Making the most of indoor/outdoor living | June 1, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 1, 2012

Making the most of indoor/outdoor living

Sunset Celebration Weekend offers inspiration for 'green' home-improvement projects

by Carol Blitzer

Some may see the oblong structure as a future cabana, writer's hideaway or an extra bedroom in the backyard. But Sunset will be showcasing Palo Alto architect Joseph Bellomo's House Arc as the "Ultimate Outdoor Living Room" during the 15th annual Celebration Weekend June 2-3.

Triggered by the sudden need for housing post-Katrina, Bellomo designed a prototype that he called "light-handed, economical, (using) light construction methodology." Made of recycled steel tubing, 3form thermoplastic resin, Western red cedar and aluminum sliding doors on two sides, the 150-square-foot home comes in a flat-packed kit that can be delivered by truck. After two to three days of construction, it'll become an 8-foot by 18.5-foot structure, 11 feet tall.

While the wealthy could use the "house" — which is priced between $55,000 and $75,000, depending on cost of materials, custom finishes and number of units ordered — as a backyard spa or office, Bellomo was really thinking in terms of farm housing, or perhaps as stockpiled emergency housing for a severe seismic event or hurricane.

"It's housing for everyone, in a gracious manner," he said.

There's room inside for a bed (or bunkbed), plus a desk or storage units and a chair or two. The structure is topped with a curved cedar trellis, where one could even train wisteria.

That first prototype is now used as a spare bedroom for a family in Hawaii.

Bellomo calls his housing model "affordable, adaptable and expandable." One can add plumbing to make it livable, push out one side to expand it or build two side-by-side — kind of like a double-wide trailer.

"It's remarkably more spacious than when you first look at it," he said.

Because he is very focused on "green" building, Bellomo said the steel tubing will be manufactured in either Oregon or San Luis Obispo. And 3form can imbed photovoltaic cells in its siding materials so the whole structure becomes "a PV generator," he said.

This example of the House Arc was built off-site, but will be delivered to Sunset in time for Celebration Weekend. There the nearly 2-ton structure will be attached to the ground by soil screws, elevated 14 inches for air circulation, then surrounded by Trex decking.

That steel tubing may look familiar to anyone who's seen the Bike Arc around Palo Alto, which was developed by Joe Bellomo with Jeff Selzer of Palo Alto Bicycles as a compact bike rack.

Bellomo is currently working on two modular homes in Palo Alto, edging away from the concept of custom building. "There are too many trips," he said, noting that a typical construction job could add up to 10,000 trips, between the concrete trucks, the construction workers and the inspectors. By designing homes that can be built in grids off site, he can radically cut down on the traffic to the home site.

Bellomo's House Arc fits right in with the Sunset Celebration Weekend's emphasis on use of green materials and manufacturing techniques, as well as its theme of "Fresh from the West." More than 20,000 visitors are expected to attend.

On the program are exhibits by celebrity chefs and Sunset editors on the IKEA Cooking Stage (from baby back ribs and crab potato pancakes to chocolate) and the Safeway Outdoor Kitchen (Calafia crimson quinoa salad with citrus basil vinaigrette), as well as wine seminars. The Garden & Outdoor Living Stage will deal with everything from "Creating the ultimate backyard retreat" to "Veggies in small spaces." Other presentations reflect the magazine's content with travel tips and home-improvement ideas, including do-it-yourself projects and re-purposing materials. There will also be hands-on activities for adults and kids (paint a terra cotta garden pot or learn to make grilled pear and gorgonzola cheese flatbread). But no pets are allowed.

A full schedule is available on the website,


For more Home and Real Estate news, visit

What: Sunset Celebration Weekend

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 2, and Sunday, June 3

Where: 80 Willow Road, Menlo Park

Cost: $16 general admission; $14 for seniors (60+); free for children 12 and under; $1 off if you park at Facebook, ride Caltrain or come by bicycle; a portion of proceeds benefits Children's Health Council

Parking: Free bus from Facebook parking lot (1601 Willow Road, Menlo Park); bicycle corral at corner of Middlefield and Willow roads; valet bicycle parking by Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition; free shuttle from Menlo Park Caltrain station

Info: 800-786-7375,; for information on the House Arc, visit

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at


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