February 28, 2010

The Floors are In!

View from the Office to the rear of the house... nice and bright on a cloudy winter day.

The antique heart pine that was reclaimed from old New England buildings by Long Leaf Lumber is now finally installed on the first floor of THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME. Oak hardwood, to be painted a creamy white, was installed on the bedroom level.

Once finished, the amber tones of the pine flooring will warm up all of the creamy white spaces throughout the first floor.

The large 10' concrete countertop for the kitchen island arrives the day after tomorrow.

A nice close up of the gorgeous vertical grain that you can only get by quarter sawing the reclaimed pine.

Winding our way up to the second floor...

This flooring will be painted a creamy white for an airy cottage feel on the second floor. The tub enjoys a temporary view of the park from the Master Bedroom balcony as it waits with the antique vanity and dual flush toilet for installation day.

Dreaming of a long soak in a warm cast iron tub.

The Master Bath tile is a lovely mix of subway on the walls, classic hex on the shower floor, remnant marble shower bench and large format sandy porcelain on the main floor.

Barn style sconces flank the future vanity mirror.

Laundry nook with freshly painted salvaged cabinets

Nautical sconces light the open staircase, which is a key component in this home's passive cooling strategy.

Soon-to-be-painted floors and stairs lead up to the loft.

A warm thank you to Matt, Patrick and the entire Aedi Construction team for their continued commitment to quality and attention to detail on every aspect of this project.


February 27, 2010

Inspiration and Tips for Eco-Friendly, Healthy Laundry Rooms

Hampton Design

Tip #1. Make it happy. Laundry won't seem like such a chore if you make this utility space stylish and bright.

This cheery laundry corner utilizes salvaged materials to amp up the charm. Design by Jane Coslick, as featured in Coastal Living.

Tip #2. Buy an Energy Star-rated washer. Front-load washers use significantly less energy and water than their top-load counterparts. Did you know that Energy Star doesn't even rate dryers? They are high energy consumption hogs that are best limited to only the most necessary uses.

The Electrolux Energy Star washer and dryer, with 18 minute cycle feature, will grace the THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME laundry space. AJ Madison. The dryer's steam function will help eliminate trips to the chemical factory... er, I mean the dry cleaners. :)

Tip #3. Air-dry clothes whenever possible. It not only saves energy and money, but also helps them last longer.

Fresh summer breezes remind us that the classic, simple ways of doing things are often the greenest. Martha Stewart.

Who says that you can't line dry in winter, or on high-pollen days? This beadboard laundry rack lets you line dry in style. Ballard Designs.

Favorite Product Alert!  The Laundry Lift gives you 30' of drying line on pulleys that raise up out of the way when not in use, but give you high-drying capacity near the ceiling where the air is warmest.

Tip # 4. Get rid of toxic-laden fabric softeners and dryer sheets, whose cancer-causing fragrances are a real health hazard. Soften and refresh your laundry with natural laundry detergent - there are so many good ones now available.

Favorite Product Alert! I have tried many alternative laundry detergents and BioKleen is a winner. It is concentrated to reduce packaging and lighten your grocery load. Plus, it is safe for High Efficiency washers.
Favorite Product Alert! Static Eliminator dryer sheets are made from 100% hypoallergenic, re-usable, woven cloth. They work like magic and last for 500 loads! Safe for infants, allergy, asthma and eczema sufferers, as well as chemically sensitive individuals.

Tip # 5. Conserve Space. Like the increasingly popular Media Rooms, Laundry rooms are becoming huge showcase spaces in our modern homes, putting more pressure on Americans to build bigger instead of smarter. Resist, and eliminate extra square footage that drains your money and requires more energy to heat and cool. The laundry space in THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME will be incorporated into the well-ventilated Master Bathroom, making that space work double duty, and eliminating the need for a separate sink.

Turn a wide hallway into a hidden laundry room. The frosted glass french door conceals stacked washer / dryer, and the built-in cabinetry houses pull out laundry hampers. Southern Living, photo: Laurey W. Glenn

See more Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips at The Daily Green's How To Make Your Laundry Room Green and EnergyStar.gov.

February 24, 2010

Our Pick for Non-Toxic Floor Paint

Ahh, the serene and airy beauty of painted white floors.

After much research, three brands of floor paint were tested for coverage, finish, durability and, most importantly, safe indoor air quality. And the winner is... ECOS Organic Floor Paint.

ECOS Organic Floor Paint had the best coverage of the three contenders (see other brand links at end of this post), a nice satin sheen (gloss is also available) and was the only 100% non-toxic floor paint that we could find. We liked it so much, we are spending an extra $900 to ship it from the UK... not the greenest thing to do, but it is worth it, knowing that the bedroom and loft levels of THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME will have a completely non-toxic floor finish throughout. The good news for you is that ECOS opens up its US operations March 2010, so you will be able to get it locally very soon.

Even better, this company produces an entire line of paints that are innovative and uniquely helpful. I haven't even had the chance to test drive them yet, but I plan to -- ECOS offers anti-formaldehyde paint for radiators, EMR paint that reduces electromagnetic radiation transmission between walls, insulation paint, atmosphere purifying paint, feng shui paint, and even some wonderful super chalky, limewash or distemper options, so you can paint just like the old world masters.

Click here to check out the whole line of ECOS Organic Paint.

Our runners up were:
  • Farrow & Ball Eco Floor Paint - a good alternative with zero VOC's by US Standards, minimal by UK standards. Eggshell finish is shinier than ECOS Satin, and while coverage was less than ECOS, I really liked the Stain Block Primer, which had virtually no smell while applying.
Photo credits: 1. unknown, 2, 3, 4, ECOS Organic Paints

February 20, 2010

Front Entry Door - Cast your color vote!

Beautiful entry with classic, limited palette.
Smith & Hawken.

Front doors make a core design statement about your entire home. The entry is the architectural grace note that welcomes visitors and sets the stage for all that will follow.

Time to decide on the finish for THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME's entry door. Painted? Wood? With the light gray metal roof and white clapboards, should we go...

Traditional deep charcoal / black?...

Or perhaps a beautiful wood finish? ...

What about a sassy green to punch up an otherwise classic palette? ...

Hmmm. What do you think?

Cast your votes or share links to your own photos in the Comments section below. :)

THE CONCORD GREEN HOME entry door awaits its fate.

Spring painting will have all of the trim sporting a crisp white. Can't wait to start landscaping too.

Photo Sources: 1. Smith & Hawken, 2, 3,4. unknown, 5. HistoricDoors.com, 6. Blueprint Magazine, 7. unknown, 8. Sunset Magazine, 9, 10. here

February 19, 2010

Ceiling Fans: Lower Energy Use with High Style

The Ostrich reproduction ceiling fan from the Woolen Mill Fan Company

I am a huge fan of ceiling fans. My reasons?
  • EFFICIENCY - Ceiling fans are an important component of an overall passive cooling strategy, which includes orientating the building with respect to sun and breezes, cross-ventilation and super-insulation.
  • SKIP THE AIR CONDITIONING - Fans enable you to greatly reduce or eliminate air conditioning (which is a huge energy drain, and relies on a blowing ducted system prone to dust and mold growth)
  • NOISE REDUCTION - Ceiling fans are quiet, especially if you invest in a quality fixture
  • HEAT CONSERVATION - They help lower heating bills in the winter by running clockwise to push warm air near the ceiling back down into the space, and offer an important assist to passive heating strategies
  • STYLE - The right fan can make a beautiful design statement
Did you know...?

Air conditioning represents more than half of Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) use in the US... that's a whopping 15% of total US electricity consumption, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Now, I admit that ceiling fans are not typically high on an interior designer's priority list. We have become accustomed to cheap "builder special" fans that are unattractive, collect dust and wobble threateningly on medium speed. Usually they are the first things to go when remodeling a space.

Here are a few "keepers" from classic to retro to modern, for your consideration.

The Acero, made by Minka Aire, but available in nice bronze finish with tobacco blades combination from Restoration Hardware.

Inspired by falling seed pods, the
Sycamore Ceiling Fan promises ground-breaking energy efficiency.

The Brewmaster reproduction belt-driven fan, from Fanimation.

The Duplo-Dinamico rotational ceiling fan from Matthews Fan Co.

The Artemis from Minka Aire

The industrial-style Loft ceiling fan from Emerson is powerful, but "detuned" for safe, quiet use in residential spaces. THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME will feature this beauty in the gable kitchen ceiling, where southern exposure, skylights and cooking will make it one of the hotter spaces in the house.

Some energy-saving ceiling fan tips from Energy Star:

Turn Off When not in the Room

Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. If the room is unoccupied, turn off the ceiling fan to save energy.

Using the Ceiling Fan Year Round

In the summer, use the ceiling fan in the counterclockwise direction. While standing directly under the ceiling fan you should feel a cool breeze. The airflow produced creates a wind-chill effect, making you "feel" cooler. In the winter, reverse the motor and operate the ceiling fan at low speed in the clockwise direction. This produces a gentle updraft, which forces warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space. Remember to adjust your thermostat when using your ceiling fan — additional energy and dollar savings could be realized with this simple step!

I highly recommend shopping at HansenWholesale.com for ceiling fans. They have a terrific online rating system for most brands, and provide personal shopping assistance for all of your needs.

Punkah fan from Fanimation, Saigon restaurant Stanley via Life's A Breeze

    February 18, 2010

    Find Hidden Storage Opportunities in a Not-So-Big-House

    Kitchen range hood and plank backsplash are almost complete. Hood will be flanked by upper glass cabinets, along with recycled SubZero refrigerator/freezers and pantries on either side.

    Building smaller is better for the environment, but it requires that every square inch be utilized. Here in THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME kitchen, even the range hood will be pressed into storage service. On the outside, it looks like a typical range hood. But with hidden hinges on the upper front panel, precious additional storage will be gained by simply lifting and propping it open, much like the hood of your car during an oil change.

    Cabinet doors removed for painting with Mythic Non-Toxic Paint.

    Thank you, Patrick, for another wonderful extra touch.


    February 17, 2010

    Hardwood Floor Finish Contest Winners, Part 1

    Some of the test samples in our hardwood finish contest. Thank you to Rick Woodland of Terrene Sustainable Building Supply for creating the samples.

    Today, I am pleased to announce the winner of our Hardwood Floor Finish Contest. See earlier post for list of contenders and criteria details. Still pending is the Painted Floor Finish portion of the contest (update below), so check back for those results soon.

    Pine Flooring

    For the Antique Heart Pine Reclaimed Flooring on the first floor of THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME, we will be using the Bona Kemi Floor Finish System: Bonaseal undercoat, topped with Bona Traffic in Satin finish.
    In our testing, we found that Bonaseal undercoat effectively seals in allergy-triggers (terpenes and aroma from the pine), while topcoat Bona Traffic provides a durable and low sheen finish that enhances the gorgeous vertical grain and color of the antique heart pine. While not completely devoid of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the cure rate is extremely fast and the product is well-tolerated by individuals with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity). Of course, each person is different and therefore it is always important to test for yourself before making a final product selection. Bona does offer a lower VOC variation of Traffic, called Eon 70, but there is some trade-off in durability, which may mean refinishing is required sooner.

    A close runner up was the low-VOC, recycled whey-based Vermont Natural Coatings, which performed equally well in sealing the wood, and has a gorgeous matte sheen. The only edge held by Bona was that the future occupants of the home have tolerated Bona Traffic well, and have no history with Vermont Natural Coatings. This is important to consider when one acknowledges that a small sample can never replicate the impact of a product when applied to an entire floor.

    Lastly, if sealing in wood allergens / terpenes had not been required, the hands-down winner would have been newcomer Rubio Monocoat. Non-toxic, this product only requires one coat to protect the wood, the finish is subtle and stunning, and you never need to resand. Simply reapply to worn areas, and the Monocoat only adheres to exposed wood... no buildup. I predict that this product is poised for explosive growth.

    Painted Floor Update

    See earlier post Painted Floors - Have Some Fun! for background.

    The undersides of the oak flooring will be painted with AFM Safecoat Zero VOC Flat Paint to seal in oak terpenes. Safecoat narrowly edged out non-toxic Mythic Primer based on somewhat better coverage. As a sidenote, we are using the Safecoat Flat Paint as a primer on all of the walls and trim in the house as well, with Mythic Flat and Semi-gloss Paints as topcoats. The semi-gloss is nice and subtle, almost comparable to a Satin or Pearl sheen in other lines of paint.

    The painted floor surface coat is still outstanding. Front runner ECOS Non-toxic Floor Paint from the UK got held up in US Customs, even though it is technically a non-hazardous material. Hoping to get the matchpot today. The back up option is Ivy Coatings Low VOC Floor Plus, which has approximatly 100 g/l of VOCs. While readily available here in the US (ECOS opens its first US facility in Spring 2010), I would much rather use a 100% No-VOC product in the bedrooms, if we can get the shipping straightened out in time. Fingers crossed.

    UPDATE: We have added Farrow and Ball Eco Floor Paint to our testing. Rated Zero VOC by US Standards, but containing just 53 g/l VOCs by British standards, it requires one coat of Farrow & Ball's Stain Block Primer (2 g/l VOC) and two topcoats. Stay tuned.

    Related Posts with Thumbnails