Seven-year-old Christopher Hays is an early riser, perhaps because sunshine saturates his room each morning before school. One of the first things he sees upon waking is his 11-year-old sister, Emily, through the open “window” that links their bedrooms, right about where their heads rest. If he wakes up facing the opposite direction, he’s greeted by a clothespinned wall of his and Emily’s changing artwork. Right now, his Kids’ Bill of Rights — which, Christopher admits, isn’t completely fair to adults — hangs among a smattering of watercolors. Above him is what may appear to be a bunk bed but is actually a loft that joins Emily’s room with his. A pulley-rigged basket — his mother’s idea — dangles off the side and is used, he explains, to pass things up and down without having to climb the ladder each time.
If you were to assume Emily and Christopher are being raised to be creative, bright children, you’d be correct. But their parents, environmental architects Chris Hays and Allison Ewing, give some of the credit to this Charlottesville house, which they designed in 1998. “There’s a series of strategies at play,” explains Ewing. “Some of those affect how we live, others affect our general health, and others are the right thing to do because they affect the health of our habitat.”