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Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

5 Must Haves for a Sustainable Kitchen Remodel

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Ah, the holidays…  Delicious cookies baking in the oven.  Spiced cider simmering on the stovetop.  Relatives and friends jostling their way through your sad, frumpy old kitchen another year in a row…  Sigh.

Yes, we’ve all been there.  Kitchens get a lot of wear and tear, and they are one of the first areas of a house to feel dated.  Remodeling the kitchen is usually the #1 priority with my new clients, and it is also one of the best places to make an impact with sustainable design.  If a kitchen remodel is on your todo list for the New Year, check out this list of stylish and sustainable “must haves”.

Zephyr Milano

1.  A good range hood – Perhaps no element of a kitchen remodel is more misunderstood and neglected than the range hood.  Oh sure, you plan to have one, but will you ever use it -at least before the smoke detector goes off?   Well you should, because even when your house isn’t filling up with smoke, it IS filling up with noxious fumes every time you cook, especially if you have a gas range.

“But those fans are always so noisy!” you protest.  “I can’t even hear myself think.”   Well, the great thing is that there are now range hoods on the market that clear the air very well, but are so quiet, you might forget they are on in the first place!    The Next Generation Europa line from Zephyr uses new technology that gives you an extremely quiet fan, as well as having other great sustainable features – such as warm white LED lighting!


Vetrazzo's Bistro Green

2. Composite countertops – Granite is so last decade!   Composite countertops are where it’s at now.  Available in an amazing array of colors and textures, these environmentally friendly surfaces are not only beautiful, but they are usually more durable than natural stone too.  Unlike the more porous nature of granite, most composite countertops on the market have very smooth surfaces which don’t require sealing, and are also less prone to staining and bacterial buildup.  Some of my favorites include the fun recycled glass countertops of Vetrazzo, and the composite stone of Caesarstone.

Aga Energy Star Refrigerator

3. Energy Star appliances – The “star” program of energy efficiency in the appliance world, this successful government program is the source for all those big yellow stickers you see when you salivate over that big stainless steel, french door refrigerator at your local home renovation mart.   Purchase washers, dryers, microwaves, refrigerators, or dishwashers that are Energy Star rated, and you’ll start saving money as soon as you plug them in.

Bazzeo's Gaia Cabinets

4. Cabinets w/ no-added formaldehyde (NAF) – Cabinets are THE big budget item in any kitchen remodel, so spending even a little more to ensure the wood doesn’t have any added urea formaldehyde may seem like overkill, but believe me, it’s worth it.  Classified as a known carcinogen by the State of California, urea formaldehyde is also an airborne irritant as it off gasses into your home, especially for those with asthma and other respiratory issues.

Luckily, as demand has increased for NAF cabinetry, cost has decreased, so beautiful options such as those from Bazzeo or Snaidero are easier to budget for.


Wicanders Cork Floor via Country Living

5. Earth AND back friendly flooring – I’m a big proponent of using cork or linoleum flooring in kitchen for two good reasons.  One, they are both made of natural, biodegradable materials, and that is always a good thing.  Second, they are both resilient (especially cork!), which puts a lot less stress or your back and legs as you hustle around making your bonanza of a holiday dinner!  Plus, if Aunt Alice gets a little too tipsy and drops her glass of champagne, it is much less likely to shatter into a million pieces.  Whew!

Enjoy your holidays and may a sparkly, sustainable new kitchen be yours in the New Year!

~ Rachel

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Toilets With a Dual Personality

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Having traveled to parts of the world where outhouses are a way of life, I would like to start this post with a big shout out to indoor plumbing!  Woo-hoo!  Because it is (relatively) hygienic and odor free, and happily lacking in spiders and other creepy crawlies, the good ol’ indoor W/C is a winner in my book.

But there is one little problem in this plumbing paradise… wasted water.  Lots and lots of wasted water.  On average about 20 gallons of water per person, per day.  And we aren’t just talking any old water.  Thanks to the speedy dash to put indoor toilets in every Victorian household, we just took the same pipes we brought our household drinking water in with, and diverted some right on over to the potty.  And that now leaves us stuck with a plumbing system which causes the average household to flush 27% of their potable water straight out to the sewer.

So, what to do?  Short of replumbing the entire country, the best solution is to reduce the amount of water we waste with each flush, and nothing does a better job at that than the dual flush toilet.

Sydney Smart 305 Round Front Plus from Caroma


Friday, November 5th, 2010

Amazing Wallpaper – Without the Paper!

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I love this new trend…

That sleek black and white wallpaper you see above isn’t actually paper at all.  It’s a beautiful glass tile mosaic, by Trend USA.

Designed to mimic the great graphic punch of classic and contemporary wallpaper patterns, the sheets of 3/4″ tile are made of up to 71% recycled glass, and are entirely recyclable once removed.  Although really, would you want to take something so lovely off your walls?

For those of you craving the mid-century look, this random color mosaic is perfect!  The geometric, warm hued tile pattern falls somewhere between “Mad Men” and “Mod Squad” in style, don’t you think?

Of course, if sharp, glossy and graphic isn’t what you are going for, you might want to take a look at the soft, ethereal wallcoverings of Trove.  I confess, the walls of my dream bedroom would be covered in it.

Evoking the look of a watercolor paintings on antique silk, this collection is actually printed on FSC certified wood veneers, giving it great visual impact with minimal impact to the environment.  Applied very much like an actual wallpaper, it is available in a range of prints and wood species.

Of course, there are many more sustainable options for covering your walls with something other than paint or paper, including: leather, burlap, aluminum, clay, glass beads, silk and bark. The list is only limited by your imagination,… and the manufacturers catalog.  I’ll introduce you to some more of these great options in future posts.

But meanwhile, for my next post I’ll introduce you to that perpetual giggle inducer, the dual flush toilet, and explain why they are such a wonderful idea.  No really!

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Sustainable Wallpaper 101

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Many years ago, when I was in design school, my fellow students and I would frquently go off on tangents about how gross wallpaper was.  Mind you, this was back in the day when it seemed every suburban kitchen was plastered in sheets of little, tiny country flower print, with duck encrusted borders.  Could you blame us?

Oh man, has wallpaper has come a long way since then…

Grahama & Brown Eco Peony in Apple

The most wonderful aspect of this wallpaper revival has been the plethora of great, sustainable choices that have come along with it.  No longer the realm of plastic coated pastels, many of today’s wallpapers are colorful, bold, eco-friendly and natural.  They are also easy to find, it’s just an issue of knowing what to look for.

Farrow & Ball - Peony

Here is a little guide to help you navigate the sea of choices available to you: (more…)

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Taking the Lead With LEDs

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LED lighting is making waves

and circles, and triangles, and teardrops, and all sorts of other shapes.   It’s one of the reasons you are starting to see so many decorative lighting fixtures with LEDs – they are very versatile.  Take a look… (more…)