December 29, 2010

In Praise of Bed Alcoves

Extreme Bed Alcoves
Hotel Aire de Bardenas in Spain via Remodelista

In his landmark tome (and my favorite architectural book of all), A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander explains why Bed Alcoves are a winning design idea.

Pattern #188 - Bed Alcove 

Bedrooms make no sense. 
Don't put single beds in empty rooms called bedrooms, but instead put individual bed alcoves off rooms with other nonsleeping functions, so the bed itself becomes a tiny private haven.

 Floor plan view of Bed Alcove
Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language

Imagine having full use of rooms that go largely uninhabited during the day, just because there is a big bed hogging the middle.  Bed alcoves save so much space, you might find yourself being able to build significantly smaller, or forgo that addition altogether.  Plus, they are an incredibly cozy and delightful place to sleep.  That is why all of the bedrooms in THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME will employ Alexander's clever pattern.

Some inspiration:

Kid favorite
Clearly, designer Suzanne Kasler is a big fan of the bed alcove concept, as these next three photos show:


Cottage - unknown, Modern - Piet Boon, Exotic - unknown, Kid Favorite - Sandell Sandberg.

December 17, 2010

First Look: Front Entry is Complete

Welcome to
Photo: Lisa Kauffman Tharp

In good interior design, one signals the style of the home's interior right as you step inside the front door.   THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME is no exception.   The entry is a simply elegant blend of "rough luxe" - that's rustic and refined - with thick bluestone flooring, wicker and antique wood, all counterbalanced by a delicate Murano glass chandelier.

The aesthetics belie the design's healthy and energy-efficient features.

Look beyond the beauty of the reproduction stripped-pine bench, and you will find its healthy attribute: it provides ample shoe storage under its lift-up seat lid, thereby keeping dust, dirt, and pesticides from tracking inside.

A "runner" of bluestone laid from the front door to the french doors that lead out to the rear garden provides a durable path for kids running through the house.  All the while, the stone is busy absorbing passive solar gain from the sun's rays each morning, which captures big energy savings in this super-insulated home.


Hudson Bench - Bradshaw Kirchofer

Glass Chandelier - Murano

French Market Basket - Mainly Baskets

Pillows - custom by me - Kauffman Tharp Design

Door Mat - Dash & Albert from Comina

December 11, 2010

Best Practices for Maintaining "House Health" During Remodeling & Repairs

Photo: Lisa Kauffman Tharp

Why are the contractors at THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOUSE inside a ziplock bag?  Actually, they are utilizing best practices to protect the health of the home's occupants while they make a repair.

Any time you need to open up walls or create any sort of construction disturbance inside your home, here are some important tips for preventing contamination:
  1. Tent - Build a makeshift enclosure of plastic to seal off the work area.  Add a zipper (in red) for easy access.
  2. Negative Air Pressure - Set up a window fan blowing to the exterior within the sealed space.  This will draw any dust, chemicals, etc. outside.
  3. HEPA Vacuum - As you can see in the photo, as dust is stirred up from cutting into the ceiling, the HEPA vacuum is being used to clean up any particulates right away.  Vacuums with HEPA filters clean 99%+ of particulates.  Do NOT use a shop vacuum, as they simply spread the dust around.
  4. Shut & Seal Air Systems - Shut down and seal off vents to any forced hot air/air conditioning/ventilation/filtration systems, in which errant particulates can enter into the ductwork.
A special thanks, as always, to the folks at Aedi Construction, who have utilized these best practices throughout the project.

November 19, 2010

Affordable and Healthy Custom Furniture? Yes.

New dining table for 

QUESTION: How does one find furniture that is:
  • Healthy (non-toxic finishes)?
  • A pleasing design that perfectly matches your aesthetic scheme?
  • Custom fit to your exact specifications?
  • Affordable?
  • Short leadtime?
ANSWER:  Go custom!

Ok, I know what you are thinking.  Custom is hardly affordable, nor speedy.  But consider this.  If your design style is simple (think Ruralist, Belgian, Farmhouse, Beachy, Painted...), and you can find a capable handy person, you may just have your answer.   (My friend and colleague Norton fit the bill.)

I knew that the Dining Room needed a statement table that was large and substantial.  I considered zinc top, which is all the rage, and has such lovely patina over time, but budget and leadtime kept getting in the way.  Instead, I asked Norton to build a chunky 120" x 40" x 3" thick table with X-braces (to play up the same detail on the Office sliding barn doors).

I went to the lumber yard to pick out 3" thick slabs of lumber myself.  Knots were fine with me, as they provide the table with character through the paint finish.

I varnished the base with non-toxic wood varnish from Ecos Organic Paints and did a paint wash on the top with non-toxic Mythic Paint.  More photos of the finished piece coming soon.

Norton did a beautiful job, don't you think?  Thank you, Norton!

October 21, 2010

Fine Homebuilding Magazine features THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME Bath

Fine Homebuilding Magazine, one of my favorite trade publications, recently featured our project's first floor handicap-accessible bath in their latest Kitchen & Bath 2010 issue.   While the need for an accessible bath may not present itself currently, I designed it to provide many benefits to all (from washing the dog to a truly mud-friendly mudroom), while ensuring that homeowners can age in place.   Click here for full article, entitled Celebrating Ingenuity.


Here is an excerpt from the article:
(photos: Fine Homebuilding Magazine)

Powder Room Plus

The challenge was complex: Design a sunlit, wheelchair-accessible full bath, without an exterior wall for a window. Make it feel like a powder room, and therefore fit everything into a small footprint. The solution was simple: Make the whole room a shower. Taking a European “wet-room” approach to this project allowed the architect to break free of the clearances needed for a separate shower stall. The entire bathroom is waterproof, tiled, and sloped to a floor drain. Transom windows above the vanity borrow light from a sunlit stairwell. And a wall-mounted toilet and cantilevered vanity keep the floor clear for easy cleaning and visually enlarge the space.

Bath Design and Interiors: Lisa Kauffman Tharp, Kauffman Tharp Design, Concord, Mass.
Architect: Stephanie Horowitz, Zero Energy Design, Boston, Mass.
Builder: Aedi Construction, Waltham, Mass.


Shower and Faucet Fittings – Rohl Country Bath Collection
Dual Flush Toilet - Duravit
Subway Tile – American Olean
Floor Tile – Edimax Absolute Space, Best Tile/Geologica
Sea Urchin Box – Hudson, Wellesley MA
Driftwood Sphere – Spero Home, Concord MA

A special thanks to ZeroEnergy Design and the folks at Fine Homebuilding Magazine for the coverage.


October 6, 2010

Interview with Allergy-Free Gardening Pioneer, Thomas Leo Ogren.

 Allergy-Free Gardening pioneer, Thomas Leo Ogren

I have a special treat to share with you today on THE CONCORD GREEN blog - an interview with Thomas Leo Ogren.  

Motivated by the allergy and asthma suffering in his own family, Tom created the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALSTM), the first and only numerical plant-allergy ranking system in existence, which is now helping individuals, and entire cities worldwide, develop healthier landscapes.

Lisa: Tom, thank you so much for joining us today.  So, it seems that our modern landscaping habits have actually created an allergy nightmare.  How did you first realize this?

Tom: Twenty some years ago I was trying to get close up photos of both male and female flowers of separate-sexed landscape trees and shrubs. I quickly found that I was able to find all the male plants I needed, but that finding the female plants was hard, and sometimes impossible. At first I thought this was just in my own town, San Luis Obispo, California…but as I went to other towns, other states, even other countries…everywhere I found the same problem. There were always lots of male trees and shrubs, and almost never were there many female ones.
   I knew by then that of course the male plants were the ones shedding the allergenic pollen, and was very curious as to why there were so few females around. Eventually I figured it out; the plant propagators were only producing male clones, because they didn’t shed any old flowers or fruit, or seedpods. These were “litter-free” plants…but of course, they were very allergenic.

 Photo:  TreeHugger

Lisa: Please talk a bit about how your OPALS system works.

Tom:  I’ve evaluated thousands of landscape plants on their potential to cause, or not to cause, allergies. Early on I realized that most people are not horticulturists, most folks don’t know all that much about plants. I needed a system that made it all simple and easy to understand. OPALS, which stands for Ogren Plant Allergy Scale, ranks all the landscape plants one to ten….where one is least allergenic, and where ten is very allergenic. The system has been used now by a great many different landscapers, designers, government organizations, etc. and even if it isn’t perfect, it does work.

 Male Mulberry Tree.  Highly Allergenic.
OPALS™ rank=10

   Each OPALS ranking is based on different various plus or negative factors that might affect allergy potential. For example, if a plant is closely related to a family well known to cause many allergies…than that is a strong negative, a red flag. Likewise, if a plant produces a large amount of very tiny pollen, and does so over a prolonged period of time, that too is another strong negative.
 Petunia 'Purple Wave'.  Allergy Friendly.
OPALS™ Rank=1

   Certain factors are plus, for example: a plant with highly colored flowers will normally rely on insects (not the wind) to pollinate it…thus this is a plus factor. A plant with flowers that are “perfect” (meaning it has a complete set of both male and female parts in the same flower) is also a plus…is another indication of insect pollinization.
   With OPALS, up to 130 different plus or minus factors are evaluated and a score is made, and from that the 1-10 ranking is figured out.

Lisa:  What do you see as the biggest advances since the release of your landmark book, Allergy-Free Gardening?

Tom: Allergy-Free Gardening was published in 2000, and then republished four years later, both times by Ten Speed Press. Ten Speed has since been bought by a much larger publisher, Random House, and I can only hope they will keep the book alive and in print.
         There has been much progress in certain places, and none in many others. In New Zealand, for example, in both Auckland and in Christchurch, all the city landscaping is now done to be as allergy-free as possible. This is a result of talks I gave in New Zealand several years ago.
       In the US and in Canada there are a number of cities that are making a real attempt to landscape with allergy-free trees…cities like Albuquerque, NM, Las Vegas, NV, Tucson, AZ, and so on.
       Soon after the publication of AFG the American Lung Association hired me to landscape their headquarters in Richmond, VA, with an allergy-free landscape.
       Recently the New York Times hired me to write an Op-Ed piece on why New York City should start paying attention to the allergy potential of the city trees it plants.
       But I must add, in most cases city arborists are dragging their feet…they are not doing nearly as much as they could, and should for those with allergies, and or, with asthma.

Lisa: Let’s get specific.  What are the top 3 priorities for individuals who want to create their own healthy landscape?

Tom: The first thing is to identify the most allergenic trees and shrubs in the yard, and then remove them.
       The second most important thing is for people to then replace all of the worst plants with either pollen-free plants, or at least with plants that have very low OPALS numbers…those least likely to trigger allergies.
       The third most important part is for people with asthma and allergies to stand up and speak out! No one else will do it for them. People should demand that their own cities stop planting any more male clonal trees. They should insist that their own cities start producing street trees and city landscapes that will be allergy-friendly…not allergy-causing. People with allergies need to get political, just as folks from other groups have…for example, look how organized women now are against breast cancer. That’s terrific. The same thing should happen with allergies.

Lisa:  What about the age old “turf battle” – the lawn?  Is it really possible to have a low-maintenance, chemical- and allergy-free lawn that looks good? 

Tom: Tall fescue grass is easy to find and easy to grow. If kept mowed on a regular basis, it will almost never bloom and produce any pollen. A good, thick, healthy lawn is a great pollen trap. Pollen from trees and shrubs lands on the lawn, and it doesn’t get back into circulation.
     There are other low-pollen and even some totally all-female, pollen-free lawn grasses we can use. I wrote a book just about lawns, and all this is covered in it, in great detail. But my main point here is that a good lawn is the best groundcover of them all, and if done right, it need not be a source of allergies.

Lisa:  Any specific landscape recommendations for the CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOUSE?  

Tom: I’d like to see them using some edibles in the landscape…plants like plum trees, blueberry bushes, strawberry plants, etc. None of these triggers allergies.
   I’d like to see the CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOUSE use their own landscape as a learning tool….complete with good plant tags that explain why each plant was used.
    I’d like to see them use some attractive female trees, and female shrubs too…for example, it would be good to use both female junipers and female yews.
    While they were at it they could also use some pollen-free ground cover, or at least some that is very low allergy. CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOUSE is a great idea!

Lisa:  Lastly, how can we motivate more nurseries, landscape designers, school, hospital and town planners, and anyone else responsible for landscape decisions that affect us all, to heed the wisdom of the OPALS ranking system?

Tom: Each of us has to do our part. We need to talk to people we know about this, we need to talk to the people at the nurseries, the landscape designers, school, hospital and town planners, and everyone else responsible for landscape decisions that directly affect us. We need to act locally, need to go and talk to our city council members about this. In some cities they’ve enacted pollen-control ordinances, and they no longer permit the sale or planting of the most allergenic trees and shrubs. That ought to be the goal for anyone concerned about making a difference in the lives of those with asthma or allergies.

Lisa:  Thank you again for your time today, and for your ground-breaking work that has already helped so many.

Tom: My pleasure, Lisa. Excellent questions, too, I might add. Please do keep in touch.

Lisa:  Will do.  Please let us know when you next come east, as we would be thrilled to host one of your talks in town.  

To learn more, please visit Tom's website.  You can order his books from from Amazon via THE CONCORD GREEN Bookshop here.

September 24, 2010

Healthier Cleaning for your Carpets and Upholstery

 The Persian carpet in its last home, prior to 6 years in storage.  Photo:  Concord Green

Just rescued a gorgeous Persian hand-knotted, vegetable-dyed carpet that had been wrapped up for 6 years with its latex rug pad.  Boy, did the thing stink when we opened it up.  At that moment, I was convinced that I would have to ban it from THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME.  [Word to the wise -- do not have anyone store your precious carpet with a rug pad!  :) ]

Thankfully, I researched healthy carpet cleaning methods and found Green Homes Carpet Cleaning of Franklin, MA.  Owner Jonathan Kava paid a house call to the ailing carpet, and even let me smell his cleaning products to make sure that they would be tolerated by chemically sensitive folks.  He also did patch-testing to ensure the the carpet dyes would remain unharmed.  I appreciated how much time and thought Jonathan put into this one small project, to make sure that his methods were safe for humans, the carpet and the planet.  If you are in his service area, I would highly recommend his company.  If not, research your options to ensure that your textiles get the best, healthiest care.


September 14, 2010

Practically the Perfect Tree...

Amelanchier (Serviceberry) x grandiflora "Autumn Brilliance" in springtime bloom.  

Looking for a tree that is rated "low-allergy" on gardening pioneer Thomas Leo Ogren's OPALS scale, has color interest in 3 long seasons, beautiful bark in winter, is native to the eastern U.S., and produces small blue-black berries snapped up by birds, or, if you are lucky to get the remains, makes fruit pie reportedly more delicious than Blueberry?

Serviceberry "Autumn Brilliance" in summer.  
Photo: Miller Nursery

THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME garden will be the lucky recipient of just such a tree.  Also known as "Serviceberry", this tree's "Autumn Brilliance" cultivar stands 12' tall in a typical 10-15 years (with mature height of 20'), is hardy to zone 4, and disease-resistant.  As a female tree, it produces no pollen, and according to Ogren's ground-breaking book, Allergy-Free Gardening, is rated a nice low 3 out of 10 on the OPALS allergy scale.  I am surprised that this tree is not found on every street in town with these credentials.  It will be front and center in this healthy garden.

Serviceberry "Autumn Brilliance" in fall.  
Photo: Landscapedia
Happy healthy gardening!


September 10, 2010

Belgian Linen Slipcovers Add Easy-Care Style to a Healthy House

 Designer Suzanne Kasler fearlessly places a creamy white Verellen Charlotte Wing chair in this Brays Island kitchen, as featured in Veranda Magazine.  The secret is linen slipcovering, instead of upholstery.

Once you expend the effort, energy and money to make the shell of your home as healthy as possible, it is important to furnish it in the same careful manner.  That means looking for furnishings with non-toxic finishes, minimal allergy triggers and easy maintenance.  Skip those chemical "stain guard" finishes, unless you can find a truly healthy non-toxic option. 
 Verellen Charlotte Wing Sofa.  Photo: South of Market.

THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME will feature a Verellen Charlotte Wing Sofa (slipcovered, of course!) as the focal point of the living room.  Verellen's tagline - "Timeless.  Organic.  Modern."  Their furnishings are handcrafted in the USA.  Options include various sizes, down or down-alternative fillings, upholstered vs. slipcovered (as you can tell by now... my strong recommendation for easy maintenance), several grades of fine linen, and even choice of stitching style on the seams.

Verellen sofa in designer Eric Cohler's living room in Charleston, SC, also featured in Veranda Magazine

The Belgian style, and Verellen's line in particular, is haute, haute, haute in the design world right now, but I think Verellen's look is indeed timeless.

One of my favorite local shops, Hudson, carries the Verellen line, along with other fine offerings from Oly Studio, Dash & Albert and more.

Where can you get your Verellen piece?  If you believe in supporting local retailers (as I do), head on down to Hudson, with locations in Wellesley, MA and South Boston.  Owner Jill Goldberg has assembled a beautifully edited selection of furnishings, lighting, textiles, accessories and gifts.  Helpful staffers Chris and Kelsey will guide you in choosing from the many luxe offerings of the Verellen line.

 I snapped this photo at Hudson a few weeks ago.  The gray bookcase with library ladder is currently on sale, just waiting for a lucky buyer to snatch it up.  Happy hunting.  :)


August 5, 2010

Durable Non-Toxic Finishes Now Easier to Find

Happy to announce that two of my favorite products - ECOS Organic Paints and Mythic Paints - are now locally available.

ECOS Organic Paints

ECOS Paint, a breakthrough line of finishes from the UK, is now being manufactured right here in the US.  You may recall that we used ECOS Floor Paint on all of the THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME's bedroom and loft floors (earlier post).  Contractors, painters and I all referred to it as "liquid gold", not only because, back in the spring, we had to pay costly shipping from overseas, but also due to its incredible hide, lovely sheen options and durability.   Now, you can order ECOS online, and ship direct to your door in just a few days.

Perhaps even more exciting is the availability of ECOS non-toxic wood varnishes and stains.  I just received samples, and am looking forward to giving them a test drive.  Wish we had known about this option before we used the best low-VOC finish then available for the reclaimed heart pine flooring!  (earlier post on finish contest)

Mythic Paint

Mythic Paint, my first love in the non-toxic paint category, is now available at Terrene of Acton, right here in Acton, MA.

 Rick Woodland, of Terrene Green Building Supply of Acton, and proud distributor of Mythic Paint

I stopped by to see Rick Woodland at Terrene recently, as he welcomed the Mythic Paint line into his showroom.  Rick is the kind of retail manager that we all need.  He championed the addition of Mythic to Terrene's portfolio of sustainable and healthy building products.  Now we all benefit (I just had a painter today thank me for specifying Mythic on his project -- no smell, no fumes, great performance).  Rick confirmed that they can match major manufacturer's colors for you, or you can choose a hue from the Mythic fandeck, including some of HGTV star David Bromstad's favorites.

 David Bromstad, star of HGTV's Color Splash, first season winner of HGTV's Design Star (he got my votes!), and new spokesperson for Mythic Non-Toxic Paint.

Mythic was used on all of the THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME's interior walls, ceiling, cabinetry and trim, (earlier post) and will soon be applied to the home's exterior as well.

Both the ECOS and Mythic lines are high-performing, and in a class all their own -- healthy for your family, healthy for you, and healthy for all those hard-working trades people who are exposed to freshly applied paint on a regular basis.

July 17, 2010

Kick Off Your Shoes for a Healthier Home

Shoe chest with hidden pull-out bench, 
created by Jack Thomasson for the HGTV Green Home.

A great way to keep your home healthy is to provide a place for guests to sit and remove their shoes right at the front door.  Dirt, pollen and pesticides are stopped in their tracks, keeping your interiors cleaner and healthier.  In fact, this simple strategy even earns you points towards LEED Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME will soon have this solid wood bench gracing its front entry, with plenty of room inside to store shoes and boots.

The Hudson Bench from Bradshaw Kirchofer, will be finished in Old Pine Wax (below).

I am a big fan of Bradshaw Kirchofer, makers of solid wood, handcrafted furniture with classic detailing and gorgeous finishes.  

Love their Open Hutch...

... this Spindle Bed...

... and this Secretary Desk.

While Bradshaw Kirchofer offers many beautiful finishes of their own, they will also use non-toxic finishes if specified.  Please email me at if you are interested in learning more, or in purchasing from their gorgeous line.

June 14, 2010

The Interior Barn Doors have arrived.

Painted barn doors await installation on opposite wall.  I am so pleased at how well they mimic the tall, narrow proportions of the windows that they will face -- so much so, that they could just as easily be very cool custom shutter panels.  Hmm...  :)

The newest additions to THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME are the interior barn doors from Circle B/Barn Depot, located right here in Lancaster, MA.  The doors will soon be hanging from a galvanized double track, providing separation between a main living space and home office.  The upper glass will preserve light and views through the office to the park.  Made from "green mdf" (no formaldehyde), I had the Pat's Painting team simply prime them with diluted Mythic Paint non-toxic primer matched to Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray, from their Historical Collection.

June 10, 2010

You CAN Grow Grass in Deep Shade...

Wow.  Eco-Lawn seed springs forth in just 9 days.  This is the most sun that the large shade trees ever allow past their leaves.  Conventional wisdom is that you cannot grow grass in such deep shade, but the good news is that this mix thrives in both shade and sun.  Its slow-growing and deep-rooted once established, which means minimal mowing and watering, hence its eco-friendly stature.

June 5, 2010

Test Photos Offer Sneak Peek of Healthy, Sustainable Home

Test photo of THE CONCORD GREEN HOME kitchen captures all of that beautiful sunshine streaming in through the french doors, breakfast nook windows and skylights.  Daylighting was a central design tenet of the project.  Photo: Jerome Eno

While there is more work to do -- exterior trim painting, landscaping, interior furnishings - these few test photos taken by local photographer Jerome Eno give you a sense of THE CONCORD GREEN HOME today.

Test shots of THE CONCORD GREEN HOME's exterior, prior to trim and door painting, and landscaping.  Photos: Jerome Eno

I wanted the simple, but beautiful finish selections to complement the New England Farmhouse vernacular of this healthy, sustainable home.  Here, in the ADA-accessible wetroom - complete with water-conserving dual-flush toilet - the limestone plank tile reads a bit like weathered wood wainscot.  Photo: Jerome Eno

When I think back to the original design brief that I wrote for the home in early 2008, I am most proud to have assembled the talented team that helped me bring those goals to life.  While I will continue thanking the many folks of these firms for a long time, I would like to specifically acknowledge the following individuals today -- not only for their skill and expertise, but above all, for their belief that a complex project such as this, replete with its many lofty goals and tight constraints, was possible. 

ZeroEnergy Design
Stephanie Horowitz, Lead Architect/Managing Director
Jordan Goldman, Principal Engineer/LEED AP
Adam Prince, Business Development Principal
Emile Chin-Dickey, LEED AP/Principal

Connor Homes
Steve Haskell, Lead Architect/LEED AP
Mike Connors, Founder
Gail Rice, Director of Business Development

Aedi Construction
Matt Ayers, Project Manager/Principal
Patrick Hughes, Site Supervisor
Mark and Norm Beaulieu, Principals

Sustainable Construction Inc.
Daniel Glickman, Consultant/Founder

Thank you.


May 31, 2010

"Staycations": Tips for Creating Your Own Barefoot Home

Capture a bit of that vacation feeling every day.  Photo courtesy of

What is it about vacation homes that are so appealing?  For those lucky enough to own one, or even just visit, the relaxation and happiness one feels upon arriving and settling in is not just due to the escape from the daily grind.   It is also because one literally lightens one's load in life - down to what fits in a suitcase - and spends their days in a simpler environment. 

The good life...

For me, the dream is arriving at a small cottage in a little town near the beach.  I throw open the windows to the fresh breeze (there is no air conditioning - I feel closer with nature already). I unwind the stress in my mind as I unpack my bags into a blissfully empty closet, where everything I own has its place.  I pad barefoot across the time-worn but clean hardwood floors towards the kitchen.  I grab a quick snack in this space populated with only the bare essentials... no fancy pasta makers or espresso machines here.  Whistling, I head out the front entry, with screen door slamming behind me, for a short stroll into town -- where passersby on their way to the beach wave hello and local shop-keepers welcome me in for a tea or a browse.

This net-zero energy home in Woolwich, Maine, complete with swimming pool, was designed with family staycations in mind.  Read the complete Design New England article here.    Photo via ReVision Energy.

The great news is that we can bring these same sweet barefoot simplicities into our own homes for year round enjoyment.  We will also save a boatload of energy and money in the process.  The key is to make smart choices about where and how we live.  Now, of course not all of us can afford to live by the beach.  But here are some things we can all do:
  • Live near town, where we can enjoy the walking lifestyle and leave the car in park.  
  • Declutter our homes down to just the essentials, and support charities with our donations.   
  • Create strong indoor/outdoor connections.  Forget the AC and throw the windows open.  Use the same durable and natural flooring materials inside and out.  
  • Flood our homes with sunshine by stacking back the draperies during the day and leaving the light switches off.
  • Dress down - skip the formal dining room and turn the space into a casual destination where everyone can eat comfortably, or where shelves of books encourage you to slow down and read. 
  • Live smaller.  Vacation homes are usually charming and inviting because they are cozy.  Downsize to a home that is easy to keep, and only has spaces that you use every day.  You might even find that you can live in locales you never thought you could afford.
 In his book The Barefoot Home:  Dressed-Down Design for Casual Living, Mark Vassallo reminds us of the many ways we can "staycation" every day.

This 388 s.f. Beach Chalet, designed by StudioMama pares down the classic shingled beach house to the bare essentials.  Photo via

The best aspect of THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME may not even be the home itself, but what is across the street.  Emerson Field offers an expansive view of tennis courts, baseball fields, a running track, playground equipment, basketball courts, swimming pool, lots of large shady trees and pesticide-free grass, all within a 1/4 mile walk to town center. 
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