A Small Sand Point Greenhouse Packs a Super Eco-Friendly Punch

Reclaimed materials and a rainwater-harvesting system put the ‘green’ in this bright greenhouse

Most people wouldn’t call Seattle a prime location for growing plants native to South America. But try telling that to the leafy tamarillo tree (sometimes called a “tree tomato”) reaching up toward the glass roof of Carrie Rhodes’ pretty blue-and-green backyard greenhouse in Sand Point. The plant, with its egg-shaped red fruit, reminds Rhodes of her time spent working as a nurse in Ecuador. “They grow everywhere there,” she says. “I loved that plant and when I came back, I wanted to [grow] it here.” Thanks to Seattle’s climate, a greenhouse was in order. Rhodes collaborated with architect and interior designer Sheri Newbold of Live-work-play (live-work-play.net), a Greenwood-based firm specializing in eco-friendly designs. “I hadn’t actually designed a greenhouse before,” Newbold says. “It ended up being a lot of research and trial and error, but a lot of fun figuring it all out.”
The pair toiled over the design for months, gathering reclaimed materials, such as old school bleachers for the flooring and shelving, a salvaged school cabinet for storage and siding. They also decided to take advantage of our wet weather: A rainwater pillow (akin to a rain barrel) sits underneath the greenhouse’s floor and collects and stores water, which Rhodes can use for her plants. To maintain temperature consistency, the 8-by-10-foot structure’s south-facing windows are removable (for the summertime), and there is a retractable storage rack on the north side’s exterior. A temperature-sensitive vent automatically opens and closes the skylights via expanding and contracting wax within a hydraulic cylinder, keeping the greenhouse working without a hitch when Rhodes is traveling. (Photo left: Most of the wood—shelving, siding and cabinetry—is reclaimed, including the railing, made from found pieces of driftwood)
“I like to come out here and sit in my chair, read a book and have a cup of tea,” says Rhodes, all while admiring her thriving tree tomato, of course. (Photo below: A convenient watering sink inside the greenhouse)

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