A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury: Part One

bestwhitejacket  I am pleased to have Trudy Dujardin, ASID, LEED AP+ID+C as our Guest Blogger for January and February.  Trudy is nationally known for her passion for eco-elegance, as well as award-winning interiors that combine sophistication, elegant use of color, and an intuitive understanding of her clients’ lifestyles.  Her graceful approach to gently green design reflects a deep respect for Historic Preservation, the surrounding landscape, and abundant comfort. Please return next month for Part Two.

Trudy~  I’ve spent most of my professional life promoting green building and design practices.  The growth of sustainable design, with more people embracing the importance of holistic lifestyles, brings me great joy.  It is my fervent hope that through gentle education efforts more of us will come to believe in our ability to change the world, especially by beginning in our own little corner of it: our homes.

Green Bedroom

Green Bedroom

1.  Start in the Bedroom

During sleep, your body is still working to remove any toxins that you were exposed to during the day, and to restore energy and health for both body and mind.  More than any other room in the house, you want your bedroom to be a pristine environment.

  • Choose no-VOC paints for walls and wood trim.  Paints can emit VOCs over a long period of time, so just airing out the room may not be sufficient.
  • Choose hardwood, tile or stone floors, finish them with a water-based sealant, and cover them with organic wool or cotton area rugs that can be easily cleaned.
  • Select an organic mattress, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton.  Be sure your pillows are all natural as well.  Non-organic cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides; dyes and color fixers use heavy metals like chromium, copper and zinc.  You can request “no fire-retardant chemicals” be used on your mattress; this requires a prescription from a doctor.
  • Choose eco-friendly wood furniture that is FSC-certified, a designation from the Forest Stewardship Council ensuring that the wood was grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term. 
House exterior

House exterior

2.  Invest in a Good Air Filtration System

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America rates indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks, so I recommend clearing the air by adding a room air-purifier, or go one step further and install a central filtration system.  Models are available that can remove particulates that can’t be seen by the naked eye, such as dust, pet dander,  mold spores, pollen and chemical gases such as sulfuric acid, ammonia and formaldehyde.

Photo Three Biedermeier Chest

Biedermeier Chest

 3.  Add Antique Furniture.

 There is an added beauty to the natural grace of aged furniture:  they are the ultimate in “green.”

  • Antique wooden furniture was created from old-growth forests long ago.  No new resources were used in its construction, making its restoration and re-use a loving part of caring for the earth.
  • Off-gassing is the process of releasing the vapors that are the residue of many fine finishes.  Antiques were crafted with less toxic products, and any off-gassing has long been complete.
  • Manufacturing plants, even the very greenest, distribute impurities into our air, waste systems and water.  New furniture requires the production of finishes, dyes and sealants; they arrive in retail stores via large fossil-fuel burning vehicles.
  • Even in a contemporary home, the gentle lines of antique furniture can add eye-catching details.  Rather than a mass-produced item, what you buy and bring home was likely made in a small workshop by a craftsman who made good use of few resources, making your home truly unique.  Make certain the antiques you choose have not been refinished with toxic chemicals.

 Photo Four Old Saugatuck Living Room Two Chairs

4.  Consider Organic Fabrics

When you curl up on your sofa with a good book, chances are you didn’t intend to invite a long list of toxic chemicals to join you.  But you may be sitting down with substances such as formaldehyde, polyurethane, poly-brominated flame retardants (PBDE’s), and dioxin. All of these toxins infiltrate your home through “off-gassing,” the release of chemicals into the air through evaporation.

Fortunately, today we have the option of choosing soy-based versus foam cushions, recycled filling for pillows, and organic upholstery fabric.  Some of the organic materials that are available are among the world’s most luxurious, including organic cotton, hemp, silk, linen, and wool.  For our best health, textiles should be colored with low-impact dyes without formaldehyde.

Photo Five Madaket Kitchen

Madaket Kitchen

 5.  Reduce or Eliminate VOCs with Water-Based Paints

Paints with high concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have been used for years.  That just-painted smell is actually the off-gassing of chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene.  The VOCs can last far longer than the odor, however, as can vapors from floor stains, finishes, sealants, and caulks. 

Low and no-VOC products use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde.  Look for paints with the Green Seal Standard, which certifies that they meet certain industry standards for VOCs.

Even low VOC paints can create health problems and may also contain fungicides and biocides used to prevent mildew growth and extend shelf life.  A product I use and recommend is EnviroSafe Paints, which uses no fungicides or biocides at all.  Keeping the air clean is more important than ever in today’s airtight, energy-efficient homes!

I believe in the “power of one,” the power each of us has to make an impact, create change, and help heal the earth. Creating a “green” house respects the health and well-being of everyone involved in its creation, and everyone who calls it home. And that’s the very best place to start.  


Trudy Dujardin

Learn more about Trudy at www.dujardindesign.com, or visit her blog, Holistic House, at www.holistichouse.com.


Dr. Adrienne Sprouse is in private practice in New York City. You can contact her office by telephone at (212)725-5744 or fax (646)649-2461.

2 Responses to “A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury: Part One”
  1. Mario E. Sprouse says:

    Another great article!

  2. Hope says:

    Thank you for some very valuable information. Many of us have an idea of what may be killing us but have very little knowledge about how we can eliminate, substitute alternatives or rethink our options.

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