grid passive house was born.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The principles of a passive house is to build a home with very low external energy demands while still providing a high level of comfort. The house is incredibly well insulated, windows are positioned to optimally catch winter sun and solar gain, and there is limited thermal bridging [areas where heat can escape] from the inside of the house to the outside. Energy conservation was our primary goal, particularly since our power source was going to be completely off-grid solar. We contracted the home ourselves and did as much of the work as we could, with the help of our amazing family and friends. After a seven-month build, we were in!

The house is a modest size (1,665 square feet) for our family of five and after living here for half a year we’re really happy with the way it performs. We live in an area of Ontario known for its harsh winters. Yet, on a sunny day, despite temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius outside, it’s often a balmy 24 in the house with no heat on!

We are really proud of the home we’ve created and we hope to inspire others to think differently and live lightly on this beautiful earth.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My design mantra when building was “organic, quiet and warm.” I wanted to create a space that was both minimal and gezellig (worth a Google).

Inspiration: I’m forever inspired by the home of Georgia O’Keefe and the work of Liljencrantz Design and Vincent Van Duysen. I also drew inspiration from the natural surroundings of the house—driftwood-inspired tones from the shores of Georgian Bay, muted greens of the surrounding maple forest, and the bright whites of long Ontario winters.

Favorite Element: The wood ceiling in the main floor entry and great room is my favorite element of the whole house. The warmth of the white oak offers a beautiful counter-balance to the concrete floors and cool white kitchen.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge of living in a very open floor plan with three kids is managing the inevitable kid clutter. Rogue Legos everywhere! We mitigate the toys (and all other clutter) taking over by having a box constantly on the go for donations. Anything that isn’t in heavy rotation, goes out.

Proudest DIY: Aside from the wood ceiling, which we installed and finished ourselves, my proudest DIY is the kitchen design, particularly the island, drywalled hood vent, and architectural shelf. Luke took my design and built and executed the whole thing to perfection!

I’m also really happy with our family bath’s vanity. It was a water-stained teak entertainment unit that my brother and I refinished together.

Biggest Indulgence: The quartz countertops. They were a good chunk of the kitchen budget, but have been so low-maintenance and die-hard with the kids, it was totally worth it.

Best Advice: Buy things secondhand! Almost all of our furniture, (and toys, and clothes for that matter) are purchased secondhand. We’ve gotten incredible treasures for a fraction of the cost and minimize our environmental impact at the same time.

What’s your best home secret? Use baking soda and vinegar to clean everything! Frequent thrift stores to get high quality items for less. Don’t hang on to things just because you’ve had them for a long time—free yourself of the thing, not the memories.




  • Light Fixture — IKEA
  • Vintage Bentwood Chair — Thrifted



  • Dining Table — Norden IKEA
  • Chairs — Vintage Cesca chairs by Marcel Breuer, thrifted
  • Light Fixture — Isamu Noguchi Akari 55A Pendant, eBay
  • Fiddle-leaf Fig basket — IKEA FLADIS



  • Mirror over piano IKEA — IKEA, Sandane
  • Rug — Vintage


  • Mirror – Vintage, thrifted
  • Pedestal sink — American Standard Top
  • Bottom — Home Depot
  • Faucet — Wayfair
  • Painting and Chair — Vintage, thrifted
  • Stairwell Light Fixture — Light fixture Isamu Noguchi Akari 55A Pendant; eBay


  • Light Fixtures — Templin Schoolhouse
  • Pendants — Wayfair; currently not available
  • Large Oil Painting — Vintage, thrifted
  • Smaller Oil Paintings — Kristine Moran


  • Bed and Side Tables — Vintage, thrifted
  • Bedside Lamps — IKEA Fado
  • Light Fixture — Isamu Noguchi Akari 55A Pendant from eBay
  • Painting — Vintage, thrifted



  • Side Table Bench — IKEA STOCKHOLM
  • Yellow Bedding — IKEA
  • Painting Headboard — Vintage, thrifted
  • Painting over Bed — Luke Greidanus and Elysse Marcus
  • Dresser – Vintage
  • Lamp – Vintage, thrifted
  • Shelf over Dresser — IKEA
  • Light Fixture — Amazon



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